When you go on vacation, how long does it take you to really be on vacation? Is it when you get to the airport? Do you sit down, drink in hand, and have no worries if your plane is delayed or not? Does it happen when you get to your destination? Is it on the last day of your trip? Think of a time when you were completely committed and completely absorbed in a vacation, so much so, that if you got a call saying that your house had flooded, your reaction would be, “okay, I’ll take care of it when I get home”.
That feeling when you are totally absorbed and there’s not much, if anything, that can pull you away is what I hope you will find when you drop-in for practice. Whether you are unrolling your mat for asana practice, finding a comfortable seat for meditation, or stepping into your place of worship, dropping in is an important first step that requires practice and persistence for many of us. As you practice this week, notice how challenging or natural it feels to drop-in and stay connected to your practice at hand. See if you can find that settled feeling of being completely on vacation.
Thoughts of vacation and warmer climates inspire the #PeakPowerPose of this series, Bird of Paradise. The preparatory poses of Vṛkṣāsana, Baddha Pārśvakoṇāsana, and Uttitha Hasta Pādānguṣṭhāsana Variation will get you ready to try this posture. Be sure to practice with these and other hip openers, shoulder openers, hamstring openers, and balancing postures as Bird of Paradise requires all of these actions.
Try these stages of Bird of Paradise:
Option 1 – Find the bind. Stand with the feet just wider than the hips and forward fold. Soften the knees, so the low back can release. Snuggle the right shoulder behind the right knee. Reach the right hand and arm under the right leg, towards the right hip crease. Reach the left hand behind the back to meet the right hand. If necessary use a strap or binding ring to bridge the gap. If this is the case, bring more focus to shoulder opening in your daily practice. Keeping the bind and the shoulder behind the knee or tricep on the thigh, lift the hips slightly. Pause and breathe, then try the other side.
Option 2 – Find balance. From the bind, shift weight to the free leg. Lift the belly and pelvic floor as you suction the supporting foot to the floor. Lift the heel of the bound leg and come to the ball of the foot. Press gently into the ball of the foot and flare the toes like rays of sunshine. This foot position with the long ankle, pressing ball of the foot, and flared toes mirrors the position of the foot in the full pose. Relieve the pressure from the ball of the foot and begin to balance on one leg, try not to lose the position and leverage of the leg and bound arms. If you do, reset and reestablish the bind.
Option 3 – Lift and Expand. Slowly and with control begin to lift the bound leg. There’s a tendency to lose the connection of the grounded foot as the transition can be wobbly. If that happens, return, find balance and slowly lift again, bringing extra attention to the lift of the pelvic floor. Come to standing with a long supporting leg and spine. Keeping the bind, open the heart pulling the shoulders broad. The bound shoulder likes to roll forward, see if you can slide the shoulder blade on the back, working towards a more open collarbone. Keep the foot of the lifted leg active. Even though the leg is not extended, it should still be involved in the posture.
Option 4 – Bird of Paradise. When you are able to keep your balance as you lift and expand, begin to extend the bound leg. Move slowly, so that you don’t disrupt the bind or length of the spine. Extend the leg as far as you can without hitching forward. Press through the ball of the foot. As the hamstrings and hip allow work to extend the leg completely. Work to find more leverage of the bound leg with the arm and shoulder.
As we move into more challenging postures we sometimes forget that vacation state of mind. So, as you practice and introduce more complex elements, continue to infuse ease into your practice. When the majority of the body is active and working you’ll need to rely on the calm cadence of the breath and a settled mind. When you can do that, then you can invite a little more ease and calm to the physical elements.
Enjoy dropping in to your practice, making it a little vacation for your heart and soul every time come to your mat or meditation. Always work to the right amount of challenge and interest for you. Follow this #PowerPose challenge and other yoga adventures at @suzannewrightyoga on Instagram or at Suzanne Wright Yoga on Facebook. If you post your pictures or about your experience be sure to tag #PowerPose and @suzannewrightyoga.