Tuesday, February 15, 2011
Yoga! Yoga! Yoga!
Adho Mukha Svanasana) has had the opposite experience in my new 'post surgical' practice. I've found it to be incredibly affirming, exhilarating and inspiring. I've rediscovered strength I was afraid I'd lost forever. Each time I move into Down Dog, I'm reassured that I will overcome these physical obstacles. Additionally, the variations of this pose ("Walking the dog", Standing Split and Half Dog--dropping down to my forearms) have provided me with the ability to work from a place of strength. Down Dog strengthens many different muscle groups all at once. It also has helped me to open up my overly tight hamstrings that had begun to become painful, after all that lying about. I have felt exceptionally motivated to keep moving in my practice when I am in my Adho Mukha Svanasana series.
Sphinx pose has been enormously helpful, as have many of the back bend series asanas. When you lie in a hospital bed, or do a great deal of sitting, your spine compresses. I found that my back became quite painful...simply from doing nothing. Literally. Sphinx was the first back bend I attempted when returning to class. It was as if I had been sitting in the dark for weeks and someone turned on a beautifully shining light! Just opening up my shoulders alleviated nearly all of my back pain. Sphinx pose also was my starting point to move into more challenging back bends, such as Upward Facing Dog, Seal Pose, Locust Pose, Bow and Camel. Back bends, my yoga teacher once told me, are a way of healing the past. Often people who have unresolved issues in their hearts and minds have a very difficult time with them. I found that regularly practicing Sphinx has helped me let go of a lot of the drama the past few months created.
Child's pose (Balasana) was another one that seemed so simple before my surgery, and was such a challenge immediately afterwards. Because my abdomen remained so swollen, and so sore, for a long time, just getting into this position represented some difficulty for me. I began easing into Child's Pose by creating a V with my knees. Now that my flexibility is beginning to return, I'm working diligently to create space by working towards the traditional 'belly on knees'. When used with the 'arms over the shoulders' variation, I've also been able to stretch out tight deltoids. I focus my breath into my lower back, and am able to renew my energy there.
"Legs up the Wall" pose (Viparita karani) has been a salvation for me. I have a very difficult time letting go of my "Monkey Mind". It's as if my brain is constantly flitting from topic to topic, replaying conversations on a loop, creating to do lists and just not turning 'off'. Imagine a Spider Monkey jumping from branch to branch, tree to free. That's the way my brain works most of the time. Regular exercise is the best way for me to keep this bad habit at bay. When that's not possible, my mind runs out of things to think about and begins to worry anxiously and needlessly. Other restorative poses, such as Corpse Pose and Reclining Butterfly, are wonderful. But, they're not as effective in battling my evil Monkey Mind. Legs up the wall gives me a leg up (pun fully intended) in shutting my brain up for ten minutes so that it, too, can relax. Inversions have a spectacular way of taking the guesswork out of restoration. I can't help but sigh in repose.
Finally, if anything is going to get me back into shape, it's going to be Boat Pose(Navasana). I used to be able to hold this pose for ten minutes and carry on a conversation with a class of my own students, and not even think about the difficulty. Times have changed! This pose is now a struggle for me, but it's also one that I've found becomes easier each time I practice it. Beginning with my knees bent in half boat, I have slowly gained strength and am inching my way, slowly, back up to full boat. Am I chatting and laughing? Heck, no! I'm sweating, and would probably swear if if I could get away with it. But, I do find that Boat Pose is helping me to renew, restore and regrow muscle. It just isn't much fun yet.
This series of six poses is not all inclusive to what I'm doing now. But, I do try to include each one of these along with whatever else I'm doing each day. They're helping me me to bring balance back into my life through my yoga practice. I'm mindful to cut out all negative thinking (and this includes "I hate my body now!") because it really does set me back. Full descriptions of each one of these poses are available at Yoga Journal online. Have fun perusing the various asanas! You may just discover a few you'd like to try.