Lessons from the Mat: Channel the Warrior I in YouArticle posted in: Fitness
By: Eliza Darling
The strength of a structure begins with the solid construction of its foundation. We wouldn’t expect it to withstand time, traffic or the elements if it were built on a shaky foundation, just as we shouldn’t expect our body to optimally function without having a secure base upon which to build. In yoga, we work on our physical bodies so that we can peel back and balance the layers of our internal self. The breath and mind, which are challenged and stimulated in a physical practice, are the base or foundation of our entire being. We exercise the connection between the internal and external self through the constant flow of energy, commonly referred to as the practice of “rooting to rise.”
When our internal self is grounded, we feel confident to explore, invent and discover new opportunities, ideas and relationships. A person who is internally grounded finds harmony and balance in their mental, emotional and spiritual life. It takes a mindful evaluation of the self to determine the solidity of one’s internal foundation, and even the strongest base can crumble from the exposure to an intensely stressful or traumatic experience. Humans are incredibly resilient, so even if the base becomes shaky, with a conscious dedication of time and patience, there is always an opportunity to rebuild it.
Our physical practice shares the same reliance on a strong base to build a stable and dependable body. To create harmony in the body, there must be a balance between the energy that grounds down and extends outward with energy that moves up-ward and inward. The grounding down energy relies on the energy that moves up to create a perfect opposing balance. In an asana (physical pose) practice, a demand is put on the practitioner to simultaneously send the energy down for stability and focus to extend the energy out and up for length and lightness. Practicing the balance is much more challenging than talking about it, and often we “fall out” of poses, or don’t completely benefit from them, because we have yet to established an effective balance in our energy base. A secure foundation allows us the flexibility to be challenged and/or experience hardship without devastating our internal or external structure.
POSE OF THE WEEK: VIRABHADRASANA I (WARRIOR I)
This pose asks the practitioner to apply the “root to rise” concept by grounding down and out through the feet, while simultaneously drawing the energy into the heart and out through the finger tips. A perfect balance between grace and strength, Virabhadrasana I demands a level of openness in the hips and length in the torso and arms, as well as power in the legs and the core.
- Stretches the chest and lungs, shoulders, neck, belly and psoas.
- Strengthens the shoulders, arms and back muscles.
- Strengthens and stretches the thighs, calves and ankles.
- Can help improve balance, posture, endurance and confidence
HOW TO DO IT:
- Begin in Downward Facing Dog.
- Lift the right leg up, and shift the shoulders over the wrists and bring the knee toward the nose.
- Step the right foot between the hands.
- Put the left heal down so the left toes point towards the top left corner of the mat.
- Inhale, engage the abdominals and lift the torso up, reaching the arms up and pointing fingers to the ceiling.
- Point right toes forward and stack the knee over the ankle and foot.
- Keep the left leg straight and engaged, with the outer edge of the left foot pressing into the mat.
- Hips are squared towards the top of the mat.
- Draw the frontal ribs in towards one another, and move the shoulder blades down the back.
- Keep the arms shoulder distance apart, pinkies turned slightly inward.
- Gaze straight ahead.
- Root the feet into the mat and sink the hips down, deepening the bend in the right knee.
- Reach up through the fingertips, sending the energy up towards the ceiling.
- Hold for 30 seconds to a minute, and then switch sides.
TIPS & MODIFICATIONS:
- Avoid tipping the pelvis forward when bending into the front knee.
- To create more length in the lower back, widen the distance between the feet by moving the front foot a few inches towards the edge of the mat.
- If it is possible to keep the arms comfortably straight and the shoulders down the back, press the palms together.
- Turn the gaze to the hands if there is no tension in the neck.
*Always consult with your doctor before beginning a new exercise routine.