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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Shri Vidya: The Technology of Opening Up to More

One of the things that happens when you're a YogaNerd is that the technology of the yoga can be so enticing and exciting that we can get caught up in the details and refinements, but forget the big picture. It's important to remember that this technology is in the service of something more: it's Shri's vidya. It's for the sake of beauty, for the sake of what we hold valuable, and for that which brings us to an expansion of consciousness and of our hearts. If we lose sight of Shri and do the technology just for the sake of technology, we can easily end up feeling disconnected.

(There's a great story about the Pine Forest Sages, who have gotten so invested in refining the technology of their yoga that they begin to neglect their wives, meaning, they've forgotten the purpose of all of this yoga anyway. It's supposed to serve your life, not isolate you from your life. Shiva steps in, with his pal Vishnu, and as hot young things get the sages and their wives all hot and bothered, to bring them back into remembrance of what it's all for. For Shri, for beauty, for love. If you ever wondered why Shiva was out there dancing in the forest, this is the back story.)

Whenever you practice, remember Shri, remember what is valuable, abundant and life affirming. This is why Opening to Grace is the first principle in Anusara Yoga, we remember Shri and place all of the other actions and refinements within the context of Shri.

The technology focus of the week are the actions of "shins-in-thighs-out," a combination of Muscle Energy to the midline and the widening aspect of Inner Spiral away from the midline. Muscle Energy can feel like hard science (it's precise and linear), and if done in isolation, you can actually start to feel hardened and, well, isolated. But when you activate Muscle Energy from a remembrance of Shri, it has a sweetness and becomes something that serves a deepening experience. Inner Spiral is less linear, and more intuitive. It curves and turns and broadens. It needs the steadfast, linear remembrance of Muscle Energy as something to push up against to expand into more.

Now we use the phrase "shins-in-thighs-out" as shorthand, but Muscle Energy to the midline includes the thighs and pelvis, and Inner Spiral widens all the way up through the inner rim of the pelvis (iliacus) and the waistline (catching the psoas and quadratus lumborum, and moving them into alignment). Once they're lined up, you can stretch them with Outer Spiral and Organic Energy. This lateral expansion through the pelvis and waistline is a powerful way to open the hips and lower back. Why? For Shri, for beauty, for more.

So, a summary of the technology, in the service of more:

  1. First start with a remembrance of what it's all for; this technology is in the service of something great.
  2. Then with remembrance, hug the legs and pelvis in toward the midline. If you keep the second toe mound lined up vertically (when the heel is lifted), that will help you remember the midline as you add Inner Spiral.
  3. The back leg side always needs more Inner Spiral, so spin the inner back leg in, back, and especially wide. Widen not just the thigh, but also the inner rim of the pelvis (iliacus) and the waistline.
  4. Keeping the width to the back leg side, spin the low belly (the part of your belly that's in between the pelvic bones; it's LOW) toward the front leg side
  5. And bring it back to Shri with an expansion from the core out.
Here's a sequence to practice these actions, especially to expand and widen the pelvis and waistline area:

Downward-facing dog: with the feet placed, bend your right knee and cross the knee in front of the left leg. The left hip will widen toward the sky, as both feet turn out to the left. Keep the arms steady, the legs active to the midline, and broaden the whole left side of the body, feeling the stretch in the inner rim of the pelvis and waistline. Then go to the other side, and move back and forth like this.

High lunge: line it up, and then take a side stretch over to the front leg side to really feel the widening of the back leg side (leg, pelvis and waistline)

Vasistasana prep pose: In vasista on the right side, step your left foot forward towards the front of your mat and turn the foot out, so it points the same direction as your back foot. Charge the legs to the midline (that will lift the bottom leg up toward the sky). And then keeping the tone in the leg, slowly start to widen the right hip and waistline toward the floor. You can go all the way down.

Goofy lunge and goofy parsvottanasana: Goofy foot on the back foot means that you turn the back leg/foot inward so much that you'll be on the outer blade (pinky-toe-side) of the foot. Keep strong action to the midline as you do, and then widen that back leg a lot. You'll get the iliacus to stretch in this way

Parsvakonasana (and other side plane standing poses): Use the power of the shins to the midline to widen the back leg side (leg, pelvis, waistline) up, and that will make space for the front hip to tuck under more.

Parivrtta Trikonasana/Parsvakonasana: oh my god this is so great.

Balancing in inversions (try this in handstand, forearmstand, even headstand): the leg that you kick up with will tend to rotate the pelvis outward, so hold a remembrance to the midline with that leg and widen through the back of the pelvis. Kick up just to an L-shape at first, with your kicking leg vertical and the other leg horizontal. Here you can re-establish your alignment, by spinning the back (vertical) leg in, while sliding your belly to the front (horizontal) leg side. It's amazing how this brings you more into balance.

Hanumanasana: find the midline (back foot with second toe mound vertical), and then push out against it, expanding the back of the pelvis and hamstrings.

Janu sirsasana: In these seated poses, you can actually lean to the back leg side to find the width and get the hip flexors to release, and then keeping the heaviness on the back leg side, slide your belly to the front leg and go for it.

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