My first yoga teacher often said, “Yoga is not just the pose, it’s the into and out of.” The practice of yoga is a continual process of witnessing the moment and, in doing so, expanding awareness to the most subtle elements and energies. Asana is one form of yoga in which we practice cultivating concentration. When we make the conscious choice to move with intention and attention to the moment, we can better understand our physical, mental and emotional patterns. In vinyasa yoga, the space in between positions requires just as much focus (if not more) than then the shapes with given names.
The way we chose to consciously or unconsciously transition is often telling of how we mentally approach transitions off the mat.
Is there an urge to launch forward in a hurry to get to the next thing? Or, on the other end of the spectrum, a lethargy or hesitancy to move on? When balance is off does frustration or discouragement surface? How does one experience steadiness amidst change?
In Yoga sutra 1.12, Patañjali explains that to embody a state of yoga, or focused concentration, practice (abhyasa) and detachment (vairagyam) are essential tools. Of course we will all have days where balance is shakier than others. Do we let our reaction give momentum to the sway or can we shake it off with a laugh, remain unattached and learn from the moment at hand? Patience, practice and acceptance are key. True grace is being willing to wobble without self-criticism or worry of what others will think. With an increased understanding of our patterns, we can then practice actions and attitudes to sustain balance and contentment and avoid unnecessary struggle.
TO THE MOON AND BACK:
One specific transition that tests focus and balance is the flow starting in triangle (Trikonasana), moving into half moon (Ardha Chandrasana), and then landing into warrior two (Virabhadrasana II). Lets get real, traveling to the moon and back isn’t an easy trip! This transition challenges the body and can be a catalyst to producing a reaction of the mind (often trailed by an emotion). Remember the wise advice of Patañjali, practice without attachment!
- Begin: Build triangle from the ground up. Feel the feet root down and engage the thighs to avoid hyperextension of the knee joint. The variation with both arms extended from the shoulder girdle kicks the core into gear which is important to stabilize the trunk as you move.
- Look where you are going and keep the gaze (drishti) steady! I tend to gaze a foot in front of the leading toes. From here spread the arms into utthita trikonasana, then for balance take the top hand to the hip. Make sure the top hip remains slightly forward from the bottom, giving space across the sacrum. As you bend into the front knee, drawn the hip crease back, firming the outer hip to the midline. Place the bottom fingers down in front of your shoulder, just outside the line of your leading leg like a kick stand to balance (you may use a block to bring the ground to you). Feel all the weight shift into the front foot, don’t be in a hurry! From here the back leg might take lift off or if the back leg still feels like a sack of bricks bring the back foot forward until you find relative steadiness.
- Once you step onto the front foot, keep the front knee bent for a few balanced breaths, make sure the toes and knee are tracking forward and that the outer hip of the supporting leg hasn’t swung out to the side. The bottom hand is there to help you regulate balance.
- Exhale into the bottom foot as you lift the quad to straighten the leg. Send breath to billow the wings wide as you extend the top arm from the shoulder joint.
- Next, begin to reach the bottom arm forward. The stretch of the arm forward serves as a counter balance as you start to shift backward. Keep the gaze laser focused! I like to hold the drishti on my thumbnail.
- As you glide into Warrior II, imagine you were moving through water, slow and fluid. Maintain the lift of the top leg as you bend the supporting knees and draw the hip crease back. Reach back with the toes and forward with the arm.
- Then lower the leg little by little until the toes, foot and leg root into your warrior II.
Enjoy the flow! “Life is a journey, not a destination.”– Ralph Waldo Emerson