By Saraswati Vasudevan
Start your yoga practice by awakening each part of your body through loving, compassionate attention, says Saraswati Vasudevan
When was the last time you sat with a friend and asked, “Hey, how are you feeling today?” “What is happening in your life?” “Is everything going well?”
When you get on to your mat every morning, this is ideally what you should do with your body! Check on each part: “How are you, my neck? Hope you have managed to drop some of the burden you have been carrying and feeling more relaxed now?” “Hello, my dear back, are you feeling any better today?”
With very simple postures coordinated with breathing, we begin to connect with every part, every joint. With careful, compassionate attention, we awaken each part. Stretching the arms up with inhalation, bending forward with exhalation, twisting the neck and upper body to the sides on exhalation, and carefully noticing some difference between one side and the other.
Every joint and muscle group is capable of a certain range of movements, and the asanas exploit these maximally. This way we can keep all parts of our body functioning optimally, whether it is a joint, muscle group, organ, senses or the mind. Nothing is left unexplored. And there is absolute balance. Sri T Krishnamacharya called yoga “sarva anga sadhana” – an activity that engages and impacts all parts of the body and all dimensions of the human being. Often, I have found students striving for complex movements and postures which makes them feel they have “achieved” something through the practice. And yes, it is important to progress with yoga. One of the definitions of the word yoga is ‘to achieve that which was not achievable before’ –“apraaptasya praaptih yogah”. But this achievement should be with ahimsa (non-violence) to the body and through a systematic intelligent progression, (vinyasa krama) that takes into account the unique needs of the individual, respecting their body, breath and mind. So, start your day with a beautiful quiet conversation with your best friend, your body; each inhalation filling you with the morning freshness, discarding yesterday’s burdens with each exhalation, awakening the mind to a new day…
This is an excellent posture to start our asana practice.
Stand with your feet together (or a little apart for better balance), arms by the side of your body, chin down. Take a few free breaths to connect with the body, deepening the breath slowly. After a complete exhalation, begin to inhale deeply into the chest and upper abdomen, simultaneously raising the arms from the sides and raising the heels to balance on the front balls of the feet. Bring palms together (or lock fingers and stretch your arms turning the palms out). Pause for a couple of seconds, exhale and lower the arms down from the sides, lowering the heels. The arm and heel movement must be coordinated carefully with the breath. Repeat a few times and try to stay in the posture for a few breaths.
About the author: Saraswathi Vasudevan is a yoga therapist trainer in the tradition of Sri T Krishnamacharya. She specializes in adapting yoga to the individual. (www.yogavahini.com).
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