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For Beginners: Lolasana

This simple yet demanding pose builds courage, poise, and confidence to explore more challenging arm balances.

By Peter Sterios

Courage has many faces. The most visible face of courage, and the one that we tend to value most, is the kind found in front-page headlines or on the big screen. Heroes have it, warriors have it, survivors have it. It is a quality we all aspire to in varying degrees, yet those of us who work and live "normal" lives often feel there is little opportunity to exercise our personal courage.

However, we often discount the significance of the many little things that require trust, faith, and bravery. Learning to recognize these small opportunities is a valuable skill for times when a big crisis shakes us from our routine. When we practice hatha yoga, we initiate a process that is, by its very nature, progressive. We start with little things, and with practice we build our stamina, strength, and courage. In the midst of this lie the seeds for transformation—opportunities to break ingrained patterns of reaction, physical and emotional.

Recognizing these patterns and determining whether you are practicing with good intentions is not easy. Ultimately, the quality of your practice can be measured by its effect on your response to the many stresses that occur in everyday life. If yoga helps you to respond more creatively and positively, then you are on the right track. Whether you are attending a beginner class or practicing at home, your first little steps in yoga take courage. And to continue to take those steps over the course of your life will require even more.

Lolasana (Pendant Pose) is a beginning arm balance that presents an experience requiring courage: the courage necessary to literally pull yourself up off the floor. The Sanskrit word lola can be translated as "fickle, frequently changing, trembling, quivering, or dangling to and fro like an earring." Interestingly, Lola is also another name for the goddess of fortune and wealth, Lakshmi, who represents the power of multiplicity.

As you begin this pose, you are likely to feel unsure; you may even tremble or quiver with fear. But like an earring hanging lightly from a delicate lobe, Lolasana, when mastered, will offer you a quality of lightheartedness, defying the "gravity" of your situation, so you sway gently with the nature of change.

To begin the pose, come down onto your hands and knees with your legs together and the tops of the feet flat. Placing your right shin over the left, cross your shins just above the ankles. Keep your knees close to each other and let your feet turn out. Slowly sit back on your heels and take weight onto your feet as you lift the right knee vertically up off the floor three to four inches. Initially, rest your hands on the knees as you settle into the preliminary part of the pose. Much like Simhasana (Lion Pose), this first stage of Lolasana helps develop flexibility in the lower legs and feet, improving knee and ankle function.

Stay in this position for three or four cycles of breath, keeping the sound of your inhalations and exhalations smooth and even. Although the sensations where the shin bones cross can be intense, have patience with your experience and visualize your shin bones softening, allowing the connective tissue of the lower legs to release.

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