To Aum or not to Om
Power Yoga is a form of 'modern' yoga. Should that prevent us from incorporating some tradition into our classes? I like to think not.
Practicing yoga and teaching my students is an honour for me. It is something I feel grateful for, and with that, I feel a certain amount of responsibility to introduce Absolute Beginners to a small part of the traditional side of yoga. It is a way of showing respect to the history of the practice.
This week we chanted the mantra Aum together.
In Hinduism, Aum is considered the most sacred of all mantras. The symbol itself needs some explanation.
The curves in the symbol represent the three states of a person's consciousness. The large lower curve symbolises the waking state (A in Aum). The middle curve signifies the dreaming state (U in Aum). The upper curve represents the unconscious or sleeping state (M in Aum).
The dot signifies a fourth state of consciousness which is peaceful, quiet and blissful. It is intended to represent the ultimate aim of all spiritual activity. This is represented by the pause at the end of Aum.
The curve beneath the dot symbolises 'maya'. It separates the dot (bliss) from the other forms of consciousness. According to this philosophy, it is 'maya' that stands in the way of us finding true inner peace or bliss.
I have had some beautiful experiences, witnessing with my ears alone, the sound vibration of a group of like-minded people chanting Om in unison. When you hear people Aum with confidence, commitment and passion, there is a vibe in the room that is very hard to beat. I cannot find the words to accurately describe the feeling. So I hope that you will have the opportunity to attend a class where this happens some time. Then you'll know what I mean.
For many of us it is a real step outside our comfort zones doing something like that. So I thank you and respect you for participating in the tradition of chanting Aum this week.
What a beautiful group of dancers we had in the yoga room this week!
This is a challenging balance pose that gives you the opportunity to integrate back bends, hamstring and hip flexibility, as well as stillness and grace. It is named after the King of Dance, Shiva.
This week we experimented with Dancer's Pose by standing side by side, facing a wall. If you'd like to practice at home, follow these steps:
Ground down through your standing foot and lift your inner arches. Standing foot points straight ahead.
Keeping your knees close together, bend the other knee and, palm face up, externally rotate your arm to catch the inside of the sole of that foot. Activate your quads in the standing leg.
Cinch in your waist and lift your pelvic floor.
Extend your spine and let your shoulder blades slide down your back ribs. Broaden your collar bones.
Lead with your chest and aim to have your hips square to the floor.
Finally, really push, push, push your lifted foot into your hand. Activate all the muscles in your body, including your hands.
Gaze ahead to your forward hand.
It's such a beautiful pose. The feeling you get from really extending your whole body is something quite amazing. I hope you try it at home.
I suspect that some students are feeling somewhat uncomfortable because we are moving along and experimenting with some more challenging poses, like Crow Pose and tonight, Shoulder Stand.
A few of you looked a little despondent in this week's classes. I guess my message to you is to ask you, did you come to yoga to be able to do every bendy, balancing, or core pose? Or did you come to lengthen, strengthen, stabilise your body and/or find a means of finding some peace or stress relief?
As I mentioned in our morning class this week, there are some very experienced yogis who simply cannot get their heels on the floor in Downward Facing Dog due to the physical limitations in their bodies. The challenge for them is accepting where they are at and finding pleasure in their practice.
We are all made slightly differently. We are different ages, genders, sizes, shapes. We have different health and mobility issues. We are different on one side from the other!
Yoga is not 'one size fits all'. Hence, our work together to find modifications that enable each person find their own practice.
So, I encourage you to persevere with a positive attitude.
Our Yoga will look different for each person . . . and that is perfectly okay.