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Wednesday, April 13, 2016

You are a Rock. You are an isand:MS Warrior turned Guru







You tell me...Does this remind you of anyone you know?
Do you get the feeling that you could BE this picture?
Do you wonder HOW ON EARTH (or ocean) this castle remains intact?

Well, take a closer look.
Not only is it intact, there is also very obviously some inner workings to the body of this structure.

See the ladder? The entrance door?

The boat awaiting passengers?

These could all be considered the support group awaiting assistance. 

This picture also reminds me of one of my favorite yoga poses.



No, that's not it.







Getting closer, but I am still unsure about balance.


Oh, yes, that's it. The good ol' mountain pose. It really looks easy, doesn't it? I mean, you're just standing. Feet together. Arms at  your sides. Eyes forward. Shoulders squared but relaxed. Yep, easy, breezy...











Look at that...everyone is doing it.


So, why do I feel like this every time I try?

Much like that interesting photograph at the top of this page, the Mountain Pose requires some internal foundation to make it work. 


Please, please listen!!!!!!!!

I Am a Rock - Simon & Garfunkel Lyrics


How to Do Mountain Pose in Yoga


It might look like you’re just standing there, but Mountain Pose —Tadasana (tah-DAHS-uh-nuh) — is an active pose that helps improve posture, balance, and calm focus. Its name comes from the Sanskrit words "tada" (meaning "mountain") and "asana" (meaning "pose"). Tadasana is the foundational pose for all standing yoga postures and full inversions, such as Handstand and Headstand. It is the pose from which every other standing pose in your practice is born! The alignment, muscle movements, and mindset you learn in Tadasana are applied every time you do a standing yoga pose. So, it’s important to learn how to do it correctly. Once you understand the proper form of Mountain Pose, it will be easier to gain and maintain the alignment for all other standing poses and inversions.

Benefits of Mountain Pose

A correctly executed Tadasana will use every muscle in the body. It improves posture and, when practiced regularly, can help reduce back pain. This pose strengthens the thighs, knees, ankles, abdomen, and buttocks. It is also helpful for relieving sciatica and for reducing the affects of flat feet.

Breathe and all will be revealed; love and all will be healed. This is yoga.
Seane Corn

Tadasana steadies the mind and body, bringing a calm focus to the practitioner. Practicing the pose with steady and smooth breath will help relieve stress and improve concentration.

Cautions

Due to the balancing nature of the posture, do not practice Mountain Pose if you are currently experiencing headaches, insomnia, low blood pressure, or if you are lightheaded and/or dizzy. Always work within your own range of limits and abilities. If you have any medical concerns, talk with your doctor before practicing yoga.

Instructions

  1. Stand with your feet together and your arms at your sides. Press your weight evenly across the balls and arches of your feet. Breathe steadily and rhythmically. Draw your awareness inward. Focus on the present moment, letting all worries and concerns fade away.
  2. Press your big toes together (separate your heels if you need to). Lift your toes and spread them apart. Then, place them back down on the mat, one at a time.
    • If you have trouble balancing, stand with your feet six inches apart (or wider).
  3. Draw down through your heels and straighten your legs. Ground your feet firmly into the earth, pressing evenly across all four corners of both feet.
  4. Then, lift your ankles and the arches of your feet. Squeeze your outer shins toward each other.
  5. Draw the top of your thighs up and back, engaging the quadriceps. Rotate your thighs slightly inward, widening your sit bones.
  6. Tuck in your tailbone slightly, but don’t round your lower back. Lift the back of your thighs, but release your buttocks. Keep your hips even with the center line of your body.
  7. Bring your pelvis to its neutral position. Do not let your front hip bones point down or up; instead, point them straight forward. Draw your belly in slightly.
  8. As you inhale, elongate through your torso. Exhale and release your shoulder blades away from your head, toward the back of your waist.
  9. Broaden across your collarbones, keeping your shoulders in line with the sides of your body.
  10. Press your shoulder blades toward the back ribs, but don’t squeeze them together. Keep your arms straight, fingers extended, and triceps firm. Allow your inner arms to rotate slightly outward.
  11. Elongate your neck. Your ears, shoulders, hips, and ankles should all be in one line.
  12. Keep your breathing smooth and even. With each exhalation, feel your spine elongating. Softly gaze forward toward the horizon line. Hold the pose for up to one minute.

Modifications & Variations

Since Mountain Pose is the foundation for all other standing poses and inversions, it’s important to learn the correct alignment. Often, this means changing habitual patterns of alignment in your body. Standing up properly can take some getting used to! Try these simple changes to learn the pose correctly:
  • If it’s difficult to balance with your feet together, stand with your feet hip-distance apart. Gradually step your feet closer together as you gain balance in the pose.
  • Women who are pregnant should widen their stances as much as necessary to feel stable.
  • Beginners can practice the pose backed up against a wall. There will be a slight curve in your lower back, but your heels, buttocks, and shoulders should gently touch the wall. Keep your head away from the wall, keeping your ears in line with your shoulders.
  • For a greater challenge, close your eyes in the pose.
  • Your arms and hands can be placed in a variety of positions. To learn the correct alignment, keep the palms facing inward. To open the chest and shoulders more, turn your palms forward. To calm your mind and find center and balance, place your palms together in prayer position at your chest (this is called Anjali Mudra).

