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The four principles of balance are Vision, Grounding, Support & Centering. In yoga pose, we apply these principles intuitively.

From this  

yogi needs help!

Ommmmm!

To this….  

Balanced and free

Balanced and free in Vrkasana

Vision starts literally where your eyes fall – your drshti, focus, chosen part of the world to take into your senses. You must choose one that is steady, not too large or small and cultivate the ability to stay with it. You must know to reality of your chosen focus, or when it moves and reveals itself to be an ant you’ll be surprised and loose your balance! Paradoxically, perhaps, this means experimentation with an open heart and mind – without resistance or anticipation – and commitment to revising and refining your vision over time.

Grounding happens where the rubber meets the road, or the skin meets the mat. In standing poses this means connecting through all four corners of your feet and feeling your toes relaxed and alive. This is the root or basis of the pose, and integrity here translates into integrity throughout your body. Off the mat, this can mean being transparent and realistic about our motivation and investment. Where does the rubber hit the road? How does a given activity, relationship or necessity really function in the context of your entire life? Where are your “feet” for this endeavor?

Support comes from the expression of the pose through the entire body. In Warrior I, we often let the back leg become a little lax, after all we can’t see it and we’re so focused on the arms in the air and not falling over! Well not falling over is specifically influenced by how alive that back leg is! Even effort throughout all the limbs with the muscles gently huggging the bones and drawing into the core, even while we reach strongly out from the heart supports the overall expression of the pose, or any endeavor.

Centering happens when we muscularly, energetically, emotionally, mentally hew to midline. Just as we draw our muscles to midline at the end of a meditative outbreath, centering requires that we draw our core support muscles into the center of the body. Core strength starts in the inner thighs, is felt in the pelvic floor and translates into the 3 major abdominal muscle groups usually associated with core strength, and even requires the finer muscles supporting the spine, connecting the spine and torso, all of which support the smooth and effective function of the diaphragm in respiration.

Whether in yoga pose or traffic, find equanimity by bringin your awareness to your vision, ground, support & center. You’ll breathe more easily, think more clearly, focus more securely and choose with integrity you find it easy to follow through. Breathe, Balance, Be!

“The light which shines above this heaven, above all the worlds, above everything, in the highest worlds not excelled by any other worlds, that’s the same light  which is in you.” ~Chhandogya Upanishad

What if all the thinking, all the words, ideas aren’t our minds? What if they’re the covering over our minds? Don’t get me wrong – they’re great tools. But what’s overseeing the job site? They’re not the tools you’ll need if you’re looking for your true self or for a steady place to stand.

Science tells us our minds are decentralized in the body. Yoga helps us settle into our heart, where wisdom and intelligence reside. Of course when we talk about heart in yoga, we’re not just talking about the juicy pumping muscle to the left of center in our ribcages. There are a lot of bits housed around there – chemoreceptors, baraoreceptors, lungs, thymus, arteries, lymph nodes, spine, circulating blood and air, esophagus, diaphragm. When we bring our attention to this area, when we just feel what comes up, we are contacting the heart of yoga. Our yoga.

Bringing ease to the muscles and joints around this area can be the beginning or development of this process. This is where many of us Western Yogis start, with asana. Maybe a little breathing practice. Then we might start calling that pranayama. Maybe we meditate for stress reduction. Somewhere along the way we realize these pesky emotions are less pesky, the aches are less achey, the mind is less muddled.

“The heart is the resting place of the pranas, the senses and the mind. It’s your true self, which is identified with intelligence and which finds repose in the space within your heart.” ~Nikhilananada’s Intro to The Principal Upanishads

So then we explore pratyahara – sense withdrawal. But then, where do the senses go? Niky above, says to the space within your heart, your true self. Makes some sense – it’s quieter there than the head or stomach. The feelings come up, but maybe we’re in a place where we can uncouple them enough from the words and judgments to just let them be a bit.

Now we’re practicing saucha in our hearts. Saucha – cleanliness, purity. We don’t often think of it in regard to our hearts, but after we’ve gotten glimpses of the Love that lives there, it makes sense not to store our crap on the porch. If we keep the windows clean maybe it will shine more brightly. The Sanskrit word for this place – Anahata – can be translated “unstruck”. “The space within your heart  is omnipresent and unchanging.” (~Chhandogya Upanishad ) Always with us, always available for us to touch and feel is a place that is unstruck by the blows of life, unmoved by the compliments and criticisms, the lost jobs and the awards. It is always what it is. We are always who we are. Sometimes we just cover it up with judgments, which are really old experiences in new clothes. Film on our windows.

