This last week has been “one of those weeks.” You know the ones: the schedule is full, the inner world is full, the outer world is full. These weeks, when they appear, can make it challenging for me to stand steadily and with ease in my connection to myself. I can feel myself shifting away into the demands of the world around me, and becoming more reactive to those demands. These are also the times when historically it has been more difficult to get to my mat. And yet it is the yoga practice and my work with the physical body that holds me steady in these times and connects me back to my ethereal centre. The practices root me to into myself again and again and again.
In Light on Life, BKS Iyengar writes, “For the yogi, the physical body corresponds to the one of the elements of nature, namely the earth. We are mortal clay….. As [we] explore [our] own body, [we] are in fact, exploring this element of nature itself. [We] are also developing the qualities of earth within [our]self: solidity, shape, firmness, and strength.” (p22)
It is the standing poses with the foundational work in the legs that most exemplify this for me. The simple, unadorned standing poses are the workhorses that pull me back to myself, strengthening not only my body but also that deep connection to my innermost self. They generate physical strength and stamina, and in doing so, they also strengthen and provide the stamina I need to stay connected to my centre in the midst of regular life’s turbulences. I hold to myself as I hold in the poses.
Recently, at a workshop with senior Iyengar teacher, Kevin Gardiner (www.kevingardiner.wordpress.com), I learned new ways to working with the standing poses to increase the sense of rooting in the legs. Kevin used the image of a mountain to communicate the steadiness we are cultivating and had us work at the wall. Not only did we push the back foot into the wall as I have often done; we also placed a block under our front foot at the wall. The use of the block increased the sensitivity to the work in the legs and I came away from the practice mountain steady. The modifications teach me how to stand stronger on my legs and remind me to stander strong in myself. In next week’s post, I will give you more specifics on how to work with the blocks in the standing poses.