One of the skills to cultivate in yoga practice – no, all of life! – is effortless effort.
This doesn’t mean lifting weights without grunting; it means applying an attitude of relaxed attention to whatever you are doing.
For instance, we wouldn’t think of doing trikonasana with tense shoulders or while holding the breath, but we might not notice the diaphragm being tight. Or, that we are mentally composing a grocery list.
Paying acute attention to what my mind or my body was doing was so necessary to do when I had osteoarthritis because at times I hit up against a pain wall. Pain was a good awareness teacher in these instances.
A friend of mine has hypertension and has excellent yoga awareness, but when blood pressure goes up, it’s probably time to intensify one’s focus.
Supported forward bends are recommended for hypertension, partly because they afford a time when you can “go inside” better. Because of being quiet with your head supported, you can see what your mind is up to and bring it into the moment. What you might discover is general busy-ness or tension because of certain kinds of thoughts. These thoughts may make you tense up in your muscles. Fine-tuning your awareness means you can discover what might be robbing you of calmness when you’re off the mat.
Here are some good yoga poses for refining your awareness:
Savasana – If you have a busy mind, do it with a bolster supporting your torso, a blanket under your head.
Lying over crossed bolsters – A chest opener for your lungs and heart.
Uttanasana – Head, folded arms supported on a bolster/blankets on the seat of a chair.
Adho Mukha Svanasana – Head supported on bolster/blankets.
Adho Mukha Virasana – Resting on a bolster
Supported Paschimottanasana – Head, arms supported on props/chair seat
Supta Baddha Konasana – Torso supported by bolster, head supported by blanket, belt for legs
Viparita Karani – On bolster.