Photo: The Magazine of Yoga
Ever notice how the head is always, well, ahead?
BY MAGAZINE ART EDITOR AJA BLANC
“Not in his goals but in his transitions is man great.”
-Ralph Waldo Emerson
Many of my favorite postures in my yoga practice are often considered transitional movements, in that they help get you from one place to another.
Some of the poses have names, while others barely register as a place the body rests long enough for contemplation. I have been in more than a few yoga classes where it seems we are moving from pose to pose without much time to enjoy how we got there.
Maybe its because transitional postures aren’t very sexy; maybe they lack the cache of the big name yoga postures that get lots of devoted time and attention.
Or perhaps in yoga, like a lot of other things in life, it seems like all the reward will come once the object in our mind is complete or reached in its entirety, even though we all know in some way or another, its not the destination that matters, its in the journey.
Getting ahead of ourselves
I race around a lot in life, scuttling from one place to another. Always accomplishing things at point A so I can move to point B and accomplish something else.
Maybe this is why I relish the opportunity to spend time in my body releasing into stillness, into the pauses that come both while in the postures and also in between. The times I hold my knees into my chest, on my way to to a twist, or standing in tadasana, on my way to a balancing pose.
Twisting postures are always good places to work with transitions – ever notice how the head is always, well, ahead? It’s off and running towards the end goal before the hips, spine and shoulders catch up.
This is why teachers often gently remind students to turn the head last.
One of the sweetest transitions is from savasana back up to sitting, in which I ask students to lay on their sides for several minutes before coming back up. Does your mind have you already finished with your practice? Are you mentally putting on your jacket and grabbing your car keys to head home?
Why cheat yourself out of a quiet moment to be in your body and rest inside yourself?
Time and change
When I practice releasing into a transition in my yoga practice, it’s as if I am practicing for life’s big transitions on a micro level. Everyday, every year, we go through transitions big and small.
From day to day transitions to moving on in years, our bodies transitioning with us, often in ways we wish they wouldn’t.
This past year of my life has been all about transitions. There has been a lot of change and before the changes have settled into being, many have been in a long state of transition. Transitioning into a new home, new job and new marriage. Moving to a new state and city has been a very long journey.
It takes time to get to know a place and even longer to come to love it.
The transition wasn’t driving the moving truck from our old home to our new home. The transition has been almost a year long journey into getting settled into a new home and finally accepting the change.
If only I could be as graceful during year long transitions as I am during a few minutes in balasana (child’s pose) between other postures.
That came with practice however…
There is a warm up movement between two poses I often teach in class and do in my own personal practice that can help shine some light on your attitude towards how you get from point A to point B.
Starting in child’s pose, lift up onto your hands and knees. The begin to drop your hips forward, legs lengthening behind you, shoulders back and elbows bent into cobra. Then to transition back to child’s pose; lift the hips and bend the knees through table, then sitting the hips back into child’s pose again.
Both cobra and child’s pose feel really, really good and its tempting to race into each posture. But slowing it down and paying close attention while moving back and forth feels even better.
Everywhere in between
To follow the breath, the movement in the spine and the engagement of muscles as you move from child’s pose to cobra is downright delicious. In fact, when I practice this movement, cobra and child’s pose have become the means to and end, serving as bookends to the juiciness that comes in between.
Getting to know transitions in your yoga practice is like shining a light on forgotten spaces, sensations and movements.
The next time you find yourself moving from point A with your mind already at point B, stop and relax into the transition. Enjoy the journey.
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© 2011, The Magazine of Yoga, LLC.