Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Legs-up-on-the-Wall Pose

How beautiful is this picture of Aly in Viparita Karani? Viparita Karani is sanskrit for "active inversion" because Viparita means inverted and Karani means "doing" - or in other words I feel more comfortable using - legs-up-on-the-wall pose. It's a milder version of Shoulderstand and like most inversions, it has a slew of health benefits for the body. It's a good pose to do before bedtime which Aly must have intuitively known because this was right before we went to bed. This pose calms the mind, relieves heavy and tired feet (good for people who have to stand for most of the day) and gently stretches the back legs, neck, and low back. A teacher once told me that any time your heart is above your head (like it is in most inversions), it's a good thing because your heart is more important than your head and your head (thinking mind) must always bow to the wisdom of the heart (intuition and compassion.)

Last night while Aly and I layed on the floors of our hallway and my bedroom chatting about - what else? - love, life, self-reliance and boys, Aly positioned herself into this pose naturally. Now, I know a lot of athletes are told to do this after a hard workout because it helps with the lauric acid in the legs or something - and I bet if you ever told a 6'7 basketball player that he was doing yoga when he did this, he'd laugh in your face. But really, he is. That is the super awesome thing about yoga that people often forget - it's just playing around on a mat doing things that our bodies naturally want to do.  It's not some grueling, awful, painful and excruciatingly difficult practice that you can ever be bad at. It's not some punishment to get your body into banging beach-body shape. It is the ultimate act of self-care and self-love. It's a way to listen to our body, to baby it, to hear its little creaks and cracks, feel it say "ooooooh that feels good" when we stretch the low back ever so gently - it's a way to shut off the chitter-chatter of our minds and feel ourselves from the inside out.

Yoga is wonderful because of how it feels when you do it - it's not about what it looks like. It's not about the clothes, the kind of mat you have, the yoga studio you practice in, how high you can get your leg into the air, or how good you look in spandex. In fact if you go by what it looks like alone you could end up really hurting yourself in certain poses because all bodies are made differently. We each have different sized and different placed bones and joints and if you try to do, say, Dancer pose like the woman of Yoga Journal (who is probably missing a vertebrae in her spine) you might injure yourself. So go by how it feels and not what it looks like, which is great advice for basically everything in life too. Despite the fact that I post pictures of people in yoga positions and say that they look beautiful, I truly believe that if you do yoga just to look good or get a skinnier body, you are missing the point. The whole point of yoga - and life - is to realize that the material world is an illusion. In yoga which literally means "union" we bring together or "unify" the mind and body to make them one so that we no longer look at our bodies with "bank camera eyes" but instead we are fully inhabiting our own skin. Watching someone do yoga though is beautiful because the human form itself is beautiful and watching it move in ways that come naturally to the body just reaffirms its intrinsic balance and harmony. The beauty of the poses is just an added bonus, like cream-cheese frosting on an already mouth-watering and moist carrot cake.

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