Yoga: A Conversation with Your Body
When we do yoga we engage in a conversation with our body. I always encourage my students to observe, closely, what their bodies are telling them. Just in that moment, because change is constant. Do chair pose (utkatasana) hundreds of times and you’ll learn that your mind, body and emotions are always changing.
Standing in mountain pose (tadasana) encourages us to notice and to learn that we can stand alone, without support; that we can stand strong for what we believe in. Plow pose (halasana) puts us in a place where we can become introspective as we face our secrets– some delightful, some a little less so. What is our choice our response? In standing forward bend (uttanasana) or another pose like shoulderstand (salamba sarvangasana), we see the world from a different perspective. What is our interpretation?
I compare it to having a conversation with another person. We notice the body language. For example, someone taking a peek at their watch might want to be, or might have to be, somewhere else. They’re probably not fully present. Facing you directly with a relaxed stance means that they really are comfortable and interested in talking to you. These are all tiny little clues for understanding what might be going on in that person’s mind.
So is the case when it comes to the conversation we have with our bodies when we practice yoga. Perhaps, when scanning the body, you might find something a little rigid, or a little out of balance. What is the emotion behind that? What is your choice of response to that? Do you approach it with nonviolence (ahimsa)? Do you approach it with tenderness and respect? What if you found something that felt really good? Would you see it with truthfulness (asteya)? With non-possessiveness (aparigraha)? We need to learn to observe without judgement. Just like a witness.
Doing yoga, for me, is aparigraha. It’s about myself, and how I translate the world; understanding the choices I have and how I want to conduct myself. Learning is growing–the antithesis of stagnancy. You must learn about compassion for others, and learn to see others in yourself and yourself in others.
Use and share what you’ve learned as you go about your daily life.
Urdhva Dhanurasana: Upward-Facing Bow
Urdhva dhanurasana (OORD-vah don-your-AHS-anna) is often mis-translated as full wheel pose (chakrasana). Upward facing bow pose is a deep backbend that can cultivate flexibility, strength, and patience. This posture is worth the effort with its long list of benefits, including an energy boost and thyroid and pituitary gland stimulation.
- Urdhva: upward
- Dhanu: bow
- Asana: pose
- Expands chest, lungs, shoulders.
- Stretches hip flexors, muscles of the abdomen, wrists.
- Strengthens glutes, hamstrings, lower back muscles.
- Promotes courage and compassion.
- Enlivens the chakras.
- Increases energy.
- Bridge pose | Setu bandha sarvangasana
- Reclined hero pose | Supta virasana
- Upward facing dog | Urdhva mukha svanasana
- One-legged upward facing bow | Eka pada urdhva dhanurasana
- Wheel pose | Chakrasana
- King dancer pose | Natarajasana
- Half lord of the fishes pose | Ardha matsyendrasana
- Head to knee pose | Janu sirsasana
- Reclined hand to foot pose | Supta padangusthasana
- Blocks on the wall: Place two blocks on the floor against a wall, about shoulder distance apart. Place your hands on the blocks as you move into urdhva dhanurasana to help elevate your upper body and better engage your shoulder blades.
- Strap: Use a strap around your upper arms to prevent the elbows from splaying as you press upward.
- Block: Place a block between your thighs to keep your lower body engaged.
- One-legged: Try out eka pada urdhva dhanurasana by lifting up one leg at a time.
- Lie on your your back with your knees bent, feet on the floor, like you’re moving toward bridge pose.
- Place your palms on the ground beside your ears, fingertips facing your shoulders.
- Press into your feet, especially the big toe ball mound.
- Exhale to lift your tailbone and hips off the floor. Squeeze your thighs toward each other so your knees point straight ahead.
- Press into your hands to bring the crown of your head to the ground. Pause here for a breath.
- Draw your shoulder blades down your back while keeping elbows in line with shoulders. Press into your feet and hands equally.
- Exhale to straighten your arms and lift your head off the floor.
- Squeeze your inner thighs toward each other and down toward your mat (internal rotation). Lengthen your tailbone toward the back of your knees.
- Drop your head all the way back if comfortable.
- Hold the pose for up to a minute with a steady, long breath. Lower down and rest, option to repeat.