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Affirmation and Iccha Shakti (Pelvic Loop 2)

Instead of being able to walk into the office with the first thing scheduled a regular 10am conference call, this morning I have to be across town to appear on a panel discussion with the Director of my Office.  This means I have to leave the house at least an hour earlier than I usually do.  As I am heading into a more stressful workday than a typical one, skipping meditation and my morning walk would not be optimal.

I made sure I was out of bed the minute I got my wake-up call (currently Vedic chanting).  It was the will to practice (the embodied, stepped down version of iccha shakti, which is the ultimate will to being) that got me into meditation cushion.  It will be getting out of the house 20 minutes earlier that will give me the time to walk to a more distant bus or metro stop so that I feel invigorated and refreshed before the talk.

Sometimes we do not get into poses because we lack the will to do so.  Keeping pelvic loop engaged requires will.  Some people naturally love the feeling of keeping the buttocks engaged, the pelvic floor lifted, and the belly toned.  Others (myself included) have to develop a keen sense of will to keep the lower torso engaged, to keep with and enhance the intensity of sensation and concentrated action.  The more I practice, the more will I have to stay engaged because I have experienced that the challenge of staying intensely engaged is worth the lightness and freedom that ensues.  For me, this is true in my yoga and meditation practice and in nearly everything else (which includes, sometimes, having the will to rest and relax).

Pelvic Loop (and self-affirmation)

I contemplated long and hard about how to teach the Anusara principle of pelvic loop.  If students are already tending to bring the tops of the thighs forward, without doing enough inner spiral enhanced by thigh loop (which together take the tops of the thighs back and apart and brings curve to the lumbar spine), it would not be helpful to invite them to engage in an action, which if done as a primary movement, will tend to take the curve out of the lower back and bring the tops of the thighs forward, making movement even more limited.

Even if we have the tendency to tuck the buttocks and tailbone too much, we are not necessarily engaging out core, and pelvic loop, when done in proper sequence, really helps us to affirm and find our own strength — and no one should miss out on the opportunity to do that.  So crucial to thinking about pelvic loop (especially being myself a reformed  “tucker”) are the following:

1.  The loops are bilateral and can move separately.  This means it is not just bringing the whole of the pelvis forward by a single, central big movement of the tailbone, but using the muscles on each side of the pelvis independently to engage pelvic loop.

2. Although ultimately, all of the principles are done at the same time, they are also done sequentially.  A student said last night that doing pelvic loop in a seated position made her feel “lifted up away from the ground.”  Once I said to remember that part of “opening to grace” is settling and getting heavy, and we always do “open to grace” first, she was better able to understand how to refine her seat with pelvic loop.  Instead of lifting her thighs and pelvic bones, she left her bones heavy and drew her muscles in to firm the buttocks, tone the pelvic floor muscles, and lift the belly to support up-rising energy in the spine, which gave her a sense of power and upliftment, even as she kept a feeling of being rooted to the earth.

3.  Last week I wrote and taught about using “thigh loop” to get out of our own way, to choose actively to tip the longest bones in our body into the back plane of our body so that we have more range of movement, freedom, and flexibility in our pelvis and low back.  Only after we have made the physical and energetic shift of thigh loop can we really tap into and affirm our own power.  If we are still jutting forward (literally and metaphysically) then when we try to tap into power, we will just get more in our way.  When we have gotten out of our own way and moved into the back body, then we can better find our power.  We still start in the back body, but we affirm the spaciousness and freedom we have created and are able to find a place of empowerment and soar.  For example, it is my experience that taking the thighs back and apart is a big part of what gets us into arm balances, but firming the buttocks and engaging the pelvic floor and lower belly muscles that keep us up and give us the ability to choose where to go once we get there.

4.  Off the mat, it may be nice to get out of our own way, but then what?  Shedding or moving what is blocking or inhibiting us is not for the purpose of having nothing, but so that we are then able to affirm the worth of our own being and find our own power so that we can be more joyous and more generous.

