Learning Ayurveda is learning how Nature affects us and how we affect Nature. It is learning about relationship, consequence, rhythm and releasing the bonds of resistance to what is. Ayurveda describes the World around us and within us as five manifestations of one energy (Shakti).
In the first of this series of blogs starting with ‘Where’s Your Perfect Yoga Space?‘, I wrote about how the five building blocks of the Universe can be used to build your daily practice.
Today, we are inviting the Wind Element (Vayu Bhuta) into your practice space……….
The Wind element animates that which it touches and, therefore, this is the stage where you can start to explore movement as a practice. Movement in Yoga is directed via the spine. There are five movements of the spine to explore during your home practice.
During your first next practice session, without trying to do a particular pose, explore all the twisting movements that you can muster. You can twist from standing, seated, lying down and from a balance pose! As you twist, imagine concentrating the energy in the body into the space behind the belly button. Try to move from the belly by bringing it in towards the back instead of swinging the hips or the shoulders first. Let the shoulders or hips follow the movement of the twist and the other half (shoulders or hips) remain stable, creating a ‘wringing out’ of tension. There is a power in this movement and also in it’s effect. This power comes from finding our centre
On your second practice day, explore all your back bend moves. You can be gentle or strong depending on your experience and flexibility. A back bend is essentially a front body opener. Make sure that you don’t try a back bend from the neck down (throwing the head back and expecting the rest of the body to join in). Squeeze your shoulder blades together – now use this to ‘grow’ your upper chest upwards and outwards – let the hip crests (front of the hips) come forward to counterbalance your upper back moving backwards – now let your neck follow the movement of the curve of the spine (resist throwing the head back but, rather, let it join in the natural curve of the spine below the neck). You may feel the heat of this pose. The potential energy that it creates. The body is now easily breathing in and finding acceptance. As we explore the backbends, we also explore our own latent potential and can encourage it’s unfolding.
On your third day, explore all the side body openers. Stretch sideways and feel the breath soar. You can do this from seated, standing, lying down (banana shape pose). If the side body is tight, as you stretch the side the body gets pulled forward into a forward fold. Use some blocks, blankets, bolsters and cushions for extra support so that you can move back into your sidebends. Notice the rushes of energy around the body. Perhaps, some long forgotten areas become ‘awake’. Move in a swaying, loosening fashion as if being pulled down a slow moving river with many twists and turns. Find your sense of creativity returning as you allow yourself to neither start nor finish a movement, but simply to transform from one side pose to another. Let your self play and have fun!
On your fourth day, move in a way that lengthens the spine. From seated, you could try putting a block, blanket or cushion under your sitting bones – then press your palms into the mat or floor beside you and feel the shoulders move out of the way and the spine lengthen – Now sink your sitting bones deeper into the ground and feel your crown lift high into the sky. Downward dog and plank pose are two poses that help the spine to grown long and strong. Notice that you need to figure out how to lengthen the spine. One thing that will help is to move from the heart up and the heart down. Give your heart some space. Kindness and patience is the only way to move forward with this sensitive lengthening of the spine.
On your fifth day, hinge at the hips into a forward fold. Relax and release as you explore this calming movement of the body. You can do this seated, lying down, standing or in a balance. Notice the activity of the legs. Active but not tense. Feel the sensation of the parts of your body that touch the floor/mat. Encourage the body to use the support of the ground beneath you to deepen the pose. Move forward confidently like an elephant strides through and pushes asides lesser weights that its own, but also, there is a gentleness there. No aggression should be used, just a forthrightness.
All these spinal movements are actually how me move energy into and within the body and also how we release spent energy. Each spinal movement moves Prana in a particular direction helping all the supports of the body (Prana, Agni and Ojas) and re-balancing imbalance (Vata, Pitta, Kapha dosha).
On the sixth day, combine your spinal movements into an enjoyable and curiosity induced flow of movement. See how and where your body naturally moves whilst listening to the cues that come from the depths to guide you in moving energy where it needs to go and away from areas that have become ‘jammed’ with excess. Notice whether you favour the backbends, forward folds, sidebends, spine lengtheners or twists. Notice why you favour them. Because they feel good? Or because they feel easy? Notice the movements that you avoid. Notice why you avoid them. Because they don’t provide any sense of importance or relief? Or because they are challenging and require you to feel more?
Let your heart lead you rather than your head. As you sway and swing your way from pose to pose, be indifferent to the narrative of the mind. ‘Why don’t I try something harder/easier?’ ‘Why doesn’t my back bend get easier?’ ‘I just felt a sense of quietening. I wonder why. I must ask my teacher why.’ ‘My knee hurts. My knee always hurts. What’s wrong with my knee?’ —– Let all of the natter get lost in the flow of the exploration of movement.
You don’t need to set a time limit or a minimum time. Let yourself move until you are done. Everyone is different. Every day is different. Sometimes you start and your body just wants you to go on and on (your head usually finds something better to do, but you are too in the moment to listen to some crankiness of the mind). Sometimes, your body moves for a bit, irons out a few creases. Lies down and rests. Then you are done. Try not to overthink this either.
Soon, we will move onto other essentials for your practice. For now, find a space and animate via the power of the Wind.
Wishing you a wonderful play,