"Yoga is a light, which once lit, will never dim. The better your practice, the brighter the flame." ~B.K.S.Iyengar

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Strike A Pose

A way to make an idea go from a thought to a concrete plan is very simple.

Talk to your mother.

As it turns out, my mom has quite a few ideas for this yoga blog of mine. I believe all I did was mention it and before the whole sentence was out of my mouth, she was laying out a complex and diversified marketing plan. I then brought up my idea for doing a "pose of the week" type segment and she waved her hand and was all, "oh, yes, of course..." Like, please, you're just now thinking of that?! My sister just emailed me and asked if I'd tape one of my classes and send her the DVD. Even offering to pay for shipping. Apparently my family has a whole yoga vision for me, and I just need to keep up.

My family rules.

So, long story short, this week's pose that I'd like to focus on for a quick moment is: Half Pigeon.

(I like to start in downward facing dog. Bring your right knee to the outside of your right wrist and place leg on the floor, right heel in line with left hip. Slide your left leg all the way back. Inhale, draw length out of your spine and on an exhale bring your chest and head to the floor, walking your hands out in front of you. Try to center your hips, not leaning too far to either side. Hold for at least a couple of minutes, repeat on left side.)

To be truthful, this pose, which is a hip opening stretch, well, I used to hate it.

Loathe it really.
We'd get into it, and there was no "staying present." I just wanted out. I'd literally count the seconds knowing that final relaxation pose was coming soon and to just focus on that, instead of the discomfort in my hips. Now mind you, it wasn't ever painful, just a muscular discomfort that I didn't enjoy. (What do you think, politics in my future??)

It wasn't until my teacher training in Mexico this summer that I truly came to understand this pose, and have come to love it. I dare say it's now one of my favorites. My trainers would say, "Often the poses that challenge us the most, are the ones we need the most." Don't you just hate it when the teacher is right??

Our entire bodies are the ultimate super computer. They store data. Everything that happens to it, both physically and emotionally. The stress and tension we experience from exercise to a challenging day at work or with the family has to go somewhere. It makes the body a natural human lie detector. If you are storing stress, anxiety, or any kind of emotional buildup, your body will tell you so. And the hips are huge storage depots for stress and tension. Hip opening stretches in yoga are not only beneficial from a physical standpoint as hip replacement surgery is among the top surgeries performed, but the emotional benefit is huge. We give the body a chance to work through emotions and stress the body has stored for us for later. We can either work through it, or continue to store it and let it make us sick.

Breathing deep and really staying present through this discomfort is challenging because, let's be honest, when is dealing with our "stuff" every really pleasant? Who wants to just sit in the middle of all their emotional baggage and really look at it? But I tell you, once you get over the initial scare of it...it's actually kind of fantastic. Freeing actually. To take charge of our emotional well being; To not be afraid of the things we think will scare us or challenge us more than we can handle?
Our yoga mats are a safe environment to face our fears. Teachers would say that, and I never fully understood until I applied it to Half Pigeon. It's helped me to apply this same understanding to other poses that challenge me, and it's been emotionally transforming.

I've cried in Pigeon, I've laughed, I've felt content, I've felt anxious. I now work to let it all come up. Welcome it even. It means that I'm getting better at being emotionally honest and letting go of the things that scare me, make me sad or even prideful.
Sometimes we have to sit in the dark to fully appreciate the light.


ali said...

congrats on the blog! can't wait to see what other great yoga ideas your family has up their sleeve for you! I also love half pigeon, but still hate double leg extension...guess my hamstrings are holding onto all my stress since my hips are letting it go, like you said, it has to go somewhere.

Melanie said...

Thanks girl! Love that you are on here, I miss ya!! A lot of my students have a hard time with hamstring openers as well. I always find hamstring stretches invigorating. So interesting!! Talk soon:)

Beth Ann said...

Have to say, the pigeon pose & I are quite good friends, funny that the non-yogi here absolutely loves the pose that her yogi friend loathes...but then again, I'm probably doing the pose wrong if it's not challenging me...don't tell me if I am, just let me enjoy pigeon!