Saturday, June 23, 2007

Learning When to Adjust

Each pose we do should leave us feeling complete and wonderful. If we come out of a pose craving another pose, then something was amiss in the first pose. If you need a Balasana (Child’s Pose) after Ustrasana (Camel Pose) to release your lower back, there is something that needs fixing in your Ustrasana. If you need to lie flat on your back after Salambha Sarvangasana (Shoulder Balance Pose) to release your neck and upper back, your Salambha Sarvangasana isn’t aligned perfectly. If you need to arch your back backwards after Uttanasana, it is your Uttanasana that needs work.

Now, let me add a caveat, this is not to say your body may not need balancing after certain poses. It is infinitely wise to do some forward folding after back bending to elongate the hamstrings which are contracted in back bends. It is also helpful to calm the energy. But, my point here is, while balancing is helpful, if you need a pose after another one to help you release tight areas, or just crave it to feel more complete, you know you need to align the pose better, there is someplace to work.

So, watch your students when they come out of poses. If you need to help half the class release their backs after doing a backbend, know you have work to do in that pose to help them learn to get the pose out of their backs. If you find one student holding her lower back after Uttanasana and leaning back, help her to get her pose into her hamstrings and out of her back.

Using Yoga to Find our Center

At the center of your being you have the answer;
you know who you are and you know what you want.
- Lao Tzu

As Lao Tzu says in this month’s quote, we all have the answer to what we want at the center of our being. Our challenge is quieting our outer being enough to hear what the center has to say! We have become so disconnected with our center, though, that voice inside of us, that we can’t hear it and, even if we are hearing it, we often do not trust it. Yoga helps us clear away the clutter and unclog the connection with our inner self. Then you can listen more effectively and have an inner knowing that what you are hearing is your truth.

But your yoga will aid you in uncovering your inner self only if your practice is balancing you. Otherwise your practice may only serve to bury your inner self more deeply within your physical consciousness. If you are someone who tends toward busy-ness and adrenalin, chances are you crave power yoga and ashtanga. You feel great sweating and getting a great workout. But that type of yoga, for you, is only keeping you entrenched in the way your mind likes to function and your practice is not balancing yourself. If you tend toward lethargy you may crave more of a restorative practice. Again, doing something restorative when you already have those tendencies will keep you stuck in that tendency, not uncover your inner self.

Being a recovering stress-aholic, I loved a strong workout with my yoga. I also know that when I do too strong of a practice, I can feel the adrenalin begin to return and that begins to feed the stress in the other areas of my life. Think about your own tendencies. What would balance you? Pay attention to your practice. Are you feeling balanced when you are done? Or are you further feeding where you are comfortable? Yes, there is a good chance that the very best practice for you is not the one you really want to be doing!