Spring always feels like a very creative time of year to me. As I see the flowers and trees getting ready to bloom, I can’t help but think what kinds of things will be blossoming in my own life. Lately I’ve been thinking about how my yoga practice has been growing and changing over the last few years. As many of you know, my first taste of yoga was in a gym class in high school. That was the beginning of my fascination with this practice. My second foray came much later, while I was living in Manhattan during the height of my acting/auditioning “career” when I was busy trying to be tall, small, funny, serious, the young mom, the quirky best friend. But I believe my yoga practice truly began when due to limited financial resources (i.e. no money) I was forced to stop taking classes. Having fallen in love with yoga I wasn’t about to give it up again, so I basically started practicing at home, trying to re-create some of the asanas and sequences as I remembered from class. I would supplement those memories with bits that I read in Yoga Journal and things I would pick up from videos. In the end what was so interesting is that none of those things solely made up my practice. It became a smorgasbord. Before I knew it I had created my own yoga practice and it was coming from me – how I felt, what I needed to explore that day. I had a loose idea about sequencing, but it was really about what felt good.
As I became more confident, I also became more comfortable, trusting my intuition to guide me. I loved experimenting with different ways to combine asanas, exploring various ways into and out of the shapes. I loved finding alternate ways to move my body. In a way it was like I was creating a yoga dance. It became, like art, music, acting, writing, my creative outlet - how I got to explore my body in motion without anyone else imposing their movements on me.
The beauty of the yoga practice is that it really lives in all of us. Every time we notice our breath or become aware of our actions, we are creating a yoga practice in that moment. It doesn’t have to be about practicing challenging poses or doing 52 sun salutations. Very simply, it can be about carving out time to move in a way that connects you with the deepest part of you, your breath, your expression of your true self. It’s not about doing the poses perfectly, but about the space you create in your body and mind. It doesn’t have to be a replacement for class or working with a teacher. Rather, it supports your practice. It’s a chance for you to explore on your own – to figure out how these shapes live within you. Having a home practice, as I see it, provides us with the opportunity to connect more deeply with ourselves, tune in and listen to our inner yoga tour guide to lead us in a practice that supports what we need. It becomes a time to awaken our creative resources and to truly and honestly move from the inside out.
And beyond the asanas of course, is a whole landscape of teachings you may have heard about in class. So if you don’t feel like doing a physical practice, you can explore how a teaching can become a part of your day-to-day life. How you interpret these teachings and apply them in your practice and in your life is open to your creative interpretation. How they play a part in your life will be different than how they show up in someone else’s life.
As you can see, there‘s room for interpretation, room for play, room for creativity. So go home, unfold your mat, roll around on it and make this practice YOURS!
What I am actually saying is that we need to be willing to let our intuition guide us, and then be willing to follow that guidance directly and fearlessly. Shakti Gawain
Why should we all use our creative power…? Because there is nothing that makes people so generous, joyful, lively, bold and compassionate, so indifferent to fighting and the accumulation of objects and money. Brenda Ueland
Simply start by sitting on your mat. Breathe– maybe 2-5 minutes.
The next time you come to your mat, plan to be on your mat for 10 minutes. Start with the breathing for 2-5 minutes, do 1 or 2 poses, and rest in savasana for 2-3 minutes.
The next time, plan on being on your mat for 15 minutes – again starting with the breath, those first 1 or 2 shapes and then add on 1 or 2 more – rest in savasna.
And keep building one shape at a time.
Pick your favorite pose. Think about what type of pose it is (a back bend, a forward bend, a hip opener, a twist, a combination of the above). Notice what area it opens (the heart, the hips, the hamstrings, the shoulders…). Then pick a few other asanas that would help open up that area. String them together from the least challenging to the more challenging, leading up to your favorite pose!
WORDS OF WISDOM
True yoga is found not in texts, but in the heart of the practitioner. The texts are just the footprints of the elephant, the droppings of the deer. The poses are just the ever-changing manifestations of our life energy; what matters is our devotion to awakening that energy and expressing it in physical form. Yoga is both old and new – it’s inconceivably ancient, and yet fresh every time we come to it. Anne Cushman, “From loincloths to leotards”, Yoga Journal, 1999.
Pick a word or phrase or even an image that resonates with you. Perhaps it is something you want to invoke in your life – a quality you’d like to see within yourself or the world around you. Use that word or phrase as a mantra. As you inhale think the word/phrase and as you exhale chant it. If you are using an image, you can visualize it becoming stronger and stronger as your breaths become deeper, more fluid and more connected.
To access more meditation ideas, check out www.yogajournal.com
POSE OF THE SEASON
One of my favorite shapes is in fact Extended Triangle Pose (Utthita Trikonasana). I love how it lengthens my hamstrings, inner thighs and calves, opens my hips and of course my heart. In order to get comfortably and safely into trikonasana it’s wise to do a little warm-up and few sun salutations (see this is bliss, Fall 2006) to bring warmth into the whole body.
Here are some ideas to play around with before approaching Triangle Pose
(If you have knee, hip, ankle, neck issues this may not be the pose for you. As with any physical/exercise program you should always consult your doctor before trying a new practice.)
Root down deeply through both feet. Keep the big toe mound of your right foot planted into the ground. Extend out and ground down through the outer edge of your back left foot. As both feet root down find little lifts through the inner arches of both feet to enliven the inner legs. You can even hug the heels towards each other energetically for a little extra juice in the legs. Allow the right arm to extend downward so the left arm can reach higher into the sky (be mindful of applying too much force if the hand rests on the shin).
Draw the right thigh bone up and into the hip socket. Let the right hip draw back, sliding the right sitting bones toward your left inner thigh. Soften the left hip point slightly forward, allowing the low back to widen. Lengthen the tailbone to your back left heel. Breathe the right ribs long over your right thigh and revolve the chest upward from the spin of the right ribs underneath you. Knit the front ribs into the back body, lathering up the back ribs and lengthening the spine.
Keep the left upper arm plugged into the shoulder socket. Hug the shoulder blades gently towards the spine without pinching them together. Slide the blades down your back away from your ears. Allow the collar bones to widen through the arms reaching down and up. Soften your chin ever so slightly towards your throat and pivot your head upward to gaze at the sky.
Breathe in a smile, breathe out a smile, soften your jaw and release your tongue. Find some ease in the corners of your triangle from the ease of your breath and the openness of your heart.
Thank you so much for reading the Spring 2007 issue of this is bliss. Please feel free to share any thoughts, ideas, suggestions, or comments. And certainly feel free to pass this along to anyone else you think might enjoy reading it. If you would like to be removed from the mailing list, please email and let me know.
Peace, Love, and BLISS!
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