Around Thanksgiving, I’m drawn to the subject of gratitude and how to put it into practice on a daily basis. I have to admit, I’m not ready for the typical stress of the holiday season and am on a mission to keep the season as stress-free as possible with a mixture of appreciation for all that I have and awareness of all I can give.
Any yoga pose can be done in an inspired way. In fact, the more inspiration you put into it, the better the pose. (This goes for Savasana too, yo.) Be present, breathe, look inward, breathe … be inspired. This is yoga!
Nevertheless, most of us yogis aspire toward the more advanced asanas, and one that usually comes right to mind is Handstand: Adho Mukha Vrksasana. Downward-Facing Tree. In which your hands and fingers are the branches reaching down into the ground, and your feet and toes the roots reaching for the sky. There’s nothing like it for a new perspective — on yourself and on life in general.
Ever felt yourself going through the motions of a yoga pose without focus or purpose? I think most yogis who’ve been practicing for a while have this experience, at least sometimes.
Several years ago, I found myself rushing through the Sun Salutation, praying for the series to end so I could move on to asanas I enjoyed more. I hated the way the pose strained my wrist and left me breathless, and it seemed to take forever to get through five or six of them. But since appreciating whatever you’re doing is a key spiritual teaching, I knew I had to do something to change my perspective.
A couple of months ago I picked up yoga scholar Mark Singleton’s new book, Yoga Body: The Origins of Modern Posture Practice. The book details the modern history of asana with Singleton painstakingly chronicling how yoga’s physical postures are not actually drawn from antiquity but rather beginning at the dawn of the 20th century.
I look back at my reflection as I stand on my mat in Tadasana, Mountain Pose. The mirror is only large enough to offer balance and alignment to one person in the room, and since I am the only one here, there is no need for another. A familiar teacher’s voice is riding the breath of my laptop hum as she says to “fold forward and place your fingers around your big toes.” I listen, move, breathe. This is my new yoga studio. It’s in a room thousands of miles away from where I began practicing yoga, but the practice still feels close to home.
The New York Times article “When Chocolate and Chakras Collide” triggered a cascade of associations for me around yoga, food and eating disorders. I am a proponent of any diet that makes you feel well in both body and mind, and that one person’s food can literally be another person’s poison. I truly appreciate the dilemma that many folks face when they decide to commit fully to the precepts and teachings of yoga, but I also think there is another side to the story – that of “rules and restrictions.”