2 October 2009

Standing Poses

Friday 2nd October 2009

Another one hour practice tonight. It started energetically, pure Ashtanga, flowing and moving in perfect unison with the breath, following the Primary sequence without compromise, 5 breaths in each pose, vinyasas inbetween.
Up to Janu Sirsasana B.
Then without warning I stopped.
Instantaneous and unexpected.
Just like that, I ran out of fuel!
Oh well. I was enjoying myself so I continued on…did some nice quiet twists: Ardha Matsyendrasana, some seated Padmasana twisting, a long cross legged seated forward bend, and Upavista Konasana twisting and folding forward over each leg (wow, full fold and chin to knee on the left side but not even a third of the way forward on the right side – right THERE is where I come face to face with the lumbar/hip injury).
Grabbed my orange bolster for a few minutes in Supta Baddha Konasana then set it up for Viparitta Karani up the wall.
One hour all up.

I’m quite enjoying the shorter evening practices. Since I stopped beating myself up about not doing a regular 2 hour morning practice, I’m getting to the mat more often, almost daily, and the regular yoga is starting to reinvigorate my body and soul.
Inspiration and new energy are flowing into my life.

Walking home from work today I noticed how strong my legs felt, due, no doubt to a few days of standing poses. I’m a beginner again, feeling the effects of yoga - well maybe not a beginner, perhaps a born again yogi.
And I’m in love with yoga all over again.

That feeling of strength and power in the legs surreptitiously works its way into the psyche. That’s what I love about yoga…it transcends the physical and permeates all our other koshas, transforming us holistically in the alchemical process.

A strong physical base gives me a feeling of being grounded in reality, invokes a sense of integrity, solidity. I am more practical and ‘down-to-earth in my outlook, more resolute in following my ideals and more intent on making them real. The standing poses are empowering in an earthy way. They ground and earth our energy, connect us to our roots, firm our physical and psychological foundations.
I see the earth as an enormous ball that we walk over. It’s dense, solid, compact and we can take advantage of those qualities and hook into them when we do the standing poses.
But the earth isn’t just a solid ball, it contains liquid, heat and gases, just like us.
We are of the earth.
(which reminds me of a lovely saying: “Be humble for you are made of earth. Be noble for you are made of stars.”)

When learning yoga in my early years I was taught to consciously press my feet firmly into the ground in all the standing poses. Later on (possibly in workshops with Glenn Ceresoli) I learned how to draw the muscular energy upwards through the legs, so I had a sense of both pressing down and drawing up at the same time.
Sometimes I play with pressing down through a different part of the foot - the ball of the foot, the outer heel, the outer blade, the centre of the heel – and its interesting to observe the subtle changes in my body and mind as I do this.
My first (Iyengar) yoga teacher emphasised the ball of the big toe. My last (Ashtanga) teacher was obsessed with the outer heel. There’s no right way to do these poses as long as we remain fully present and sensitive to what’s happening on all levels as we play within them, that is the essence of yoga practice.

My favourite standing pose is Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana – it has been for a long time – but it just keeps getting lovelier. I look forward to it. I do it with love: the precarious forward bend over the front leg that demands a strong abdominal lift, the precarious transition from A to B taking the lifted leg from the front to the side and maintaining the height of the leg all the way, the precarious turn of the head in the opposite direction to the side lifted leg that destabilises your balance unless you’ve got the entire inner core grounded.

I relish the challenge of this pose, of simultaneously grounding, balancing and lifting, pressing down through the floor while moving energy (prana) up and around the body: up through the standing leg, the hips, the pelvis and the central channel, outwards through the arm and lifted leg, yet drawing in from the periphery to the core. There’s so much going on in in this pose - and every other pose.

I should stop writing now, and go home, and practice ...

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