Every pose is a puzzle, like one of those sets of bent segments that nestle this way and that to make a smooth cube or cool car. I love assembling the parts of a pose: one day more strength here, more stretch there another, a new torque of the hip–I strive to make the ancient shapes perfectly, and sometimes I manage to, aligning my diverse lengths in one simple sweep of energy.
It is a complicated simplicity, of course, as anyone knows who has stood for one minute on one foot. There is always a key, a keystone, a lynchpin, a lever. So if the puzzle is to stand on one foot, the keystone is the hips’ grip on the spine, to keep it still and plumb. Or if the puzzle is how to rise vertically from the second awkward chair, the lever is the feet pushing down, rather then the thighs trying to pry the torso away from gravity. A tight curl in rabbit requires a tiny forward scooch of the tailbone, which tucks the belly out of the way and begins the curve where the spine begins.
The list is endless, infinite maybe: Each phase of learning a posture has its mystery and, I hope, its eureka. So notwithstanding the apparent repetitiveness of doing the same poses again and again, this yoga is a process of discovery. And who does not like to learn secrets, learn all the angles?
There are other puzzles in yoga too, such as: Why is the backbend about the future? I am sure the answer is primal and written on page 492 of some mystic’s manual. But I want it to arise one day on a wave of kundalini, like Venus from the sea. Mysterious forces do solve puzzles now and then.