Sitting in my backyard as I write this post, I'm reminded how yoga can take us to places we never thought we'd go. I hear the birds singing and see them glide so effortlessly through the air. If only we could fly...
It is in this week's pose, eagle pose, I too flew (with one foot on the ground!)
Over the years, I've dreaded and anticipated eagle pose (garudasana) in my practice. With so much going on in this pose, there are many parts that come easy to my body (e.g., balance, leg strength); yet, many parts of the pose are mighty challenging (e.g., arm positioning, crossing the legs fully).
Eagle pose is considered a standing balance pose. It requires lower body strength and flexibility at the same time; as one leg is for stability and the other is for flexibility as it crosses over the straight leg. As a student of yoga, one cannot deny the challenge this pose gives to the lower body.
With that being said, the upper body has an equally intense challenge of binding the forearms and hands together requiring strength and mobility through the shoulder girdle. For someone like me who carries her stress in her shoulders, the arm position releases tension in the rhomboids and middle/lower trapezius. To make the pose even more endearing, holding the arms in position doesn't necessarily provide stretch. It's only after you release the position that you feel your work complete!
But what I do enjoy about the upper body position, is how one can find space. It amazes me how the arms are all "wound" up, yet by simply reaching the elbows forward and raising the hands up (ever so slightly), there is space. It is so easy to let the position just collapse and it takes mental and mindful effort to keep them lifted. Plus - this is where the big returns happen!
Side note - this is technique and cueing that I picked up from Judy!
Interestingly, it wasn't until now when reading more about eagle pose that I didn't know how to actually cue the position. I've been guided in practice but it was unclear to me which arm was "on top" with which corresponding leg "on top". Turns out, it is the opposite; right arm on top with left leg on top. I suppose that makes sense to add a counterbalance for the upper and lower body. Always learning...
Now - I said I flew. How did that happen...
Well, never having done a variation to eagle pose, I was quite taken aback when I tried it! After releasing the legs, keep the lifted (or "on top") leg off the floor, hinging forward into warrior III (virabhadrasana III). Gravity adds a bonus pull to the upper body, which is very welcomed in my world!
This is where I soared!
Think what comes easy to you.
Now, think of what comes hard to you.
How closely related are the things that come easy to you and those that come hard? I would suggest they are likely quite different from one another.
We all have our strengths and weaknesses.
Yet, without a doubt, there is always an easy part of yoga for me but there is always a hard part too. Not one practice is all one or the other. Yoga ebbs and flows from challenging to painless.
This week's practice was no different.
My fav YouTuber and yoga teacher, Adriene, highlighted the simple yet thoughtful idea. Rather than easy and hard, think of moving with EASE. Yes, EASE!
What an excellent way to focus during practice. And as her tag line goes, "find what feels good”, it was fitting she challenged her viewers to maintain EASE.
So I took it to heart and moved through each asana with EASE.
Throughout the practice. she incorporated the same upper body sequence into many of the poses. Thinking I'd mastered it during the first asana, I was surprised it challenged me in the others.
Think EASE, Lisa…
Have you noticed lately the increasing amount of blog posts and news articles highlighting what dietician actually eat?
This always seems funny yet relevant to me. It is a common inquiry I have from patients, not what I eat but what I do for exercise. I can only imagine this will too come up as I become a yoga teacher such as what is your favorite asana, where do you practice outside of class etc.
In the same vein, I thought I'd answer the call - more as an exercise physiologist, rather than a wanna-be yoga teacher.
It ALWAYS surprises people when I tell them I do not own a gym membership. Quite frankly, I haven't in about 18 years! It was when I lived at home and was in high school that I had a pass to our local recreation centre.
Now, how is it that its been so many years?
Well, small lie. I guess I had a pass at University (that student fees covered) and I frequented the gym three times per week, most weeks. Yet, since then, I haven't really gone to the gym.
Now, don't fret. I LOVE exercise (it's not that I don't practice what I preach) but what I find is I like exercise outside of the confines of the gyms' four walls. Shiny new equipment aside, I find it easier to do without going somewhere like a gym.
Most weeks include at least two or three bike rides, maybe a run too on another day. With work, I can complete some resistance exercises; yet, truth be told my resistance training is very functional - daily - lifting kids and all their stuff! Almost every day too I walk. It may be the typical after dinner walk around the neighborhood or the more active living approach of walking when it makes sense (primarily for transportation). Weekly swimming lessons also get me into the pool but I sure would love a lane pool type of swim more often. I round out the week with at least one yoga practice in my yoga studio (read: basement floor) if not more. And of course, I'm always up for any active invite to try Zumba, soccer, basketball, rowing, crossfit, etc.!
Not going to a studio is also been the case with my yoga practice.
I was very fortunate to practice this week outside. Active YEG Demo Day was the perfect spot for yoga. It was an event to draw attention to the multitude of ways to be physically active - gym or no gym.
The most touching part of my practice was gazing (ok, squinting) in the sky (ok, sun) in mountain pose before cascading down into a forward fold. Nothing beats moving outside!
So there you have it. Full disclosure on what I do for exercise. It changes from time to time but what usually holds is a sample of cardiovascular exercise, with a dabble of resistance training and a heap full of flexibility (via yoga).
Are you an ex-gym goer? What do you do outside the confines of the gym?
I was very lucky this week to practice a short yoga sequence after a heart racing aerobics and Zumba class. The yoga teacher, new to me, opened my eyes to a new way to practice. Who'd thought a little practice would carry such a big message?!?
We started in mountain pose and stood for about five minutes to find our position. We did the typical positioning of proper foot placement, knees over ankles, hips over knees, shoulders over hip and so forth. Yet, once we had our ideal posture, the teacher asked us to hang.
Yes, hang our muscles and use our skeleton to hold ourselves up.
That's what the skeleton is for, isn't it?
We continued to stand and release the muscles from their work. It was very hard to let the skeleton do its job. Muscles were fighting to do the work and it took a concerted effort to keep upright just using my bones. Now of course, some muscles HAD to work but many of them did not.
What a perfect mind-body experience in yoga! My brain was working voraciously to keep my body in mountain pose, yet my skeleton could hold my body upright.
It just goes to show what looks super easy can actually be quite difficult.
I also took away a great life lesson (note: now that I am a parent I'm allowed to use that saying. It was a staple in my childhood home. Thanks Dad!).
Where else do you fight to do the work when really if you let it go, and let who or what is supposed to do the work just do it? Let it go!
Yoga. What a great teacher you are,
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.