Have you ever noticed that when life is in turmoil you find comfort in cleaning the house, taking a walk or going fishing?
It's the common and mundane rituals that can help bring back balance and normality during times of stress and change. Like Earth's gravitational pull, we know our comforting routines are always there. And when we push against routine, it inevitably pulls us back, setting our feet on the ground.
My yoga teacher tells us to stand at the front of our mats in attention pose. We begin this way each and every time. The next 90 minutes proceeds in a now-familiar pattern. Every pose, every movement, every breath, precisely where it is supposed to be.
When I am practicing on my own or teaching a class, I frequently change the structure, flowing without an agenda or destination. For the most part, my students never know what the class will be like. It's a wonderful way to learn to let go of expectation and be completely in the moment.
Yet, for the past few months I've found myself in another teacher's class, practicing Ashtanga yoga, which is consistent, with no surprises.
I realize that it's the very consistency of Ashtanga that calls me to the mat. It comes at a time when personal chaos seeks personal balance. We cannot move through life on a never-ending roller coaster. At some point, the ground under our feet must become steady, reassuring.
Diana Reed is a yoga teacher, writer and co-owner of Gaya Jyoti Yoga in Hernando County. She can be reached at gayajyotiyoga.com or (352) 610-1083.
TRIED AND TRUE
Try this brief morning and evening set of postures to establish routine. Begin the day grounded and end the day with balanced freedom.
Move smoothly from one pose to the next, breathing deeply and steadily. This sequence wakes up the spine, ribs, shoulders and the major joints, while increasing blood flow throughout the body.
• Attention Pose: Stand with your feet together, toes touching, arms at your sides. Feel your feet against the floor, imagining the triangle of big toe, baby toe and heel, and distributing your weight evenly. Lift the crown of the head toward the ceiling; feel the lift in your ribs but keep the shoulders dropped away from your ears, shoulder blades moving down the back. Stay for 3-4 deep breaths.
• Upward hands: Inhale and lift the arms up and over the head, arching the back gently. Open the chest and shift the hips forward, tucking the tailbone.
• Forward fold: Exhale and fold forward from the hips, lifting the tailbone. Keep the heart reaching forward and the spine lengthening. Bend the knees slightly to protect your lower back. Place your hands on your shins, ankles or the floor, wherever they naturally rest. Do not bounce or strain to go farther than your body wants to go.
• Return to standing, reaching your arms up over your head, the hands back over the head, then return to attention pose. Repeat sequence 3-4 times.
This sequence stimulates detoxification and promotes relaxation.
• Staff pose: Sit on the floor with legs extended straight in front of you, hands at your sides. Pressing the fingers and palms firmly into the floor, open the heart by rolling the shoulders up and back. Pull the navel toward the spine and breathe deeply. Press the thighs into the floor and flex the feet. Take 3-4 breaths then relax, releasing all tension.
• Seated forward fold (below): With legs in front of you, reach the arms up until they line up alongside your ears. Hinging from your hips, fold forward however much or little your body wants to go. Don't worry about touching your toes. When the hinging action stops, bring your hands to rest on your legs. Take 3 to 4 breaths.
• Easy seated pose: Sit on the floor with your legs crossed comfortably. If this is difficult, sit on a pillow or cushion. If you can't cross your legs, try just bringing the soles of the feet together. Rest your hands on your knees, and keep your spine lifted, your shoulders rolled back. Close your eyes and sit for 6 to 10 deep breaths.