The great yoga master B.K.S.Iyengar said, “I’ve spent the last 75 years of my life exploring what happens to my sternum when I press my big toe down.” His point here is to say that all of our actions have results, and as yogis, our practice is to pay attention to this cause-and-effect relationship. When the action and the result come together in a harmonious way, we have an experience of yoga – or what Mr. Iyengar called integration.
When we practice asana, think of how much our actions matter. Being aware of how you place your body (foot, hand)– and your mind (sensations that arise and disappear), will help evolve your practice from exercise to experience: from separation to integration.
A yoga principle Push/Pull Actions (Yes/No; Aversion/ Attraction) informs us that the Push creates space while the Pull creates engagement. The Push extends our consciousness – we make ‘more’ – we make space. The Pull connects us to our core, to ourselves so that we become more expansive, more creative, more our ‘selfs’.
Below is an asana sequence that helps put us in touch with how the body can feel the Push/Pull experience:
- Uttanasana (standing forward fold) – with knees slighty bent, place palms/fingertips under shoulders, press arms straight pressing fingertips down and forward to expand, then pull palms/fingers back to engage arms/consciousness. Press right palm forward and pull left palm back (alternate between sides). Next with both palms press forward and pull back. Release crown of head down keeping upper body engaged to feel the integration of the full pose.
- Prasarita (wide legged forward fold) – with bent knees, place fingertips under shoulders. Push fingertips down and forward to lengthen then pull fingertips back to ‘hug in’ to engage the core. After a few full breaths walk palms back with elbows bent releasing head to floor – push fingers forward and pull back to bring body and mind to fuller pose.
Continue these same actions with the following poses:
- Plank, cobra, chaturanga, lizard lunge, side angle, triangle (blocks), pyramid
- Inversions – try handstand and tripod headstand,
- Backbends – camel, bridge, urdva dhanurasana/bow
This article was provided by Joan Gordon. Practice with Joan in person every Tuesday and Thursday at 10am!
Since leaving a professional non-profit career in New York City, Joan has immersed herself studying yoga and training with expert teachers. She completed her first Anusara teacher training at Yoga Montclair with Certified Anusara teacher, Vishali Vega in 2006 and completed continuing education workshops with renowned teachers including John Friend, the founder of Anusara Yoga, Todd Norian, Sianna Sherman, Christina Sell, Desiree Rumbaugh and Zhenja LaRosa. Joan continues to study with Professor Douglas Brooks, Ph.D. a world leading scholar of Hindu School of Tantra.
In her teaching, Joan creates an environment and pace that are both challenging and safe for students at all levels of ability and experience. Joan shares her desire for yoga to guide students to a transformational place where a radically positive shift can take place in body, mind, and heart. Joan describes the teaching of yoga as a divine privilege. Each student is a gift!