This week I was cleaning out some papers and I stumbled across a contract that I had my daughter sign a month ago when she got her cell phone. It had a list of the rules and you could imagine what those are but one of the rules of the contract was to never send a text or email in anger. As I re read the contract before I filed it away, that rule stuck with me. We were basically asking her to step back and look at all sides of the situation before responding. It seemed to me perhaps a rule that each of us should follow for ourselves.
This concept inspired me and I realized that this idea can apply on the mat and off. In taking a step back and gaining perspective what we gain is the opportunity to find balance. Patanjali speaks of this in Sutra 33. “When disturbed by negative thoughts, opposite (positive) ones should be thought of.” He asks us to invite the opposite (positive) thought in an effort to negate the negative thought, to create balance in our mind. The same is true in our asana practice, we use opposing forces to create stability and strength in our bodies.
As we flowed through our Sun Salutations we used Plank Pose as a reminder of opposing forces at work. There is a strengthening required of both the superficial and deep core muscles, hip flexors are working to keep the thighs up opposing gravity and the quadriceps are working to prevent the knees from buckling towards the floor. Plank is a true stabilization pose and because of that it is very strengthening as well.
The same holds true in the mind. When we feel stable and balanced we are mentally and spiritually stronger to handle whatever energy comes our way and when we are able to counteract negative thoughts with opposing positive ones we create clarity, confidence and stability within ourselves.
Back on the mat, we stretched the muscles of the shoulder girdle and chest with Eagle arms and Gomukasana arms in Warrior 1 and then as we slowed down the practice we used Purvottonasana (version pictured above) to complement all of our Plank exploration. Purvottanasana is the perfect counter pose to plank. It stretches the muscles that are strengthening in plank and strengthens the opposing muscles.
From there they moved into Supta Baddha Konasana (reclined bound ankle) and then into Savasana. As they settled on their backs for Savasana, I asked them to release the oppositional forces in the body and surrender to gravity; feeling the lightness and heaviness that comes with that at the same time. From there the practice becomes about mind; gaining perspective by using opposing thoughts to create balance there as well; When we counter the negative with a positive we give ourselves the GIFT and the STRENGTH that Balance provides, both On and Off the mat. Namaste.