From The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams
Balasana or Child’s Pose
‘so much love stirred in his little sawdust heart that it almost burst. And into his boot-button eyes, that had long ago lost their polish, there came a look of wisdom and beauty’
What is REAL? I’m sure many yogis echo the Velveteen Rabbit’s question in this wisest of fables, and most-loved of children’s classics. Balasana is often offered in yoga classes often as a rest pose – you go there when it’s all got too much, and you need a break. It can be very hard not to see shame in the pose; you weren’t trying, you gave up, you are not doing as well as the person next to you balancing ferociously on one hand. But yoga isn’t about having ‘things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle’, someone can be doing the most outwardly impressive gymnastics with no intention, inner focus or effort. And the beginner who manages one posture with concentration, huge effort, purity of intention and joy, has probably achieved much, much more. Yoga is not a performance, it’s about what happens inside. Sometimes, knowing when to kneel down and put your head on the floor, shows much greater wisdom. The ‘mechanical toys’ in The Velveteen Rabbit are a lovely metaphor for a short-termist, competitive approach to yoga – they ‘arrive to boast and swagger, and by-and-by break their mainsprings and pass away’ they ‘were only toys, and would never turn into anything else.’ Yoga is a neverending journey. You can never perfect an asana, there is always more to do; and the more you learn, the more you find out there is to learn. The Boy calls the Velveteen Rabbit ‘real’, and the rabbit is overcome with joy, and assumes he has arrived at his destination; things can’t get better than this. Yet it is only after he has suffered heartbreak and loss, that he finds there is a whole new level and meaning of ‘real’, which was entirely beyond his comprehension before, and bounces off into the sunset with the real-life bunnies, finding muscles in his hind legs he never knew he had.
Yoga magic, like nursery magic, ‘is very strange and wonderful’. And like your favourite childhood book, you can revisit balasana again and again, to be comforted, strengthened and maybe find something new each time.