Lately I’ve felt a pull to return to my yoga philosophy studies. There’s something about looking at life through a philosophical lens that makes me see myself more objectively. The truth is, I’ve been spending way too much time up in my head. I’m trying to work through uncertainty by over-thinking. It’s not going well. Let’s face it: life in general, but especially these days, is nothing if not unpredictable. We’re all trying to navigate the unknown as we face re-entry into a post-vaccinated world. There’s a lot to process and consider, and it raises some big questions about how we will redefine our lives. Ultimately, the only way to chart a course in a constantly shifting landscape is by grounding ourselves in a clear purpose. Yoga philosophy has a lot to teach us about how to find steadiness in an ever-changing reality, and I have found it strangely calming to work through my doubt and anxiety by asking bigger questions.
Foundational Sequence: Ardha Chandrasana
Ardha Chandrasana (Half Moon Pose) is the perfect pose to practice cultivating a playful approach to balance. It’s categorized as an open twist standing pose with the front thigh in a position and effort of external rotation. If you think this pose is easy, I have some bad news for you: Ardha Chandrasana is haaaaaaard. In fact, in my opinion it’s one of the most underestimated and misunderstood postures in the entire standing pose lexicon, right up there with Trikonasana (Triangle Pose) which I like to refer to as the black hole of yoga.
Take Your Time
Time is such an interesting tool to play with on the mat. When I first started doing yoga, I needed time to move quickly. I didn’t like holding poses. In fact, I hated it. There was a very real boredom, frustration, and anger that would arise when I was asked to stay still. As a result, I gravitated towards classes that kept me moving, but really (and I could have never articulated this at the time) that indulged my undisciplined attention.
What It Means To Be Advanced
A few years ago, I was approached by a photographer who wanted to work with me. In preparation for our shoot, I was presented with a portfolio of postures to consider. As I swiped through my options, I had no choice but to respond with, “Nope, can’t do that one. And, nope, can’t do that one either.”
Self-Adjustments: Ankle-to-Knee Pose
Ankle-to-Knee Pose (Double Pigeon/Firelog) has always been an effective hip-opener for my body. I typically work with some degree of tension in my hips due to compensatory patterns from muscle weakness and what I suspect are some structural variations. It’s definitely not an easy pose for me, even after almost twenty years of practice, but it has has taught me so much about acceptance, patience, and compassion.
Headstand: A Practice
Sirsasana, or Headstand, is a perpetual work in progress for me. I’ve made peace with this for two reasons. First, and most importantly, everything in life is a work in progress. And second, I’m not driven by a desire to do Sirsasana, or really any other pose for that matter. I want to understand it.
Change Your Lens
There’s a fantastic sutra in the first pada, or chapter, of the Yoga Sutras in which Patanjali suggests that steadiness of mind can be found by contemplating an enlightened soul. Georg Feurstein elaborates: “Or [restriction is achieved when] consciousness is directed to [those beings who] have conquered attachment” (The Yoga-Sūtra of Patañjali). Truth be told, I’ve never really found this sutra to be especially useful in my life, and here’s why: I don’t know anyone who’s enlightened, at least not personally. Do you?