Lessons from the Mat: Easy PoseArticle posted in: Fitness
By: Eliza Darling
When it comes to the best things in life, simple is often the best. Take, for instance, chocolate or the ocean, or fruit or a sunrise/sunset… Alone, these things are spectacular and need nothing to complicate or enhance them. Yoga poses are no exception. The simplest asana (pose) can be the most therapeutic and healing.
I recently participated in a walk that involved marching for four miles in a crowd of hundreds of thousands of people, while holding my 25 pound toddler in a baby carrier. During the walk, I noticed a dull ache in my hips, but distracted by my external environment, I pushed the pain aside. When I finally got back to where I was staying, my sacrum and hips were burning, and the inflammation and stress couldn’t be ignored.
Being a yoga teacher, I was well aware that the pain would subside with a few simple poses. But being that I was with a group of people, I didn’t have the time or space to roll out a mat for a dedicated yoga practice. So, while we sat around talking, instead of sitting on the couch or a chair, I chose to sit on the floor in sukhasana or easy pose (also known in preschool as crisscross applesauce). At first, my knees where high but the longer I sat, the more my tight hips unfurled allowing my knees to lower and the pain to subside.
A friend noticed how I was sitting and questioned why when she sat that way her knees were so much higher? The answer was simple: her knees were high because her hips were tight. I explained that the relationship with our body requires an incredible level of patience, and that we cannot expect it to respond to something that it has no experience with. I’m certain that if she were to spend a few minutes each day in a hip opening pose, she would notice that they would be more open and allow for her knees to move closer to the ground.
Next I moved onto my back to begin healing the ache in my sacrum. With my back on the floor and my legs up a wall, almost instantly I found relief in my lower back. It is definitely not an ideal position to be in while socializing, but it’s doable and highly therapeutic. I allowed myself to stay like this for 20 minutes, and when I stood up, my body felt as good as it did before I took my first step in the march. Just two simple poses and I felt good as new. There was no need to complicate things with a mat, yoga clothes, advanced poses, or a vinyasa flow- the two poses on their own were simply perfect.
Sometimes the best practices I have had are those with just a handful—at most—of long held poses. They allow me to center in on the area of the body that needs the most focus and love without being distracted by the anticipation of what will come next. By simplifying the practice, I allow myself to be patient with my body and, in turn, my body responds by opening, expanding and embracing the care it is given.
POSE OF THE WEEK: EASY POSE (SUKHASANA)
This pose is most commonly the first one we learn as children. At a young age, before time has tightened the hips, we naturally sit this way on the ground, without any instruction or cues on how to get in or out of the pose. As we grow older and our bodies become tighter, it can be uncomfortable or challenging to sit this way. However, there are many modifications and props that can be used to eliminate the discomfort, so that the body—and hips in particular, can benefit from it.
- Can open the hips
- May calm the brains
- Helps strengthen the back
- Stretches the knees and ankles
HOW TO DO IT:
- Sit on a mat, bolster or rolled up blanket and stretch the legs out in front.
- Bend and widen the knees, crossing the right shin in front of the left shin.
- Slip feet under opposite knees.
- Press down with the sit bones and lengthen the tailbone toward the ground.
- Elevate the sternum and reach the crown of the head toward the ceiling.
- Slide the shoulder blades down the back and away from the ears.
- Rest the hands on the knees.
- Breathe deeply and hold for 1-5 minutes.
- Switch the crossing of the shins (left in front of right) and repeat.
TIPS & MODIFICATIONS:
- To ease tension or pain in the knees, cross the shins, but don’t slide the feet under the knees.
- Place a block under each knee for additional support, without over-straining the hips or knees.
- Sit with back to the wall, slightly closer than the length of a yoga block, and wedge the ends of the block between the wall and the lower shoulder blades.
*Always consult with your doctor before beginning a new exercise routine.