Fear can drive your asana practice, or your asana practice can drive fear from your life.
Sometimes people avoid certain poses, ones in which they don’t look their best or are afraid of hurting themselves in. They focus instead on the poses they know well and never look beyond them. But staying within your comfort zone is a sure way to limit progression.
Yoga asana is training for life. Use this time to overcome fear on your mat and it will pay off in the rest of your life. Focus on aligning your breath with your movements and lining up your muscles and bones the way they are naturally designed. Begin with this foundation regularly and a pose that once seemed very difficult will soon be part of your daily practice.
When people think of strength, they often think of the big muscles: biceps, quadriceps and trapezius. It’s true that these large muscles play a big role, but they’re often not the key players. There is something more subtle at play in the true source of your strength, and it comes from deep inside. This is the power of the pelvic floor.
The pelvic floor is two bands of muscle located just above the pubic bone. They span the base of the pelvis and hold the organs in place, somewhat like a hammock. They provide support for your torso and connect your upper and lower body. Even though the pelvic floor is neither large nor visible, these two small bands of tissue are one of your greatest sources of strength.
Our breath is prana, life force. The simple act of breathing is what brings many people to a Yoga asana practice, and breath is also what will deepen your practice so you can experience the essence of true Yoga.
The diaphragm, located just beneath the lungs and ribcage, is an important muscle to keep strong and flexible if you want to improve your breath and, by extension, the flow of prana throughout your body. Loosening the tension in your diaphragm caused by stress and modern living will promote deeper, more even breaths. With greater control over the breath, you can exercise greater control over your mind. This will bring you closer to what Yoga is about – union between body, mind and spirit.
When is the last time you took flight? With arm balances, it’s possible even for us wingless beings to get that change in perspective that comes with hovering above the ground. Just as a baby bird looking over the edge of a nest must learn, the key to flying in arm balances is to trust that your body knows exactly what to do if only you move your mind out of the way.
Bakasana, crow pose, is a great place to practice the trust that leads to flight. It might seem counterintuitive, but getting into this pose has little to do with the strength of your arms. Like all asana, it’s about alignment – knowing how your muscles and bones should line up and where the strength of the pose lies. In the case of bakasana, the strength is in the pelvic floor.