Okay, okay. I have a little more for you about lengthening the inner thigh and opening the pelvic bowl. So much activity happens around the pelvis and hips both, muscularly and organically, that the more we can open there the more space we offer the bones, the joints and even the organs. Standing poses, particularly the lateral standing poses, allow our bodies to access the areas we tend to tighten and close. Think about the belly, the groins, even the heart. These are all sensitive, vulnerable organs and when we operate in our daily lives we tend to tighten forward to protect (usually unconsciously) ourselves. I was amazed to learn that when I had a fear response, I hardened my front groins as though wanting to pull my knees into my chest and wait until the perceived danger passed. Standing poses can help to unwind some of these habits of holding, soften muscles that tend to grip and offer us awareness of areas we tend to close.
Let's take Virabhadrasana II. (Warrior Two). Usually, I have students use the back foot at the wall to connect with the stabilizing action of the back leg. This is good and important work. If you were in class a while back, you'll recall the work we did with the front thigh and the brick. In class, we had the advantage of working with a partner, strap around the back thigh to support the back leg -- a true wishbone effect -- but, at home, you can work this way:
Stand with your right leg facing the wall. Make sure when you bend your front knee there is room to wedge your block between wall and knee, then come back to the position where your feet are wide, left foot turned in, slightly, and right foot facing the wall. Now, establish the back leg. Press the foot into the floor, particularly aware of the outer edge. Turn the inner left thigh out, keeping the left hip moving away from the wall. (It's important to note that the pelvis is not completely square, if it were our knee would be very strained).
Keep those actions and bend the knee toward the wall, placing the block between wall and top shin. Lengthen your inner thigh toward the block to keep the block from falling on your toes! Did you lose the action of the back leg? Find it again. Now that your thighs open away from each other make sure you lift the pelvic rims (hip bones) up toward the waist and lengthen the trunk.
Take your hands onto your hips and explore the leg action. What does keeping the block there do for your inner thigh? Can you stay connected to the back leg? What does the pelvis feel like to you? Your back?
Make sure you retrieve the block before straightening your front leg. Then, turn your feet and change sides.
Try the pose again without the block. Notice the difference in the ways of working.
Enjoy exploring your inner warrior and let me know how it works for you!
There's a scene in Harry Potter where our heroes seek to save the Philosopher's Stone. The leap from the trap door (guarded by the three-headed dog) and are caught by a net of the magical plant: Devil's Snare. Once they drop into the trap tendrils wrap around their arms and legs; the children wriggle to free themselves, but matters only worsen. Finally, brainy Hermione remembers that the way out of the situation is to relax with it.
I've been thinking how this Devil's Snare is a perfect metaphor for the sticky trappings of our minds. The way we find ourselves trapped in certain situations and the way we struggle that only furthers our entrapment.
A few days ago, a familiar pattern of tension rose up my neck and cast its net over my skull. The pain causes discomfort and arises when I've tweaked my shoulder, worked it without awareness, or when I've been trying too hard. As I was in bed, trying to relax, I realized I was experiencing an urgent sense of wanting to rid myself of the pain. This, I realized, only made my tension mount.
Interesting, I thought. And I wondered what would happen if I stopped trying to fix it, stopped trying to make it go away as is so often my habit. Soon, I found all tension sliding away. I realized how much we resist 'what is' in subtle ways. We don't want to feel pain (aversion to pain), so we 'fight' against it. This pain could be as simple as a noise that annoys us or, indigestion. Tension mounts in our resistance to our annoyance, adding fuel to the fire.
Years of asana hone our sensitivity to the subtle changes of our inner bodies/minds. Within a pose, we discover where we are open, both psychologically and physically, and where we create resistance (sometimes within the same asana!). Notice thoughts like: ah, I can't do this pose ... I hate this pose ... I love this pose! ... I've had enough of this pose. All these judgments simply reflect our mental process, we are not required to stop these thoughts from arising, but to notice and be with them. Sometimes, however, we mentally thrash out, adding more judgment (I should stop thinking about how I hate this, what a terrible yogi I am, etc.) Physical cues that guide us to the breath or the relax of the eyes can help quiet the mental noise, loosening its grip.
When an unpleasant experience arises and I find myself bulking in resistance, I like to think of Pema Chodron (a Buddhist nun and author of many books) who says of her Life: I am open, to salty. And I am open to sweet.
All of our experience exists. Not just pleasure, not just pain. And in yoga, we can learn to relax with what arises, to create space, and drop from the tendrils of that Devil's Snare.