Did you ever think during a yoga class, "How much longer is the instructor going to keep us in this pose?" "Geez, we have been in plank pose forever!" Depending on the yoga class, a pose may be brief in a vinyasa class or for several breaths in another class. Each have different benefits. Sometimes, when we hold a asana for a longer time, the mind wanders to the "To Do" list for the day or various thoughts and comments. The practice of staying in an asana longer trains the mind and body in various ways.
There are many benefits of holding poses a longer time. It is an opportunity to practice training the mind to learn focus and keep the focus. In the pose, become aware of your body and how it feels. Root the limbs to the earth and make any adjustments needed in the pose. Appreciate how the body feels. Practice breathing gently while holding the asana. Transition the mind from thinking to feeling. Keep bringing the mind back to the pose and breath each time without criticizing yourself. This practice will spill over into your life outside the yoga studio whether you are playing golf, working or chatting with a friend. You learn to give your full attention in the moment.
Practicing longer yoga stances increases strength and stability in the body which has terrific health benefits. It improves posture and core strength. Practicing easy breathing as the muscles are being challenged helps you in times of stress as well.
Staying in the pose has other ramifications. Think of challenging emotional times that you experienced when you wanted to "run" from your feelings or the situation. Longing for an escape from the scene. Wishing the awful feelings would disappear. Increasingly, the "go to" in these situations for many are excessive alcohol and prescription drugs and prolonged internet use or work. Unfortunately, the statistics are on the rise for overdose in our country. It makes sense that we want to do anything to avoid feeling bad. However, when the chosen solutions are self destructive, it is a vicious downward spiral. It is the practice of staying in these uncomfortable moments that helps us heal. We learn to give a name to anger, grief, sorrow, envy and loneliness. It is during those moments when we come face to face with ourselves. We learn that emotions are like waves; they will flow in and go out again. Thich Knat Hanh writes: "Every breath is a new beginning." Every day the sun will rise. Over time, as we sit with our true self, and with kindness, we learn to have compassion for our self. We learn to love our self as we are. We learn that the whole package is good. That the brown M & M's taste just as good as the red M & M's.
With practice, we become more steadfast and our minds see more clearly during times of emotional stress. As any endeavor worthwhile, it takes practice. It is a lifelong journey. Take to your mat and/or meditation spot daily. Even 5 minutes. Don't strive for "success" , just practice. With consistent practice, change occurs. Notice the moments.