I’ve come to see paying attention as a spiritual practice. I write to remind myself that life’s seemingly mundane moments are often where we find beauty, grace, and transformation. When we race through life, we miss it. Katrina Kenison
I spent my first 40 years of life on a wild and speedy goose chase only to discover that life is not meant to be accelerated. When we slow down from the high-speed chase, what becomes obvious is we missed knowing ourselves. Given that we have the potential to be our own BFF, it behooves us to slow down and develop what is required — an intimate relationship with our body, mind and spirit. I hope it is now common knowledge that if we don’t love ourselves, it is almost impossible for us to love others in selfless ways.
IMHO, slowing down is an act of self-love. We can apply this principle to our yoga practice by gently easing into one pose. Using our attention in this single-minded way better enables us to feel and hear what our body, mind and spirit are communicating.
As you practise the Utthita Parsvakonasana sequence illustrated below, remind yourself to not go beyond your edge. For strivers and drivers like myself, we typically defined our “edge” to be full of effort and sometimes pain. This is not the case. Your edge is that place where sensation first begins to arise. When you reach this “golden layer” as Francisco Kaiut names it, stop there. Let your awareness and breath circulate in this location, and only if more space becomes available, then move deeper into that space. Ease in, don’t push or force your way into any pose.
If ease and effortlessness are a challenging practice for you, then while you are in each pose, ask yourself this question: Is my spine happy? With your awareness, scan your cervical, thoracic, lumbar, sacrum and tailbone for any signs of tension, numbness or pain. Do what is necessary to ease any discomfort in your spine. This usually means backing out of the pose to some degree. Our journey in yoga is to bring life to our spine not create restriction or rigidity.
Utilize the following Yoga Actions to facilitate ease and intimate understanding within each pose. Begin your practice seated quietly in Virasana for a few minutes to centre yourself internally.
1. INHALE into the back edge of your Pelvic Diaphragm, and feel the expansion into both outer hips.
2. EXHALE your lower abdominals (navel to pubic bone) back toward the face of your lumbar spine.
SUPTA BADDHA KONASANA (Supine Bound Angle Pose) 5 minutes
– horizontal bolster behind thoracic spine; head level with heart
– belt and/or support outer thighs
ADHO MUKHA SVANASANA (Down Dog) 10 – 20 Breaths
– balance your inner body weight between your hands and feet
PRASARITA PADOTTANASANA (Wide-Legged Forward Bend) 10 – 20 Bs
– fold forward to hands under shoulders, then INHALE and
– release crown to floor or block
– lower arms are parallel to each other; heels & palms align
SUPINE UTTHITA PARSVAKONASANA (Extended Side Bend) 3 mins each side
SALAMBA UTTHITA PARSVAKONASANA 20 Bs each side
1) seated on chair, back heel into wall, back hand holds chair back
– front arm rests on front thigh, roll breast bone to ceiling
2) release front hand to block, roll breast bone to ceiling
– knee aligned over ankle
UTTHITA PARSVAKONASANA (Extended Side Bend) 10 Bs each side
– hand can be on block (outside or inside knee), roll breastbone toward ceiling
– feel two-directional stretch from waist down to outer foot & from waist up into fingertips
SAVASANA (Corpse Pose) 5 – 10 mins
– chair supporting calves
May your spine feel light and free of constraint. Namaste.