Thursday practices are always a bit tough because my Wednesday teaching schedule is so intense. I wasn't sure how today's would be, particularly when I felt completely exhausted merely walking the dog. So I decided to play a little game with myself this morning. In each pose, I asked myself this question: “In what way does this pose feel good?”
I do this practice every day, presumably because I *like* it. Certainly, each pose must have some redeeming quality that keeps bringing me back to the mat (we'll just ignore Supta Kurmasana when applying this theory, okay? *wink*). I found that working through my practice in this way actually helped me pace myself. I worked hard, but with less effort and tension.
As I examined each pose carefully in order to identify the 'feel good moment', I also noticed that I was often holding tension. This was taking me away from the good feelings of the pose. So I started asking another question, in addition to the first: “Where am I holding unnecessary tension in this pose?” As it turns out, it was mainly in my arms, shoulders and face. The last time I went to a class with Teacher H, she kept reminding me to soften my shoulders; I seem to hold a lot of tension there.
I'm also a member of the 'Jaw Clenchers Club' and had to remind myself repeatedly not to grit my teeth. This is particularly important for me because I had an extensive (read: expensive) jaw surgery when I was 21 - there's one joint I don't want to damage again!
I was also shocked, SHOCKED (okay, not so shocked - I do it in Sirsasana too...) to find that I've been aggressively clenching my bum in Sarvangasana. Poor bum! De-clenching my bum made me more aware of how engaging the bandhas adds stability in inversions.
I added a final question about half-way through my practice: “How can I bring more ease into this pose?” (I was enjoying this whole 'feel good' angle and wanted MORE!). Sometimes the answer was just 'let go of tension' but I also found that by experimenting with length and alignment, I could introduce more softness and openness into my poses.
If I were to choose one word to describe today's practice it would be 'softness'. Even my Chaturangas felt easier and lighter.
By taking this approach to my practice, I also found that the time passed more fluidly (because I was absorbed in the moment) and I enjoyed the postures more, savouring each one, much as I might savour a tasty meal.
Bon Appétit! ;-)