Friday, July 16, 2010

Yoga in the Heart of the City - II

It's been an inspiring week.  I went into this yoga intensive not knowing quite what to expect, and a bit worried I might not be able to "keep up," but it turned out it wasn't only about physical prowess.

What a privilege to have had these teachings from Marlene.   She still travels to India every 18 months or so to take classes with B.K.S., Gita and Prashant.  At 72, she has an amazing amount of energy and strength. She was hoisting around a 55 lb weight without a grimace and when I had to lift a 35 lb weight it sure appeared to be heavier than what she was moving.

Right now, I am content to be a student, but the room was filled with teachers, including some who had traveled from distant communities to learn from this 'teacher of teachers'.

She shared that part of the secret of her energy is understanding how much she has to work with in the first place.  Understanding that when energy is fully depleted, it takes a lot longer to replenish.  Respecting that, and making conscious decisions on how you are going to spend that limited energy.  Not just in your asana practise, but making a conscious decision on interactions throughout the day.  Something Marlene used early on was to check in daily during meditation and imagine her body as a vessel, with a blue essence that would register as high or low energy.  Low energy meant the focus would be on meeting minimum requirements, like keeping her kids safe and getting university assignments in on time. Higher energy meant she had excess to share.

It is not realistic to expect yourself to give 100% - 150% every day, and with expectations like that the well can run dry.

This is something that's been a personal preoccupation as work has been pretty intense for the past few years.  Long days, and often the first thing on my mind when I wake up, the last when I go to sleep.  And then dreaming about work (as if the 12 hour day wasn't enough!)  I do like my job, in fact there are days when I love my job, but I don't want it to be my life.   So hearing strategies from other people about how they deal with this conundrum was especially timely.

A rewarding week, a lots to 'put into practise'.

Earned insights

  •  "lift your heart, lift your spirit".  Standing poses, backbends, are all great heart openers.  And it's true, I feel lighter afterward
  • when you get to a point in a pose where it feels you are at your limit, before surrendering, try forcing an exhale... fatigue is often because we are holding the breath
  • pranayama is not something you do ; it is not about forcing the breath but receiving the breath
  • props are not just there for support, they can also be good teachers by providing feedback (for example, using blocks in headstand or bolsters in shoulderstand)

Discoveries in specific poses
  • Ustrasana (camel):  using belt as harness to lift the chest when going backward; lifting the buttocks with hands when going backward; engaging mula bandha when in positon to lighten the pose.
  • Chaturangha Dondasana (four limbed staff):  lift from belly, not from arms.
  • Urdvha Mukha Svanasana (Upward Facing Dog):  lift from legs, not arms.
  • Virabhadrasana (Warrior): using block to help find the symbology of the pose... imagine the block as a boulder that is being thrust in battle, and the thrust and posture of the body before it is thrown.
  • Utkatasana (seated chair):  keeping arms "straight as Arjuna's Arrow".
  • Sirsana (headstand): using poles to 'teach' elbows to press inward; using blocks to 'teach' chest to lift.
  • Sarvangasana (shoulderstand): using three bolsters with a blanket over top to help stand directly on the top of the shoulder.
Photo credit: om
Photo credit:  Ustrasana (camel pose)
Photo credit: Virabhadrasana (Warrior I)

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