In our practice as in our lives, we can sometimes feel compressed; no space to move, our breath feels constricted. So we explore ways to make some space.
I recently was reminded of a very insightful comment: yoga is not about using the body to get into the pose: it is about using the pose to get into the body. So the pose is just a tool, a device to make us notice, to learn about our bodies but also our minds and our emotions.
We can use a pose to explore this idea of finding space. Take Trikonasana for example. Often, a student will have their lower waist contracted, more a lateral bend than parallel to the floor- their lower hip and armpit are moving toward each other rather than away. Where can they find the space to lengthen the bottom waist? Well, that depends on where the resistance is coming from, and it is likely not in the waist!
Our awareness needs to move away from this area as we explore making changes elsewhere. So what happens if the front knee is well bent- is there now more room to lengthen through the side body? What about changing the distance of the back foot (closer, further): any difference? Now try pressing through the front foot to drive the lower hip away toward the back of the mat whilst anchoring through the back foot to energise along the spine to the crown of the head: direct the armpit and all along that lower waist in the direction of the front of the mat. Can you feel more stretch and length: more space between each of those lower ribs?
Space in a target area can be created by decreasing the depth of the pose in other areas. Once your body and mind is able to connect with this feeling of openness and length, then you can think about gradually deepening other areas, aware of when that space starts diminishing, stopping at that point and working there with the breath. When the body gets accustomed to it, there may be the potential to move a little deeper again- maybe today, maybe next time.
So too if we feel hemmed in by our thoughts or emotions, we can be aware of it, and move our awareness away from it to somewhere else that helps us. This may be focusing on the breath, or a peaceful image, or a positive and affirming thought that opens us up again. Notice, challenge, change. Find a way to make some space.
Ruth teaches yoga in Cheltenham UK, weaving yoga philosophy into the asana practice to help students connect yoga on the mat to their lives off the mat.