By: Virginia Iversen, M.Ed
Recently, I have become more and more aware of how my approach to my Yoga practice “on the mat” directly reflects my stance towards my life “off the mat.” Although this internal stance towards my life may not always feel flattering to me, it is highly illuminating. With this knowledge, I am able to shift some of my less than optimal approaches towards life to a stance that supports a greater sense of gratitude, dignity and abundance.
As we are fast approaching the celebration of Thanksgiving in the United States, the awareness of the fullness or scarcity in our lives may be more pronounced. By witnessing our approach to our own Yoga practice, we will be able to gain a deeper inner awareness and knowledge about what works for us personally, both on and off the mat, so that we may choose to increase a sense of optimism, energy and gratitude in our own lives.
This cultivation of gratitude may be as simply as taking a moment to bow our heads at the end of our Yoga practice, in order to thank ourselves for our own effort on the mat and to offer a prayer of thanksgiving for having the time and physical health, which allows us to practice Yoga. Likewise, to take a moment at the beginning of a Yoga class or personal practice to become aware of the abundance in our lives helps to generate an open heart, cultivate gratitude and, in turn, generate more abundance in our lives.
One of the best ways to increase the sense of gratitude, fullness and well-being through Yoga is the practice of backbends. Back bending Yoga poses open up the entire front side of the torso, including the heart and throat chakras. These chakras often get block or shut down when we experience heartbreak, frustration or disappointment. By practicing Yoga poses that enhance the flow of energy throughout these areas, we will release the energetic knots that block us from experiencing the love in our own hearts.
* Upward Plank Pose or Purvottanasana
Upward Plank Pose is a very strong heart- opening Yoga posture. It stretches out the entire front side of the torso, including the throat chakra area. If you are healing from a wrist injury or have a neck injury, it is recommended that you practice a more restorative back bending pose, such as Supported Goddess Pose. Upward Plank Pose is generally practiced after a series of Sun Salutations, standing poses and balancing asanas. It is a counter pose for Upward Facing Dog Pose.
When you are ready to practice Upward Plank Pose, sit on your Yoga mat with your legs extended. Place your hands approximately 18 inches behind your hips with your fingers pointing towards your toes. With your next inhale, raise your torso in the air and gently bend your neck back. If you are an intermediate Yoga student, keep your legs extended straight out in front of you.
If this pose is too intense for you with your legs extended out in front of you, bend your knees to modify the pose. Keep your knees parallel to each other and hip distance apart. The elongation and expansion throughout the front of your torso will still be quite pronounced. If you have a neck injury, do not drop your head back, keep your neck straight or support your head on a chair. If this pose strains your neck at all, please practice a restorative back bending Yoga pose instead.
Hold Upward Plank Pose for three full breaths. With your next exhale, release the pose and come back to a seated position on your Yoga mat. Repeat Upward Plank Pose two more times, and then move into Extended Child’s Pose in order to release any tension that may have accumulated in your lower back. As the emotional holding and muscular contraction releases throughout the torso, heart and throat chakra areas, you will feel a sense of expansion and a deeper sense of abundance and gratitude gently vibrating throughout your entire being.
Virginia Iversen, M.Ed, has been practicing and studying the art of Yoga for over twenty years. She lives in Woodstock, New York, where she works as a yoga and health-related freelance writer and an academic support specialist. She may be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org.