Yoga to become present

Yoga for grounding – bringing your mind and spirit into your body

Yoga to become presentAll of us remember the “first”. The first kiss, the first concert, the first job, the first car and so on. I distinctly remember the first time I realized that I was stressed. It happened in my teens, about 5 days into an all-inclusive resort vacation in Cancun. I was lying on the beach and suddenly this strange wave of relaxation washed over me. At that exact moment I realized just how un-relaxed I had been, how I went about my day, doing what’s necessary to get by without paying much attention to my body, mind and feelings. And the funny thing was I had no clue that I was doing this until I stopped. I was so focused on the goal, the result, that I was what we yogis call “out of my body.” I was so not in the present moment that it took me almost a week to come into the present.

Many years and vacations have passed. One evening, after an especially hectic work day, I found myself failing in yoga miserably. I could not hold any single standing pose, I kept toppling over.

Returning to child’s pose I realized that although my body was in the yoga class, my mind and spirit were still at the office. Being the ever logical person, I thought: “well, I am paying for this class, I have to fully be in this class, or otherwise it’s a waste of my time and money.” And so I imagined my mind and spirit flying out of the office and back into my body. After several breaths I rose up from child’s pose and to my surprise nailed every single standing pose. Yes, I know yoga is not about succeeding, failing or nailing any pose. It is much more. However, just the physical asana part of yoga can tell us so much about our internal state. An asana, or pose, especially one that requires balance and concentration can be a wonderful litmus test to tell us whether our internal self is balanced, focused and present.

Try this for yourself, perform the below routine twice. On your first round keep your mind occupied with non-yoga things such as errands, to do lists, work stuff, unpleasant conversation from earlier in the day and so on. Then take a few deep breaths, concentrate on what you are about to do, focus on your breath and invite your mind and spirit to return into your body. Then repeat the routine staying focused on your breath and movement.

Tadasana (Mountain Pose)

Stand with your feet together or hip width apart and spread the weight evenly through both feet. Gently lift up your knee caps as you engage your thighs, roll your inner thighs back as you reach your tailbone toward your heels. Pull your belly in and up, spread across the collarbones while reaching your lower ribs toward the front of your hips. Draw the shoulders gently away from the ears while reaching the top of your head up. Take your hands, palms together in front of your heart into the Namaste position. Inhale a deep breath in, feeling your feet pressing firmly into the earth and the earth pressing firmly into your feet.

Anjaneyasana (Low Lunge)

From Tadasana, bend your right knee, step back with your left foot and bring your hands to the floor on either side of the right foot. If you cannot reach the floor you can use two yoga blocks, one under each hand. If you’d like generate more heat in the body, keep the left leg straight—for an intermediate pose place the left knee on the floor. Keep your left toes tucked under, this prevents your left heel from rolling out. If you have sensitive knees, you may place a blanket or a towel under the left knee for padding. Lengthen through the front of your torso and draw the tailbone toward the floor to lengthen the lower back. Keep your neck elongated. Spend 30–60 seconds in this pose.

Parsvakonasana. Variation (Extended side angle)

Place the right hand on the inside of your right foot, either directly on the floor or your block. Inhale as you lift the left arm up toward the ceiling. If this is too intense, lift your torso up and place your right forearm on your right thigh. Work your right ribcage forward and your left ribcage back as you rotate your torso eventually aligning your right shoulder directly above your left shoulder. You may gaze up toward your lifted hand or directly forward. Stay here for 5 breaths.

Virabhadrasana 2 (Warrior 2)

Release your left heel to the floor, placing the entire sole of the left foot on the floor parallel with the short side of your mat or you may rotate the left foot in slightly. Align your right heel and your left arch. Inhale and lift your torso coming to standing. Take a look at your right knee and make sure it is directly above the right ankle, bend the right knee toward a 90 degree angle while keeping the left leg straight and both feet pressing into the floor firmly. In Virabhadrasana 2, the hips are open and the fronts of both hips are facing the long side of the mat. Take your arms out and up to shoulder height and reach your hands away from your center. The traditional gaze is toward your right hand. Take 5 deep breaths and return to Tadasana. Repeat this sequence on the other side, starting with Anjaneyasana (Low Lunge) and finishing in Tadasana (Mountain Pose).

Continue with Anjaneyasana (Low Lunge) for the left side of the body. From Tadasana, bend your left knee, step back with your right foot and bring your hands to the floor on either side of the left foot. If you cannot reach the floor you can use two yoga blocks, one under each hand. Make sure to keep your neck elongated. Spend 30–60 seconds in this pose.

Parsvakonasana. Variation (Extended side angle)

Place the left hand on the inside of your left foot, either directly on the floor or your block. Inhale as you lift the right arm up toward the ceiling. If this is too intense, lift your torso up and place your left forearm on your left thigh. Work your left ribcage forward and your right ribcage back as you rotate your torso eventually aligning your left shoulder directly above your right shoulder. You may gaze up toward your lifted hand or directly forward. Stay here for 5 breaths.

Vriksasana (Tree Pose)

Now that we have opened up your hips, let’s try a balancing pose. Take your weight into your right foot as you lift your left foot slightly off the floor. Press through the four corners of the right foot evenly. Inhale, bend your left knee and place the left foot on the inside of your right ankle, calf or thigh. You may use your hands to help bring the left leg up and in. Press the left foot firmly into the right calf or thigh as you work your left knee to the left. Take your hands together in front of the heart into the Namaste position. If you wish to challenge yourself, lift your arms straight overhead and for an even greater challenge close your eyes. Remain here in this pose for 5 breaths. Return to Tadasana and repeat on the other side.

Finish this sequence right where you started—in Tadasana, Mountain Pose.

Article originally published in Holistically Savvy

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