It is easy during our yoga practice to place our attention on the poses (asanas). Each pose becomes a goal that we aim for with the intent of mastering proper safe alignment and expanding into our fullest expression of the pose for that day. It is indeed entirely appropriate to be focused and present in each pose we do. The challenge is to remain equally focused and present in the moments in between poses as we transition from one to the next.
Those transitional moments are ones often pass through unnoticed with our attention already focused on the next pose to which we are headed. Given our typical state of inattention during transitions, I suppose it is not surprising that there is a greater risk of injury as we are moving into or out of poses than when we are holding them.
Moving slowly and mindfully through the transitions between poses reduces the risk of injury in several ways. First, the added focus on our movements during transitions helps to improve our attention on safe alignment. Second, slower transitional movements reduce the risk that we will overdo a movement into a posture by allowing momentum to carry us beyond what our body is prepared to handle in the moment. Third, spending more time in transitions helps us to build greater strength that prevents injuries over time. When we are in a posture, our bones generally provide much of the support needed, requiring less muscle strength. Between postures, our muscles must provide more of the support, thus greater strength is needed (and built) in these moments.
In addition to all of these physical benefits that reduce the risk of injury, becoming more mindful of our transitions between postures is also great training for the way we live our lives. I can so often become so focused on achieving one goal after the next that I forget to enjoy the journey along the way. Yet the beauty and joy in life is all about the journey, not the destination. As I learn to mindfully observe and experience my moments of transition between postures on my mat, I am training my mind to become more mindful of the moments of my life between my goals as well.
And it is the mindful awareness of those moments “in between” where the river of life flows. How mindful are you of your transitional moments?