Poses Can Cultivate Gratitude
Your body and mind are intrinsically linked. There is not a thought that does not impact the body. You can think of the body as the mind's repository of joy or fear, regret or gratitude. If you pay attention to the tension patterns in your body, you will discover how you tighten with stressful thoughts and relax with happy thoughts. There is much said about mind control and many books written about affirmations and prayer and the power of positive thinking. These are effective strategies that understand the mind as a creative force. There is less said about the body as an avenue for shifting the mind's state toward more positive thinking. But it's true. When you release tension in your body, your mind releases too. You know the experience of a quieter mind after yoga class where you focused primarily on you body.
The heart is the center of our experience of gratitude. Acknowledging our blessings arises from the heart. This is often a spontaneous expression and you cannot easily will yourself toward spontenaiety because the mind harbors all of the complications, side stories and habituated responses to situations or people. We tend to get stuck in the old tapes of our lives that seem to have a hold over our emotional state and outlook on life.
When you release tension in your spine, you are addressing those old patterns directly, because of the mind/body connection. Tension at the tailbone causes compression along the whole spine and there are points of concentrated tension that are pivot points for the distribution of tension patterns that move upward and downward in the spine. The pivot points are the tailbone, the juncture between the tailbone and sacrum, the top of the sacrum, the vertebrae behind the heart, and the base of the skull. Shifting tension patterns begins at the tailbone, the primary pivot point. From here, you can focus your poses to move the release up the spine with an emphasis at any of the other pivot points. By adding one or two poses to target a release around the heart area, you boost your potential for spontaneous gratitude and joy. It's that simple. It's that wonderful It's the magical and mystical quality of yoga's promise to come home to your True Self.
Move the Other Way!
....the secret to a proper back bend:
Like everything else, what you see is not the full story. Asana (yoga pose) backbends can look impressive and even beautiful, but if you are compressing your spine to accomplish the look, you are undermining the true value of your practice.
The current theme in some classes is backbends. As we work to release tension along the spine, freedom for a backbend movement begins at the tailbone, then moves through the sacrum toward the waist to give lengthening. This lengthening extends from the core to include the front of the thighs, through the hip creases and all the way through the ribs.
Activating the front abdominal muscles also contributes to effective back bends. By using your abdominals, you help to stabilize the waist area, so that the lengthening extends below the waist into the sacrum as well as above it into the rib cage. This brings movement to areas that are tight and rigid in most bodies.
Once you’ve done enough spinal release to experience the lengthening, you can easily move into backbends in a way that develops stability along with flexibility.
The inner experience of an effective backbend is openness, a feeling of lifting up from a place of core grounded ness. There is no strain because the movement arises from core opening. There is ease (sukha) in sustaining the pose because you’ve arrived there not by force of trying to accomplish it, but by gradually, gently prodding those deep inner tensions to unwind.
The forward bend poses offer an internal lengthening that gives forward motion. This is enables by the release of tension at the tailbone. Each time you release the deeply held tensions around your tailbone, you open your body to a broader and easier range of motion. Each yoga class incorporates five directions of movement for the spine: forward, backward, sideways, twists and inversions. Each direction has a quality and set of principles for optimizing the movement within the body.
The quality of forward bend poses is surrender, internal focus and quiet. You cannot do a proper forward bend in a rush. Slow it down so you can embrace the process of letting go. When we focus on forward bends, we do fewer poses, so you have the time to cultivate this inner opening and shift into surrender. Surrender the urge to push or to reach or to hold back. Surrender the mindstuff feeding the tensions in your hamstrings, or your upper back or neck. All of these tensions are an extension of the tension at the base of your spine. As you unwind at the tailbone, your whole body softens and eases into a more open and relaxed state.
Related to the forward bend poses are the inversion poses. As you find the inner quality of surrender and the mind becomes quieter, inversion poses help you develop a new perspective. The inversion poses can bring deep releases into the upper spine, shoulders, neck and head. The openings here create a new internal space. You may literally see more clearly, have new ideas or develop a new angle on a problem.
This is how yoga works. The poses and physical benefits are just the beginning. As you practice yoga more, you'll find that your life becomes easier, and more fulfilling, along with more ease and energy in your physical body. You may take once difficult challenges in stride. You will find less fault with others and feel more connected to your own knowing.
There is really no end to the benefits of yoga. They build and accumulate and accelerate with continued practice.
Stand in Your Bones
When you stand in alignment, the body can be at ease. The challenge is to find alignment that sustains your experience of standing without strain. By releasing tension at the tailbone and along the spine, and activating the abdominal muscles, you can find an internal alignment that becomes easy to maintain, even while doing the warrior poses or standing forward bends.
Inner alignment is centered in the bones. When you place your weight into your bones, the muscles hold less tension, which in turn allows more internal space through the joints and throughout your body. This is the dynamic of standing alignment.
As you continue the process of spinal release, your capacity to stand with ease increases, your bones become stronger and you can even begin to find spinal release while in a standing pose. Stand in your bones.
As you develop your standing poses, you may find that how you take a stand in life starts to shift – more freedom in your mental attitudes or greater clarity in your decisions. It all begins at the tailbone. By releasing deep layers of tension at the tailbone and systematically moving the release along the whole spine, you find yourself standing with ease.