The physical world that we live in is one of duality. From male to female, light to dark, day to night, objective to subjective, beginning to ending, so on and so forth. Where a certain quality for example, soft, exist, the law of duality will see that another polar end of it, i.e. hard, can be found too.
The human anatomy is not spared of this requisite of duality. There are forces of duality expressing and working through us, our physical body, all the time. Take for instance our musculoskeletal movements within a simple motion such as raising an arm or abduction of arm about the shoulder joint – the deltoid contracts while the serratus anterior stretches.
In anatomical terms, the head is superior to the feet and the feet is inferior to the head, the chest is anterior to the back and the back is posterior to the chest. One wonders: how is extroversion better or worse than introversion or being beautiful as good and ugly as bad? Truth is objective while feelings and opinions are subjective. Just as the muscular synergists contract so that the antagonists lengthen, these opposing conditions or qualities collaborate to facilitate the workings of the whole in our physical dimension.
Yoga works with and balances the forces of nature acting within the human form. In Yoga asanas, we align with the nature of duality by balancing the opposing forces acting throughout the musculoskeletal system. From the practice of synchronising every inhalation and exhalation to the flexion and extension about a joint, yoga asanas work with us from the subtle superficial levels to deep levels within.
In the Surya Namaskar (12-Step Sun Salutations) for Hatha Yoga, one begins in Samasthiti – palms at the heart centre. Each posture is subsequently followed by another counter posture before one comes back to full circle in Samasthiti. In Urdhva Mukha Shavanasana (upward facing dog), the latissimus dorsi contracts while the abdominal muscles, anterior to the back, stretches. The opposite takes place in Adho Mukha Shavanasana (downward facing dog), follow up to the previous pose Urdhva Mukha Shavanasana in Surya Namaskar, where the latissimus dorsi stretches to contract the abdominals.
The practice of Surya Namaskar assimilates the counteracting forces of duality within and around us, circling us into the One as representing the Sun, our source of energy. In many ways, Yoga teaches us the art of non-duality within duality. It reminds us of unity consciousness that permeates through all things, even in polarised ones. By leveraging upon the law of duality, the practice of yoga carries ceaseless potential to move us closer to a state of being at One, of union and of wholeness.
Yu Ting Ong (YTT 200hr, August 2017)