Accepting What Is

“You are having a human experience, and part of that is experiencing the boundaries and limitations in a physical form rather than flying above it.”
– Niki Scully & Linda Star Wolf , Shamanic Mysteries of Egypt

I came to yoga in college as a runner. Thanks to genetics, I found myself to be naturally inflexible and the long distance running I did in college did little to help tight hamstrings, calves and quads. Initially, yoga was a way for me to find some more ease in my body, but eventually it became more. As my yoga practice deepened I found myself exploring poses I never thought possible and exploring the philosophical and spiritual sides of yoga on a much deeper level.

Yet through all of this deeper knowledge and exploration, I was still struggling with myself on a most basic and fundamental level. I wanted my body to do more than what it was currently capable of. I was never happy with what was, and had trouble acknowledging the advances I had made. I would see pictures in Yoga Journal and envy the women in these beautiful forward folds with their heads resting on their knees and their wrists wrapped effortlessly around their feet. For years I pushed up against my edge, and sometimes beyond it, thinking that if I could just somehow do MORE, I would be able to get there.

About three weeks ago, after struggling with an injury that wouldn’t heal, I went to see a Physical Therapist. I laid out for her my “story” as I had always known it, I was inflexible and had trouble with forward folds. She spent about 10 minutes assessing my body and as soon as she reached my hips she exclaimed “You have such a big pelvis!”.  I had already known that my pelvis and my rib cage were very close together, but being a small lady, had always assumed it was because I had a short torso. No, she assured me, somewhat surprised “You have a really tall pelvis. No wonder you have trouble with forward folds! You’re trying to bend over this tall pelvis and you have just that much further to go.”
It was as if this weight I had been carrying for years (and I mean YEARS! I remember being in elementary school and failing the “fitness tests” that measured your flexibility through your ability to fold forward over a box that would measure your relative flexibility) had been suddenly lifted! You would think, as a yoga teacher and a long time student of yoga I would get this, but it felt so new to me. My body would only go so far because that’s all it could do, my bones would never allow me to go any further…and that felt so freeing! I was doing my perfect version of a forward fold and there was such a sweetness in letting go of the struggle around that and surrendering into the acceptance of the sweetness of my own body’s perfection.

As a teacher, I am privileged to stand as witness for so many people in these same journeys in their own lives and yoga practices. What has your journey been like in accepting your body as it is, in its own glorious perfection? I would love to hear your stories!

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The Throat Chakra: Finding Your Voice

With all this talk of sound I felt it would be important to move into the throat, the 5th chakra, Vissuddha Chakra:

Color: Cobalt Blue
Seed Syllable: HAM
Element: Ether
Rules: Thyroid, jaw, neck, mouth, throat, tongue, larynx
Planet: Mercury

Because the 5th chakra is located in the throat and governs higher communication, speaking, hearing and listening, it helps us to understand our inner truth and convey it with our voice to the outside world. The sense for the 5th chakra is hearing. Chanting, singing, speaking, reading aloud are all good for the 5th chakra. The vibrations of all these things affect the body down to the cellular level.

The element for the 5th chakra is ether/space. It is connected to the cosmos, which consists of these elements. Deficient energy in the 5th chakra can cause neck and shoulder problems, jaw disorders, throat problems, an under active thyroid and a fear of speaking.

On the other hand, excessive energy in the 5th chakra can cause hearing problems, inability to listen, excessive talking and an overactive thyroid.

Here are some yogic suggestions to work with the throat chakra:

Asana
– Matsyasana (fish pose)
– Bhujangasana (cobra pose)
– Setu Bhanda Sarvangasana (bridge pose)
– Neck Stretches

Pranayama
– Ujjayi (conqueror breath)

Bhandas
– Jalandhara Bhanda

Mantra
All kinds of mantra and chanting are excellent for releasing the throat chakra.

Fire in the Belly: The 3rd Chakra

“Fire is the spark of life that ignites will to action. Fire is the spark between Shiva and Shakti…” Anodea Judith, Wheels of Life.

Color: Golden Yellow

Seed Syllable: RAM

Element: Fire

Rules: Digestive System, Agni (digestive fire)

Planet: Sun

The 3rd chakra is the space from which we make manifest the watery dreams of the 2nd chakra. Students who will benefit from work with this chakra are those who have difficult making decisions and taking action. Physically, students who are prone to digestion issues and coldness will also find 3rd chakra focus of great benefit.

Here are some yogic suggestions to embrace the 3rd charka and your inner fire:

Asana

– Surya Namaskar (sun salutations)

– Virabhandrasana I, II & III (warrior poses)

– Trikonasana (triangle)

– Dhanurasana (bow)

Pranayama

– Bhastrikia

– Breath of Fire (Kapalabhati)

Bhandas

– Uddiyana Bhanda