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Empower Yourself

Infuse asana with affirmations and call forth your deepest intentions.

By Elizabeth Winter; sequence by Shiva Rea

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Though most yogis would agree that yoga is about more than stretching and strengthening, it's easy to get caught up in the physical forms of poses. In this practice by Shiva Rea, devote time to observing the emotions that arise as you move.

Rea, the renowned creator of Prana Flow Yoga, designed the sequence beginning on the next page to link asanas with particular feelings or states of being, known as bhavas. Rea believes that every pose elicits certain bhavas and that by becoming aware of the feelings that arise during your asana practice, you can create a strong connection with your deepest intentions.

To that end, Rea combines each asana with intentions to invoke through your practice. In Vajrasana (Thunderbolt Pose), for example, Rea suggests the affirmation "I am awakening ___." After assuming the shape of Vajrasana, say, "I am awakening" aloud and see what comes to mind. Perhaps you are awakening courage, or awakening to new possibilities in your life. Complete each affirmation as you go, seeing what comes up as you assume the shape of the pose. Alternatively, you can choose one intention, such as hope, humility, or strength, and use that as the focus of your entire practice.

Don't underestimate the power of these affirmations. "Listening to the heart can lead to personal changes, which in turn can lead to changes on the planet," says Rea. Return to this practice and, over time, notice how your physical yoga practice becomes infused with your deepest feelings and intentions.

Before You Begin

Salute. Practice 3 to 5 rounds of your favorite Sun Salutation.

1. Vajrasana (Thunderbolt Pose)

From a kneeling position, sit back on your heels with an elongated spine. Bring your hands to your heart center in Anjali Mudra (Salutation Seal). Keeping your eyes soft, gaze down at your hands and visualize an inner flame. Listen within and complete the inner dedication "I am awakening ___."

2. Agni Kriya (Heat-Generating Sequence)

Come onto all fours and step back into Plank Pose. Complete the inner dedication "I am igniting ___." On an inhalation, press your hands into the earth and draw your right knee toward your navel, allowing your spine to curve into a gentle arc. On an exhalation, return to Plank. Repeat the action with the left leg. Continue for 5 to 10 rounds or for up to 1 minute, depending on your strength.

3. Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog Pose), variation

Exhale back into Adho Mukha Svanasana, bringing the inner edges of your feet together. Reach your right leg up and back, and stretching through the leg, complete the inner dedication "I am opening to." On an exhalation, bring your right foot between your hands and place your back heel down at a 45-degree angle. Lift your torso to come into Virabhadrasana I (Warrior Pose I).

4. Virabhadrasana I (Warrior Pose I)

In Virabhadrasana I, bring your arms to your sides and meditate on the inner dedication "I am rising to ___." When you have completed the affirmation, inhale and lift through your torso, bringing your arms overhead.

5. High Lunge, variation

Exhale and lower your arms back by your sides. Interlace your fingers behind your back. Bow your torso forward to the inside of your right leg, bringing the crown of the head toward your right inner ankle. Bring your arms toward your head. Complete the inner dedication "I am releasing ___."

6. Virabhadrasana I (Warrior Pose I), variation

On an inhalation, lift your torso back to Virabhadrasana I and reach your arms overhead. Meditate on the inner dedication "I am receiving ___." On an exhalation, open your arms 1 to 2 feet out to the sides, allowing the elbows to bend slightly and widening the space between your hands.

7. Anahatasana (Heart Chakra Pose)

Release Virabhadrasana I and come onto all fours so that your hips are over your knees. Walk your hands out in front of you until your arms are straight, then lower your heart and forehead to the ground. Pull your low belly in toward your spine while drawing your hips away from your hands, creating gentle traction in your spine. Meditate on the dedication "I am bowing to ___" and allow the quality of humility to permeate your being.

8. Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose)

Slide forward on your belly, placing your hands on the ground by the sides of your chest. Keep your elbows bent. Elongate your tailbone toward your heels. Meditate on an aspect of your life you'd like to devote more of yourself to. Complete the inner dedication "I am loving ___" and, with that feeling, lift your spine up, supporting yourself on your hands or fingertips. Repeat poses 3 through 8, beginning on the left side.

9. Hanuman Kriya (Movement Meditation for Hanuman)

Draw back to Adho Mukha Svanasana and, resting quietly in the pose, meditate on what you'd like to liberate in yourself and your life. Complete the dedication "I am liberating ___." Bring your right foot forward between your hands, coming into a lunge. Jump lightly up, bringing your legs together, and land on the other side. Keep the movement free and flowing. Continue switching legs for 30 seconds to 1 minute.

10. Balasana (Child's Pose)

Rest in Child's Pose, placing your arms above your head and allowing your breath to settle into a natural rhythm. On the next few exhalations, feel your sacrum broaden and your hips release into the earth. Complete the final dedication, "I am grounding in ___," to anchor your practice.

After You Finish

Fold and Open. Rest in several hip-opening forward bends such as Upavistha Konasana (Wide-Angle Seated Forward Bend) or the forward-folding variation of Eka Pada Raja-kapotasana (One-Legged King Pigeon Pose) to continue cultivating a quiet stillness.

Go Upside Down. Practice Sarvangasana (Shoulderstand) or Sirsasana (Headstand) to nourish your body after this invigorating sequence.

February 2009

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