Rehabilitation of a Yogi: Ignition at the Core
August 9, 2011 § Leave a comment
In the heat of August we are talking about Core Power. The power center is lodged in the middle of the body just behind the navel. Feel the ground below, let your power flow and with a spark ignite the inferno at the core.
Our third class in the Open Mind Yoga series is dedicated to connecting with the core. And we’re not just talking about tight abs here. The abdominals are a hard working muscle group. The abs keep our guts from spilling out, allow the torso to do all that twisting and bending its known to do. Lifting up from tying your shoes. Reaching for those brass rings. And of course all those twisting thrusting shaking shimmering hip gyrations, forget about it if your abs not up to the challenge.
The middle of the human body is incredibly versatile, ready to contract and release at the whim of the heart-mind. The middle is at times hard and soft, strong and sensitive. Are you ticklish? Let me find out which spots make you cry out. Brush a feather along the soles of the feet and the oblique abdominals. Nothing like it, baby, to make you squirm, groan, and giggle.
Don’t let me get distracted. Some typical core strengthening poses in yoga are: Navasana (Boat Pose), Plank (Top of a Push-up Pose) and Dolphin. Hold for 5 breaths. Release. Hold for 10 breaths. Release. Hold for 5 breaths. Release. Feel the ignition.
Wisdom, strength and intuition may be accessed at the core. In yoga and sitting meditation we are learning to stay strong through the middle to support the opening of mind and heart.
Taking Flight in Crow: A Different Perspective
Another fun core power pose is Crow (Bakasana, also known as Crane Pose). The usual approach to Crow is trying to lift both feet off the ground and balance on the hands. For a pretty photo and step-by-step instructions check out the Yoga Journal’s Crane Pose page.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with this viewpoint, but my concern is that it creates an unnecessary attachment or striving in the student’s psyche. I know because for many years I’ve been practicing Crow in this way: hoping to balance, squeezing my knees onto my shoulders, and striving to get that other foot, that one last toe up off the ground. Wanting to achieve, to be better. Feels familiar. It’s a pretty accurate reflection of how I approach life, or used to. With radical self-acceptance we can learn to be present with the moment as it is, without pushing it away, pulling it closer, or ignoring it altogether. Since my back injury I have not tried Crow much. And as I continue on my journey of healing my Sacro-Illiac Joint I am open to a new approach. I would like to attempt Crow with a new focus.
If both feet are on the ground – feel the feet, feel the hands, stay with the sensations in the body. If one foot lifts off the floor – take note, breathe, appreciate the nuances of the myriad muscular contractions required to balance in this way. If both feet lift – stay with your internal felt sense of the body. Allow all the physical and emotional treasures to be unearthed by this one pose. Does the balance have to do with lifting up through the belly, activating the core? Sure. But there is so much more to it than that.
Can you make friends with the judgmental berating voice that’s accusing you of not trying hard enough as you’re struggling to bring your weight a bit further forward? Can you be there for the hope, the fear, the elation, the disappointment, the joy, the despair? Whatever comes up for you – can you accept the present moment just as it is? This is the training ground for the spiritual warrior. Learning to be present for the experience of placing the body into a (more or less arbitrary) yoga pose prepares the heart and mind for the more nuanced high stakes challenges we face off the mat.
Can you come back to the breath when the doctor tells you the side effects for your treatment and a hard lump of fear swells in your throat? Can you be in the moment when your baby is crying at 4am and feelings of anger and frustration are boiling in your belly? Can you recognize the now as you sit on the subway train and a homeless person shuffles by mumbling and halfway falling into your lap? Embarrassed. Hopeful. Joyful. Frightened. Excited. Horny. Bored. Anxious. Numb. With practice, we become curious in the midst of the most powerful and most mundane of moments, coming back to the breath, returning to the truth of the now again and again.
Our lives are so much more complex, intricate, surprising and jolting outside of the safety of a yoga class or meditation center. But the training on the mat and the cushion is imperative.
This practice of mindfulness is what the world needs. Choosing the Middle Path in each moment, be it in a yoga class, on the street, or between the sheets. Grounded in what is, I allow the breath to flow and ignite the primordial wisdom at the core.
Contact me with questions. Thank you for your comments.