YouYoga

YOGA THAT LETS YOU BE YOU

Tadasana: Mountain Pose 3 August 23, 2011

As the month of August is winding down to an end I wanted to ask…have you been working your Mountain Pose?  Well, in our home it has caught on and my son, Darius insisted that I share his Tadasana with all of you.  How beautiful and how awesome to see him connecting with self.  As he practiced this asana he quickly discovered that he had to become aware of his actions.  He had to quiet his brain and let his body be the guide.  Lastly, he had to slow down and just breath.  Afterwards he stated; “Man this yoga stuff is hard, but I like it.”

His statement shows that in order to grow we have to find grace in the challenges of our lives.  If we pack up and run every time things get “too hard” we will not discover the strength that lies within us waiting to blossom.  We also have to turn our energy inward to explore the possibilities of self.  In the beginning of his practice, he wanted to simply mimic my actions which is perfectly fine, and natural.  However, the true growth of his Tadasana came when his energy began to turn inward.  By drawing our attention to self we find weakness and strength.  We can also find stiffness and flexibility.  Overtime these elements will find harmony given us  a greater appreciation for self.  In my opinion, this is the best gift of one’s yoga practice.

As we visit Tadasana for the last time this month here are a few tips to help you get the most from this asana.

1. Stand with your feet hip distance a part.  Draw your weight evenly between both feet and legs.  Feel your feet rooted deeply into the earth by keeping the heels firm and the toes extended.  As your balance improves bring your big toes and heels together.

2.  As you ground down in your feet, feel a line of energy from the ankles, to the knees, and the hips.  Begin to draw the leg muscle up and curl your tailbone forward.  As you move the tailbone forward feel the lower back, or lumbar spine lengthen.  Begin to gently draw your belly in, as well as up to support the lower back. 

3.  Let the arms extend along the sides of your body, with palms facing your thighs, and fingers pointing down.  Feel the neck lengthen away from your shoulders.  Continue to draw your shoulders back and down, as if you were going to place your shoulder blades in your back pockets.  Lift your sternum, or your heart center,  and broaden your chest.  Let your breath flow in and out normally.

4. As you stand in your Mountain Pose continue pressing down through the mounds of your toes and heels of the feet.  Feel yourself rooted in the lower body and yet light in your upper body.  Allow the breath to quiet the mind as you seek stillness and strength from within.  Hold the pose for 20-30 seconds.  Each time you practice your asana continue to come with a curiosity, and a willingnees to discover something new that lies within you.

(Reference:  B.K.S. Iyengar YOGA the Path to Holistic Health, p.68-69)

 

Be Mindful Of Your Knees Please August 6, 2011

The largest joint in our body is the knee.  This hinge joint connects the thigh to the lower leg allowing for flexion and extension.  The knee is the junction point of many ligaments and tendons to keep the bones, and muscles connected.  It also contains shock absorbers known as the meniscus which prevent bones from rubbing on one another. However, if the knee is forcefully rotated or bent it can be cracked or torn (en.Wikipedia.org/wiki/Knee).  The knees play a large role in our mobility, and it’s important that we be mindful of their role in our yoga practice.   

5 Ways to be Mindful of the Knees during Your Practice:

1.  Align your knee with the ankle in leg bending poses.  If you’re in Chair Pose think of pushing your sitting bones behind you, as you fold from the hips drawing your knees over the ankles.  Look down, if you see the top of your leg instead of your toes continue to push the sitting bones back.  A mirror is a wonderful tool to check for knee over ankle alignment.

2.  Track your knee in the same direction of your toes.  In Warrior II the front leg works towards a 90 degree angle while the back leg extends with feet turned in about 45 degrees.  Often the front knee will roll inward, or outward depending on your flexibility in the hips.  Simply correct this alignment by tracking your knee the direction your toes are pointing.  As you get more comfortable with this task, begin to track the knee with the second toe for even better alignment. 

3.  Slighty bend the knees in straight leg poses.  While working towards Forward Fold  it’s more important to focus on lifting your sitting bones, so the stretch may be felt more in the belly of your hamstring not the back of your knee.  Remember there aren’t any knee opening poses in yoga!  While you’re working towards straight legs in your practice, know that it’s perfectly fine to have a slight bend in the knees.  Your knees and hamstrings will be grateful for your kindness. 

4.  Lift the knee caps in standing poses.  This simply means draw your thigh muscles up as if you were sucking them into the bones of your leg.  This action will help to build strength and stabilization overtime, and practice.  Mountain pose is the easiest pose to practice this action.  Eventually with awareness you can begin to incorporate lifting your knee caps in all poses where the leg is extended.  You can also try Mountain Pose lying down with your feet against the wall.  As you press your feet into the wall feeling yourself grounded, begin to lift the thigh muscles drawing them up and into your thigh bones.  Take a moment and notice any sensations you may experience. 

5. The knees face up with the toes in seated poses.  Often times in seated poses such as Staff Pose, where your legs extended straight out in front of you, it’s common to allow the knees and toes to roll out losing all awareness.  Remember, in seated poses the legs can be just as active as they are in standing poses.  So, face your toes up along with your knees.  Engage the muscle of the thighs and feel a line of energy radiating from the crown of your head through the heels of your feet.  Practicing such alignment cues without bearing weight will be easier, and will give your body the opportunity to practice awareness.  In time, these actions will translate more easily into your standing poses.

The next time you roll out your mat for your practice take these tips with you.  Be playful and curious….just explore what your body’s abilities are today.  Take pride in knowing that with your knowledge you’ll be protecting your knees, as well as building healthy habits for yourself, along with your yoga practice for years to come.

Namaste

(Photo created by bayswater.ca)