by Lisa Stowe
As an economist by training, I am used to thinking about equilibrium. My professional life is filled with the consideration of equilibrium – in money markets, in labor markets, in financial markets. These markets are constantly buffeted by shocks, some positive and some negative, and evolve in an acknowledged (if not desired) cyclical manner.
When an economy is operating below its equilibrium path, external stimulus can help speed the return to a stable path. Similarly, when an economy is living beyond its means and is operating above its equilibrium path, policymakers can press the brakes to nudge the economy back to a balanced position.
What about our yoga practice? How does it evolve? As mindful practitioners, how do we respond to shocks to our yogic path?
In its early stages, our practice grows quickly as we build strength, flexibility, and discover muscles we never knew beforehand. For many of us, this initial period of growth slows. Just when we think we’ve got it – all of sudden we don’t. Our shoulders refuse to live on our back, our back is twinge-y in bridge, and all of sudden balancing in tree is touch and go. Or maybe we push our body beyond its limits, overstretching our hamstrings, opening our hips too much, or in my case at the moment, we herniate a lumbar disc.
At Mala, we are fortunate to have a supportive community of teachers and fellow yogis to help us along our path. Ultimately however, we are the only yoga “policymaker” that can drive the return to equilibrium in our own yoga practice. With devoted attention, we can dial back the elements of our practice that pushed us beyond the border of accessibility.
As I continue to work with my back injury, the most important lesson that my professional life can impart to my yoga life is that despite perceived setbacks, my practice continues to grow. In the near term, a persistent focus on core strength can feel tedious, as I skip the big backbends in favor of navasana and plank holds. Fortunately, this thoughtful work will pay dividends beyond just helping my back to heal, as I strengthen the foundations of my practice.
As we practice over a long horizon, the motion may not be uniformly forward, and there will be fluctuations along the way, but with focus and patience, equilibrium can be attained once more, hopefully better than before.
Lisa Stowe is a yogi, economist and mom who is as graceful with her arm balances as she is balancing budgets and juggling two young children. We’re thrilled that she’ll be writing the PRACTICE MAKES PRACTICE column while Sandra Bark is traveling for work.