Maybe this is the impetus to poke our noses into the pesky ethical side of yoga.  But if you’ve been cleaning your windows all by yourself, and someone gives you a step ladder and an extension for your sponge, you’ll be pretty glad to pay attention. And they’re pretty simple, deceptively so. Love, Truth, Conserve your energy, Be quiet, Be fierce, Stay Open, Be present, Learn you’re not in control, Study your experience, Respect Others’ Boundaries. But Wow! try to practice ’em all at once! That’ll give any college Ethics Professor a run for her money.

So you keep coming back to the place of quiet stillness to which your mat has become the doorway. “The heart is the hub of all sacred places; go there and roam.” ~Bhagavan Nityananda 

I’m well into the week of the Camel and some days I’ve indulged in a long Camel-centered practice, breathing length and openness into my shoulders, exploring the relation of my triceps to my shoulder girdle, using them to open more fully. (More on that in another post!) Some days I’ve had 5 minutes there of Sun Salutes, 10 of standing and busted out a camel in between.

I’m reminded through all of this that what camels do is store water. So, am I storing refreshing hydration for extended use, or shedding what has been stored because I didn’t digest it when I first took it in?

And I realize, the camel can’t drink until it creates room anew. It has to use its precious store of glistening droplets before it can drink deeply once more.

And the beauty of this pose is that I’m releasing and drinking simultaneously. I am storing sustenance. I am also letting go to make room. Exchange.

And the letting go can be hard. I’m through the initial terror I wrote about last year (see previous post) . And your responses have taught me that I have been in good company: many of us have stored scary and scared feelings in our guts, hearts and voices.

My new challenge is to release through all the layers of my existence. I’m finding that little – one might even say, petty – annoyances and feelings are coming to light. Feelings, judgments, ideas, words I thought I’d left behind. Ones that don’t bear repeating, but let me assure you they’re embarrassing to find tucked away. And they don’t just confine themselves to my mat. They help themselves to the rest of my day, too. Rude these little judgments are. See! There’s another of those rascals!

What is different is that while they register as feelings, they register as “mine” at first, I am finding it possible to let go of the embodied hooks, see them as “not mine, not not mine”, and not re-store them in new the clothes and layers of new judgments. Now, this isn’t a seamless process, and I’ll be perfecting it a long while. But I’m noticing noticing these packages I’ve left for my new self from all my old selves, and it’s allowing me to be more loving to all of them. And to let a lot go.

So that’s my challenge in the week of the Camel: to be a witness to my own experience, to not get lost in it, to let it do what experience does, which is to pass. And so to be able to fill up anew.

What’s yours?

 

  YogaEveryDay:

Love, Truth, Beauty: Here, Now

weekly newsletter: inspiration and tips for including bliss in your day, every day

 

 

  “Why do you run towards that which you have never taken a step away from?” ~Dogen

 

 

 

New yoga class times – different locations!

Sunday evening at YogaNow! 6pm, stay after for Sangha, chanting and mediatiom  (Sangha suggested donation of $10)

Starting 5/17: Saturday Morning Mixed Level class at YogaNow! 7:30

Starting 5/19: M-W-F Morning Mixed Level classes at Ripple Effect 7:00 

Starting 5/30: Friday Slow Restorative at YogaNow! 4:15

 

Send me your yoga class wish list!

I’m adding classes and locations starting in late May. I already have some newly scheduled classes listed above, but I want to know about your dream class: time, place and format. Be as general or specific as you want!

 

off the mat: 

Office Yoga:  Once an hour stop for a moment of breath. Remember the heart opening exercise from last week, roll your shoulders onto your back, relax your eyes, temples, jaw, tongue and neck. Find a rhythm and depth in your breath, expanding your belly, chest and shoulders, releasing in the reverse order, and observing the pause at the top and bottom. Return to work with increased clarity and vigor! 

                                                                                                 

A New Earth:Chapter 7 “Finding Who You Truly Are”

Gnothi Seauton: Know Thyself

 

 Eckhart Tolle’s newest book is called A New EarthI have been asked to host one of the discussion groups for his ongoing web class in conjunction with Oprah Winfrey’s Book Club. You can find my official site at YogaEveryDay.Gather.com with articles and comments. You can write your own article and respond to others on this website as well as join the live discussions held Tuesdays on ANewEarth.Gather.com (you do have to be a member… it’s free to sign up). I’m leading discussion this coming Tuesday, April the 8th at 10am MDT and then again Tuesday , April the 22nd and 29th 5pm MDT. 

Of course you can always check in on yogaeveryday.  wordpress.com for my reflections on reading and daily practice or yogaguide.wordpress.com for class and practice guides.

