Pose of the Week: Downward Facing Dog

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Downward Facing Dog

ADHO MUKHA SVANASANA

Ego says,’ Once everything falls into place, I’ll feel peace.’ Spirit says, ‘Once I feel peace, everything will fall into place.'” ~Marianne Williamson 

Benefits of the pose:

  • Decreases Stress & Mild Depression
  • Wakes up the body
  • Stretches shoulders, hands, spine, & calves
  • Strengthens hands, arms & legs
  • Relieves insomnia, headaches, and back pain
  • Helps with digestion

Asana Breakdown:

I want to take you a little farther down this path than maybe you have gone before. Practically everyone has done Down Dog at least once in their life, but I’ve found a lot of people, myself included, don’t really know how to do it. I had been practicing it for about 7 years before someone showed me how to properly do it. Here’s what I mean: Begin in table pose, flat back, hips stacked above knees, shoulders stacked above ankles. Curl onto your toes and lift up your legs. And allow your hips to move both upwards and backwards. This is about as far as people usually go, but wait, there’s more! From here, Root down through the first three knuckles of your palm so that they touch the mat. Allow for an external rotation through the shoulders. By this I mean that your collarbones should move away from one another, and that your shoulders should physically turn outward. Usually, this compromises the tailbone and causes the chest to beam forward. Correct this by energetically wrapping your ribs into your sternum and tucking the tummy inward. Check to make sure you haven’t compromised your hips, continue to move them upwards and backwards. Now, for the final element of the posture: feel an energetic pull between both of your forearms as if they were moving closer together. Put all of this together and you, my friend, have yourself a downward facing dog!

For a visual break down check out my youtube video: https://youtu.be/Zn3-XJlBltU

As always, leave any questions or comments bellow! If you have a request for the next pose of the week let me know! ❤

Sources:

“Downward-Facing Dog – Adho Mukha Svanasana – Yoga Pose.” Yoga Journal. Cruz Bay Publishing, 28 Aug. 2007. Web. 16 Oct. 2015.

The Sweetness of Eden

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Inspired by my simple, nutritious and delicious breakfast of apples, almond butter and honey, I thought I would share a journal entry I wrote about two months ago. Fruit inspired!

8/2/15

I am beginning to become more lucid in my thoughts. I noticed my ego was present in my practice. I noticed what it said, what it wanted, how it maneuvered, and how it made announcements that were not truly in alignment with my being and true soul.

My soul wishes for peace, while my ego wishes for war. My true soul wishes for love whilst my ego wishes for greed, lust, and envy. My true being appreciates and enjoys life with gratitude. My ego likes to mock, gossip, and create chaos and havoc in my life; ruthlessly, without considering the consequences.

Iyengar talks bout how the ego wants to create and recreate pleasures, no matter the consequences, but that is only partially true. Yes, the ego is an addict who solely wants to eat the fruit it remembers as sweet, even if it has rotted the next day. But within that repetitive want is a natural disease waiting to happen. If we eat the same fruit day after day we will not grow, our digestion will become weak, and out thoughts narrow. Repetitive want and seeking pleasure is an egoic misnomer. There is no way to recreate a moment or a sensation that has passed, for it no longer exists. Therefore, we lead a life full of pain and suffering, seeking every corner for the pleasure that once was, even if it ultimately leads us to insanity.

I was moved today by my practice, for I was able to observe the ego and allow it to rattle out its fallacies. Without judgment, I allowed each thought to rise and fall, but I was sure to police any thought that was not true and conscious by rephrasing, rewording, and by reminding myself what my truth is so I could continue to grow in my practice instead of eating rotten fruit.

Let Go of All Your Efforts: The Continual Practice

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When I first found my devotional practice, I have to admit I yearned to be enlightened. For me that was the ultimate goal. The Sutras speak of the Siddhis and benevolence that is obtained by the enlightened and I wanted it so deeply. Ever fiber of my being wanted to know what the great sages know and become untangled from the intensity of day to day life.

