Strike a Pose for Health (3)
As I briefly described in my last post, yoga combines strength, flexibility and breath exercises while offering a gateway to the deeper philosophical inquiries that come from the experiences we have as human "beings". It's a great segue into the meditative mindset and the art of mindful living.
Before introducing the next pose let me start with the same general ideas for you to consider that were proposed in the last pose.
Practice only if you choose to do so and if you feel healthy enough to do so.
You might want to follow the linked video showing you how to get into the pose if you've never done it before
Allow 5 minutes of uninterrupted time to experience the pose
Practice barefoot if possible and on a firm surface
Maintain the pose for the entire 5 minutes if possible. Rest only if needed and make subtle adjustments along the way to explore your body's capabilities within the pose.
Plan to do your pose once in the morning and once in the evening for 3 consecutive days
Pain is not a call to "push through". Stop and rest if there's pain
It might even be worthwhile to keep a notebook handy to jot down any insights gained during your practice.
You may experience different emotions during your practice. Let them come to light so you can determine how they are contributing to the creation of your life (positively or not). Happiness always serves your best interest! Boredom is the indication that you are not engaged in the practice.
Pay attention throughout your day to see where your pose practice supports your activities (movements or thought processes)
Now for our second pose....
Chair Pose (aka Powerful Pose)
Before getting into this pose, I'd like you to consider the qualities of the chair. It is stable and supportive, thus creating a comfortable and safe place of repose or respite for its user. There are many different types of chairs which fall into a variety of different categories based on how they are used. Some people have a favorite chair in which they sit so frequently that it conforms to the shape of their body. The thing I want to draw your attention to about chairs is that they are built to be an object of utility. In other words it is a pure "giver" not a "receiver" of support or help.
There are times in life (more often for some people than others) when we take on the characteristics of the chair for others around us. We give freely without considering our own needs. This is not a sustainable practice as you will soon discover in your efforts to maintain chair pose. Even inanimate objects like chairs get worn out in a life of service!
This stance pose will offer you the opportunity to check in with your give-and-take balance in life. It will be more of a challenge than mountain pose, but that doesn't mean it has to be a form of self-torture for you. Your goal is to maintain chair pose long enough to become very aware of its challenges, stay with the challenges for some time to learn from them, then relax from the pose long enough to feel relief before returning it.
In this way we practice the life-sustaining skills of giving to others (personifying the chair), noticing when we feel challenged and stepping back long enough to feel relief for ourselves before making the conscious choice to give again.
All yoga poses can be practiced in this way, but I find the allegory of the chair to be a particularly poignant one for me as a healthcare provider.
Getting into chair pose:
Set your timer for 5 minutes
Choose a comfortable stance:
with your big toes touching and your heels slightly apart
with you feet hip-width apart
Bend the knees and hips as if you were going to sit down. Bend only as far as you can without disturbing your grounded stance.
Protect the low back by curling your tailbone under and raising the front of your hips
Finally, raise your arms up to the sky stretching from the hips, up the side of your body, through the arms and out the fingertips
Keep your neck neutral and gaze straight ahead or slightly downward.
While in chair pose:
Tune in to your breath cycle. A steady and complete breath cycle is necessary for optimal oxygenation of your cells
Find a balance between your feet - notice where you tend to lean and sway (forward, backward, left or right) as this can indicate where any muscle imbalance
Maintain the stable position of your hips by periodically tucking the tailbone
Stay in the pose for as much of the 5 minutes as you can. Cycle in and out of the pose as often as you need to in order to allow comfort and ease in your practice.
This is where the true value of the practice becomes apparent as you see how much challenge you are willing to deal with before allowing yourself relief.
Coming out of chair pose
Begin releasing the pose by bringing your arms down.
Stand up tall by straightening your knees and hips
Take another complete breath in and out to anchor your experience into your body and go about your day!
Here's a basic video showing chair pose being performed.
Enjoy this pose for now and I'll be introducing a new pose in a few days!