To move through life with ease we need to be well balanced. We need to have strength when it’s called for and we need to able to tap into abiding calm when life gets crazy. So how does a person possess both of these seemingly opposite attributes? Well, the practice of yoga has your back. Here are five poses that will help you to unlock within yourself the power to move forward in life with strength and the ability to take things as they come without stress.
1. Crow Pose (Bakasana)
While this pose seems intimidating that’s exactly what you need to start to become brave and conquer hidden fear that might be centered around the idea of not being able to hold yourself up. This pose gives you confidence in your own abilities and turns your awareness inward to look for not only answers but additional strength to move through any difficulties.
To begin squat down and place your shins and triceps (back of the upper arm) together. Then place your hands down in front of you with careful attention to the symmetry of the hands. The fingers should be spread as if you were sliding your hands into gloves. Start to press down into the hands and move forward through the sternum and heart center until the creases of your elbows are directly above your wrists. At that point rather than trying to lift your feet continue to move forward in space and squeeze your legs into your arms creating a feeling of lift. Go slow and take your time because the symbolic benefits you are learning far out way the fanciness of the pose.
2. Chair Pose (Utkatasana)
This pose is also called awkward pose and it absolutely feels that way. You are being asked to dive down deep, become grounded with the strength of your lower body while lifting the heart and longs providing a feeling lightness and space at the same time. Can you think of a time in your life when you had to use your own strength to get through while maintaining a sense of ease and lightness? Utkatasana mirrors those life situations and as we become better at this pose our mental qualities start to reflect this as well.
Begin by bending the knees and sending the weight back toward the heels. Squeeze your inner thighs together and lift the pelvic floor and low belly. Reach the arms forward parallel to the floor and reach across the chest and collar bones. Soften the face and take big deep breaths. Try to stay about ten breaths before returning to stand.
3. Extended Side Angle (Utthita Parsvotonasana)
This variation of side angle is the best to tap into your side body. The left side body houses your emotions, your experience of self and memories. The right-side body organizes and moves you forward. It helps to present yourself to the world. Having the additional benefit of the strong foundation of legs and and upward lifted eye gaze you have a powerhouse of a pose that helps you to clean up the emotions and set your sights of improvements in the future.
Start by stepping your feet about 4 feet apart, turn your right toes to a 90-degree angle facing the top of your mat. The back foot should be parallel to the back of the mat. Take a deep breath in and as you exhale bend the right knee to 90 degrees and place the right hand outside the right foot simultaneously reaching the left arm over the left ear at an angle. The left palm faces down as the eye gaze turn up toward the left pinky finger. If the reach to the floor is too far try placing a block under your right hand or placing your right forearm on your upper right leg. Breathe deeply there for about 10 deep breaths. To come out, look down and lift the upper body back up as you straighten the right leg. Repeat on the left.
4. Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
As you begin to stretch your physical body in the pose you simultaneously learn to go inward. There is nowhere to look and nothing to see so by default you learn to take your attention deep into the self. Your best ideas and deepest needs are held there. It takes practice to go inward and hear them. Soon you’ll be able to hear them before the opinions of others.
Place your hands on the mat shoulder distance apart, again you should spread the fingers not too much and not too little, as if you are sliding your fingers into a glove. Step the feet back about 3-4 feet and separate the feet the width of the hips. For a moment lift the heels high, bend the knees and push through the arms reaching the tailbone back and away from the crown of the head. With a little bend in the knees remaining release the heels back down, be unconcerned if the heels touch the floor. Down dog is all about length in the spine. Soften or close the eyes and breath into your body. Try to hold up to 20 breaths but always rest when you need to.
5. Cradle to Baby (aka Pada Urdhva Kaptonasana)
The hips also store lots of emotions, especially emotions of the past. The great thing about that is you don’t have to strip up old memories and relive pain of the past to release them and let go for good. By holding poses deep within the hips are freeing yourself from long held stories and making room for new positive outcomes.
Start by sitting up tall and bring your right leg up toward your chest. Place the right knee into the crease of the right elbow and the flexed right foot into the crease of the left elbow. At this point sit up tall again and use the strength of your core and back to remain sitting tall with your chin parallel to the floor. Use the strength of your arms to gently overpower the tightness of the hip. There should be no pain and no straining but discomfort is normal.
These 5 poses all have the power to move past difficulties of the past and create a safe and loving yet strong space to move forward. Keep in mind that yoga is meant to create more happiness in your life without having to change externals. That means you can become happier and free the way your life is today.
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