Wednesday, January 25, 2012
This morning after teaching, I experienced a remarkable synthesis of yoga and the moment in daily life. Walking home there was a saturated feeling of soft support of my bones through my contact with the earth, spaciousness in the joints of my hips and shoulders as I moved, a wide open quality in my view of the urban scene around me. There was joyousness balanced with stillness in my thoughts. I recognized this sensation as that of Virabhadrasana, the warrior, in my yoga practice. I was startled to find myself a walking warrior on the streets of Brooklyn!
What really awakens in the warrior poses? Can the gaze be soft and inclusive? Does the support felt in the foundation of the earth allow a subtle rising energy that is alert and poised? Where does the breath expand, what is releasing? Where does the mind grasp, find clarity? Can there be spaciousness in the joints and a balance of effort and ease that prepares you for whatever is around you? All of this can be going on at the same time in all of the three traditional standing warrior poses, Virabhadrasana I, II, and III.
The subtleties are in the cultivating of your awareness to enable you to take in the muscular work, the alignment of the structural elements, the softening of the edges and the gaze, the placement of the breath as a buoyant support for staying in the present moment. This allow you to stay present, not blanking out or fading away. Often in classes students are led through a vinyasa that takes them through one warrior into and out of another. In that experience there can be a collaboration of stillness and movement if the student can let go of gripping, yet hold steady to alignment and ease throughout the muscular and joint shifts. This is really not a simple endeavor, and often I see students physically muscling their way from here to there and back again. Of course a yoga practice often begins right there, at the junction of the physical and the alert awareness that effort can spark.
Experiment with remaining in the asana, exploring your own experiences in the moment, and see if you can struggle less, effort less, and notice more. Take out an element, perhaps the uplifted arms, and discover what is happening with your bones and breath. Acknowledge the emotions and the patterns that effort and resistance might bring up. See if you can soften more by attending to the quality of your breath. Then, perhaps add the arms back into your pose. Can you express the open gaze and steady heart of the warrior through the soft expansion of your collarbones from the soft center at the base of your throat all the way out to your fingertips?