Reflections Taking Support, and Sharing the Dance

A Sanskrit word for support, or foundation, is alambana. The 'lamb' portion of that word means "to rest on." You may be familiar with variations of the word such as salamba sarvangasana, or salamba sirsasana (the head and shoulder balance poses that are done with the support of the arms) verses their unsupported niralamba variations. But an alambana can be thought of (or rather perceived to be) as a support in a much larger and more profound way. We sometimes take the support of a prop, a person, or a wall in an asana, so as to relax the nervous system sufficiently. This allows us to more accurately perceive what is going on in our bodies and with our breath. Taking the support helps increase proprioception (how we know where our body parts are in relation to each other and the environment). Taking support also allows a release of unnecessary muscular tension and the accompanying physical and mental effort, which allows us to be more sensitive and perceptive in our asana. Support allows our nervous system to relax a bit, so there are less fear-based reactions and more deliberate, skillful actions. In other words actions we take actions, which are founded on, and supported by, awareness.

But this is true in relationships as well.

I am remembering an experience that I had back in the fall of 2009 when I took my Senior Intermediate Iyengar Teaching Examination. In the US, this is the highest level of certification for which an exam is required and consequently there can be a lot of stress involved in the exam process.

I had always traveled to my exams (called assessments) by myself. There had been several, and they had been spread out over the course of several years. My husband suggested that he accompany me (that is, drive me to DC and stay with me in a hotel) and support me during the exam process. At first I was taken aback, since I had always done this by myself. And a part of me was afraid that receiving the support of another person would mean I was in some way not up to the task. I thought his presence might distract me. He assured me that he would be there as a support, someone to lean on if and when I needed it. The sweetness and selflessness of his offer softened me. "Why not?" Why not receive the support of another person? Asana, pranayama, and the philosophy of yoga (particularly) have been amazing supports for me in stressful times. So why not take the support of the one person I love more that anything, in what could be described as a stressful situation.

Needless to say this was a very powerful experience for me. Not solely because I passed the exam, but because I let myself receive the support of another. Could I have done it alone? Perhaps. But to choose to share the dance, which is really always the case in some way or another, turned out to be the single most rewarding aspect of the whole experience.

And learning to share this dance was a rehearsal for the much more difficult dance that occurred when my father died this summer. My husband was again there, an incredible support, as I try to be for him. We all do in fact lean on each other in various ways. How wonderful though to see this as a deliberate dance of shared support. We support and are supported by each other, and in that we can expend a little less effort in this process of living, we can feel a little more fully while we are here, and learn to surrender the sense of separateness that keeps off the dance floor of life.