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Wednesday, March 08, 2006

staying grounded

during yoga class, there are times when i feel strong, flexible, and in control. on the other hand, there are times when i feel like a total klutz. especially if it involves any kind of balance. like when i'm balancing on one arm or one leg. or in some cases, when i'm supporting myself on both arms... and if i'm REALLY feeling out of sorts, when i'm standing on BOTH legs. yes, it can get frustrating at times :(

i've been told that the trick to successfully executing a balance pose is to:

1. gaze at a stationary focal point, or drishti, while holding the pose
2. engage the abdominal muscles
3. breathe

i'm usually good about looking at a stationary spot (i have lamaze class to thank for that skill), but when the line of sight to that fixed point happens to include someone who's wobbling and falling over, i soon find myself doing likewise. of course, it doesn't help either that i often forget to tighten my abs. or worse yet, forget to breathe.

so it was a good thing that i happened to take sara ivanhoe's class at yoga works yesterday. the focus of our practice that day: keeping our hands and feet grounded.

sara kept drilling into our heads what our hands and feet should be doing in each of the poses we covered. hands flat on the ground, fingers spread apart. feet firmly on the ground, toes unclenched, the weight evenly distributed through the sole, arches lifted.

if our palms "bubbled up" while in up dog or down dog, we were to push them back down. if our feet started to wobble, we were to concentrate on keeping them still. at that point, i realized that i needed to have a long, hard talk with my feet because they would NOT do what i told them to do. they wouldn't stop wobbling. not while i was in warrior 3. nor while i was in tree. or eagle. or any of the other balance poses that we went over while in sara's class.

i was beginning to wonder if i suffered from YADD -- yoga attention deficit disorder. i couldn't seem to keep my mind (and my balancing foot) still. if it were only as simple as taking a miracle pill to keep my thoughts from wandering...

i know that only time and practice will get me through my currently unbalanced state. as well as learning to engage my abs and BREATHE.

sara's advice on balance poses was a featured article in the personal coach series in cooking light magazine. here are some excerpts (if you're interested in reading the entire article, click here):

"For thousands of years, yoga has been touted for helping to still the mind. Balancing poses—such as tree, dancer’s, and one-leg balance—are prime examples of how yoga helps to do exactly that. When you’re concentrating on these poses, you can’t think about anything else, because the moment your mind wanders, you begin to lose balance, and you’re brought back to the present.

In fact, balance postures require so much focus that they can be challenging, but I find that’s also what makes them fun. The most important part of doing them is maintaining a sense of humor. If you lose your footing, just take a breath, and get back up. With practice, you’ll improve. Besides, the process of getting into the pose is what’s important, not what the result looks like."

in short, it appears that there's yet another trick to a successful balance pose:

4. maintain a sense of humor

i'll try to keep that in mind the next time i stop myself from falling onto the guy beside me while i'm struggling to hold a half moon pose...

... on second thought, falling on someone as good-looking as him can't be so bad after all!

by the way, sara has helpful pointers on many other things yoga on her website at www.saraivanhoe.com.