Sunday, October 18, 2009

From Liz: Line Your Bones Up.

There are days when I feel that my entire practice is an attempt to just get "get to the point." (I just read a funny little list where the author suggested that the whole practice is just foreplay for savasana. That's not what I'm getting at, but it's what got me thinking.) Those days, each pose is an attempt to decipher the meaning of the whole endeavor.

But I had one of those mini-awakenings in my Iyengar class the other day. My teacher D kept making small adjustments to my poses. Little tiny tweaks that made a huge difference. In Down Dog, rather than splaying my fingers out, she asked me to line my pinky finger up with its metacarpal. It's the tiniest shift inward, but it took the frantic strain out of my fingers. I was no longer gripping at the mat, I was rooting down into the floor. She also reminded me a couple of times to draw my arms up into my shoulder sockets, both in D. Dog and in a couple of backbends. It all amounted to her simply trying to get me to LINE MY BONES UP, and PUT THEM IN THEIR SOCKETS.

We throw the word "alignment" around so much, that it loses all substantial meaning. But at the heart of it is a simple idea: asana practice is designed to line your bones up, so that there is a support structure for your muscles to do their job (which, funnily enough, is to keep your bones aligned and your limbs in their sockets) and then the energetic body will slide into place accordingly. For those of us "blessed" with flexibility, this can often amount to lazily hammocking into our joints. In my body, it's the perfect storm of vata flexbility and kapha laziness, and it makes for some loosey-goosey poses. Also, D reminded that my shoulders are a support structure, and not, as I tend to treat them, a barrier to push through (a notion that I've found instructive in balanced inversions like handstand or forearm stand).

On the heels of your post about surrender, this is a counter-point. I surrender too much, or rather, I kid myself into thinking that I'm surrendering. In fact, I'm hiding in the depths of my own "open-ness," cowering under my shoulders and avoiding building strength. There is no ease in my "surrender," just limp acquiescence to the status quo. So, my work is to pull myself together and earn my ease.

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