Consider some “states of being”:
I imagine most of us would say “YES!” to experiencing those qualities in our daily lives. But how do we cultivate these qualities? How is it possible to feel these qualities tangibly, and to grow into knowing them more.
A way to bring these “states of being” qualities into more fruition is by EMBODYING them, bringing them into action. We can “physicalize” (is that a word?) our intentions! Sure, we will get “fit” by doing exercises, but physical fitness is not what we always need to focus on. We can use physical practices, or even individual exercises, to help us get a “felt sense” of a quality of being in our lives.
Here’s an example. Let’s say I’m feeling frazzled, bogged down by details, worries, and a “million things” going on in my life. I recognize (mentally) that I need a wider perspective, more mental space. Can I “think myself” into this spaciousness? Probably not. A way to get that wider perspective can be to take a walk, even if just around the block. But it’s not a “fitness” walk. I can adjust my focus into the distance, breathe deeply, and embody the qualities I want to bring in mentally.
When I’m practicing yoga, working out, or doing basically anything with my body, I can shift my attention to how a particular movement lends itself to the qualities I desire. I can wash the dishes feeling grounded, or vacuum with attention feeling adaptable and mobile. I can hike and feel each step expressing my steadfast commitment to my inner well-being, or the power of my legs embodying the power I have to make a necessary change in my life. The poet, Rumi, is quoted as saying “There are hundreds of way to kneel and kiss the ground.” Who is to say that we need to go to a yoga class to feel meditative…playing on the trampoline with your kids can be a sweet meditation into a state of being that is playful and free!
To practice, we will take 3 qualities, GROUNDED, STRONG, AND ADAPTABLE, and explore how they relate to “Getting Back on your Feet.”
GROUNDED. Strong legs reaching into the earth. Resilient in our sense of well-being.
How to do it: Bend your knees into a squat, with your spine lengthened upwards. Keep your knees pressed to the outside (don’t let them collapse towards one another.) Allow your hips to move back and down, like you are sitting on a low chair. Draw your core muscles inward, to support your torso length. As you squat, take your elbows to your knees. As you push down into your feet to stand up, engage use your glutes (your butt), and reach your arms overhead. With each push up from the squat experience your power, potency and grounded presence. Do at least 10x.
LOCUST POSE ON THE BALL
STRONG Our extensor (back-glutes-hamstrings) muscles literally “hold us upright.” Experiencing our strong back body gives a sense of openness in the heart. We can move forward into what we love, supported by our tone along the extensors.
How to do it: With your feet against the wall, fold forward over a ball, with the ball in front of your pelvis. Straighten and tone your legs, drawing the top back of your pelvic rim away from your back lower ribs (to keep length in your lower back.) Extend the back long and out—aim for length rather than a big backbend arching up. Fold back forward slowly, allowing your knees to bend. With each back extension, experience your heart opening, supported by the strong and fluid power of your back body. Do 8-10x, coming into child’s pose afterwards to stretch your back.
COBRA POSE INTO A LUNGE
ADAPTABLE One thing we can count on in life is change: impermanence. Delightful sensations or circumstances…will change, just as our dreadful moods or difficult situations…will change. Buddhist philosophy teaches that suffering is when we resist how things are. We suffer when we resist change. So….how can we practice this physically?
How to do it: Lets try something unique. This is not a usual transition in yoga practice, but it’s a good mobility exercise, and also one way to get up on a surfboard! Cobra pose (bujangasana) into lunge. From a prone (belly down) position, press yourself up into cobra. Be sure to keep tone in your torso, drawing your belly button towards your spine and pressing down through the front of the pubic bone. In one movement, engage your abdominals, press your hands into the ground (or the surfboard), and bring a foot forward into the lunge with both knees bent. All this happens at once if you are practicing for surfing. To get up on a surfboard, you need strong arms, back and abdominals, and mobile legs. Watch you-tube videos for variations on the technique.
An alternate exercise is a variation of the “burpee.” It’s fun and creative, though it might look a little crazy. You might want to do this on a carpeted floor, so you don’t bang your knees and elbows if you go fast. Get down to the floor and onto your belly, then get up as fast as you can, doing a little jump when you are vertical. Next time you get down to the floor, do it differently, do a different pathway down. Challenge yourself to find new ways to efficiently go down to the floor, and up off the floor. Doing this 10x in a row will get your heart rate up, and will probably make you smile. With each get up and go back down, feel your adaptability, creativity, and spunkiness. These kind of non-traditional exercises can break up your usual routine in a fun way, and get you out of your head. They are fun to do with kids—challenging each other to see how many get up and get downs you can each do in 1 minute.
By Gretchen Spiro, Women’s Quest yoga and adventure guide
(WQ staff for the March Hawaii Swimming SUP Yoga and Adventure Retreat)
Consider some “states of being”: