Thursday, February 25, 2010

Week 3 - Ariana

Week 3.
10 Poses.

The main difference between this sequence and the previous is that Tree Pose (Vrksasana) is removed and Revolved Triangle (Parvritta Trikonasana) is added. I am surprised that Revolved Triangle is in this early sequence only because this has been a difficult pose for me for a long time.

Iyengar mentions that mastering (when does one actually master any pose?) the standing poses prepares the pupil for advanced forward bending. Then I realized why he starts with all these standing poses - to build strength first in the legs - the largest muscle groups. I have also been reading B.K.S. Iyengar's "The Tree of Yoga," in which he mentions stretching the body from the floor (foundation) all the way up/out through the entire body. I think this is something that can be applied more skillfully and mindfully only when strength is developed. The body has to be able to support itself before it can extend. As I learned in my Yogaworks 200-hour training, "Align and stabilize in order to elongate." Another way to understand this is "root in order to rise."

Students often struggle with the idea of holding poses in Iyengar style classes. Maybe this is a misnomer, after all if you are breathing in the pose, you are not holding anything. The body is not still. It is not rigid. There is subtle movement with the breath there. Lately I find that in that space, in that "holding" is where the mind and bones settle and the muscles release. This is where exploration of mind and body awareness can occur.

While I was in Side Angle "Parsvakonasana," I started to feel a little stagnant or drooping in the pose. So I experimented. I ignited the breath and on the breath started making large circles with the top arm. On the inhale I reached the arm along my ear then up towards the ceiling, on the exhale I reached the arm back, and then in front of me. I noticed how this circular movement with my arm affected the position of my torso in the pose. As a result I was able to rotate my torso up to the ceiling more. After that I felt more settled in the pose and was able to stay in it and breathe attentively.

I am noticing unevenness in my body. My left calf and hamstring are tighter than my right. As a result rotated Triangle on the left side is more difficult for me. I had to be much more mindful and got into the pose more slowly on the left than on the right. In Mountain Pose (Tadasana) one leg presses into floor more than the other. Sometimes one side of my body feels heavier than the other.

I really enjoyed Warrior 1 (Vira 1) today. Just when I think I have lengthened through the torso all I can, I dig deep and find another half inch. It just feels good.

Corpse Pose (Savasana) is the perfect counter pose for all the other asanas. We spend so much time and effort resisting gravity - lifting the leg muscles and the knee caps, lengthening through the torso, lifting the arms and lifting the chest. Savasana is where we surrender to gravity and let it do its work on us.

Here are some quotes from the "The Tree of Yoga" that have been resonating with me lately and shaping my practice:

"When you are practicing a pose in yoga, can you find the delicate balance between taking the pose to its maximum extent, and taking it beyond that point so that there is too much effort creating wrong tension in the body?"

"Because the strong muscles try to control the pose, the weak muscles give way. When doing the pose therefore, you have to maintain a single stretch from the floor to the top without letting any part drop."

How asana is a form of meditation:
"You can lose the benefits of what you are doing because of focusing on too much partial attention on trying to perfect the pose. What are you focusing on? You are trying to perfect the pose, but from where to where? That is where things become difficult. Focusing on one point is concentration. Focusing on all points [in the body] at the same time is meditation."

"Analysis in action is the only guide."

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