Archive for August, 2012|Monthly archive page

Yoga, Before & After

Lately I’ve been asking my students to reflect on how their bodies and minds feel as we begin the practice. They take  a few moments to center and just check in. We’ll often come back to these questions toward the end of the practice, and see what gifts the asana practice has given. I usually see tension in students’ eyes or bodies as they arrive, and the relaxed versions of those wonderful people when they leave! What happened to bring about this dramatic change?

It’s a beautiful thing to let your mind get quiet, to focus on connecting your breath with your movements, and to listen to the rhythm of a teacher’s voice…an asana practice gives you a break from thinking and the opportunity to feel. A yogi feels her strength and power when she moves into Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog), and then, deepening into the pose, finds a delicious opening when the hips and upper thighs press back. Hugging the forearms toward each other and finding your core integrity, the muscles on the back engage and the neck & spine find freedom. This deep inner awareness of the physical body gives the thinking mind a break, and it’s a dance we delight in over and over again, moving through the rhythm of a well-rounded practice. Heat builds in the body and the prana (breath) flows more easily and creates more space.

And then there’s the final pose, Savasana (Relaxation Pose). After building heat and strength and making more space for prana to flow, we rest comfortably for 10 minutes or so. The breath slows as the body settles deeply into rest. Here’s how good it is:  someone created a t-shirt that says, “I only came for Savasana.” And so here’s why yogis arise from a practice as the people we’re meant to be:  we have paused, reflected, engaged, and let go. We take this truer, relaxed version of ourselves out into the world. And it makes a difference!

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