It seems that our bodies have become accustomed to holding stress. There are so many things happening around us. With so many ways to reinforce and share news of stress, worry, and concern, our bodies cannot help but absorb these energies. These energies easily settle into our joints, muscles, bones, and organs.
Because our bodies become used to these sensations, we sometimes think that this is a normal feeling for the body to have. We have forgotten how it really feels to be relaxed. If we have the opportunity to go to a massage therapist or a restore yoga class, we are reminded of those feelings of relaxation, but we sometimes step out of the therapist office or off the yoga mat and immediately back into our stressful world.
Here is a home practice that will help remind us that being stressed is not the normal state of the body. The two poses described will exaggerate the feeling of stress as well as remind us of how to release that stress.
We will use this posture as a binding and balancing pose that emphasizes the state of stress. Start by standing in Mountain Pose. Be sure you feel rooted into the earth and connect to your breath. Inhale and extend your arms over head. On the exhale, slowly lower your arms and pay attention to them as you bring them down. Cross your right arm underneath your left. They will intersect at the elbows. Keep your arms crossed then bend your elbows so your hands are reaching upward. Continue to wrap your arms around each other and interlace your fingers. Your arms will be directly in front of your face.
Next, bend your knees as if you were going into Chair Pose. Keep your right foot on your yoga mat and then cross your left leg over your right. The hamstring of the left leg will be directly on top of the thigh of your right leg. Squeeze tightly so that there is no space between your legs. You may even be able to wrap your foot of the left leg around the calf of the standing leg.
You are now in Eagle Pose. Hold the posture and continue to breath deeply. As you hold the pose, continue to squeeze the arms and legs together even more tightly. Experience the tension in the body while holding the pose. To add more tension, lift your elbows slightly so your triceps are parallel with the floor. Further, push your arms slightly forward. These actions will add more tension in your back. Keep your focus forward. You will notice that you will be looking directly at your arms unable to see the wall in front of you clearly.
This entire pose and sensation can remind us that we hold a lot of tension in our bodies and this tension may even block our vision; we are unable to see clearly the path in front of us. We are stuck behind an obstacle - and that obstacle is often ourselves.
Now it is time to release the tension. Slowly begin to unbind your arms and legs. Lift your left leg and take it to the back of your mat. Extend your arms out so they are parallel to the floor. You will end up in the Warrior II pose. Your right knee is bent (about 90 degrees), your right arm is extended out over the right leg. Your focus is over your right hand. Your left leg is straight and your leg arm is extended out over your left leg. Experience the freedom in your body as you have opened yourself up. Your arms are now extended, your heart and chest are open, your hips and legs are also free. Hold this pose and settle into the release of tension and tightness. Repeat these postures on the other side.
As an intention, be aware of the worries and stress that you currently hold while in Eagle Pose. As you release into Warrior II, also release those worries and stress. Create an open mind and body. As you gaze over your extended hand, see your clear path in front of you.