Thursday, October 7, 2010

Props & Then Some

Give yourself what you need. Put the block under your hand. Give support to the elevated leg. Use the strap.

Yoga is not an exercise in "How do I get into this posture?" The practice is one of "How do I find myself here?"
Using and supporting principles of alignment, so that you gain the most benefit from your foundation in any pose, you can build the strength, encourage the flexibility, open the heart, release the joint, let the mind free of the constraints of judging yourself.

Sounds simple, right? "Find the support you need and use it." Perhaps it is spending ten minutes reading poetry before a stressful meeting to give you that sense of spaciousness in which to see with clarity and listen clearly. Why not take that plum with you as you walk to the train so you can focus on what you are doing and let go of the worries of whether you will find something you can eat later when you need a boost? Perhaps it is spending more of your practice time reconnecting with your feet instead of pushing through the complicated program you had set out for yourself.

It is wonderful in Trkonasana (triangle pose) to use a block under the hand on the floor. It doesn't matter if you "can do it" without the block. Give yourself the space to stretch the spine naturally, to let the neck be easy, to breathe into the sweet rotation of the ribcage. Perhaps you will find out that you have been reaching for the floor... perhaps when you take that block away you will find that the energy from that hand on the floor can now reach up through your opening heart.

Sit on the block in Virasana (Hero's Pose). Give your knees this new openness and see what happens. Perhaps your feet will relax in a way you have not imagined, or your breath might just reach further down to your root chakra because of the new relaxed length in your spine. Perhaps when you take the block away, you will feel that same deepening, lifting, ease, now that you know it is in you.

Wrap a strap gently around your lower ribs, crossing it in front of you and letting the straps rest gently in upturned hands. Then just breathe. Feel the way your whole body is supported by the soft wrapping strap, the way your hands gently move with the movement of the strap responding to your own breath. Close your eyes. Let the strap support your focus, enliven your sensitivity to being, find yourself existing in more than three dimensions... just breathe. Any time in your practice perhaps you can now bring that same level of awareness to your lower ribcage, noticing how the breath relates in that moment.

Navasana - Boat Pose- is so delicious with hands helping the thighs lift, or taking just one leg at a time, letting the other leg or foot hold steady. Let the lower back feel its length, allow the inner groin flexors to ease a bit. Try letting go and keep your focus on that feeling of steadiness rather than on the tension in the muscles. What do you need to help relieve the stress you feel? Find the source first, and then give it support.

Can you open up to the question of whether you need support? Can you allow yourself the openness to find the truth of this question in yourself? Exploring this on the mat, in the practice, off the mat, in your life, is not so hard to do as it might seem. Start with using the props, softness under your head in Savasana (Corpse Pose), or a simple block under your knees in Sukhasana (Easy Pose - cross legged seat) might just make room for your awareness to wake up, your attention to focus on something other than the muscular, and your breath to move you.

Once we learn how to find the support we need in the moment, our strength can develop. Each time you find yourself saying, "How can I support myself here?" you are also asking, "Where is this binding coming from, where is this blockage of my energy?" This is the deeper question ... and helps to explain why the support we find and give ourself is so enabling. If you seek out where the struggle is taking place in you, and make the shift to ease that, the freedom that comes is unpredictable and authentic.

Oh, by the way, you can always use the breath if you have nothing else handy.

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