Friday, November 18, 2011

Inner Strength

Within the yoga sequence, The Sun Salutation, there is a pose called Chaturanga Dandasana. It means "Four Limbed Staff Pose." Now the name of the posture really has nothing to do with what I'm writing about this week! But it is a pose that physically works your upper body and core strength.

Strength is actually what I want to write about. Sometimes we think we are not strong enough to do certain things. Maybe at the gym, you struggle with doing pull ups or bench presses with heavy weights. How about more on an emotional level: you think you're inadequate or not good enough to do a certain task. You think you lack the skills or intelligence to perform in a presentable fashion. You fear, perhaps, being judged or criticized. When you harbor those feelings, you tend to shy away from engaging in those activities. And when you step back, you do not allow your SELF to live up to its highest and truest potential.

The challenge is to really KNOW that you have the strength and ability to do anything you set your mind to. Still don't think you are strong enough to take certain risks in your life? That's ok. Sometimes engaging in a yoga practice can test your strength. We often discover that we ARE strong enough to do challenging poses on the mat. If we can do them there, we can probably take that strength OFF THE MAT and find that we DO have the ability to step forward into our highest potential; to do the things we THINK we're unable to do.

This leads us back to Chaturanga Dandasana. It is a very challenging pose when held. We often just flow through this posture right into Upward Facing Dog in the Sun Salutation. But what would happen if you could actually hold the posture? Let's find out.

Chaturanga Dandasana: Four Limbed Staff Pose
Start in Mountain Pose and begin the Sun Salutation sequence.
Inhale - lift your arms over head; reach upward toward the sky.
Exhale - Swan Dive forward to touch your toes; feel free to bend your knees as you fold forward.
Inhale - lift up halfway to Monkey Pose; extend your spine so that you experience a flat back.
Exhale - fold forward to touch your toes then jump back to Plank Pose.
Inhale in Plank Pose to gain strength and stability.
Exhale - lower yourself to Chaturanga Dandasana by bending your elbows and lowering yourself in a straight line down toward the floor. Do not touch the floor! Hover, if you can, just a few inches away from the floor. Be sure to keep your elbows hugging in toward your body to maintain a strong connection to the pose. Hold for at least 10 breaths!

Complete the Vinyasa;
Upward Facing Dog
Downward Facing Dog
Then come to Child's Pose to rest.

If you're able, complete the sequence one or two more times. Each time, you may find that you get stronger in the pose.

Here are some tips to remember while in Four Limbed Staff Pose. Keep the whole body engaged. Feel like the very top of your head (your Crown) is moving forward while the heels of your feet are moving back. Keep your core strong with exaggerated exhales. (Even feel free to breathe out through the mouth.) Draw your belly button toward your spine to engage your core muscles. Scoop or tilt the pelvis to engage your abdominal lock. And again, be sure to keep your elbows hugging tightly toward your ribs.

Yes, this is a physically challenging pose, yet it taps into our emotional connections to inner strength as well. Develop and experience the strength that is ALREADY inside of you. Sometimes we just have a dig a little deeper inside to find it. IT IS THERE!


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