Frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron,
Water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow,
Snow on snow,
In the bleak mid-winter
While the words of poet Christina Rossetti still resound, this time of year can also bring with it an aura of calm, and the opportunity to find a sense of peace within ourselves. Over the course of the next few months, as we trudge through the mountainous banks of snow, attend the whispered birth of spring, and manifest our tolerance for the looming presence of the conference week craze, I will be providing a series of light yoga poses, that can help to inspire our centers of focus, balance, and grounding…which tend to desert us when stress is on the horizon.
I have chosen Tree Pose, or “Vriksasana” (vrik-shah-sa-na), as the first asana of our practice. While it is a prime source of the afore mentioned centers, on a more physical level it also supports the strengthening of our thighs, calves, ankles, and back, and can help to increase the flexibility in our hips.
Begin by standing with both feet firmly planted on the ground, hands extended down along the sides of your body. Find a point- somewhere in the space before you- upon which to set your gaze. This is now your “drishti,” or focal point. If at any time during your practice you find yourself losing stability, remember that this center of concentration is always there to aid you in remaining present and finding your inner balance. When you are ready, begin to slowly lift the leg of your choice up to connect with its opposing limb. There are several options here, and I encourage you to stick with what you feel is most comfortable for your body. The foot may come to rest upon the inner calf, or perhaps the inner thigh (be sure to avoid placement on the inside of your knee), or even on the upward facing surface of your thigh. Once you begin to feel at ease, you may first bring your hands to meet at heart center, and then continue by extending them gently toward the sky. Here, be sure to take in and let out five deep breaths, before returning to both feet. After you have completed the pose on one side of the body, balance your core by repeating these steps with your other half. Complete the sequence by, once again, rooting both feet firmly into the earth, closing your eyes if you so choose, allowing another five breaths to enter and leave your body.
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Always remember: honor your practice, and honor yourself.
Jana Leo Claire