YOLY Challenge #45: Honoring Transition

Happy May Day!

In ancient times, this day celebrated the season of fruitfulness and the coming of summer for many northern hemisphere cultures. The festivities may have included a maypole –padstow-736149__340 thought to be the symbol for a tree that represents new vegetation. More recently in the U.S., this type of celebration is usually only seen in schools as it is taught as a tradition stemming from the European cultures. Nowadays, and by coincidence, May Day is associated with protests and marches promoting change for the rights of workers and immigrants.

Symbolically, the month of May is connected with movement, balance and change or transition.

A big part of life is experienced through transition. Our bodies and minds go through many phases as a result of maturation, education, connections and societies’ conventions. And, as we “go across” these passages, we attempt to keep a steady footing on the other side. Some of the transitions we encounter can be smooth when we learn to adapt and accommodate. But many times, the shifts we undergo create havoc and can be harmful.

The same is true for our yoga practice.  While we may master specific poses, or at least feel confident and comfortable practicing them, the transitions into and out of these poses may not be as composed. Knees, hips and feet can easily move out of alignment and, with repetition, be injurious to a yoga practice. This is especially true when we do vinyasa yoga, a form defined by linking postures in a flowing routine.

So, our challenge this week is to be more aware of our transitions; since this is the season for transformation.  Let’s break down the elements of our practice and tune into the spaces between the poses.

  • Find a resting place to digest your experience as you practice. As you progress through your daily practice, return to Tadasana (mountain pose), Adho Mukha Svanasana (downward dog) or Balasana (child’s pose) to realign with your breath and get back in touch with your intention.
  • Work on your balance.  Repeatedly insert Vrksasana (tree pose) between other standing postures to hone your alignment and your perception.
  • Try linking one posture with another.  Start with a downward dog/plank combination or try to move from warrior I to warrior II.  Study the principles of alignment for these various poses, as instructed in Iyengar yoga for example, to make certain the transitions are healthy ones for your joints.
  • Practice Nadi Shodhana This breathing technique will balance and clarify your mind so that you can transition well off your mat. Use caution as any form of pranayama can be a powerful force.
  • Transition to the ground. When you complete your standing poses, find a posture for converting to the floor such as Uttanasana (forward bend) or Prasarita Padottanasana (wide angle forward bend).
  • Allow yourself time for transitioning at the start and end of your practice.  Initiate your practice with seated breath awareness and/or an invocation. Before jumping up to start your day, give yourself permission to close the practice with a quiet acknowledgement in a simple seated posture.

Hopefully, these tools will not only enhance your practice but make you more aware of the metamorphosis that is yoga.

Namasté.

Balance Your Strengths

ladybug-1599010__340 Still talking about balance it seems… with the equinox and the strengthening theme we’ve got going for this month, equilibrium has been on my mind.

Since my students and I are headquartered in Sedona, our temperate climate gives us ample opportunity for enjoying the outdoors year round.  Whether its tennis, golf, hiking or biking, it seems that we all have a specific activity that we gravitate to.

However, it’s important to remember that each of these activities can evoke a bias, taking us away from our equilibrium. Tennis and golf tend to generate right and left-sided asymmetries while hiking and biking have a tendency to create front body vs back body imbalances. If performed regularly, these actions can develop habits or patterns of movement that may overuse and under use specific muscle groups. 

Therefore, it is pivotal to learn how to balance your strengths.

Yoga is a wonderful exploration into symmetry and a great educator for any imbalances you experience; whether they are activity related or structural.  As you delve further into its practice, you will find that the planes of symmetry: front/back & left/right become more obvious. It’s interesting how adept you can get at identifying your body in sides or segments!

For me, this developed as a result of the training I received via the Iyengar method of yoga. Specifically, Iyengar yoga is taught with precise alignment principles that provide a greater sense of harmony and balance within the body. Once the sense of alignment is established, it is easier to picture your body in different sections working together.

Some years ago, I attended a workshop with Ramanand Patel. During Savasana, he presented an awareness visualization that brought me to a whole new level of body perception. It was the first time that I literally experienced myself in two halves. It felt as though there was a wall between my right and left sides.  Looking back, this may have been more evident to me because I have a scoliosis (which truly does create two different sides of the body). But that’s for another post.

images

In addition to providing awareness, yoga’s alignment principles will make you stronger. With correct positioning in postures, bones can be stacked vertically or lined up laterally so that the muscles can be more productive. A great example of this is in Urdha Mukha Svanasana or Upward Facing Dog.

If the wrists are stacked directly under the shoulders, the posture feels miraculously stronger than if the hands are set forward or backward a few inches.

Similarly, if one of your joints is misaligned or any of your muscles or connective tissues are unstable, there will be a decrease in the overall capacity of that area – be it the hip/leg, shoulder/arm, or the back body. But it doesn’t stop there. This weakness will need to be compensated for somewhere else in the body which can create yet another zone of instability. 

So, listen to your body. Don’t ignore nagging pain and look for ways to level your tendencies. In general, you will find that Yoga is the ultimate balancing act.

In whatever position one is in, or in whatever condition in life one is placed, one must find balance. Balance is the state of the present – the here and now. If you balance in the present, you are living in Eternity. – B.K.S. Iyengar

Save