Today's Daily Tip
Twist & Soar
When I decided to start surfing a few months ago, friends said, "Oh, you're a yogini, it'll be no problem." But the first time I tried to stand on my board, I flailed, freaked, and wiped out like a true beginner. It took months to develop even a little comfort up there. But that's one of the reasons I love learning this new sport. Exploring a realm in which I'm a complete newbie gives me the chance to enjoy the transition from awkwardness to embodied grace, from fragmentation to wholeness. It's also an exhilarating way to experience the process of yoga.
When I first got on the board, I had to concentrate on each individual action in order to balance on a wave. Now, movement is starting to come more naturally and my consciousness is able to disperse itself throughout my entire body. I can still feel awkward at times, but I am beginning to tap into the rhythm of catching a wave, and I can feel the yoga happening.
Deepak Chopra, a leader in the field of mind-body medicine, describes this yogic process as moving from a local view to global intelligence. It's something we often experience in yoga, and Visvamitrasana (Visvamitra's Pose) is an ideal pose in which to play with this visceral shift from local to global consciousness.
Named after an ambitious king who transformed himself into a yogic sage, Visvamitrasana is a complex asana: It's an arm balance, hip opener, shoulder opener, hamstring stretch, and twist, all in one. As you practice it, you'll notice—just as I did with surfing—that you start by focusing on separate parts of your body, which inhibits your balance, rhythm, and flow. But with dedication, all of the seemingly separate parts and actions will come together, and the energy of the asana will come alive.
Before You Begin
Visvamitrasana is something to save for the peak of your yoga practice. It's important that you thoroughly warm up your hamstrings, hips, shoulders, and side waist before going into the pose. Try a warm-up sequence that includes the following: Sun Salutations, Trikonasana (Triangle), Parsvakonasana (Side Angle Pose), Virabhadrasana II (Warrior Pose II), Malasana (Garland Pose), and Prasarita Padottanasana (Wide-Legged Standing Forward Bend). Prepare for the arm balance with Tolasana (Scale Pose) and Bhujapidasana (Shoulder-Pressing Pose).
In this variation, you'll experience the shape of the pose without the heat and challenge of the arm balance. I discovered it while practicing at home with my cat Choochie nearby, and I will never forget the feline relaxation I felt. But before you begin, consider yourself forewarned: This asana requires you to move in ways that may cause you to feel like a pretzel. Be patient and allow yourself to develop the mind-body awareness you need to do it. The pose will also give you feedback on the range of motion in your hamstrings, hips, and torso, so move slowly and respectfully as those areas warm up.
First, lie on your back and lengthen your spine by moving your feet and the crown of your head away from each other. Reach through your left heel as you bend your right knee and pull it up toward your chest. Slowly extend your right leg up toward the sky in Supta Padangusthasana (Reclining Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose). If your hamstrings feel tight, bend your knee slightly and stay here at the first stage of this pose.