Posts Tagged ‘breath’
Fold as naturally as the sun
The thing with pachimottanasana, or seated forward fold, is that it takes almost as much stability as paripurna navasana, or boat pose. I wrote about boat pose last month. Take a minute to look at both poses in the links to Yoga Journal, especially the legs. We could accurately say that the stability in the legs is quite the same in both poses, but the (re)pose in the spine is different.
In the spine especially, we are looking for a non-doing-ness as much as we’re looking for doing. Seated forward fold shows this perhaps this best of all yoga poses other than savasana, or corpse pose. The concept in Taoism is called wu-wei, or the natural timing of any action. Inasmuch as we are lifting the breastbone and calming the breath down in boat pose, we are doing the same actions in seated forward fold. Except we do this as we elongate the torso over the legs rather than away from it into space.
Seated forward fold is about letting go, about letting your own psychology of action be revealed to you in the minute or two you hang out in this pose. Most people find seated forward fold challenging, because it’s a shape — like navasana — that we hardly ever do. Sitting in chairs, oops, is our main daily action that makes extending the legs out on the floor and folding over so hard!
I recommend spending the hotter moments in July cooling down with this ultimately nourishing, calming, and (yet) spinally challenging pose. When you hit a wall, i.e., when you feel like the only way you could go “further” in the pose is by forcing the body into more “length”, relax. Seriously, observe any tension in your shoulders (and therefore) your spine, and relax. R-E-L-A-X. Spell the word out to yourself and by the time you hit “X” notice that you’re in a different pose.
Let your body forward fold this month as naturally as the sun comes up to roast you every day.
In Western culture we are so disconnected from the breath’s power to keep us healthy and to heal. It is normal for people to shorten their breath when they are stressed out so before I started practicing yoga, I never really paid attention to the fact that my breath was so shortened. One of the most important things that my yoga teachers at Boundless have instilled in me is that allowing the breath to expand in the body is the key to a healthy practice, mind and body. I like that there is not an overemphasis on control of the breath at Boundless but that through steady practice, an awareness of the breath is cultivated.
James Foulkes is great at showing his students how to begin to breathe into parts of the body that have been neglected for so long. He showed me that I needed to focus my breath into my back body in order to eliminate the tension that I felt in back bending asanas. We have practiced bridge pose in almost every class and his approach is to take as long as one needs in order to soften and breathe before moving into the shape. My shoulders are one of the strongest but tightest areas in my body so I would depend on them to push me up into the pose which just created more tension in my shoulders. James has shown me that I should wait for the breath and that in doing so it is possible to actually let the breath guide my body up into bridge. Focusing on the natural state of the breath is the best way to decrease the tension in the body and to guide a body into the asana shapes whether it is through backbending, inversions or forward folds.
Rediscovering My Mat
Recently, a number of things in life have sidetracked me from yoga. I was on a great pattern of practicing daily, after setting a personal goal of a daily yoga for 30 days. I far surpassed that goal and just kept going, stopped counting days, enjoying the “me” time that I was carving out of every day. Then life simply didn’t allow for it. Or perhaps I allowed my schedule to take over, right? Still, this past weekend and week, I have gotten back on my mat, and I shouldn’t be surprised that I am stuck in all sorts of places in my body. Adho muhka svanasana (down dog), a common pose that you’ll do in most classes, is less accessible to me. The pose tells me where I need to breathe, relax, and focus – and wow, my shoulders are unforgiving. This being yoga week, I hope that others start to (re)discover their mats too. It’s wonderful to hear about the first timers coming to class, hungry to learn. It reminds me of when I started yoga, the thrill of that first sirsanana (headstand), the desire to do every pose without props because I thought using props was a crutch. Ha! Now I own blocks and straps and use them in every home practice. And now, after a few weeks out of practice, I need props more than ever. I am humbled by what my body does, and does not, remember.
(This is really a response to Leslie, but the poem is so great, I am posting it here so others can easily read it.)
Leslie, we seem to be on the same wave length. Maybe it’s not unusual for people to become synchronistic when going through an intense program like the yoga teacher training we are engaged in. Is anyone else running down this road as well? Here’s my similar experience:
Tuesday, riding home from work on the Metro I was reading the American Poetry Review, specifically an untitled poem by Tadeusz Dabrowski (translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones) on page 18:
“God has not retired – as Simone Weil
would have it – a huge distance away, but He’s
right here, so close that I can feel His
caring non-presence. (Which is a word passed over
in silence, an aborted gesture, a suspended
a breath held for a moment. That
not breathing, that’s your life.)”
Non-presence! Doesn’t that cut to the quick? The poem jerked me right off of the train out of the tunnel and into a much larger space. Isn’t it true that we forget to breath, that we forget our lives that we come to these inexplicable spaces where nothing and everything seems to be happening? Isn’t it true that one moment we wake up and realize we’ve not been breathing, not living, suspended somewhere other than with our bodily selves and the energy of life which surrounds and is us? Thanks be for awakening!
Podcasts and Poetry
Does anybody listen to Tara Brach’s podcasts or go to her talks on Wednesday nights? I find her talks to be such a wonderful compliment to my asana practice. Here’s a beautiful poem I found by following a bunny trail from one of her recent talks:
What makes a fire burn
is space between the logs,
a breathing space.
Too much of a good thing,
too many logs
packed in too tight
can douse the flames
almost as surely
as a pail of water would.
So building fires
to the spaces in between,
as much as to the wood.
When we are able to build
in the same way
we have learned
to pile on the logs,
then we can come to see how
it is fuel, and absence of the fuel
together, that make fire possible.
We only need to lay a log
lightly from time to time.
simply because the space is there,
in which the flame
that knows just how it wants to burn
can find its way.