7 Steps to Creating a Steady, Connected & Comfortable Yoga Posture
Flower shares the seven steps she learned from Mark Darby for how to create a steady, connected, and yet comfortable yoga posture.
1. The Foundation - Sitting Bones! We can understand the meaning of what a foundation is when we think of a building or tree. Here, the foundation needs to be strong and steady. If it is weak, then the building or tree will topple over. Hence, we need a strong foundation in our own body to support and align us.
How do you feel your foundation? Notice the sensation of your sitting bones pushing into the mat below you when seated and shift them left and right until they feel even. Finally, push your feet down in the direction of the floor.
Note that our foundation should not only be strong but also connected to the rest of body. If we take the example of a bamboo, we should position ourselves to permit space between the vertebra for the spine to allow the body to move as if flowing freely in a graceful breeze.
The yoga sutra "Sthira-Sukham Asanam" tells us that the body should have a foundation which is steady and yet connected. It should be soft and comfortable to allow Prana to flow whereas hardness and tension could restrict this.
2. Spine To feel your alignment along the central axis of the spine, move the upper body backwards and forwards until you feel your shoulders aligned over your pelvis.
The Yoga Sutras describe that through yoga the alignment of the spine will improve (Sutras II-47).
When we have a comfortable posture; we can then sit and concentrate or meditate on Ananda or the endless. The Prana is continuously flowing through us, which is the same as that which flows through the Universe. We have the ability to be able to observe this as long as there is no tension or blockages in the body to inhibit this flow.
When the spine is balanced and aligned, we have ability to move, even ever so slightly in a controlled way. Imagine if someone gave you a gentle push and let go and you have the ability to come back to your centre in a soft controlled way. By balancing and aligning the spine, the Prana or energy in your body can move upwards to energise.
3. Shoulders Supporting and balancing your shoulders helps you to create a steady, connected, and comfortable posture. A simple way to do this is to sense the lifting one's heart by creating a form of support beneath the elbows, and as a result the shoulders are lifted without bringing stress or tension, without effort.
4. Neck When we bring the head back into alignment, instead of it just sitting on the top of our shoulders, we are reconnecting it to the spine. We need to connect with spine, so the energy (or prana) from the spine can be transferred up through the crown of head. To do this draw your chin backwards, and slightly down and feel a sense of length and lightness. This action completes the posture which started in the first step (the foundation).
5. Smile! This step reinforces the 4th step. Smile softly so you feel it in the back of throat, or as you would when you see a beautiful rose. Then think of the « ha » moment when you solve a problem and it makes you smile. This sweetness helps to soften the throat, and the smile also brings the chin back and helps align the head. It is important that the smile is soft and natural to get the overall effect.
6. Eyes This leads to the eyes. When the eyes are soft and calm there is no tension in the body, which means no tension in the nervous system or the mind. From there, we have an opportunity to observe what is happening inwards. When you soften the eyes this also allows the face to soften and relax.
7. Breath Once the 6 previous steps are in place, the body is in the perfect position to observe the breath, which is the most important step. When you have the ability to breathe correctly in a comfortable and connected way, the maximum air comes into and is distributed through the system which has many benefits.
Once we have achieved this, as stated in the Sutras, it is possible to find yourself in an unexplainable state as experienced by the spiritual practitioners who reached enlightenment. Even if you have not reached this state, by staying focused on the breath we can learn the ability to calm the mind and to allow ourselves to concentrate on the present moment.
Breathing also directly effects the autonomous nervous system, which is why it is the basis for meditation and yoga. By bringing the breath back into balance we balance the nervous system. Control the body, and you control the mind. Calm the breath and then you calm the mind. Often, irregular breath, means an irregular mind; you may have noticed, for example, when you are angry your breathing speeds up and becomes irregular. But when the breath is calm, your state of mind is reflected in this.
Summary of the 7 Steps It might be difficult to understand some of these steps but this will come over time with regular practice and guidance by a teacher.
To incorporate these steps into daily practice remember the following: Root your bones with the mat below you, and push the feet down. Lengthen through the spine, align shoulders and neck all the way to the top of the the head. Draw the chin back and down, smile softly, let the eyes be gentle and BREATHE!