Beginning a yoga practice can be daunting. The idea that flexibility is a pre-requisite often stops many people from stepping into a yoga class. It is difficult in general to start any new practice, whether it's yoga, a new sport or hobby. We all start from a relative place of inexperience and inability. Like anything else, if we push into something too fast, we succumb to a higher risk of injury, frustration and failure. These same principles apply to yoga. By starting out slow and easy, progression and change will happen faster, and it will be safer for your body!
Fences. We see them a lot...surrounding houses, along edges of roads and highways, keeping boundaries and protecting property and land from intruders. Often times, fences are built to keep something or someone from coming in. "Do not enter." Then there are fences that contain something. Fences that do not let you out. "Do not leave."
I was recently inspired by one of Seth Godin's daily posts called, "The Invisible Fence". In his blog, he alluded that fences can be obsolete, and rarely do they keep us confined. If we care enough, if we are determined enough, it is as though there is no fence.
Extended Side Angle Pose, ("Utthita Parsvakonasana" in Sanskrit) is a pose commonly taught in yoga classes. It is a pose I often include in many of my vinyasa classes at the studio. Instructors generally guide students into this pose from Warrior II, instructing to prop the lower arm on top of the bent leg and extend into side angle pose from there. To move into a deeper expression of the pose, the student can release the arm from the leg and lower that hand toward the ground, while keeping the upper body lifted and long. Extended Side Angle Pose requires quite a bit of side-body flexibility (to lower the torso and lengthen the arm), core strength (to keep from the body lifted) and hip mobility (to bend low into the leg with a wide stance).
But there is something else the body needs to do in the pose that I only just discovered......and it is the main reason I struggle with it.....
It has been a long winter. One of the longest I've experienced in my life, and it had nothing to do with the weather. As I get excited about seeing the official season near to a close, I have been reflecting on the time. It has been a rough few months...for myself and my family. Working toward a life of deep fulfillment is tough work, and with a lot of variables in the mix, it can feel like a circus balancing act. The past few weeks I have felt catapulted, emotionally. In working diligently toward what I hope to be a new path for more than a year...and have not been able to manifest much change, at least in the way I envisioned it. In fact, it has felt more like swimming against a strong current and moving ever-so-slowly backwards.
But this week, I experienced a shift. Sometimes it takes a nudge, sometimes more than a nudge...thanks to my dear husband, a good friend across the world...and this quote:
Last night, my husband and I forced ourselves to not watch TV during dinner. We don't have kids and it's easy to mingle with our dinner plates to the TV room for a couple hours of Netflix. We know we shouldn't do this, that it's a waste of time, and we normally feel pretty crappy about ourselves when we look at the clock to see it's already 10 PM. Time for bed. But last night was different. By forcing ourselves to not watch TV, the evening felt longer. We both got in some reading, a little exercise, great conversations and some laughter before bed. It felt amazing, and despite how hard it was to not plop down and watch a couple shows, we were happy about the decision.
Let's cut right to the chase. Committing to an early morning practice can be tough, just like trying to stay away from the couch after a long day at work. However, if you can do it, you will find there are great benefits to an early practice that you just can't get any other time of the day! And who regrets walking out of a yoga class feeling like a badass just as the sun is rising??
Sometimes it feels like I'm floundering around, blind-folded, trying to figure out what to do, how to do it or where to go next. Sometimes I even resist doing anything for fear of failing, or not meeting the glorified expectation I've created in my futuristic mind.
Through the practice of yoga, I am learning something profound. It is in the moments of stumbling we can find our way. Practicing yoga and the repetition of moving in sync with our breath creates awareness for this to happen. Taking face-plants reminds us that we can stand up. Breathing on purpose reminds us that we are in control.
Yoga helps us recognize the part of ourself that gets hidden under our job, the business of life, responsibilities and obilgations. The practice of looking within....even just with a simple pause during a busy day, can transform a moment of floundering into a moment of freedom.
Close your eyes randomly in the middle of the day (unless you're driving or standing in the middle of a road, ha!), and notice if you can hear your heartbeat surrounded by the commotion of life. Keep your eyes closed and notice if you become afraid of the darkness. If the darkness is uncomfortable, keep your eyes closed, hold onto that discomfort a little longer. Let it settle away and soften. Break the pattern. Stumble, fall...recognize what happens on the way down? Now, can you rise up grasping something far more powerful?
Hello, I'm Julie.
Discover the wisdom of yoga and how it can bring nourishment, well-being and a deeper connection to all aspects of your life.