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The Daily Ebb and Flow of Yoga

If your practice isn’t the same way every day, you’re doing it right.

Years ago, my first "guru” told me there are three parts to a physical yoga practice: strength, balance and flexibility. These three things are reflected not only in my mind, but also in my daily life. As a result, one or more can get out of whack very easily because mind, body and life affect each other.

Balance...

My favorite balance pose is headstand because it’s easy. Seriously. Once I figured out that headstand had more to do with presence of mind than anything else headstand was my cake pose. It’s easy because both the surface area that’s on the floor and my center of gravity are better upside down. Think about it. Feet are tiny. My forearms combined with my head offer tons more surface area than my dinky size 8s. And I guarantee my torso weighs more than my legs.

But headstand isn’t the pose that gets out of balance when my life does. The way my life gets out of balance the most is when my giant, overweening ego gets almost too big for my shorts because I take myself way too seriously. It doesn’t happen as often as it used to - because I’ve come to terms with what a jackass I can be - but when the ole’ ego’s tethers become loose I try some king dancer. Yipes. I hate him. Standing on one leg, one arm in the air, while holding on to my other foot behind me? A recipe for de-jackass. Usually after a few days of ole’ king dancer my life rights itself.

Strength

Okay, those of you who consistently have strong “core” muscles raise your hand. Now go away because I can’t relate to you at all. The rest of you read on.

Sometimes my core muscles are strong and I’m an utter badass. Usually this is in the summer because I’m paddleboarding or kayaking, but in the winter I park on my couch with a book and my middle gets kinda doughy. I also get more emotional and want to blame it on the weather, which is a crock.

The winter is when I usually take a hot yoga class or a core strengthening class. One core exercise that often makes me want to choke the yoga teacher is forearm plank. Suck. I’m on my forearms and toes, but the longer I’m in this pose the more my abs and back have to work. Choke. That. Jerk. For. Pausing. At. Three. Two. One.

But I'm always grinning from ear to ear after class because, for some reason, I have a memory lapse about the suffering I experienced earlier. And now I’m charged with energy. See ya, couch!

Flexibility

Hamstrings just plain old suck. If I go one day without massive forward bends – which, honestly, is every day of my life – my hammies are really freaking tight the next morning. If I go a few days without concentrated forward bends whether they be standing or seated I get really really cranky. And everyone has to do things my way. Or the highway.

My other flexibility – or inflexibility - point is my back. Particularly with twists. Twists also affect my doughy middle, which, in turn, affect my digestion. I have two favorites, if you can call them that. Seated, I cross one leg over the other and put my foot on the floor. Then I lock my opposite elbow on the outside of that knee and look over my shoulder.

The really yukky, disgusting, and outright awful one is prayer twist. Because I pray that the freaking pose will be over soon. In a high lunge I, again, take the opposite elbow beyond the knee and have my hands pressed together. This pose actually encompasses balance, strength and flexibility. Which is why I avoid it like the plague. And need it like I need oxygen.

My Yoga Tides

It’s nice to have balance, strength and flexibility as gauges for my mind, my body and my life. And interesting to watch the ebb and flow. My practice changes from day to day and from year to year. And I’m doing it right as long as I’m paying attention to it.

Sudharma July 25, 2012 at 07:39 AM
Pranayama, practised without a spirit of dispassion, is just like the control of breath practised by fishermen while diving into the sea to catch fish.
Sudharma July 25, 2012 at 07:42 AM
When you breathe in, the mind is born and creation manifests. When you exhale, the mind begins to calm down as the impurities of the body and the attachments of the mind are expelled from your being.
Mel Johnson July 25, 2012 at 11:26 AM
Prāṇāyāma is what separates yoga from all that other stuff. ;) Thanks for the comment! Cheers & Namastes, Mel
Mahendra Kumar July 25, 2012 at 12:52 PM
Headstand is my favorite pose too!
Mark September 19, 2012 at 04:43 PM
Hey Mel, Just found your stuff. Thanks for the sound advise and the laughs. It's way too easy to take oneself too seriously. Anyway, about the winter blubber, a fun way to fight it is to try some xcountry skking. If you do, you'll never look at winter the same. Thanks again. Mark nard
Mel Johnson September 19, 2012 at 06:05 PM
Hey Mark, Thanks for the comment & the compliment. I haven't been cross-country skiing, but I'd imagine it's like paddleboarding on snow? I'd probably love it. :) Cheers, Mel

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