Monday, December 15, 2008

Asanas at the Kitchen Sink

I often hear the lament from my yoga students, "I have so little time for practice!!" Believe me, I understand, I never feel like I have enough time for sadhana; and practice is the most important element of Yoga. We can read a hundred books, go to lots of workshops, but unless we practice every day, progress will not take place.

So, one thing I have done in my own life that I would suggest, is to look for opportunities for practice in the activities of your daily life. The "have tos", like washing the dishes, doing the laundry, picking up a child, sitting at your desk, are all opportunities to bring Yoga's principles of strength, balance and focus into practice in your daily life. Yoga is all about mindfulness, so when we bring awareness into our actions and movements, moment to moment, we are "practicing," and expressing yoga, in the very fullest sense.

Here are some examples from my daily life, that you can bring into yours:

Tadasana at the kitchen sink: while you are standing and doing the dishes, notice your body position. What are your feet doing? How are your shoulders articulated? Where your pelvis? Press your feet firmly into the ground so that you can feel all four sides of your feet making contact with the earth. Take a deep breath as you do this, and feel the rest of your body rise up out of the firm base. Continue to elongate though your crown chakra (top of your head). Notice also your feelings about this activity. Do you feel rushed? Irritated? Acknowledge however you feel, and then, if your feelings are hurried or negative, see if you can bring them in a more positive direction with mindfulness. Just do what you are doing. Just do the dishes. And savor every minute detail of this activity.

Uttanasana and hair dryer:,'ll love this one. Most women (and some men) that dry their hair with a hair dryer lean into a forward bend so their hair will hang down and they can dry underneath. This is a great time for uttanasana (standing forward bend!) Again, begin building your posture from the ground up: press your feet into the ground, feel all four sides of your foot; feel the energy move up from the earth into the legs, and create a circular inward rotation of the thigh bones to make more space in the sacrum. Take care how you move in this posture as you are drying your hair, bend the knees a little or don't come forward so far if the movement and weight of the dryer make this posture awkward and straining for your back. Let your back stay long and light.

Sukhasana wherever you sit: any where you sit, and whether you sit cross-legged, as in the posture sukhasana (easy pose), or with the feet on the floor as you sit in the chair, you still need to employ the same basic postural elements. The next time you are sitting in your chair at work come forward on the seat a bit so that your feet are flat on the floor and you can feel your sitz bones firmly against the seat. In the sitting position your sitz bones are your base, so press them firmly against the seat, as you would push your feet firmly against the floor. Notice how this immediately causes your torso to lengthen, your shoulders to drop and your neck to elongate. This will give you the same open line of energy from the base of your spine, through the crown of your head, and the same openness in the rib cage for breath to move, that we cultivate in all the sitting asanas.

There is no substitute for cultivating a vigorous, and focused Yoga practice in our lives, but bringing our awareness of how the postural components of Yoga asanas translate into the everyday movements of our lives, can add a whole new dimension to our practice.

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