Monday, October 10, 2011

Creating Balance With Yoga

Developing a healthy relationship with the body is as important as our relationships with our friends, lovers, parents and children. It requires balance. And it's the alignment of the heart, mind, body and spirit that allows us to feel unified and present. For me, the demands of my outer relationships sometimes tend to take a priority over my relationship with my own body. However, this body is the one relationship that lasts a lifetime. Carving out space and making a date with myself to practice the following balance routine is essential.

Yoga translated means union. We all contain opposites that demand integration. Too much tension and there is no flexibility, not enough energy and nothing gets accomplished. Balance poses are an ideal way to unite these energies. The Balance poses requires us to be 100 percent present in the moment. When attempting a balance pose, notice that when you over-think it, it doesn't happen. Try to do tree pose while you are thinking about what you need at the grocery store later. Energy flows where the mind goes, so if your mind is at the market, there is no attention to your pose. Imagine how this translates into the rest of your life. Below you will find seven balancing poses. Do each pose three times; everyday and see how you progress.

Here are some key things to remember when you are balancing:

Gazing point: They say when the gaze is still, the mind is still.

Breath: When you focus on your breath and the natural rhythm of your body, the mind begins to relax. The mind needs a focus, so the breath can be a soothing solution.

Extension: Balance is largely about extension. There is a dynamic energy in balancing.

Place most of your weight on your right leg and draw your left heel to the inner thigh of the right leg. Steady your gaze and connect with your breath. Keep the left knee turning out, and gently tuck your tailbone, as you extend out throughout the crown of the head. With the hands in prayer position, press the palms together, at the same time press the inner thigh and the sole of the foot together (below, left).

Step the feet together. On the inhale, arms extend up over the head, as you bend into the knees, reaching back with the tush, as if to sit in an imaginary chair. Then extend your torso out over your legs. Use your lower abdominal muscles to hold you in position (above, right).

From a standing position, shift your weight into your left leg and grip your right foot behind you. Extend your left arm, and slowly begin to tip forward, while kicking your right leg back (below, left).

Look down to the ground. Exhale, as you bend your right leg and slide your left foot closer to your right. Place your right hand onto the floor as you bend your right knee. Place the fingertips of the right hand about 6 inches out in front of the right pinky toe and start to lean out so that you are balancing on your right leg and fingertips. Stack the hips on top of each other. Just float the back leg up so that the leg and torso are in alignment. Press the right foot into the floor and extend the left arm to the ceiling. Try to open and spiral your chest to the ceiling (above, right).

Begin in Plank. Bring the feet together. Move the right hand directly below the face. Rock your body to the side, so that you are balancing on the right hand, and the outside edge of the right foot. Feet are flexed and the underside of the waist is lifting up. So your top hip is lifting up towards the ceiling. Press the bottom hand into the floor, so that you are not dumping into that right shoulder. Keep the right arm straight (but not locked). If you are super flexible to the point of hyper-extension, stay aware of not locking the elbow (below, left).

Start with you feet hips width apart. Place your hands on the floor just in front of your feet, palms spread wide, wrists parallel to the front of your mat. Hook your knees into your armpits, or just to the outside, and slowly tip your body weight forward until your feet begin to come off the floor. Keep pressing firmly into your hands. Once you are balancing, bring your feet together and up towards your tush (above, right).

Balance on your sit bones. Extend your arms straight out in front of you, parallel to the floor, and lift your chest and sternum upward as you gaze up. Extend your legs so that your toes are at eye level. Balance here, using your lower abdominal muscles (below).

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