Remember those shirts?! No Fear!
That was my first thought when I practiced yoga this week. A friendly but in your face brand of the 1990s!
How appropriate to start the 201st week of yoga without any fear?
In my case, I try my hardest to let go of as much fear as I can but it still creeps into my life. My yoga life, not so much. Why? Probably years of yoga practice can build confidence in the poses. Yet, there are some poses that can be scary, particularly the ones you can fall over in.
And that is just what was the challenge in No Fear Yoga.
Warrior III (Virabhadrasana III) can be a bit intimidating. Trying to balance on one leg while keep the body parallel to the floor, arms outstretched above the head AND the suspended leg in line with the rest of the body.
No small feat!
Just like flying is scary for some, Warrior III puts your body into space as if you are flying. It was kind of cool to listen to the birds on the video while in the position. I don’t miss the congruity of the sounds.
Warrior III is an excellent balance pose but it also challenges the core and the back body. No fear required to get those benefits!
The second pose in my no fear practice was crane/crow pose (Bakasana). Another pose that elicits fear of falling on your face! Perfect for the no fear yoga!
It always seems that crow pose is left to the end of practice. This week being no exception. Is this because one has less monkey chatter inside his/her head at this point in the practice? For me, fear seemed to have risen at the end as I had kids tromping around upstairs when they were suppose to be having a nap and quiet time. No fear of the pose, more about fear of my yoga practice ending!
Needless to say, my fear got the best of me as I fumbled with crow pose and wasn’t able to settle enough to get into the pose. One foot off the ground, with the tips of the toes of the other foot on the ground.
Nothing trumps the thoughts of fear…even though it was a made up fear in my head! Perfect illustration via this pose.
Oh well, another day, another chance to suspend myself off the ground with crow pose!
Continuously throwing fear by the wayside,
If you have ever felt your muscles shutter with the shakes, you’ll understand the challenge that is this week’s yoga practice.
I was ready for a “yoga workout” this week. I scoured videos and landed on the glorious Yoga with Adriene’s Deepen & Flow practice. It sounded like the right fit as the summary listed “cultivate some heat!”. Heat equals hard working yoga in my world!
The practice took me through some challenging low lunges and quick(er) flows of downward facing dogs and planks. I had thought most of the challenge was done when we transitioned into a standing balance sequence. It was unique and novel and I loved it!
Let me spell it out…
I was guided into chair pose by sending the hips back first followed by bending the knees. It felt like more of a traditional squat but was happy to lower my butt towards the ground. The pose transitioned into a single leg stance with the ankle of one foot onto the thigh/knee of the supporting leg. Kind of like a figure four position or modified pigeon pose. If that wasn’t challenging enough, without touching the raised foot down to the floor, move the lifted foot back by pressing it back into Warrior III pose.
Maybe if you do it once.
But we repeated it three times!
By having the hips and knees flexed, it allowed the body to be “closed” initially then transitioned into an “open” position into the Warrior III. The gluteus maximus of the support leg plus the core needed to be engaged to allowed the flow of the poses together.
And where was the shakes, you may ask?
By the third and final repetition, “crazy prana [was] running through the body” and the support leg shook! So much so that the glutes, quadriceps and hamstrings all had a fun dance together!
I haven’t felt that muscle shake feeling since participating in a Barre class…if you don’t know, that is was happens in barre classes! Fighting it doesn’t work, moving through the shakes is what works the muscles best.
Now this sequence was a "full body experience”!
It was a combination of balance, strength and stamina all rolled up into one! Something to keep in mind for future teaching as a “simple” way to challenge a class - combine three poses into one and repeat, repeat, repeat.
I know I sure got the work intended!
I've been really blessed to practice with an awesome teacher at Lotus Soul Gym. She has been in tune to our group's needs, even asking what we want from our practice at each class. And without fail, she always asks the class to make a silent intention for the practice.
My usual internal response to her direction is one word. Peace, rest, energy, love - something like that. But this week my intention was "to feel my practice". That being, physically engage with the body during each pose.
