“Between Effort and Surrender is where Strength Resides”
– Anthony Gary Lopedota
The recent passing of my father made me reflect on how I’ve been living my yoga and everyday life. Finding the balance between effort and surrender is a continuous challenge to me and I’m sure to many. When do we push and when do we accept and surrender? Your yoga practice is like life… Each circumstance in which we find ourselves is like a pose; some poses are challenging, others are easy. It is how we apply ourselves to mastering the pose that determines whether or not we will suffer or grow. With both life and yoga, we can choose to listen to the drama of the ego or the wisdom of the spirit.
Balancing Effort and Surrender on our Mats
Mastering an asana requires finding the balance between effort (sthira) and surrender or ease (sukham).
For many people the idea of effort is easy to accept. “No pain, no gain” is a familiar motto. But too much effort can hinder you from getting to where you ultimately want to go. The ego may want to perform a particular pose, but the body or mind may not be ready. If we try to force a pose with our will, we may cause injury. It is easy to cling to physical ideals, but our bodies are all different. Even the way our bones are set in their socket, can make a pose easy or impossible for us. So, instead of forcing your way into a pose, ease and explore your way into it with gentleness and compassion supported with a strong foundation of energy and desire.
Surrender is often defined as giving up completely to the power of another. But in yoga we look at it as “sweet” surrender. It is more of a softening to the moment, a release of tension, a belief in the idea that we are truly supported and cared for, an acceptance and love of our inner being. We can’t fly without surrender. We need to accept that we cannot control everything.
You’re not going to progress without applying and challenging your boundaries, which are different on any given day or even hour by hour. Your will see maximum results when you push yourself to your limit and, once having reached it, soften (a little), breathe deeply and accept where you are for that day… that moment! This is the sweet spot. You may even find, that having surrendered, if you try again, you go further.
When we find balance between effort and surrender the result is pure and quite liberating. Working from your centre gives your pose its power. Playing the edges helps to rediscover your centre. Yoga is dynamic. There is always a new discovery, an awakening if you remain open to it. Bring this energy and attitude into your life and feel your life blossom.
The great yoga master B.K.S. Iyengar when discussing effort and surrender, states:
“The face should be relaxed and the eyes soft in every pose. Advanced practitioners will express more of the state of surrender and freedom than effort, while beginners will need to focus more on effort and discipline. Effort without a sense of surrender can lead to violent and constrictive action and therefore to injury.”
The true magic of yoga starts when we take the lessons that it offers and understand how we can translate it in our everyday life. On your next practice I encourage you to find that sweet spot between effort and surrender and please feel free to share your experience with us. We’d love to hear from you!