03 Dec How many Chaturangas does it take…?
The Bhagavad Gita says that, “Yoga is perfect evenness of the mind,” and we are all thinking how great that idea sounds. I would definitely love some evenness in my crazy loopy loop mind! Then during class our beloved teacher puts us in a pose like chaturanga Dandasana, and we are all thinking, “Evenness my a—“…uh, well you know what you were thinking.
We tend to think of poses in terms of extremes- reaching our hands and feet as far away as possible, wishing that our arms were longer, or for hips that are more open. My first goal in the beginning of my practice was to touch my toes in paschimottanasana, but then it was about reaching even farther out in every pose while my core was just something I sucked in once in a while when the teacher mentioned it. I thought that by stretching and pushing my body to the outer edges that one day I would finally reach enligh- Ouch!
Yup, went too far and strained, pulled, snapped some poor defenseless muscle that was supposed to be happy doing this yoga stuff.
It’s easy to get sucked into reaching beyond to some better other self, yet in yoga we are taught the opposite. Pratyahara is the 5th limb of yoga that we don’t think about because we get stuck in 3. Asana, and 4. Pranayama. Pratyahara is the withdrawal of the senses to deepen meditation. We learn to turn our attention inward so we can focus on the true inner Self.
What if we started every pose by first connecting within and then extending out from the root?
Enter Chaturanga Danadasana- audience cheers!
Don’t worry- this is the part that we find that mental evenness. The core is not just one part of the body that gets tortured by crunches.
Get into your mental chaturanga.
Start from the feet, heels together while the ankles roll in and down toward the arches. The thighs roll in and up while the hips are squeezing in. Exhale to feel the abdomen lifting up so the lumbar spine is supported. Elbows are drawing in as we press into the index finger and thumb creating lift in the chest on the inhale. Notice you are shaking (a lot for how long this tutorial is taking). This is a good thing. Your muscles are learning how to support your bones that are reaching back through the heels and forward through the crown of the head.
Bam! That’s it! The more we draw inward, the more we can expand out. In every pose there is a pause where we engage from the soles of the feet to the crown of the head, then inhale and extend. The exhale reconnects us with our root. It’s not just one little hamstring, or bicep, but the entire body connected, unified, balanced, and yes, perfectly even.