The other day I found myself missing the mark as a parent with my eldest daughter. We are in a new place where she is testing her new found knowledge that she has agency over what happens in her life and that she gets to choose what she gets to do, or in this particular case, not do. My frustration with the situation was increasing and I knew, right there in the middle of it all, that not only were things deteriorating, but that I had so very clumsily tried to handle the situation.
Here’s the thing. You have to return to a neutral space with your child as soon as possible. In a busy family life, there is always another person requiring your attention or another child’s homework to attend to, or another appointment not to be missed. It’s so easy to just brush the event under the metaphorical rug and move onto the next thing on the agenda. In the movement of your life, the event gets pushed aside, set aside, parked somewhere in the past and we move on.
In the Ashtanga Yoga method there is a pose that is returned to over and over again. Samasthiti.
Outwardly it is just the same as Tadasana, Mountain Pose. Very simply it is a person standing straight with hands by the side. So mundane in appearance and unassuming in practice is Samasthiti, that in many yoga classes it’s been left out and looked over.
In recent months I’ve been attending some beautiful vinyasa flow style classes. In the seamless flow and motion of the classes is where I’ve noticed the absence of this most simple standing posture between each sun salutation. There is a flow straight from the end of a sun salutation, to inhale arms extended upwards then exhale straight into the first forward bend of the next sun salutation. In contrast, the Ashtanga system returns the body back to Samasthiti before the next sun salutation or the next group of poses.
Samasthiti translates as “equal standing”. While Tadasana (Mountain Pose) and Samasthiti are the same pose, Tadasana is taught with more focus on alignment. Of Samasthiti, Maty Ezraty says, “We use the time in Samasthiti to come to attention and bring our awareness to our breath, coming back to our centre.”
Through practicing Samasthiti during my own practice I’ve come to an understanding of Maty Ezraty's explanation of the pose. However, it has only been in practicing in classes with the omission of Samasthiti, that has really highlighted what it can symbolise both in an asana practice and in life off the mat. Samasthiti is a state of neutrality. It’s where everything begins and also ends when practicing. Your body returns to this place like a pause, a place to collect yourself, then you are standing to attention, ready for what’s next.
If we omit the Samasthiti in our asana practice and in our lives, there is no pause. No moment of reflection. There is no return to a neutral space. We miss the spot where you are standing to attention, where you can be receptive and ready, as you are already jumping into the next thing.
Samasthiti is like pressing the reset button. It is the returning to neutral. The return to a balanced state. A place where you are still and focused. In reflecting on Samasthiti and also coinciding with the frustrations I've had in being a parent to a child finding her way in the world, it's so important to return to this place as often as we can in parenting. In fact it’s important in any relationship we are conducting. After a frustration, an argument, high emotions, we return our relationship to Samasthiti. We return to our centre, to our breath, to a still and neutral space where we are full of awareness, attention and receptivity.