Your personal Yogi: There’s no time like the presentWritten by Jennifer S. White | | firstname.lastname@example.org
To me, autumn sounds like locusts and school buses. It tastes like squash and apples. It feels crisp and clean. The temperature and leaves both fall, and change permeates the air. If you can’t tell, I love fall. However, I don’t love change. Fortunately and unfortunately, change is something that life is all about, but it seems that just when I get used to a routine or pattern something happens to irretrievably shift this well-working machine. For me, this is when yoga reminds me of its constant, dependable presence in my life.
Yoga helps me adapt with change; my mat a stable refuge where I can always retreat. As I step outside into this comparatively chilly weather of a new season, I feel simultaneously surrounded by fall’s fresh beauty and its uneasy reminders of transition. Rather than allow myself to lament the loss of warm, sunny summer days, I choose to embrace the moment and move mindfully into one of my favorite balances poses, Tree Pose.
I adore balance poses. The reason is simple: you are forced to stay present to be successful. As Americans, we are constantly looking forward, and sometimes behind, but we rarely are truly present and fully engaged in the world around us. Balance poses, on the other hand—or foot, as it may be—require us to show up and stay present. Tree pose, in particular, can be as challenging or as simple as the body and mind are ready for. There are several modifications to make this pose more difficult and many to help a balance novice access his or her current state of mind. Balance poses also serve to remind us to be playful; to not take ourselves too seriously, and to remember that falling is an unavoidable part of life.
“The dilemma that people have is that they think that being happy means you’re always happy or that good things always happen to you,” Kathryn Budig, one of the world’s most recognized yoga faces, said from Santa Monica. “Horrible things happen to teach us many things. They teach us lessons. They teach us to be compassionate. It’s the same with postures. We can’t hit the posture every time. You can’t have the peaks without the valleys.”
To begin, stand with toes touching and heels slightly apart. Engage the legs. Draw the knee caps up into the quadriceps and firm the hamstrings. Draw awareness and presence into each toe, and imagine tracing an outline of your foot onto the floor. Press down into this outline of your feet, but lift up from the arch. This is a challenging mind-body exercise to activate the arches of the feet. If this is not yet accessible to your body, simply feel your feet press into the ground; rooting you to your spot in the world.
Next, take your hands to your hips and find a neutral position of the pelvis. Tuck your tailbone just enough to engage the lower abs and lengthen your lower spine. Knit your ribs together in the front; feeling activation throughout the entire core. Slide your shoulders down your back, away from your ears, and find softness in the base of your neck; feel that suppleness radiate up into your jaw, tongue, cheeks, eyes and forehead. Find a spot on the floor about five feet in front of you and relax the skin around your eyes as you fixate your gaze on this task at hand.
With hands still on hips for the moment, lift your right leg while keeping the left leg firm and grounded. If you’re feeling balance challenged, stand with your back against a wall and simply ‘kickstand’ into Tree Pose by placing your right heel directly above your left ankle; the ball of your right foot still on the floor. Use your hands to keep your hips in line with each other while gently nudging your right knee behind you. Feel the hip-opening aspect of Tree Pose as you slowly take the hands together in a prayer position in front of your sternum. Continue to gaze at your focal point and begin to also concentrate on breathing deeply and fully in and out of your nose; making sure to hold the posture and not the breath.
To move further into Tree Pose, root down through the left leg and work the right foot up onto the right calf muscle; being careful to keep the toes tucked in and not spread over the right shin bone. Continue to move the right foot as high onto the left leg as is comfortable, avoiding the knee. The strong and engaged muscles of the left standing leg press into the right foot as the foot pushes into the leg. Maintain awareness in the core and softness in the base of the neck while feeling the deliciousness of staying present and active in your Tree Pose. Hold for five to eight breaths and switch sides.
Now go outside, take in that earthy, autumnal air and find new balance and joy in your life by staying present. Remember, a Tree Pose a day keeps the stress away.
Visit http://kathrynbudig.com/ to learn more about Kathryn Budig or to buy her new Aim True Yoga DVD.