Now, you may think, come on Lisa, isn't that yoga through and through.
But honestly, how often do we just go through the motions and neglect being present in each distinct movement we do in yoga?
Lots - I bet.
So my goal was to stay focused on what muscle, joint, etc. were being utilized during each asana. In a sense being mindful in my practice.
A recent article on mindfulness, which my yoga intention ellicted, discusses how the physical body aids in noticing and regulating the wandering mind.
Since our teacher initiated a practice that fit our need(s), she provided a sequence of asanas that possibly was the most difficult one of all (i.e., hitting those tough spots that we knew needed work!)
Pigeon pose hit up the external hip rotators and my back...
Warrior III hit my legs hard...
And well plank, hit my core strength on multiple occasions as we practiced plank (and multiple variations) many times!
I had to stay extremely focused on my body and in the moment or I was lost. Especially with Warrior III...where I almost fell over!
I love the challenge that yoga provides both physically and mentally! I learn so much about myself and hope one day to provide this great favour to others as a teacher.
And on a final note, this week's practice makes me think of this song...
Extended side angle pose (Utthita Parsvakonasana), to me, is a foundational pose but receives little attention compared to its sister Warrior poses. Officially, not a warrior pose it has the markings of one (such as the bent knee like in warrior II) except for the side bending.
It was an enlightening pose this week, which follows the past two weeks' pattern of bending (forward and side). To be honest, I had a major release (physical and emotionally) with extended side angle pose this week and I don't totally get why. Was it from the hips? Apparently, releasing the hips can be an emotional experience but I have no reference or source to date. Is it the place of tension that rarely gets a break?
Especially as a pregnant women.
I really like this pose for my pregnant body. It focuses on single leg strength and opening of the side body among opening the hips.
One of the things I want to maintain is my leg strength. After sitting for many months nursing with my first child, my legs atrophied to a point where my pants were hanging off me. Muscle tone and strength were gone. So, continually working on leg strength now and once baby arrives is key for me.
Also, in the past couple weeks I've been stretched (read: my belly has popped). And the sensation it brings is very bizarre. It's like the pressure of the abdominal cavity is increasing and my skins elasticity is not ready for the stretch. So a dull ache. Extended side angle pose is fantastic for stretching the areas of my torso that have been under such pressure. *sigh*
Note: That's not me…yet. Nor have I ever seen something like this before!
In my most recent practice session, we went through an extensive flow of
Warrior poses (Virabhadrasana I, II, III). I quite enjoy all three warrior poses
for different reasons but what I want to explore with this post is the "missing"
Warrior IV and V poses.
What? You ask. I didn't know there are more than three!
Well, I guess there isn't. But moving through the handful of
repeated Warrior poses, I started to wonder where these other two poses, Humble Warrior and Reverse Warrior, fit in.
If you are not familiar, Humble Warrior (also known as Devotional Warrior), is in the lunge
position with the arms clasped behind the back and the torso bent forward over
the front thigh. I have rarely done this pose so when I heard the teacher call it by name, I had a mental stoppage and wondered am I missing a Warrior.
As the flow continued, we moved into Reverse Warrior (also known as Crescent Pose or Proud Warrior). I have to admit I love this pose but never knew its name either. It is in an open lunge position (hips are open, facing side ways) where the back arm reaches back for the rear thigh and the front arm reaches over the head. With such flexibility in my hips and hamstrings, my body is able to reach back far and thus, I get a phenomenal stretch!
I went digging into my sources to discover that truly, these two poses are
actually a variation of either Warrior I or Warrior II. And they are not
considered traditional yoga poses as they do not have Sanskrit names. Oh,
that's why they really are not numbered like the other three distinct poses. But what I did find is that all five poses are considered Warrior poses.
Case solved. To read a comprehensive overview of a Warrior sequence, click here. And a bit more on the history of the Warrior poses, click here. It's an interesting read if you know nothing about the poses origin.
Putting the pieces together - one at a time,
Photo credit: yogamama.co.uk's photostream
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.