216: Up Dog Down Dog

During one hour of yoga I take my students through all the movements of the spine. Forward and back, side to side and twists. Some poses make some people happy, some not so, some poses make people uncomfortable, some poses make students feel at ease. Sometimes I really annoy students and sometimes I help them feel good about themselves. Sometimes they are up, sometimes down. Up Dog, Down Dog.

Each class is a microcosm of their lives. Each Asana is an invitation to joy, frustration, envy, bounty. When we do a class we open ourselves up to whatever comes our way. Our mat being a reflection of our nature.

Here are some things I notice as a teacher that may help you as a students.

1) Rushing into poses. Limbs fling up wildly and big clomping steps. Forward fold to mountain pose at the speed of light. Sharp movements, not fluid. The question to contemplate is; Where are you trying to get to so quickly? What is your rush? Do you normally rush like this outside of your class? Are you a person that likes to get things done quickly? The way you move your body is a reflection of how you live your life. Maybe if you slow down just this once you might see that we all get to the same spot in the end.

2) Drama on the face. Your mouth is open your eyebrows knitted together, you don’t look at all comfortable. Contemplate; Are you uncomfortable? If so adjust the pose so you bring more ease to it. Find some place to soften. Try not to muscle your way into the pose. Maybe you are pushing to hard? Is it possible that you are like this with your work or your family? You go hard at it and expect results. Learn to feel your way into the pose, go to what feels like your edge and be there. Give yourself a break.

practice3)  Are holding your breath? Contemplate:  Maybe you do this in any given situation slightly out of your comfort zone. Think about your daily life, just monitor your breathing. Are you prone to holding it at times? If so, practice breathing in and out when you feel this instinct kick in.  If you are holding your breath it could also mean you are putting too much effort in. If you are unable to breath in and out through your nose smoothly you are pushing too hard. If you are gasping for air, you are pushing. Why are you pushing so hard? Is it really necessary right now?

4) Overstretch. Maybe we are in forward fold and you are pretty sure you are going to touch your toes even if it kills you. Contemplate. It won’t kill you but it might rip your hamstrings away from their insertion point. Why do you want to go there anyway? Do you think you will be happier? Do you think there is something better at the end of your toes? No there is nothing there at all. So learn to pull back. If you can’t do something so what? Either you can or you can’t. Either you will or your won’t. I don’t measure you by how you measure yourself. I notice how in tune you are by how you honor your limitations.

5) Negative self talk: ‘I can’t do that’. Sure maybe you can’t. Contemplate. How many times have you tried to do it? Once, twice. I have been practicing full on for years and I still can’t do so much. I’m glad I can’t. Wouldn’t that be boring if I could? Practice the poses, enjoy doing a tenth of that pose. Keep striving for what you are looking towards but remain true to the process. The outcome is not important.

Practice for today: If you haven’t been to a yoga class go. If you go on a regular basis keep in mind that being there is a reflection of your life. This self-awareness or self learning is the key to your openness, sincerity and vulnerability. All beautiful qualities to cultivate.

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