By Shameem Akthar
Switching awareness from an area of pain to that of strength while doing difficult poses eases the pain, says Shameem Akhtar
|Shameem Akthar has trained as yoga Acharya with |
the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centre, Kerala, and
is a master-trainer in neuro-linguistic psychology.
A difficult pose actually teaches you the most intricate of life’s lessons. One could learn to shift awareness from an area of pain to that of strength, and suddenly the pain steps back into the background. When this switch in awareness happens, what initially was difficult suddenly becomes negotiable.
I will take the example of the simple fish pose, since most people who practice know of it. When you hold this pose for long, over two to three minutes, it can create an intense pressure at the neck, which can be unbearable for most people. Interestingly, at this point, if you shift the awareness to the back, where the action must actually be, then the pain will recede because the back takes the load of the pose (instead of the neck, as happens when the awareness is wrongly held) and the neck may even relax. This is exciting, because though the action seems to happen at the neck, it is actually at the back. The neck is just the last part, it is where the pose completes itself.
This switch in awareness becomes even more relevant in advanced poses like the headstand. A beginner will hold the pose by scrunching the neck and feel pain. An advanced student can switch the awareness to the shoulders, and lift from there, so the neck will actually relax. The same shift in awareness can be carried into the scorpion pose too. Here too, though the fear factor of the pose engages the mind in the legs (which may move a bit too behind to topple you right back), it is actually the strength of the hips which manages the pose. When the shift happens to the elbows, shoulders and the hips instead of the legs (where a beginner may wrongly believe the action lies), then the pose may be held well and long. When this switch happens, the practitioner breathes in a relaxed manner in the final pose. Till it happens, the breath will be shallow, almost not there, and fearful. This is the exciting lesson that an involved practice on the mat gifts you with. If you extend this to other things that affect us in life, you can see how helpful that could be and how it could translate into effortless effort.
(Wide-legged forward bend):
Stand with feet a meter apart. Raise arms above, inhaling. Exhaling, lean forward to place palms flat on the ground. Lift the head up. Push the hips back. Continue normal breathing. Hold for 15 seconds initially, slowly increasing duration in the final pose to half minute or more.
Initially, most beginners will tilt forward and rest their weight on the hands. Actually, if you push the hips back, the effort switches to the stronger legs and hips and the hands will only be there to maintain balance. This is where you should switch the effort so the tone happens in the right place, including the entire spine.
Tones the whole body. The pressure at the neck massages the thyroid and the parathyroid, helping manage metabolism and tissue health respectively. The upward tilt of the chin also activates a marma point at the chin which is anti-aging, and health providing.
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