Asana, Yoga

Root to Extend, Find Steadiness and Ease

May 25, 2015
Tree

It has been a beautiful weekend so far, and there is still another whole day to dive into. I am hoping to have a short yoga sequence ready to post up next week, with the help of my wonderful videographer/husband/tech guru. If you are interested in dabbling in some yoga (or if you already have an established practice, and want a review), here are some basics tips and tools for starting a physical asana practice.

  • Roots and extension: Try to approach any posture in a yoga sequence from the ground up, no matter the difficulty. Creating stability in the base of a pose will keep you safe and strong through the rest of the body. In a standing pose, root firmly and evenly through the corners of the feet. I typically teach the foot as having three corners: the center of the heel, behind the ball of the big toe, and behind the ball of the pinky toe. By pressing down through these three points evenly, you can learn to activate the three arches on the bottom of the foot. This will help to create a stable dome architecture at the bottom of the foot, and will start to activate the muscles of the lower legs. At the same time you are rooting down through the lower body, extend up through the upper body. This may mean extending the crown of the head or the hands towards the ceiling, depending on the pose. The opposition of rooting and extending will help to create more space in the body, including the spine, helping to reverse some of the compressive effects of sitting or standing unevenly during the day. The same idea can be applied to arm balances and seated postures. An added benefit of rooting and reaching is it will decrease the weight being poured into the wrists in poses like arm balances or planks, Rooting evenly through the three corners of the feet in standing poses will help you find proper alignment, avoiding pain in the knee and ankles.
  • Sthira/Sukha: In the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali (an important text on the practice of yoga originating about 2000 years ago), the practice of asana is only mentioned directly once, in line 46 of the second book. The sutra says “sthira, sukham, asanam”. Translated from sanskrit, this sutra speaks of finding both steadiness (sthira) and ease (sukha) in one’s posture. Patanjali is mostly speaking of finding this balance between relaxation and strength in a seated posture for meditation, but yoga has evolved to include many more postures, as we all know! T.K.V. Desikachar, author of The Heart of Yoga: Developing a Personal Practice, explains this sutra by saying, “It is attention without tension, loosening up without slackness.” Finding a balance between these two opposing characteristics in an asana will keep the pose strong without creating needless stress.

Check in next week for some introductory videos! I hope you are having a fantastic Memorial Day weekend.

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