If you want to really enjoy and advance in your asana practice, it’s important to feel what you’re doing, not just on the level of what muscles are stretching or strengthening, but on a deeper level. You’ll want to experience your fullest expression of each pose. This doesn’t mean pushing as hard as you can to move further into a pose so that it looks a particular way—that can actually get in the way. Like expressing an idea or an artistic concept, this comes from the inside.
So rather than externally placing your body in the shape of a pose, try moving into it from within: First take a few moments to notice your breath and feel how your body gently expands and contracts as you breathe. Think about the shape of the pose you’re going to do. Then use your breath to move into the pose, allowing that shape to unfold from the inside out, effortlessly, like a blossoming flower.
As you hold the pose, be aware of your breath. Feel your body alive, pulsating with prana (subtle energy) and with the movement of your breath. Even as you work your muscles in a pose, keep a softness about it. This may mean bending your knees slightly or backing off just a bit so your pose can blossom fully.
Practicing like this helps you tune into what your fullest expression of the pose can be. If you go too far, your body will stiffen, your breath will become uneven, you’ll inhibit the flow of prana and lose the fluidity of the pose. Moving from the inside out helps you find that boundary between your fullest expression of a posture and going too far. Stopping this side of that boundary enables you to enjoy the asana in a way that’s comfortable for you, where you can feel the breath and the prana moving throughout your body. You’ll still be challenging yourself, but it will feel better… somehow more organic.
It really is wonderful to flow through an asana session moving with the breath from the inside out. It leaves you feeling energized, relaxed, and peaceful—like a flower at its peak, beautiful and fully blossomed.