by Wai Lana | January 8, 2017 10:06 pm
Before I begin an asana practice, I like to sit quietly, turning inward to become aware of the subtle sensations in my body. I watch my breath for a few minutes as it rises and falls, feeling the expansion and contraction it creates in my body. This helps me to calm my mind and become more focused.
As I then begin my practice, I think of initiating each pose from within rather than mechanically putting my body into it. For example, when I move into Triangle Pose, I start with my feet firmly planted and then inhale deeply, allowing my breath to lengthen my spine and expand my chest from within. As I exhale, I can then gracefully bend to the side and find the right position for my body. I’m aware of the prana, or life energy, flowing through my body. My torso grows long from my tailbone to my head as I continue to breath deeply, and my limbs feel as if they are radiating out from my center. My body is supported from within and I can hold the pose without strain. When I’m ready to come out of the pose, I start by inhaling and lengthening from my core – from within – and it’s as if my breath effortlessly guides me back up.
This approach is diametrically opposed to forcing your body into a pose, especially one that your body is not ready for. For example, Lotus Pose, requires a great deal of flexibility in the hips. Though you might be able to get your feet onto your thighs, you’ll be very uncomfortable and risk serious injury to your knees if your hips cannot open enough. While Lotus is a great pose for practicing yoga meditation, there are others that are equally suitable and much easier. But if you want to learn Lotus, move toward it gradually. Do poses that open the hips, practice Half Lotus, and do them all with softness and awareness from within, avoiding any pain, and using your breath as your gauge and guide to staying safe.
When you practice with this kind of subtle awareness, it’s as if you’re doing each pose from the inside out. It’s not only safer to practice like this, but you’ll begin to experience another dimension of asana practice. You’ll be able to feel what is right for your body and will be less likely to stretch too far or do a pose that your body isn’t ready for. You’ll also enjoy the poses more. In fact, you will come to understand the literal meaning of asana: comfortable pose. Practicing with such introspection brings a calm awareness that fosters the development of yogic qualities like patience, tolerance, and humility.
Try practicing like this in all of your poses and see if you can feel the difference. Put aside all thoughts of what you think a pose should look like and instead explore it from beginning to end, moving from your center with the breath, from the inside out. It takes some practice and perhaps a change of focus, but it’s an enjoyable way to re-invigorate your experience of the asanas, even those you may have been doing for years.
Wishing You Well,
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