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Steady as She Goes

Be ready for life's inevitable storms by cultivating balance and stability.

By Karen Macklin, sequence by Shannon Paige Schneider

SteadyAsSheGoes

Whether you're new to yoga or have been practicing for years, life offers plenty of circumstances that can throw you off course. Shannon Paige Schneider, the founder of Om Time yoga center in Boulder, Colorado, and a cancer survivor, knows how challenging it is to stay steady and balanced during tough times.

At first glance, her go-to sequence for training yourself to handle life's difficult moments may seem surprising. It's not a soothing set of restorative poses nor a meditation—it's a fun and lively series of asymmetrical poses that teach you to find your center and balance. These poses offer an incredible opportunity to practice steadiness in precarious situations, says the Prana Flow teacher.

If you can maintain presence in shapes that make you teeter-totter, you can observe where you overextend and where you hold back. You can learn to identify where you are weak and in need of strength or where you are rigid and in need of release. Then, by drawing your energy more evenly toward the midline of your body, you'll establish a steady center in spite of the asymmetry. When you learn to work skillfully to bring a wobbly pose into balance, you can call on those same skills during difficult or unsteady times in your life.

Eventually, you may learn to be at ease—and even find joy—in moments when you don't have two feet planted firmly on the ground. "Most of your life is going to be spent in asymmetry," says Schneider. "You need to learn to enjoy the wobble."

Home Practice

Watch: A video of this Home Practice sequence can be found online at yogajournal.com/livemag.

To Begin: Find a comfortable seated position and close your eyes. As you sit, encourage a strong sense of physical and emotional equanimity to prepare for your practice.

To Finish: Take Balasana (Child's Pose) for several breaths and then rest in Savasana (Corpse Pose) for 5 minutes. Release into the feeling of integration and equanimity that you've cultivated through your practice.

1. Standing Sidebend

Stand with your feet sitting bone-distance apart. Lift your arms overhead and hold your right wrist with your left index finger and thumb, right palm facing left. Root down evenly through the soles of your feet and lean to the left. Draw the right lower ribs back and in to keep them in line with the left lower ribs. Stay for 1 full breath. Lift up to center, switch hands, and lean to the opposite side. Repeat 3 times.




2. Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend)

From standing, bow forward over your legs and place your hands or fingertips on the floor. If your fingers don't reach the floor, bend your knees. Lift your toes, spread them wide, and place them down again. Ground down equally through the inner and outer edges of your feet, and through your toes and heels, creating a strong connection between your feet and the earth. Stay for 5 breaths as you inhale to lengthen the spine and exhale to deepen the bow.





3. Utkatasana (Chair Pose)

Root evenly into your feet, bend your knees, and lower your hips to sit back into a chair position. Lift your belly and torso away from your thighs and clasp your hands behind your lower back. To prevent the low back from curving in too deeply, draw your lower floating ribs in. Then bend your elbows slightly, squeeze your forearms toward each other, and stretch your arms away from your seat. After 5 breaths, fold forward and release your hands to the floor.




4. Cat Pose, variation

Come onto hands and knees with your shoulders over your wrists and your hips over your knees. On an inhalation, round your spine and pull your right knee toward your navel as you drop the crown of your head toward your knee. Keep the energy of the pose evenly distributed by pressing down equally into both palms and your left knee.



5. Cow Pose, variation

On an exhalation, arch your spine and extend the sole of the right foot skyward, keeping your right knee bent. Lengthen the back of the neck and look forward. As you lift the right foot higher, draw the lower ribs in on the right side to keep from overarching and compressing the low back. Repeat poses 4 and 5, pulsing back and forth with your breath 5 times with your right leg, and then switch sides.




6. Eka Pada Adho Mukha Svanasana (One-Legged Downward-Facing Dog Pose)

Roll your toes under and lift your knees, pressing back into Downward-Facing Dog. Step your feet together. Lift your right leg up and back behind you. Point your right pinky toe down toward the earth to keep the hips parallel. Activate your left and right legs equally while strongly engaging the arms to keep balance in the pose. Move your lower ribs in to prevent your low back from overarching. Stay for 5 breaths, release your right leg down, and take the left side.



7. High Lunge

From Downward Dog, step your right foot forward. With your right knee over the right ankle, press back through the heel of the left foot. On an inhalation, lift your torso and arms up. To create steadiness in the asymmetry, pull the right hip crease back, squeeze your inner thighs toward each other, and lift up out of the lower back. Keep the back of your neck long. Stay for 5 breaths. Then release, step back to Down Dog, and repeat on the other side.




8. Anahatasana (Heart Chakra Pose)

From Down Dog, release your knees to the floor. Keep your hips over your knees and walk your hands forward until your arms are straight. Press through the palms of the hands, roll the forearms toward each other, and roll your upper arms away from your ears. Allow your heart to sink toward the earth. Take 5 breaths here as you inhale to lift up a bit out of the pose and exhale to sink deeper, pulsing slightly with the breath.



9. Ardha Bhekasana (Half Frog Pose)

Slide forward onto your belly and prop yourself up on your forearms. Bend your left knee and take hold of your left foot with your left hand, pressing the heel down toward the left hip. Draw your inner thighs toward each other, and press down through your right pinky toe. Move your right ribs in and press your left side body forward. Take 5 breaths, repeat on the right side, then press back to Down Dog.



10. Ustrasana (Camel Pose), variation

Step your right foot forward, stacking the right knee over your right ankle. Take your left knee to the floor, keeping your left toes curled under. With your arms by your sides, lift your upper back. To create balance and equanimity in the pose, tone the inner thighs toward each other and pull the right hip back to parallel with the left. Hold your left heel with your left hand, and lift your right arm skyward, moving your right lower ribs back. Stay steady and strong for 5 breaths; then lift up and repeat on the second side.



Watch: A video of this Home Practice sequence can be found online at yogajournal.com/livemag.

October 2011

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