Saturday, February 15, 2014

Family Yoga: Session Four

Breakthrough! Session four was a hit! Everyone participated at least a little. Poses flowed just a little more gracefully. Bodies cooperated a little bit more. And participants seem to have already formed opinions about which poses work for them, which means they're engaging in the experience and feeling into their bodies.

It could have gone either way, I think. I could have surrendered to yesterday's inertia and given up when our family developed a new form called Grumbly Yoga Filled With Reluctance and Ill Will.

But we persisted. We mustered up the discipline it takes to embrace something new and challenging. We acted on faith, committing to the long view (health and happiness) rather than the small and immediate (fatigue and inertia).

We've established a bit of a routine by now - a few standing poses, a few reclined poses, then savasana. I wanted to stick with that routine in session four, but I also wanted to add a few new variations and creative challenges. This is a challenging balancing act, and one I face every day in my regular yoga classes. I want to give my students a sense of routine and familiarity, but I also want them to feel like they're having new experiences each session and not just the same old downward dog.

We began today by looking again at spinal alignment. We leafed through Ageless Spine, Lasting Health so we could imprint clear images in our brains of the various ways people hold their bodies, from the all-American slouch to the upright, integrated posture of grace. We continued by exploring  how we hold our hips relative to our heels with an exploration I learned long ago from Barbara Benagh, one of my very favorite yoga teachers. Here's how it works:

Stand in a happy, easy tadasana, noticing sensations of tension and ease throughout your body. When you're ready, imagine a strong breeze is blowing from the back of the room to the front of the room. Keeping the feet firmly in place, let the rest of the body shift forward as far as possible, as if it were a sail filling with the breeze. Notice sensations of effort and ease now. (If you don't feel much, stay until you do.)

After a few moments, let the imaginary breeze shift, so that it is now blowing from the front of the room toward the back. Again, keeping your feet firmly on the floor, allow the rest of the body to sail backward as far as possible without toppling over. Notice how sensations change with the shifts in your body. (Again, stay in the extreme stance, if necessary, until you notice how hard your muscles are working to keep you from falling over).

Sail forward and backward between the two extremes (wind coming from behind and wind blowing from the front) a few more times, paying close attention to how much effort you are expending to stay upright.  Do you catch the moment - somewhere in the middle - when you pass through a delicious place of balance and ease? Play around with this until you find that sweet spot where your body feels as strong, elegant, beautiful and effortless as possible. This is likely the place where your body is nearing its healthy alignment, with the hips hovering over the shoulders, the shoulders over the hips, and the head atop the spine.

If you enjoy this, you can experiment with breezes coming from the right side of the room and then from the left, and if you're still interested you can play with shifting from all four directions in different ways, circling the hips front to left to back to right. You're looking for the spot of ease and alignment right in the middle of the circle.

I love this exploration and the way it leads us inward toward the experience of the body in the moment, awakening a deeper sense of how our body is held together. I love the way it guides us toward healthy alignment in an experiential way. And I love how it reminds us that balance an ever-shifting dance of moving from the extremes toward the center, and finally to a place of steadiness and ease.

The room now quiet, with our eyes drawn inward, we moved through our standing series (tadasana, birds in flight, shoulder rolls, reaching for the sky), this time slipping in a few forward folds (uttansana), being very clear that we were folding from the hip joint rather than the waist.

We then paused for a short lecture on how to sit in a chair (please sit on your sitting bones and not your tail!), and did a few chair stretches. My intention here was to sneak in the epiphany that yoga could be done anywhere, even at a desk or in an airplane.

At last we settled down to the ground for Zig Zag Twist (Everyone agreed that this twist is worth doing every day, and some confessed that they've even been doing it in bed.) We added Sphinx Pose to our reclining flow (Cobra Pose on the forearms instead of the hands). This one is often soothing for achy lower backs, with its gentle invitation to let the lumbar vertebrae settle inward toward the body's core.

We also added Eye of the Needle Pose (reclined half lotus), another good one for stiff and cranky hips. And then we nestled into Savasana, with bells, of course.

I can feel the roots of habit beginning to form, along with a blossoming awareness of how we carry our bodies as we move about our days. Enthusiasm for family yoga is growing. The adults have told me that they can already feel yoga helping with their aches and pains, and they are eager to keep it up. The kids have been showing off the poses they've learned and have even come up with some new ones of their own. I'm hopeful that by the end of the month, we'll have a few more yoga enthusiasts on the planet, standing tall, breathing freely, and embodying balance and ease.

1 comment:

levenses said...

...makes me ache longingly for grown-up children away from home back home...the littlest one I look after- i'll introduce of these days...