When I asked one of my teachers how to become enlightened, he replied,”Enlightenment is like a joke, it’s like a fish looking for water….We are all one, so really, when you think about it, either we are all enlightened or none of us are enlightened.” I sat with knowledge for a long time, understanding it, without knowing how to incorporate it into my life.

As the seasons started to change, I let my practice slip away along with my ideas of enlightenment. Now that I have come back to my practice with new breath, I see that my goals have shifted. Enlightenment is not what draws me back to my practice day after day, I don’t take my breathes with the hope of finding nirvana in the apex. So if enlightenment is not the goal what brings me back?

Well, today when I came to my meditation practice, anticipating my feelings of boredom and reluctancy which often appear halfway through, I recalled Iyengar’s words in Light on Life about how enlightenment is not the goal of yoga. I prepared to lie down for Sivasana and decided just enjoy my time with myself, regardless of whether or not I would enter into deep meditation. As I made myself comfortable on the ground, my awareness went to the sounds around me. At first, I could hear everything clearly and suddenly the noises began to fade until I was no longer present to the happenings around me. I had slipped back into united consciousness. I opened my eyes and realized my efforts and wantings were the very thing that had been standing between myself and my Self. That this practice is indead a practice. It is a practice that yields great rewards, but the rewards are often unanticipated. In the sutras, they say the fruit of yoga sewn from the devotional heart is freedom, and ultimately love. And that is what brings me back. It is the thread that stitches my temperament, fears, and worries into compassion, understanding, and lightheartedness. It is the sweetness between the inhale and the exhale, and those fleeting moments of clarity and truth scattered throughout my day.

My teacher often says, “Let go of all you efforts.” It took my about one hundred times of hearing that before I could, but I suppose that is why they call it a practice.

Pose of the Week: Bird of Paradise

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Bird of Paradise

SVARGA DVIJASANA

Benefits of the pose:

  • Strengthens legs, hips, quads, and pelvis.
  • Opens the shoulders
  • Increase balance and body awareness
  • Strengthens Core and Abdominals
  • Lengthens the hamstrings

Asana breakdown:

Traditionally, I get into this posture from a variation of extended side angle. I take my hand that is placed on my thigh and reach it under my leg and bring my other hand to grasp it, coming into a bind, Utthita Parsvakonasana (Bound Extended Side Angle). From here, I take my back leg and bring it to the front of my mat, squaring both of my feet. Keeping in mind that I will pour my weight into the leg which is not bound by my hands, I find my drishti (gazing point) and slowly begin to rise up, keeping my bound leg bent. Once my spine is fully erect, I root down through my standing leg. Noticing my foot and toes, allowing them to unclench and find the four corners of the foot. I then draw my shoulder blades closer together, allowing the collarbones to lift and spread away from one another. Once I feel stable in my foundation and my gaze is locked on my drishti, I will extend the bound leg towards the sky. ❤

Troubles often encountered:

It is in the troubles or difficulties with this pose I feel most like a bird. For me, if I have not focused my mind and taken my awareness to the breath, I will begin to wobble, hop (with my leg raised), or loose my balance. My advice here is to release the pose. Come into Tadasana (Mountain) and take some grounding breathes. Assess why you are trying to get into this pose: is it ego or curiosity? Find your root through your mat and pour all of your energy into the quality of your breathe. The quality of the breathe will be the defining factor in all of your asanas, especially more difficult or new pose. When you are ready, reproach the asana with integrity and respect. Find your gazing point and come into your full expression. If you don’t get it on your first try, warm up the legs more with more hip openers and remember why we call it a practice.

Sources:

“Bird of Paradise – Svarga Dvijasana | GaiamTV.” Gaiam TV. Gaiam TV, n.d. Web. 23 Aug. 2015.

Editor, YJ. “Bird of Paradise: 5 Steps to Master This Standing Pose – Yoga Journal.” Yoga

Journal. Yoga Journal, 18 Nov. 2014. Web. 23 Aug. 2015.