December | Ustrasana
And if you wish to stop these obstacles,There is one, and only one,Crucial practice for doing so.You must use kindness, compassion, joy, and equanimity.Learn to keep your feelings in balance,Whether something feels goodOr whether it hurts; whether something is enjoyable or distasteful...
Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras 1.32-33
Tat pratisheda-artham eka tattva abhyasah.Maitri karuna muditopekshanam sukha dukha punya-apunya vishayanam.
Ustrasana. Camel Pose. A heart opener. A quad strengthener. This month we pay homage to the act of giving and doing so with a wide open, wise heart. We can also think of the four-legged ones that helped to bring the Three Wise Kings to visit Jesus Christ on the date of the Nativity.
Giving may feel like a burden, especially in the Holidaze. How can we give with Joyful Effort? Everything is transformed by how we come to it. It is difficult to come to anything with a closed heart, often exacerbated by the posture we take against the looming cold weather. Camel Pose is a beautiful pose to practice which embodies the physical act of giving - to ourselves and to each other.
In the posture, bring your awareness to the back of your heart. What does it feel like? Can you notice the shape of your sternum? The space between each rib?
Prepare for the pose by practicing Uttanasana, Warrior 1, Bridge Pose with a block beneath the sacrum and Supta Virasana with arms draped overhead. Spinal flexibility is helped by opening and releasing not just the hamstrings, but the quadriceps and hip extensors. There are variations on the pose depending on quad and lumbar flexibility, hamstring strength, as well as pressure on the knees and feet.
Coming into the pose, it is helpful to lift the ribs off the hips and the armpits up (as opposed to simply back). Toes can be tucked or tops of the feet flat on the floor, pressing firmly down into the earth so that the energy of the pose moves continuously up. Both hands can reach simultaneously for the feet or one at a time, depending on where you are right Now. Press the femurs forward and allow your spine to cascade up and back. When coming out of the pose, leave the head for last. Do not strain the neck by trying to lead with the head. It will come with you - it is attached to you. Following Ustrasana, move into Downward Facing Dog and then Child’s Pose.
Give for the joy of giving and dedicate this to all beings.
--Gina de la Chesnaye
The Four Infinite TruthsInfinite kindness is the desire to bring all living beings happiness and it means deciding that I myself will make it happen, even if no one else wants to help me.Infinite compassion is the decision to remove the pain of every living being, by myself if need be.Infinite joy is the decision to bring all living beings to a higher form of happiness. A cup of coffee or cocoa makes almost anyone happy but we don't finish feeling happy until we can actually help and serve countless other people.Infinite equanimity is the decision to help everybody this way - not just our friends or family. Equanimity begins with avoiding extremes of feelings: happy when we feel well, or not when we don't.
Translation of the sutras and excerpt taken from The Essential Yoga Sutra - Ancient Wisdom for Your Yoga by Geshe Michael Roach and Christie McNally
--This FOTM includes offering from Allison Joy Phillips