Serenity Saturday, Oxfam Fundraiser, and Thanksgiving Week Classes (web version of newsletter)

Dear Friends,

I hope you weathered Ida and are enjoying the glorious days that are following her cleansing rains as we move into the first of the holidays.  Although I may have some thought-provoking questions about the historical basis for our Thanksgiving Day, I love taking the time as a society to get together to remember, to heal, and to share the abundance and give thanks for all that we have.  For me, one of my greatest sources of gratitude is the practice of yoga and our wonderful community.  Please join me for a gratitude-filled week of inner abundance:

Serenity Saturday:  November 21st, 3pm-5pm at Capitol Hill Yoga

Oxfam Yoga Fundraiser:  Thanksgiving morning, 10am-11:30am, at Willow Street Yoga, Takoma Park

Class Schedule:  All open classes will be held as usual Tuesday, November 24th at Wm. Penn House (6:30pm) and Saturday, November 28th (Level 2 at 8:30am, Gentle/Therapeutic at noon) at Willow Street, Takoma Park.

Regrets:  No house group practice, Wednesday, November 25th.

More details on the website at www.rosegardenyoga.com.  To register in advance for Serenity Saturday, please visit www.capitolhillyoga.com.

I look forward to seeing you soon and sharing the joy of the holiday season.

Peace and light,

Elizabeth

Unwanted Things?

Jane asks in response to my pictures of the tropicals indoors, “[w]hat, if anything, do you do to avoid bringing unwanted outdoor things in with the plants?”  I assume she means bugs of various kinds, though it could also mean weeds, or, quite frankly, baby rodents in my garden location.  What works best for me is taking the time to properly tend the plants right before I bring them inside.  I do not repot the orchids that are spiking or in bloom, but I do take ones that are struggling or ones which have only had new green growth for the year out of the pots, change or at least rearrange the potting medium, and snip off dead roots, branches, leaves, etc.  I brush off the outsides of the pots.  After I have done that, I give them a good watering with the hose, letting the excess water run off before bringing the plants inside.  A moth or two always comes inside, a few ants, maybe a couple of flies and mosquitoes, but I think it is worth it.

The answer for me then is two-fold, as it would be with any “unwanted things” in life.   I try to take appropriate, healthful efforts to purify and fortify so that the wanted things outshine the unwanted things and the unwanted are released.  As that is a challenging process, I also have expanded my tolerance, by recognizing them as part of the whole, for the things I don’t want that come with those things that I do want .  It’s these two practices together that have made it easier for me to appreciate and have beauty in my life.

Tropicals Inside

My friend and former neighbor Robert shared with me his great love and knowledge of tropical plants.  When he was still living in DC, he’d call me up and ask me whether I wanted to make a pilgrimage to the now gone Kensington Orchids.  The lush beauty took my breath away, especially on a cold, winter day.  I have my tropical plants indoors from October/November to April.  (I have a very protected, sunny back yard and danger of last frost can be weeks earlier for me than neighbors just outside the District limits. For some, the time outdoors would be shorter.)  When I first bring them inside, I get a burst of the tropics right when it is truly showing signs of late fall/early winter.  When it is time, in the Spring to start shifting from winter-hardy greens to early planting of seedlings for summer harvest, I bring out the tropicals.  My garden, then, is already lush by late April.  My garden’s small size is an advantage here; a dozen tropical plants completely transforms the whole garden.  I then have room to do Spring cleaning.

Although I generally try to follow the seasons, the use of tropical plants does seem to assist me in weathering the external diminishment of light and warmth in winter.

Getting Out of My Own Way (and thigh loop)

A couple of years ago, I took a brilliant class with Desiree Rumbaugh in which she used the theme of “getting out of our own way” to lead us to a place to better integrate our shoulders.  As I was practicing with the Anusara principle of “thigh loop” this week, I was reminded of that class.  We’ve all been in the situation where our habitual mindset, physical posture, life style, or emotions get in the way of our finding more freedom and happiness.

When our thigh bones move into the front plane of the body, the forward movement keeps us from opening our hips more fully and from getting into deeper and stronger poses that require our hips to be open (in fact, out of the way).  When we take our thigh bones back, we physically have more freedom, more range of motion and are better able to access the deepest places of power and openness that allow us to soar on the mat.  I’m working on it on the mat as a great reminder to get out of my own way off the mat.