The weather has transitioned to become beautifully crisp and cold over the last few weeks but as the temperature drops, it can sometimes feel challenging to get warm. While we can always wrap up in a warm blanket, sweater and socks, we can also find ways to move our energy from the inside and build up some heat from our center. When you feel warm on the inside, your whole body can soften, relax and feel safe.
A few weeks ago we moved through the autumnal equinox, when day and night are of equal length. The equinox acts as a point of balance between the two solstices – summer and winter – and provides a moment to reflect as we find ourselves at a point of balance between day and night, light and dark, outward-moving and inward-moving energy.
As I have been exploring the practical meaning of the niyamas (or character observances), it occurred to me that I am searching for improvement. This seeking is an important part of the yogic process – having the urge to grow and expand our experience is a good thing. Read More
As my children and I begin to bend our minds towards going back to school, we also know that routine and discipline are good for us and help us to be our best serves. Long, hot summer days can lead to less of a routine and daily schedule. ‘Tapas’ – translated as heat or discipline – is one of the yogic niyamas or character building inquiries. But what does it mean in our daily life?
In yoga, we are working towards alignment of the mind, body and breath to arrive fully in the present moment. But compromised physical alignment, where we force our bodies, can be counter-productive leading to over stretching some areas or reinforcing structural imbalances.
By practicing Tree Pose (Vrksasana) in yoga, we can explore the sensation of expansion and upward movement and practice putting our trust in the support of the earth.
1. Begin by standing with both feet planted firmly on the ground. Explore the sense of balance by shifting your weight from one leg to the other and then coming back to center, connecting with the central axis of the spine and feeling the support of the ground as it comes up to see the feet. Close your eyes and visualize rooting down into the earth for support, all four corners of each foot pressing down.
2. Shift your weight over to your left foot and root down into this leg, without collapsing out through the hip. Bend the right knee and bring the sole of the right foot to your left shin or inner thigh (avoid the knee to protect the knee joint). As you do this, notice the tendency of the right hip to move out of alignment and see if you can draw the right hip forwards so both hips point straight ahead, as you press the right knee out to the side in line with the hip.
3. Bring your awareness to your standing leg and focus on rooting down through your left foot and left leg. Bring your gaze 45 degrees in front of you on the floor to keep your gaze steady. Slowly start to bring the sense of expansion and growth into the pose as you lengthen through the spine and press out through the crown of the head.
4. When you feel that you are completely supported through the left leg, expand your energy up through the arms and you raise your arms overhead, keeping the shoulders relaxed and the gaze steady on the floor.
5. Whenever you’re ready to come out, slowly release the arms back down, bring your hand to your right knee and draw your knee in front of you as you lower the right foot down to the ground. Shake both arms and legs out to release any tension. Pause and practice this again on the other side, this time shifting your weight over onto your right foot and placing the sole of the left foot onto the right shin or inner thigh.