For the month of October we have decided to offer a social media course instead of a challenge. In this course, “Postures to prayers. Movement as medicine”, we will dissect the physical and psycho-emotional anatomy of asana practice in order to turn your postures to prayers and movement into medicine. If we call it a challenge, there is always that assumption that this is actually about performing specific poses correctly. The asanas/poses if practiced with heightened levels of awareness, can teach us more than how to become stronger and more flexible. The asanas can also teach us: how we are as a listener when we don’t like what we hear, how we are as a person when our results do not match our expectations, and how we react when we are uncomfortable vulnerable or afraid. It is through these teachings that we can create shifts in our habit patterns, and shifts in our relationship with ourselves and others. Many would agree that is slightly more important than executing flashy yoga poses.
For those that feel too fat, old, weak, inflexible, and inexperienced, know that we benefit from practicing at the level we are at not where we want to be. Despite what modern marketing and social media depicts, asana practice actually rewards the beginner and the older practitioner as the most profound shifts happen through sustained practice over time, which is why its called a practice. The empowering feeling we get from the results is what continues to fuel our passion for the physical practice and the more we practice objective exploration through our somatic experience, the better we get at it in all areas of our lives.
Postures to Prayers
In my quest to extract empowering practices from both ancient philosophies and modern movement paradigms, I have come across many practical tools that allow us to both engage in a subjective dialogue honoring our individuality and uniqueness and at the same time provide a scientific microscope that we can study ourselves through. The asanas (postures) are just one of many tools on the journey towards enlightenment. Enlightenment simply means to bring light to because we cannot see in the dark. As we begin to wake up to the reality that is unfolding right in front of us in this moment, we become more aware of our habitual actions and reactions. We become more aware of who we are being and because who we are being is also who we are becoming, we can choose to be better. Great philosophers have been pointing to this for a millennia:”be the change”, “know thyself” and “love your NEIGHBOR as you love yourself.”
In Patanjali’s yoga sutras, he mentions asana in one line of the whole book. He basically sums up asana as having the qualities of Sthira and Sukha. Physically in our bodies this shows up as both strength or stability and softness or openness. Similar to a tree whose trunk and roots provide support and stability, the pelvis, legs and lower chakras serve to support the body and provide movement, connection and nourishment through physical sensation and digestion. Much like the chest, arms and upper chakras, the branches and leaves possess a lightness and grace and continue to reach upwards into the sky, bending and flowing with ease as they yield to any weather.
Through the focus on our breath and body positions, we embark on a journey of internal exploration via physical sensations. We become more sensitive as we learn to listen and observe what our bodies are saying in each posture and allow this intuition to guide us safely to our edge. As a result of these heightened levels of awareness, we can begin to heal. We create a conversation with our body through each breath. With every inhalation we can seek: “where can I create more length or space” which implies strength and stability. With every exhalation we can yield: “where am I unnecessarily tensing, forcing or judging my body and if I let it go, what becomes possible for me” which implies softness or openness.
These same physical implications have a much more profound effect in our lives than strength and flexibility. Let’s be honest about one of the biggest misconceptions in yoga; physical capabilities have nothing to do with higher levels of consciousness. The practices of consciously seeking and yielding are echoed in one of the most empowering prayers of all time: the serenity prayer.
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I can not change: Where am I unnecessarily fighting and resisting? What am I unnecessarily carrying?
The courage to change the things I can: Where can I show up more? Where can I be stronger? What can I take responsibility for?
The wisdom to know the difference is found in moments of stillness, reflection and inquisition and is often lost or sacrificed in the quest for the metaphoric pot of gold we assume will come as a result of a perfect pose.
Each week of the challenge we will focus on one line of the Empowered Yoga mantra: Show Up. Step To The Edge. Radiate Love. Let go and Flow.
Through an understanding of both physical anatomy and energetic anatomy we will keep the dialogue open between physical sensation, breathe awareness, emotional connection and self awareness as we dig into the archeological uniqueness of our bodies within the postures. Each day we will look at a specific posture within the context of the weekly theme. Using the information from the weekly blog found at www.empoweredu.ca combined with the practice videos and little gems shared from your global yoga community on instagram @getempoweredyoga @daniellemurrayyoga @susidragonfly @shanti_lovebliss #posturestoprayersmovementasmedicine, you can begin to deepen your practice, turning your postures to prayers and movement to medicine.