Did you see them?
On any clear night in March, there they were. Brightly shining, begging for us to look at them and “ooh” and “ahh” at their sheer brightness. They looked like the brightest stars in the sky, but what you were actually looking at were planets. Yes that’s right, planets. Jupiter, Venus and Mars to be exact.
In our day to day lives, it’s not always easy to remember that we are in space. That not only are we in space, but we are this tiny little chunk of a vast, expansive space. We are also rotating and revolving around the sun at immense speeds. And yet here you are, a human on planet Earth reading a blog post on the world wide web not even feeling a thing.
Pretty neat huh? So what does this all have to do with Yoga anyhow?
Sometimes, people get sad when they feel small. They look at the stars in space and they feel like they are worthless, unimportant, insignificant even. Yoga teaches us that not only is this not true, but that in fact the exact opposite is true.
After we open up our bodies and take the shapes we call Asana, we can sit and be still. In this stillness, we can find expansive space so much larger than we ever imagined possible. In our stillness, we find spaciousness, and in our spaciousness, we can find peace.
Here are four yoga asanas (postures) that can open up space in your body to make way for space deeper inside.
1.) Standing Yoga Mudra:
Stand in Tadasana (Mountain Posture). Feet hip distance apart or wider, parallel to the long edges of your mat (avoid the feet opening up in a “v” formation). Lift all your toes and spread them wide, slowly placing them down on your mat. Begin to hug the leg muscle to the bone as you very slightly tuck the tailbone. Engage the abdominals and lift your shoulders up, back and down. On an inhale extend both arms upward. On an exhale, take the arms behind you and interlace your fingers. Inhale and roll the shoulder heads back and open up the chest. If this is a lot, stay here. For an additional opening, fold forward at the hips for full Yogic Seal. Note: Take it easy on your back and feel free to bend the knees.
Come onto all fours. If your knees are sensitive, place a towel under them. Be sure that the wrist, elbow and shoulders are all directly in line with each other. Bring the knees directly under the hips and hip width apart. This creates the best structural integrity for the joints. On an inhale surrender your belly down towards the floor as your sway your back and lift the sits bones and collarbone. On the exhale, tuck the tailbone and begin to slowly, mindfully round your back like a scared cat. Continue flowing with the breath, making the movement as fluid as possible. This movement mimics the natural curvature of the spine, and will maintain healthy space between the vertebrae. Take it about 5 times (or more!) in each direction.
3.) Crescent Lunge (Modified):
From all fours inhale your right foot forward in a lunge. Bring the knee directly over the ankle. If the knee on the ground is sensitive place a towel under it. Walk the left knee slighly back to begin to feel a stretch in the hip flexor/quadricep muscle. As an option, tuck your left toes underneath and bring both hands to your right knee. Press firmly into your right foot for stability, but try not to crunch up the toes. As an additional option, bring both hands over head. As a final option, engage your left quadricep and lift the left knee off the mat to enter full crescent lunge. Repeat on the other side after 5 breathes in any variation.
4.) Supported Savasana:
Photo: Sadie Nardini
For this asana you will need 2 blankets or beach towels. Roll one blanket/beach towel tightly and fold the other into a pillow. Bring the rolled up blanket/beach towel across the width of the upper portion of the mat. Bring the other where your head will land. Gently lay down so the rolled up blanket/beach towel is around the shoulder blades (bra strap area). Open the arms out with palms turned up for a chest, shoulder and heart opening asana.
Take the time to explore your inner space. And in the meantime, watch this amazing video that will remind you just how impossibly small and impossibly large we really are.