Friday, November 7, 2008

Self Awareness - - Forward bends and How do you view the world?

Last week, a friend and I were having coffee when she shared her dismay at couples shopping together. "The men are so controlling. I watch them walk around the market dominating their wives and pushing them around."

Now this is interesting to me; I tend to have a great time grocery shopping with or without my partner/husband. A matter of fact, when Mike and I go together we operate like a well-oiled machine cutting the time spent gathering goods in half (or almost half), and it's nice to chat about upcoming dinners and "plan as we go." Other couples in the store appear to get along just fine. If anything, the women tend to run the show with lists in hands--which is exactly what happens in our family.

So how can two women shopping notice such different couples? I really doubt they differ that much from store to store. The hint lies in the fact that my friend is in the midst of serious marital troubles: her husband is very controlling and is attempting to manipulate her so that it stays that way.

Since I currently see relationships as comfortable and overall agreeable, that's what I experience while out and about. In my friends present situation, she sees men as controlling and bossy; this is what is brought out when she is shopping.

Our present state of mind determines what we notice. If you see the world as basically good and peaceful, you'll pay more attention to what is good and peaceful. On the other hand, if you believe the world is a scary and gloomy place, then that's what you'll find around every corner.

Don't believe me? Take a look around your room and just observe what's there. Now pause and close your eyes. Think of the color brown. Look around again. Now think white and check out your environment. Odds are what stands out is based on the thought you just had. It's like when you get married, get pregnant, or get a dog. Suddenly it seems like everyone is getting married, having babies, or hanging out with their dogs!

When we do forward bends in yoga, from an emotional standpoint, we are looking within. If your intention is to learn more about yourself and thought patterns--which is a huge part of yoga--then you can take advantage of the surrendering and pensive nature of forward bends to understand and witness what comes up for you in times of silence and drawing inward.

This is all well and fine, but knowing how to bend forward in a safe and effective manner is important as well. Here are some tips according to the Viniyoga tradition:

1-Prior to bending forward, inhale and lift the chest away from the belly. This prevents the chest from collapsing over the belly.

2-Align the head so the ears are over the shoulders and the chin is slightly down to omit any additional tension in the shoulder and neck region.

3-As you begin to bend on an exhale, you need to know something about your hips. If they are tight (see clues for this below*), then emphasize tilting the pelvic bowl forward and lifting the sit bones away from the legs. If the hips are flexible, then start all forward bends by engaging the insertion of the rectus abdominis --which is located at the pubic bone. This will align the lumbar (low) back area.

4-As you continue to come forward, tone the low belly from the pubis to the navel keeping the low back long and supported.

5-Come out of the pose on an inhale by lifting the chest and keeping some tone in the low belly. This supports the back and prevents over-rounding in the upper back.

*To test for hip flexibility, sit against a wall with the sacrum and upper back touching the wall. Straighten the legs our in front of you into staff (dandasana). It's easy to "cheat" and let the sacrum slide away from the wall. If you need to keep the knees bent (even a little) in order to maintain the sacrum and upper back at the wall, then follow the guidelines for tight hips in step 3 above. Otherwise go for the flexible hip directions.

Once you develop enough openness in the low back to come into deeper forward bends, the inward journey deepens. This is not the only path to self-reflection, but it's a mobilizing and enjoyable one for many people.

Best of luck and love much,


Today is the first day of the rest of your life!

No comments: