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Transforming Fear to Joy

Yoga Actions Series

Book Series: Creating Space Yoga Actions

Not everyone can do yoga poses.
Everyone can do Yoga Actions.

People come to yoga after hearing friends and family tell wonderful healing stories as a result of its practice. These outcomes are indeed true as yoga does offer many healthy benefits. However, there is much more to the practice of yoga than learning a series of poses (asanas) and expecting their physical benefits will naturally follow.

Yoga is a whole-being, spiritual practice with only one of its eight paths — asana — focusing specifically on the physical body.

Often, the yoga teacher’s challenge is practitioners see doing asana poses “correctly” as the endgame. That is, … “if I can do Adho Mukha Svanasana (downward-facing dog) like my teacher, I will have accomplished my goal.”

There are two problems with this approach to yoga. Firstly, yoga is not about achieving goals nor is it about teaching how to do poses accurately or as depicted in some photo on a Yoga website. Each of our bodies is different so how you express Adho Mukha Svanasana (AMS) is going to be right for your body (in the moment) and quite different from my expression.

ADHO MUKHA SVANASANA (Downward-facing Dog)

No matter whether you are a beginner, intermediate, or advanced practitioner, thus, regardless of your practice’s sophistication, your physical and energetic uniqueness will imprint the pose. This is as it needs to be.

Occupying the pose is not the endgame. There is no end game. There is the ever changing nature of your body, and your ability to use your body’s intelligence along with yoga actions to bring forth calm, clarity and truth.

Secondly, when we only focus on doing the poses correctly, we develop a goal-oriented experience, which, in yoga, we call an exercise program. However, asana becomes an integral part of a spiritual practice when we understand that the real purpose of doing the poses is to reveal where imbalance exists in the body and mind so we can then align both with spirit.

Your awareness of sensations—tightness, numbness, heat, even pain—that emerge during your asana practice reveals to you where these imbalances are located in your body. For instance, when you do AMS (down dog), do you find a great deal of sensation in your shoulders, hamstrings and calves? Are you unable to bring your heels to the mat? The imbalance being revealed here is tightness in your arms, torso and legs. This tightness does not allow you to balance your body’s weight equally between your hands and feet. Instead, you dump most of your weight onto your shoulders and wrists.

To enable your current best expression of AMS or any pose, we want to first establish a solid foundation. The foundation of any pose are those parts of the body that touch the earth. In AMS, eight parts of your body are meant to touch the earth—the inner and outer edges of both hands and both feet. When first taking the pose, most people press into the outside edges of their hands and their heels do not reach the mat. These ways of doing the pose reflect their imbalance or lack of grounding.

So, how can you ease the imbalance you experience in AMS? By resting your heels into a wall and using a yoga action, such as find the four corners of your hands and feet (thumb and baby finger mounds, inner and outer heel of palm mounds; big and baby toe mounds, inner and outer heel mounds). Any of these six variations of AMS illustrated below help you to better distribute your weight so you can ground the pose through the yoga action.