Finding calm, center, and strength through yoga.
In Warrior II (Virabhadrasana B), feel the strength of your back foot pushing through the leg like the curve of an ocean wave. Feel the push – pull of the front and back feet. Like the ebb and flow of water.
This type of visual is what drew me in to yoga the first time I tried it. I was living in California at the time and the teacher was Rodney Yee. Only it wasn’t in person. Had to stick to learning from video. He’s incomparable. And his guidance gave me a solid foundation for placement in postures.
Why postures not pose? Because posture is active and engaging muscles. Pose is stiff and rigid. Pose won’t build strength, it simply tires. Posture will build strength and stamina.
A few years after practicing Iyengar based yoga, I took an Ashtanga class in DC. The studio is gone now but I was totally hooked. At the time I was still dancing and performing so was in good shape, already strong. Ashtanga felt calming, centering, and opening.
When I took my first Jivamukti class at a workshop taught by Sharon Gannon and David Life, it felt like coming home. Further classes at their NYC downtown studio cemented that feeling. And they have an AMAZING vegan cafe there.
Linked deeply in ashtanga practice is ujjayi breathing. Learning ujjayi breath taught me to release tension while moving. How to truly ground in to the body and move freely. It took the breath work I’d done in modern dance to a much deeper level.
That may seem odd for a dancer to say but I’ve learned how much compensating and tension I was holding in my body while I danced to make things happen. Like getting my leg up higher.
Referred to as victorious breath, in ujjayi you breathe through the back of the throat. It’s synchronized with every movement in practice and helps develop heat in the body. Check out this Chopra article on it.
Using the breath brings me back to my true center. So I can move properly, with strength and ease. It also calms the monkey mind when it gets going.
What I love about Ashtanga is the repetition. You essentially work on the same series. As you get stronger and more adept, you add to this. Here’s why that’s a super important practice. Because it teaches you what’s changing, shifting, tight, loose, strong, or weak in your body.
How will you know if your legs are getting stronger if you only do lunges once? How will you know if that fall affected your back when you’re not engaging the back muscles?
I learned that there’s great depth and knowledge beneath the surface of postures. And in repetition you uncover information. You discover from deep contemplation.
And learning some of the stories yoga comes from connected me to my practice and gave me an understanding of it I wouldn’t have had otherwise.
Here’s the other key part of yoga. It teaches you how to work with your ego. It teaches you how to persevere when things aren’t comfortable because you establish the strength of holding postures even though there’s weakness, discomfort, and distraction. You learn how to breathe through discomfort.
This doesn’t mean you stay in a posture when your knee is in searing pain or anything like that. You learn the difference between all the sensations in the body. Pulling. tight, or cold as opposed to rigid or frozen.
Right now, I’m learning how to stay in my heart while I practice. Because I’m nowhere near the strength, flexibility, and stamina I used to be in. I don’t have the strength to do the full 90 min. primary series. I will again. But I’m not there today.
And it’s a daily practice to accept that my body is in a different place.
Yoga’s helped me recover from and deal with more than a few car accidents. And now it’s helping me refocus and strengthen during this transformation time.
There’s so much more I could write about it but I think I’ll stop there. I do want to mention Tranquil Space in Washington, DC. The vinyasa style taught there is excellent. The closing statement is one I still use each time I practice. I love it that much. And the variety of workshops are incredible. I highly recommend this place!
I’m including a video of my current practice. I don’t do exactly the same thing each time, I listen to what my body needs.
You can also see where I struggle because of weakness and injuries I’m rebuilding through. I wanted you to see that even after 18 years of practice, you can still have days you wobble. And it’s still worth doing.
If you’re practice is established, please feel free to join me. And tell me if this has been helpful to you.
Creative kisses, xx.
Resources for you to check out:
Video: a.m. and p.m. Yoga for Beginners This isn’t the one I learned from but it’s similar format.
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