Posts in Focus of The Month
January | Tadasana
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We become whole by stopping how the mind turns.

Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra 1.2

Yogash chitta virtti nirodhah.

There is a reason that in the yoga practice we seek to find Tadasana in every pose. Tadasana, also known as Mountain Pose, is the simple, beautiful alignment of the body within it's natural curves and architecture that, when found, will help the practitioner also align their mind.
Align the body, align the mind.

 

Feet are placed together or hip-width apart, collarbones are broad, sternum is lifted, quadriceps muscles are engaged. It may be helpful to think of drawing energy up through the buoyant arches of the feet and through the central channel (susumna nadi). Utilize the breath to connect to the feeling of the feet firmly and evenly planted into the ground, toes spread wide, and the crown of the skull extending into the sky. Inhale through the feet up to the collarbones, hold gently, then exhale out through the soles of the feet and the crown of the skull. Ground and expand yourself. Turning the palms outward will help to lift and open the chest. Allow the curves of the spine to be fluid - neither overarching the lower back or tilting the pelvis, neither rounding in the upper spine or absorbing it too deeply between the shoulder blades. It is helpful as well to take the hands to the rib cage and lift the ribs off the hips, lengthening the side body.

 

You may notice energy moving upward and spilling over you. One can perhaps imagine standing under a waterfall, the coursing water showering upon us grace, strength and wisdom. Notice the space around you, inside you. Notice the movement as well inside you. Consider inhabiting and embodying the qualities of a mountain and notice how this feels. Notice the quality of the mind that arises.

 

This is what we seek. Stillness. Clarity. Awareness.

 

--Gina de la Chesnaye

 

December | Ustrasana
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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 good
Or 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 Truths
Infinite 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