Dear Sweet Community:
Guess what?...I am walking! (ok fine with crutches but who's getting caught in the semantics ;)I have started doing physical therapy and the pain and limitation in my foot has been really humbling. So when I am faced with the pain I wonder; how should I handle it? Should I take the pain meds? Should I have a drink? I start to wonder if I am different from other people who might be experiencing this kind of pain- maybe they do this more right or better? And then I start realizing that well, there is no right way to move through this. I am not doing it right if I am "saintly optimistic" or "perfectly yogic". I am doing it my way. And I am accountable for my choices.
This is true on the mat. As much as this might contradict me as a teacher to say; there is no right way to do asana. There are principles and guidelines to keep us from injuring ourselves and to encourage a certain stretch. These principles are also spiritual ones that help us from injuring ourselves or others emotionally. But really each pose and choice we have is directed by ourselves. If keeping your leg straight in a pose doesn't feel good, check in with yourself, maybe you need to do it with a bent leg. Just as me being in pain opens choices and day to day, hour to hour, the choices are shifting, so does asana open you up. Our relationship to experiences is never the same because no two experiences are duplicates. I realize there is no right way to deal with pain, and there is no right way to move through your practice. There is your way. The next time you find yourself on the mat, try listening deeply to your body and the choices it needs you to make. Do the practice that honors you the most. You might surprise yourself...I have.
Alignment Tip of The Week:
The past two Fridays we focused on Trokonasana (Triangle pose), ParivrttaTrikonasana (Twisted Triangle pose) and The Abdominals.
Trikonasana is an amazing pose. It stretches the deep side seam and is very good for aligning the spine. It is important to keep this in mind when you do the pose so you find the position that stretches those places for you while avoiding a compressing backbend and over stretching the top of the hamstring. To do Trikonasana stand against a wall with your feet 3 feet apart. Place a block between your right foot and the wall and then turn your right foot out so it runs parallel to the wall. Bring your left heel perpendicular to the wall and straighten both legs keeping a micro, not even visible, bend in the right knee. Standing upright open your arms so that your entire spine presses into the wall. Hinge at the waist keeping your arms, spine and hips pressing into the wall. place your right hand on the block and place your left hand on your left ribcage and roll it to the sky. Then extend the left arm up. You should feel a deep side stretch on the left side. Keeping the right knee soft keeps you from hyperextending in the knee and overstretching the hamstring at it's attachment.
Parivrtta Trikonasana is much like pyramid pose. Your legs are 2-3 feet apart on separate train tracks, with the right foot forward. The back foot is open forty-five degrees. Press down evenly through both heels and wake up your legs. Standing upright, hands on your hips fold forwards halfway with a flat back. Here you want to use the principles of a twist; the hips are stable while the spine is long, so the twist happens from the ribs. Put your left hand on the earth or a block to the inside or outside of the right foot. Hook your right thumb into your right hip crease and pull it back. With a long spine twist from the ribs sending the right hand to the sky. You will feel a stretch in the outside of the right leg and a deep twist.
Lets talk abdominals for a moment! Your abdominals are in three layers,they cross each other so they are very strong and... WE ALL HAVE THEM. It is not that we are waiting to get them. You have a core and it is a very strong and resilient place in you. But strength is not armoring. It can be soft and receptive. When you use the abdominals they should be relaxed before you active them. Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Bring your hands on your quadriceps down by your hip bones. Take a deep breath in and really let your belly relax and fill with air. This is called a buddha belly. Empty your belly by breathing out through the mouth while pressing your quadriceps away. Keep your belly relaxed so it falls to the low back organically. At the end of the exhale, without inhaling, sip the belly in even more. This is uddiyana bhanda. Take it a step further and interlace your fingers behind your head. Place a rolled blanket between your legs down by your pelvis. With the knees bent in line with your hips and your shins parallel to the ground, continue the same breath. Breathe in relaxing your belly, breathe out curling your chest and shoulders off of the ground, at the bottom of the exhale curl your tailbone off of the ground. Don't lift the tailbone by bringing your legs towards your chest- this is actually using the low back, instead keep the knees right over the hips and really squeeze the blanket so the lower abdomen has to ignite and work. Do a series of these and then try adding a twist on the exhales to strengthen the obliques. Remember, keep the belly relaxed.
After you do your abdominals stretch them. Backbends stretch the abdominals so a bridge pose or camel or even more gentle backbends such as cobra or sphinx pose.
Our core is deeply supportive but not when it is armoring us and not letting the backbend or heart opener in. So remember to keep softening the abdominals and balance strengthening with opening the heart and stretching the belly.
Asana reminds us to build the relationship with our bodies and the subtle energy within us.
I look forward to seeing you all on the mat,