Monday, February 26, 2018

Sideways

"Savasana is a peak pose, but we often don't teach toward it." --Mona Anand

I have been noticing in my teaching that I often have two peak poses in a class. One is the Type A peak pose, e.g. ardha chandrasana, bakasana, etc., a "big" pose. This pose is one that is challenging for many, and indeed a lot of people in the class either cannot quite achieve the full pose or can only hold it for a couple seconds. However, everyone tries it, and I suggest modifications to make it more accessible. Some people choose to try those modifications, and some do not. On a conscious level, this pose seems like the emotional high point of the class. Sometimes there is frustration. Sometimes there is laughter. I try to make sure there is always some lightness in the mood, as New Yorkers especially can take this kind of thing much too seriously.

Then there is the stealth peak pose, or the Type B pose. This pose is often a seated or supine pose, a pose where a large part of the body is in contact with the floor. If, for example, I've taught a class with a lot of focus on working with the side body, doing vasisthasana or ardha chandrasana, anantasana or revolved janu sirsasana might be where the deepest work occurs, and where the deepest benefits accrue. Students might not be focusing as much with their intellect or their conscious effort while doing these asanas, so that the mind might actually be more open to allowing the effects of the pose to seep in.

I taught such a class with a side-body focus, in which my unstated theme was the meaning of the side. I've been taught that the back of the body represents the past, and the front of the body represents the future. We tend to live in this saggital plane so much, thinking only of moving forward, possibly held back by the past. Maybe I heard something way back about what the side body represents, or about what might be held there, so I can't be sure if I made this up or if I'm repeating something from another source, but here goes: By working in and with the side body, opening, strengthening, especially expanding the side ribs with breath, maybe, just maybe we can more firmly ensconce ourselves in the present moment. Between past and future, we can allow ourselves that respite, a moment of not looking forward or back, but just being where we are right now. Asana means a seat comfortably held; to sense our degree of comfort, we must be fully present. By working in the coronal place and expanding sideways, we can expand our presence and come home more fully to our true dwelling place, the present moment.

(next up to ponder: twisting--moving in two different directions at the same time?)

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