Week 78: A State of Measured Calm
Do you like sitting on the floor?
Sometimes I get weird looks when I say I'd rather sit on the floor than in a chair. And surprisingly even more these days.
Who knew that this week I'd enjoy sitting on the floor so much with revolved head to knee pose (parivrtta janu sirsana). Quite frankly, I've been doing some variation of this pose for years, even back to my early synchronized swimming days. I didn't realize that it is actually a yoga pose and probably originated as one.
Revolved head to knee pose is an asymmetrical seated side bend. It stretches the spine, side abdominals, hamstring and shoulder. In this week's practice, I completed two versions that varied due to the arm position.
With the first version, I was guided to place my hand of my upper arm on the side of my head (sort of making a triangle of my arm with my head). This significantly increased the stretch not only to the side but to the chest as well. It was a glorious stretch! The second version was more of the true pose with my upper arm/hand clasping the big toe of the straight leg. This too was a great stretch but just not as effective in stretching the chest.
I was pleasantly surprised that I could still bend so far with my pregnant belly!
This pose is was perfectly placed in prenatal practice as it aids in some of the "discomforts" of pregnancy. It stimulates the abdominal organs such as the liver and kidney, which are in overdrive right now. It aids in digestion which is also slowed during pregnancy. And it relieves common late pregnancy issues such as mild back pain, eases anxiety, fatigue, insomnia and headaches. It is almost like the yoga teacher knew to include this one in practice!
Revolved head-to-knee pose is not only physical but a pose where peace resides. Once in the pose, it is nothing short of glorious to feel the body open in this way. This quote just says it best:
"[The] opening in the side body, firmness in your base, and mobility in the low back offer a state of measured calm that is carried into the rest of your practice and beyond."
Amazing how one pose, which I've done many times in the past, can bring such ease today,
Baby on the brain? Absolutely!
This video from Leslie Kaminoff provides a brief but very interesting anatomy lesson on the joints and limbs...in the womb.
He addresses what happens in the development of the upper body versus the lower body limbs and how it factors into asana practice. As well, he addresses the importance of cueing for yoga teachers as they must provide guidance on limb rotation and/or spirals of the limb.
It is a very interesting refresher for me with a yoga twist as this topic was covered many (say, 14 years ago) in my first year anatomy class!
Enjoy the video this week - I did!
Week 76: Foundational Feet
Can you see your feet?
I can't anymore!
But I sure know the importance of focusing on my foundation, my feet as they ache and swell with pregnancy. Twenty-six bones, 33 joints and over a hundred muscles, tendons, and ligaments sure makes the feet complex!
I was delighted that in this week's practice foot work was included...no, not dance moves...but concentrated yoga poses to relieve tension and strengthen the feet. The new DVD I tried this week is Zen Mama by Rainbeau Mars. Within the 40+ minute practice, we covered many yoga poses that focused on this so neglected area of the body - pregnant or not.
The most outstanding pose was the toe squat. In a kneeling position, hips over knees to start, toes are tucked under and heels are pointing up towards the ceiling. The initial tension starts to resonate down the arch of the foot. By slowly lowering hips down towards the ankles, a superb or shall I say a severe pull is felt. Yikes!
What I love most about how Mars spoke about this pose was she related the tension to the pain to be felt during labour. Being my second time around, I'm not quite sure that anything compares to labour and delivery! But nonetheless, the focused energy on keeping still, calm and relaxed with tension is not a bad habit to work on right now!
Personal question now - do your toes spread apart at all or easily?
One of the best parts of yoga for me isn't the physical movement but more the stillness and introspection. For this part of yoga to happen, in most part, participants are in a seated or lying position. As I can't lie on my back so well anymore, sitting is the next best alternative.
This week's DVD of choice, Prenatal Yoga by Desi Bartlett, we practiced sitting in one of the many seated yoga positions. It got me to thinking that there are many ways to sit in yoga.
Let's look at the four most common crossed legged positions.
The most notorious sitting position is lotus pose (padmasana). It is depicted often but demonstrates a pose that so few people can actually do. Linked to traditional practice, lotus pose is thought to destroy all disease and awakens kundalini (not sure what that is...another question for another week). It is also recommended to consistently practice this pose during pregnancy to help aid childbirth. I guess I've missed this suggestion as it's too late beginning it in my third trimester!
Fire log pose (agnistambhasana) is a more reasonable position my for legs to rest. Stacking each lower leg onto one another is much more feasible than the pretzel like shape of lotus pose. It has been a while since I've done this pose as Judy included it in our practice quite frequently. But over the past year of practice, I can't say I've done it once. This week's inquiry has reminded me to include it more often...or at least sit in this position when I am on the floor playing trucks with my son!
This week's practice actually included this pose - easy pose (sukhasana) - essentially a seated cross legged position. As the DVD cued the position I wasn't aware that it actually had a formal sanskrit name and I need to explore more. It is thought to calm the brain and relieve stress. Who doesn't want that!?! I sometimes practice this pose with a block under my sit bones to help release my back. It is, in my humble opinion a fundamental yoga pose! Love it!
The final seated pose, bound angle pose (baddha konasana), is a seated pose with the feet pressing into one another. In this pose, I also use a block from time to time under my hips but also two under my knees so my elevated legs have a place to rest. This pose has been essential to my prenatal practice. Although not included in the DVD practice this week, I try to do it with each session. As with lotus pose, this pose too is good for prenatal practice as it opens the hips in preparation of childbirth.
So there you have it! My query of the different seated poses, not exhaustive by any means, but poses picked for their commonality. All seated with the legs folded in one way or another.
I have only scratch the surface and in so, will need more time to explore each of these poses further in the future!
Seated and still,
Aspiring Yoga Teacher
I've practiced yoga since I was a pre-teen and have always found it to keep me centered. I will be a teacher one day and this is my journey to discover teaching and practice.