Tips

In order for the alignment of Tadasana to translate to the rest of your standing and inverted yoga postures, it’s vital to get this basic pose right. Here are a couple of tips to help you stand up straight:
  • Work the pose from the ground up. Notice and align your feet, heels, arches, and toes. Then, bring your awareness to your ankles. Continue upward to your shins, calves, and thighs. Find alignment in your tailbone, pelvis, and belly; and then in your collarbones, shoulder blades, arms, and neck. Finally, extend the pose through the crown of your head.
  • To find your center of balance, slightly lean your whole body forward, then backward; then to the left, and then to the right. Realign yourself so that your ears, shoulders, hips, and heels are in a straight line with your weight even across both feet.
  • To find the neutral balance of your pelvis, imagine your pelvis is a bowl filled with water. Tip your front hip bones forward (your butt will stick out) and the water will spill over your front thighs. Tuck your tailbone and round your low back and the water will spill over your back thighs. Practice tipping and tucking a few times to find the neutral balance of your pelvis — where the "water" will remain steady and not spill.
  • Check and correct your alignment every time you come into the pose throughout class.
  • To learn the lift and inner rotation of the thighs, place a block between your thighs, above the knees. Squeeze the block and roll it slightly backward, engaging and rotating your thighs.

Stand Up Tall

You can practice Mountain Pose many times throughout your normal day: While brushing your teeth, standing in line, or riding the elevator. You can even practice it while walking, running, or doing the dishes! Once you have a hang of the correct alignment, you may find yourself standing and sitting straighter throughout your day with reduced back pain and a calm, clear mind.



The National Multiple Sclerosis Society is a strong advocate for yoga as one of the leading exercise practices for MS. the beautiful fact about yoga is that is not necessarily a hardcore exercise regime that requires hours of sweating or communal gatherings (unless that' your thing). 

Yoga can be as solitary and as physical as you want it to be. Yoga is considered a practice because that is exactly what you do: Practice.

A former boss used to say "perfect practice makes perfect", but on the subject of yoga I prefer the standard "practice makes perfect." When you feel good about yourself that is about as perfect as it gets. I believe that yoga will help you achieve that goal. Even if you do not wish to dive head first into all of the karma that surrounds your yoga practice, the fact that you are moving physically and mentally is perfection. 

I attend a restorative yoga class once a week at a local fitness center. Initially I was surprised at the lack of physical exertion required to complete that 50 minutes. We really do not move a great deal. The transitions from one pose to another are slow and we rest into each for several minutes. We are told that yoga should not hurt and that we are in control of the depth with which we approach each pose. It is a totally non-threatening environment. No one pays attention to your participation status (except the instructor, who is always on hand for assistance) and I always leave feeling relaxed and centered, ready to face to the day. Restorative yoga is one of the most relaxing experiences I have ever had. I have exercised both my body and my mind. 

Even with all of those gentle movements and non-threatening poses, I am still receiving the benefit of physical exercise. In fact, after my first visit to restorative yoga, I actually felt a subtle difference in my balance and leg strength.

...and you have to think when practicing yoga. You are encouraged to pay attention to your breath. Listen to your body. Do only what you feel confident in doing.

I know, I know, there are those of you throwing tomatoes at me and shaking your head at my apparent transition into a daisy clad, essential oil (I will talk about that in a later post:) vegan spirit. Please do not disregard yoga as a viable practice in your struggle against the ill effects of MS. I have personally discovered the benefits. And guess what? The MonSter doesn't know what hits him when I fall to the floor in child's pose.

"There's no hurry. There's nothing to prove. But there are countless things to learn about your body and mind that will, with absolutely no doubt, improve the quality of your life.”



You are a rock. You are an Island.

Okay, by now you know me well enough to know there must be a book out there just waiting for you to turn a page.

You are absolutely correct. In fact, I have several to recommend.

(Forgive the capital letters. my computer just decided that is the way it will be and i cannot change its mind.)


My personal favorite:


Although this is ranked in the top 100 on amazon, I personally cannot get past the disturbing pictures. You can make your own decisions.


I like this one becauwe it is truly a personal perspective on MS and yoga.

Oh, and chapter 3, page 48, is all about my introduction to yoga:
http://www.amazon.com/Have-Whats-Your-Super-Power/dp/1882658442/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1460550908&sr=1-1

for those of you not really turned on by the thought of a book, here are some interesting websites to peruse:





Wow, I don't know about you, but after all of this inner healing, I feel the need for a bubble bath.

Enjoy your day.

namaste,
Lisa
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