utthita parsvakonasana woman yoga pose

Reach, reach, reach

Oh my, what a difference a few weeks can make. There were far too many moments in January and February when all I could think about was problems. And when all you can do is think about problems, more and more creep up at every turn. Because it’s about headspace and projection and mindset, isn’t it? Or much of it is, anyway; a good headspace isn’t going to change an actual problem, but it can change your attitude and ability to handle consequences that come your way.

Well, experience has proven the same goes for positive encounters too. For instance, I’ve felt somewhat complacent in my professional life recently. I’ve not felt exceptionally inspired by what I’m being asked to do, by what is presented to me as a learning experience, by what I challenge myself to do, in fact. Possibly worse for me is that I’ve become somewhat unfulfilled in my yoga practice lately too, which has left me feeling deflated, a bit tired, even uninterested at times. I realize it sounds like I’m headed into pity party zone here, with no chance for elaborating on the positive perspective I claim to have gained, but, I swear, I’m not. And I will change direction quickly.

Of course, it’s pretty normal to get bored with a workout regimen. Most people who start and stop a “routine” usually stop because they grow tired of it (Come on, it’s not really about lack of time. Be real.), whatever that might be: pumping iron (that is said with the most wicked smile), romantic relationships, friendships, jobs. We move on, sometimes easily, sometimes not so easily, when there seems to be little left to learn. Whether or not we know it, that’s what’s happening. But rather than give up altogether, which, hopefully, no one wants to do (unless, of course, that is the obvious, necessary course of action—we’ve all been there too, dare I say). For me, at least in yoga, I realize that it is time to go on a quest for something new.

I took an Anusara class at Vital Yoga Highlands this week. I recalled from the one Anusara class that I took many months ago that the focus was on alignment. More than that memory, though, I had very little knowledge of the style, no real idea what I was getting into when I strode into the studio. The Vital Yoga website tells me that Anusara means “stepping into the flow of grace.” Naturally, being the non-planner that I am, I hadn’t read even this much information about the class beforehand; if I had, I might have been intimidated, actually. What does stepping into the flow of grace mean, anyway? How do you do that? And can you do such a thing in ninety minutes? Certainly, just like any committed practice is a lifelong endeavor, I, of course, know I’m not capable of stepping into the flow of grace in one hour-and-a-half session, especially because I have no idea what that means in earthly terms. What I can say for sure is that I gained some new perspective about my own waning practice.

The Anusara Inspired Vinyasa II class was different than the Vinyasa flow that I practice in that a significant amount of time was devoted to getting into a pose. Not that we didn’t remain in each pose for a good length of time once we got there, but the focus seemed to be on the arriving rather than the being. And in this arriving, at no time, that I can remember anyway, was the name of a posture announced before we moved into it. I didn’t realize that the instructor’s not calling out poses by their names, Sanskrit or English, was intentional. I simply assumed, as a newbie, that I didn’t know what was going on and so figured I was being set up to learn some fresh, unexpected position.

The Vital Yoga website also tells me that the Anusara Inspired Vinyasa practice offers structural awareness (there’s the alignment detail I remember from the one other Anusara class I took in the past). Last Wednesday night, I could tell by the way that the instructor described what to do with the inner and outer thigh muscles, for example, in order to fully engage in a pose, that he has an anatomy background. And as I intently listened to what he explained, to how he told me to place my muscles, all of sudden I found myself in a pose that I’ve done a million times, but now I’ve come at it from a new direction, a new path. What was most intriguing to me in this Anusara class is that it felt like we got into poses from the ground up rather than from the customary standing position. Though, when I say from the ground up, I’m not implying that we started each posture from a seated spot on our mats. What I mean is that we rose up into each pose rather than sinking down into them. The difference is so, so subtle and such a foreign, unanticipated, welcome concept.

In this Anusara class, I moved straight from downdog to forward lunge on the right leg, first raising onto my fingertips and pulling my shoulders back to expose my heart. Next raising my left arm into the air and twisting my heart to the sky, at the same time slowly rotating my forward-facing curled-toes on the left foot to a side-facing flat foot, pressing on the outer and the inner edges for structure and balance. Then, reaching my left arm and fingertips to the front of the room, continuously stretching, lengthening my left-side body, while softly lifting out of my waist and hovering my core and right oblique off of my right thigh and lightly grazing my right fingers at the inside of my right foot on the mat. Whoa, wait a minute. How did this happen? This feels familiar. Am I right to be in this pose now? The instructor never mentioned the words Utthita Parsvakonasana EXTENDED SIDE ANGLE. Well, there you have it…who knew?

You’ve got to shake up the routine occasionally to gain some new perspective. You might think you are bored, or you may think you have nothing more to learn from a person, an instructor, a place, a relationship, a situation, a conversation, an encounter. Approaching these postures in the Anusara class from a point of arrival rather than from the final destination allowed me to align my body in a way that I am not accustomed to, sure, but what it really allowed me to do is find new perspective at my own studio, in my preferred style of yoga. It was invigorating, moving into poses in a way that is different than how I normally do. What happened time after time, even after I caught on, ending up in poses that I am familiar with, like Utthita Trikonasana TRIANGLE, but decidedly more balanced, rooted, extended, lengthened, reaching, twisting up, fully bound, and with a depth that I am entirely unfamiliar caused me to become recommitted to my practice. So does the name of the pose matter? Does the pose itself matter? In the end, is it the destination that carries meaning or is the path to getting there that’s most significant, eye-opening, reinvigorating, purposeful?

 

Check out yoga instructor Roger Martin-Pressman’s website

www.longevity-wellness.com

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