Guest Blogger Donna Takeuchi, PYC Prenatal instructor & mom, encourages students to explore and discover both on and off the mat.
So much of what we do as humans is habitual. We do something a certain way because that is how we have always done it and most of the time we aren’t fully conscious of our movements and actions. This is also true in our yoga practice and classes. We follow a certain sequence because that is how it was taught to us or we do the same five poses every time we get on our mats because that is what is familiar and comfortable.
In your yoga practice this week try setting aside your habits and moving out of your comfort zone to explore how your body wants to naturally move in a particular moment. Listen to what your body is telling you and discover what it wants and needs right now. Your mind might tell you to do Warrior II to build strength but after checking in with your body you might discover what you really need is to lie back in a supported supta baddha konasana and breathe deeply.
To access that deeper place of knowing you need to shut out expectations, habits, and voices of others telling you what to do. Take the time to go inside and listen. Your voice might be faint at first, but continue paying attention and soon you will hear it. During the vinyasa portion of class ask yourself if downward facing dog is the pose your body wants right now, or are you doing it because the instructor told you to and everyone else is doing it. Would your body rather take puppy pose or child’s pose? Challenge yourself to take a break from habitual patterns and explore new movements.
On hands and knees start rocking your hips side to side at your own pace. Next, add anything to the rocking that feels good, such as body circles, cat/cow, or sound. I find that closing the eyes encourages a more organic movement from within and shuts out surroundings, and in a class setting, other people. Allowing each person to discover for herself what is good for her body in the present moment. Don’t do hip circles just because that’s what you always do after releasing from downward facing dog. Allow your body and mind to be open to the possibility of new or unfamiliar movements.
Also be aware of getting too attached to any one movement. When I was pregnant with my daughter seven years ago I enjoyed squats immensely. I sat in a squat every opportunity I could find. I even planned on trying to birth my baby in a squat. Well, what do you know, once I was in labor and walking the halls of the labor and delivery floor squatting felt awful. I wanted nothing to do with it, but because I am stubborn I tried to do some of the pushing using the squat bar on the hospital bed. It wasn’t effective and was uncomfortable, so I had to let it go. As much as my mind was pushing me to stick with the squat my body clearly let me know it wasn’t the right position for me in that moment.
Exploring sound is also an amazing way to discover your present wants and needs. During our prenatal transverse abdominus exercise on all fours, explore making sound on the contraction (exhale) – a hissing sound, exhaling through the mouth, or a deep sigh. Try all three or see if something new comes up for you. Turn the music up loud to give you freedom from self-consciousness. When I tried this in class a few weeks ago it was spectacular. The sounds and energy in the room were genuine, coming from a deep place inside. What a perfect match for birthing a baby when the time comes.
I am certainly all for knowing the proper alignment of yoga poses and taking the time to get into them correctly. But I also like the idea of exploring a pose by trying out different arm positions or adding additional movement to a pose that is usually still. For example, walk your feet wide in downward facing dog and rock your hips or sway side-to-side in tree pose. Additionally, try exploring uncharted territory off the yoga mat. Where else in your life can you break free of habitual patterns and discover new sensations or new ways of doing things, or explore new activities? Let’s all practice being explorers this week. Whether on your yoga mat or off, ask your body how it wants to move right now. See what you discover!
Donna teaches Prenatal yoga at PYC on Monday nights at 6:30p and Tuesday mornings at 10a.