12 October 2007

So You Think You Can Yoga

Saturday 13th October 2007

On first thought it seems strange that yoga is a noun and not a verb since in the modern context, it’s something we actually DO each day (or week). We get on the mat but we don’t yoga, we DO yoga, or if we want to describe the act of yoga, we say we ‘practice’.
“to practice’ is a verb…’to yoga’ isn’t.

But thinking a little more about it, yoga does correctly turn out to be a noun, because yoga is a state of being.
Yoga is the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind. And as all yogis know the word yoga literally translates as ‘yoke’ or ‘union’.
Yoga is the state of union that we aim for when we practice, whatever form that practice takes.

Similarly meditation is not something that we do. Meditation isn’t actually sitting in Padmasana and relaxing the mind, or sitting and focussing on the breath, or sitting and visualising a symbol, or even walking with pure awareness.
Meditation (dhyana) is the pure state of mind that results from these processes if they are successful.

Just a string of random thoughts that came out of ‘So You Think You Can Yoga’.

On The Mat
I went to a class at the shala this morning.
It seemed like I hadn’t been to the shala for over 6 months but when I checked back over my blog entries, the last morning Mysore class I went to was in early June. Only 4 months ago.

With David and Simi both overseas there are no early morning Mysore classes during the week, people just go in and practice on their own. But on Saturday’s, David and Simi’s daughter Inana takes the Mysore class. I thought it started at 8am but when I got there at 7.40am the timetable on the door said the class was 8.30-10.30am. What to do? Walk around the corner to Cibo’s for a pre-practice espresso, against all my better judgement.

So my first practice back at the shala was a bit jittery. When Inana helped me in Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana, my extended leg was not far off vertical in both A and B, but it was doing an espresso shake. Core bandha power was missing for most of the practice as it often is when I start back at shala classes, I guess it’s because there’s less internal focus, my mind just that little bit more distracted and concerned with public performance instead of the usual fully internal gaze.
Even so, it was a very full and unforgiving practice, all hard work with no slacking off, perhaps a little too heavy on intensity. Not until Upavista Konasana did I remember the yearning to ‘dance my yoga’, but it was way too late in the practice to lighten up.

Urdhva Dhanurasana was amazing. Four of them, very authentic in intention and execution. I stayed up in each one for five long breaths, pushing my spine deeper and deeper towards the centre of my body, pushing my feet deeper and deeper into the ground to work my legs more than ever, adjusting the upper thoracic vertebrae just below my neck to open and extend across my armpit chest. I walked my feet in, I walked my hands in. I did not wimp out.
After the final one, I signalled to Inana to help me with dropbacks. She has a such a lovely supportive touch. I raised my arms, and at that crucial point of liftup and archback, she touched the mid thoracic spine to increase it’s curve just as I’m reaching back.

For the first dropback she got me to stay in Urdhva D for five breaths before coming up and while down there, she firmly but gently lifted under my hips to keep them up high for the duration of the supposedly 5 breaths. But since my breath sped up, it was about 50 breaths. The nerves in my lumbar/hip area were on full alert, tissues and ligaments streeeeeetching over and above their usual limit. The pull through the front hips was almost blinding, but I stayed and stayed. Then up I came up. We did about six dropbacks with the breath after that, down and up again.
After that, I was immortalised and in dropback heaven.

A tiny revelation came to me in Sirsasana today. I squeezed my inner ankles, inner knees and inner legs together while I was working in the pose and it woke up a magic spot, an energetic point where mula bandha originates, somewhere between the sacrum and pubis, it’s sexy and powerful at the same time. If you try the squeeze, keep the sacrum pressed forward and the front thighs pressed back, this alignment’s critical to activate the energy of the sweet spot.


gartenfische said...

Sounds like urdhva dhanurasana heaven to me! I'm really working on ud lately, and finding I'm loving it. Using a strap on my upper arms is making all the difference.

I'll have to try your sirsasana secret!

nobodhi said...

The strap gives a great adjustment and opening through the entire shoulder area when we don't have a teacher to pry us open. Backbends are key trigger poses for releasing emotional blocks but for me, they're also a fantastic tool for testing my staying power and strengthening my will. Love them and hate them!
Thanks for your feedback on other posts Gartenfische.

gartenfische said...

You're welcome, and thank YOU for such insightful posts!