 

Asana of the week: or in this case, lots of ’em!

 

Surya Namaskar:  Begin in mountain, standing with your hands folded, thumbs touching your heart. Exhale, drop hands, Inhale circle overhead, perhaps lifting your heart for a gentle standing backbend. Exhale, dive forward into a forward fold, knees bent so your belly rests on your thighs. Inhale, extend your head away from your tailbone, rolling shoulders onto your back looking forward. Exhale, step back with your right foot into a lunge (drop your right knee for more ease in the pose). Inhale, lengthen the rib cage away from the pelvis. Exhale, step the left leg back to plank, top of a pushup. Drop your sternum between your shoulder girdles, bringing your shoulderblades together on your back (again, drop knees for more ease). Inhale length, bringing belly toward spine, exhale down to knees – chest – chin (inchworm).Inhale, roll your shoulderblades up and onto your back, pressing  your low belly and tops of feet into ground, raise your head and shoulders away from the ground for cobra. Exhale, pressing into the thumb sides of your hands & rolling your toes under, lift the hips back and up, turning your sitting bones to the sky for downward facing dog. Take five, luxurious breaths and on your fifth exhalation, bring the right foot forward between your hands for a lunge on the other side. Inhale lengthen your tailbone away from your head. Exhale step left foot forward next to right for a forward fold. Inhale, circling the arms up and out come up with a flat back (belly toward spine!) to upward hands, looking up, open heart. Exhale hands back down midline to your heart. Stay here until your breath normalizes, repeat, starting with left foot back, ending with left foot up.

 

Mountain

uphands

forward fold

flat back

lunge

plank

inchworm

cobra

downdog

lunge

forward fold

uphands

Mountain

 

Try 20 minutes of sun salutations in the morning and see how supple and energized you feel!

 

Pranayama of the week:

 Begin with three part yogic breath (above). At the end of an exhalation bring your imagination to your tailbone. Now, imagine on your inbreath that you can drink your breath up your spine from tailbone to skull. Feel the breath on your soft pallette at the back and top of your throat, pulling it upward, sipping the breath up your internal core. Exhale, feel it drain back downward. Feel an energizing connection between your soft palette and pelvic floor. Try for a minute, increasing if you want, any time you want relaxation, connection, awareness.            

 
My mission is to inspire and support you in your daily yoga practice. Relax! Remember, It’s all yoga: you’re always breathing. Sometimes you even know it! For questions, comments, to find out more about practices or ideas mentioned here or how you can get more yoga into your week, call me, Christine Stump, at 505-506-0136 or email me at yogaguides@gmail.com. Namaste.

 

Yoga transforms not by changing but revealing. The asana are technology for revealing meaning, health and connection within your own body.  You are already perfect for this moment of your life precisely the way that you are. You’ll feel this, deep in your being, when you get to know the way that you are. Do you already? Your knowing, your investigating, your moving and feeling subtley shifts your being. Reveal your true self and be astonished!

I love seeing what searches bring you here! Two of the searches yesterday really made me think:

“counter pose to warrior III” &

“why does camel pose in yoga store emotion”.

I have been looking for what others think about camel pose – or ustrasana – and emotion for a while (see my blog on “camel terror”). I haven’t found a lot of guidance, but here’s what I’ve decided: Ustrasana doesn’t store emotion, rather it releases emotion, particularly emotions we’re storing in our bellies and hearts. The third and fourth, and even the fifth chakras’ physical seats are opened and activated in ustrasana, as well as the front channel, or meridian, of the body. Anything we’ve squirrelled away there is stirred up when we lean back and expose those areas of our bodies the way we do in camel pose.

For me, I feel my third chakra, the solar plexis, most riled up by leaning back into this pose. I physically feel emotion at that location and then it spreads up and to a lesser extent down. I think that, like camels who store water, we store emotion along the body parts stretched in camel, and this position is a really juicy way to let go of what we don’t need.

The counter pose question is really good. A counter pose is a pose that’s meant to balance the effects of a preceeding pose, like fish for shoulderstand, or back for forward bends (or visa versa). Now, Vira III – or Warrior III – is a one sided balance pose, so by one way of looking at it, the opposite side is the counter pose.  Counter poses are usually used to neutralize effects on the spinal column, and in Vira III the Spine is long and neutrally aligned, so there is no need to neutralize.  I was unable to find any listed counterposes in the sources I consulted.

So, that’s all for this session of “ask the yoga instructor” 🙂 I love looking through the searches, but also feel free to email me with your questions or yoga concerns:

yogaguides (at) gmail (dot) com 

Yoga ON!!!