Yoga - Let go and flow
by Shameem Akthar
Yoga is most effective when practised with the idea of letting go, says Shameem Akthar
Shameem Akthar has trained as yoga Acharya with
the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centre, Kerala, and
is a master-trainer in neuro-linguistic psychology.
My first yoga teacher was the gentle Pushpa Bhandari, who teaches in Borivli. She taught me the extremely simple pawan muktasana series (the energy/joint release poses). For weeks, I would do the same poses, repeatedly. The other students would sometimes complain of boredom repeating the same poses. But not me.
I learnt to meditate in her class. I also healed myself from a clutch of illnesses, which plagued me since childhood. I learnt a very powerful lesson in her class – it was not about the poses, but about the attitude of letting go, you brought on the mat.
This is a tricky attitude. Most people will surrender as long as it fits in with their pattern. The lethargic, movement-hating type of person will favour seated forward bends on the mat, but will resist inversions. Similarly, somebody highly adventurous on the mat may remain in the headstand for ten minutes, but will be restless in a modest pose like the yoga mudra(psychic union pose). I believe yoga is most effective when practised with this idea of letting go. Even though I do poses that are more advanced now, I do not try to `conquer' the pose. I stop by to experience it in my body, and allow it to lead me deeper into it. This idea of letting go is independent of whether the poses are gentle or dynamic.
As I experience yoga more, it is a revelation for me – the difficult idea of surrender does not lend itself to a pat definition. It is about letting go of a pattern of being. If you are hyperactive, then you try to slow down. If you are lethargic, you choose a dynamic school of yoga. If you are timid, you choose an adventurous style. If you are adventurous, you try the simpler poses. Often, intriguingly, people will surrender but only as long as it aligns with their patterns. Actually, surrender is a spiritual tool that helps us break out of the tide that drags us down – that is true of yoga practice as much as it is in real life. The idea of surrendering to what is natural to you is actually not surrender at all. However, surrendering to what may not be part of your pattern, would amount to true surrender. Maybe that is what Rishi Patanjali was talking of in his famous sutra that defines yoga so aptly, “Yogash citta vritti nirodhah (Yoga is the movement against the waves/patterns of your mind).” In that reversal, a deep surrender. In that surrender, a deeper release.
Can be practised seated or standing. Spread arms out at shoulder level. Fold each at the elbow. Place tips of fingers at the top of shoulder, as shown. Now draw circles with the elbow, finishing the circle by making the elbows meet in front of the face. Do five to ten circles. Then reverse the direction of the circle, drawing circles with the elbows in the reverse direction. Breathe normally throughout.
Benefits: Releases tension along the neck, upper back, and shoulder region. Rectifies postural defects that are the result of a sedentary lifestyle. Is used as a warm-up even in active sports to prepare the body for more strenuous movements. Facilitates breathing.
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