Dear Sweet Community,
I am saddened by what happened in South Carolina this past week. My mind keeps on traveling to the complexity of human relations and the helplessness I feel when we hurt each other so profoundly. Perhaps our spiritual practices help us to feel like we are doing our part. They give us faith that there is a way we can affect positive outcomes in our world. As a yogini, I believe in sending energy to another. I often hold people I am having a hard time with or I know are suffering in my heart as I do my practice. This is called sending metta to others. I know that some of the reason I do this is because it is part of what I CAN DO and that feels comforting. I also practice slowing down and listening to others. This is my greatest meditation. There is a growing chasm in our country, where the sensitive topics become so hard to talk about that dialogue can't happen. Now more than ever we need to forge these conversations and share experiences. We need to trust one another enough to offend and be offended. Because the other option is a world where we look the other way, where we don't understand one another, and where we simply forget that our unified blessings can hold a mourning loved one or create peace.
Alignment Tip of The Week:
The past two Fridays we worked on Utkatasana (chair pose) and Bakasana (crow). In some ways these two poses go really well together. Chair pose is grounding through your feet and Crow Pose is grounding through your hands.
To do Utkatasana begin against the wall with a block between the legs right by the knees. Bend your knees so they are stacked over your ankles with your spine against the wall. Reach your hands out in front of you and push your shoulder blades into the wall. Then reach your arms up to the sky keeping the shoulder blades down the back. Feel the dynamic tension around the knees. This pose is meant to strengthen the ligaments around the knees. Once you feel this alignment, stand away from the wall with your feet together with the big toes touching and the heels slightly away. As you bend your knees, bring your weight into your heels. Putting your weight in to the heel with your knee over the ankle will help you understand the alignment for other poses like high lunge. First bring your arms into cactus arms and really pull the shoulder blades down the back. Then send them to the sky keeping the shoulder blades down the back. Make sure that you are comfortable in chair. Let your tail bone drop naturally but don't take the organic "s" curve out of the spine. Once you have found that ligament for chair, you can't twist chair and use it to enter arm balances.
Speaking of arm balances, one of my favorite is Bakasana. Crow pose is the foundation for all other arm balances and inversions. Crow teaches us the importance of the core. Lie on your back and bring your shins parallel o the earth. Then bring your big toes together and knees flare apart. With your hands interlaced behind your head take an inhale and on the exhale curl your shoulders off of the ground. Staying here reach your arms so they press on the inside of the knees and the knees press into the arms while flexing your wrists. You should feel your core working here. This is the shape of Bakasana. Try the same thing but in figure four with eh right leg first. Interlacing the fingers behind your head, lift the shoulders on an exhale. Then reach your arms out hooking the right foot around the left arm. This is your flying crow. Lastly try twisting to the right on your exhale with the shins together and parallel to the earth, and extend the arms out to the right- this is your side crow.
Before entering crow find a chaturunga (or the bottom of a pushup). Remember the elbows squeeze into your sides and the shoulder blades come down the back. Now, all variations of crow and arm balances are a chatarunga in your arms. Stand on a block and flare your knees wide as they bend. Clamp your knees on the outside of your arms. Plant your hands on the earth shoulder width apart and rock your shoulders over your wrists. Squeezing the elbows in, lift one set of toes off of the ground and then the other. Squeeze the big toes together as your gently life through the inner legs. Think of some thing that makes you take a big inhale in (to me it is being 200 feet up a rockwall in Yosemite ;)
For flying crow come to a standing figure four and plant your hands on the earth. Wrap the right foot around the left elbow. Remember your are in chaturunga in your arms. Lift the left foot off of the ground and then try straightening the leg. Repeat to the other side.
Lastly, for twisted crow come to a squat with your legs together and twist to the right. Really work your left elbow on the outside of the right knee and then plant your hands on the earth. Lean forward with your feet coming off of the ground together. At first you can use the right elbow as scaffolding, resting your right ribcage on the elbow and bringing your right cheek to the earth. As you get more advanced keep your head off of the ground. Repeat to the other side.
Remember that whether you are grounding deeply in to the feet or taking flight off of the hands, this practice reminds us to come back to slowing down and really being present with ourselves and others.
See you on the mat,
Have a sweet day,