Today, I am going to share a secret with you. I am going to teach you something about yoga that most people do not know: how to use yoga poses as a prescription to change your life.
The more one learns about yoga, the more important these tools become. At first, any class, any teacher and any pose can get the job done. After a while, though, this may not continue to be true.
My teacher frequently uses an ancient yogic example: wine.
When we begin drinking wine, “Two-Buck Chuck” from Trader Joe’s will get the job done. It is cheap, easily accessible and tastes decently enough. As we drink more wines, though, we learn what we like and how it affects us. Eventually, we need to move on to better wine.
This does not mean that we can never go back and enjoy the cheap stuff when we want to. It means that we now possess the knowledge to determine the wine that is right for us in the moment.
The same is true for yoga poses.
So, what is the “cheap stuff” in yoga? Let me try to answer this with the least amount of judgment possible. The cheap stuff in yoga is like trying to do everything every time. It is like taking Extra Strength Tylenol Complete Cold, Cough & Flu Plus Daytime Mucus Relief when your only ailment is a cough.
Many public classes are concocted like Tylenol Complete. Every pose, cliché saying and trendy song must get thrown in for it to make it to the shelves. Part of this comes from what students want: the full-on yoga high. The other part comes from what teachers want: full yoga classes and the resulting higher pay.
Much of this stems from a lack of understanding of the specific effects of poses, and that is OK. I am all for getting asses to classes. If the Tylenol Complete approach is necessary to hook people on yoga, then perfect!
But at some point, deeper understanding of the practice will begin to creep in. As you feel the poses more, you also may begin to realize what you need and how you need it.
What does it mean to understand yoga poses? Knowing how each pose will affect you so that you can use it for a specific reason.
If you are ready to try this less generic approach to yoga, pick up your prescription today of The Big Yogi’s NEW premium product:
Important: Yoga poses are prescriptions to change how you feel physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Try the general guidelines below to enhance your awareness and to empower yourself with choice. Read all product information before using.
Active Ingredients: Purpose:
- Forward Folds……….Poses such as child’s pose, down dog and even crow pose are all forward-folding poses. They turn your mind and attention inward. As a result, they tend to be calming and internalizing. They also can be grounding, as they move energy downward.
Uses: Feeling agitated or unfocused? Take a minute to hang in an easy and relaxing forward fold of your choice. Observe the effects. Notice how they instantly can shift your experience and your day as a result.
- Backbends……………Poses such as camel, wheel and handstand are all backbends. Backbends invite energy in through the chest, so these poses are activating and externalizing. They also can be agitating, as they engage the sympathetic nervous system, or the “fight-or-flight” response.
Uses: Feeling tired, sad even? Take a backbend. Need an afternoon pick-me-up and have no time to head to Starbucks? Handstand offers a double shot of yoga-espresso.
- Twists…………………Poses such as twisted chair, rotated triangle and side crow are all twists. Twists are heating poses that improve physical, mental, emotional and spiritual digestion and circulate energy in the body.
Uses: Feeling sluggish, apathetic or stuck? Want to remove blockages from your life? Then, literally twist them out.
- Laterals………………Poses such as warrior II, side angle or eka pada koundinyasana are all lateral poses, so they are externalizing and expansive. They can help us to move outside of ourselves and to feel more connection with the community around us.
Uses: Getting ready to go out for dinner with friends? Laterals can inspire you to feel more social.
- Inversions……………Poses such as plow, shoulderstand and headstand are all inversions. Inversions are cooling and calming poses. They are especially effective for reducing stress, improving sleep, and engaging the parasympathetic nervous system, or the “rest-and-digest” system.
Uses: Want to unwind after work? Invert.
Do Not Use: Headstand II
Just because your legs are above your head does not mean that a pose is an inversion! Headstand I and Headstand II are different types of poses. Headstand I is an inversion, making it cooling and calming. Headstand II, or tripod headstand, is an arm balance, making it heating and energizing.
Each pose has its own unique quality and energetic effect. Once you master the general guidelines above, you then can begin to detect the differences between the poses within each category so that you can select your dosage.
While teaching an evening public class recently, I could feel that my alignment cues were driving the students to be even tenser and more competitive than they usually are following work. To change my effect, I changed my prescription. I stopped talking about how the poses looked physically and started talking about how the poses felt energetically.
A softness began to settle over the room. The posturing lessened. I then went silent and led the class with only my movements and breath.
By the end of class, I had gotten most of the group to stop trying to achieve the poses and to start feeling them. When guiding them into a backbend, I consciously chose bridge pose instead of wheel pose because it is a less intense backbend and, therefore, tends to be less agitating. I even said, “I am specifically not telling you to go into wheel pose right now.”
But there were still two students who wanted to pop a Tylenol Complete and wash it down with Two-Buck Chuck. Ignoring my instruction, they popped right up into wheel. I washed it down with a silent laugh and a compassionate smile. They simply did not yet understand the difference between these two backbends. They had not yet discovered Yoganol Choice.
- There are countless poses and variations of poses. Each one will have its own unique effect on every unique practitioner.
- Develop your practice to develop awareness of the poses’ effects on you so that you can choose which one you need in the moment.
- Take poses as needed.
- Access their effects with less time and effort as your body and mind begin to understand what is going to happen.
- Create a relationship with the poses so that you can use them as prescriptions – potent ones.
- None. Investing time and attention into discovering how to use yoga poses as a prescription for life will grant you the powers of awareness and choice so that you can determine what you need in each moment.
- Developing the powers of awareness and choice can take away the need to go to yoga class!
- This may save you time!
- This also may save you money!
- I often joke with students that I have the worst business model ever: I want them to learn to use and to embody these poses and yoga’s teachings so much that they no longer need me!
Stop use if:
- You begin to realize that you do not need the physical poses at all to practice yoga and to transform your life.
Consider before use:
- What are you feeling in this moment?
- What pose do you now need to change your experience, to shift the trajectory of your day?
- There is a pose to call upon for any situation and any moment of your life. If you can master this, you can master your life.
- There are countless benefits to using yoga poses to treat your life. How will you begin to use them today?
Ask The Big Yogi before use if you are:
- Curious about learning how to use yoga poses to master your life.
Questions? Come to a public class or contact us about private yoga lessons today. Comments? Leave below.
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Distributed by The Big Yogi
A Maur Unity collaboration, edited by Maura Bogue