By: Virginia Iversen, M.Ed
Many of us have recently made New Year's resolutions, in the hope that we will be able to transform our lives in the year to come. Frequently these New Year's resolutions are physical in nature, particularly if you are a Yoga student or are studyingto be a Yoga teacher. Other spiritual seekers may have made New Year's resolutions that are more central to their internal emotional and psychological landscape. In either case, the strongest foundation from which to create and make New Year's resolutions is to be clearly grounded in the truth of what you really need.
Many of us make New Year's resolutions with only an ambiguous sense of what our real needs are physically, emotional and financially. Before formally resolving to take certain steps in the year to come, clarifying what you really need and want in all areas of your life is critical to the transformative practice of Yoga. "Satya" is a Sanskrit word that is literally translated to mean the truth of reality. Satya also refers to the accordance of one's speech, thought and action. All too often, many of us are discordant in our inner thoughts, speech and action. This discordance can create a pervasive underlying feeling of anxiety and frustration.
In order to move away from a space of anxious survival into a space of expansive well-being and thriving, it is important to clarify what you truly need at every level of your heart, mind and spirit, before implementing your New Year's resolutions. One of the best ways I have found of getting in touch with the truth of my own heart is through the practice of backbends. Back bending Yoga asanas are very powerful tools for releasing the constriction around the heart and throat chakras. When this constriction is released, the underlying truth of your own being is more readily accessible to you.
* Camel Pose or Ustrasana
Camel Pose is a very powerful back bending Yoga posture. This posture is generally accessible to most Yoga students who have some experience. The posture can also be modified to accommodate beginning Yoga students or Yoga students who are particularly tight throughout the front of the body. This pose is usually practiced after a full series of Sun Salutations, standing asanas and balancing postures. It is frequently practiced just prior to seated postures, inversions and finishing poses during a Yoga class.
When you are ready to practice Camel Pose, come to a kneeling position on your Yoga mat. If your knees are sensitive, place a folded blanket underneath you for padding. Keep your knees hip distance apart and the top of your toes flat on your Yoga mat or curled under with the weight of your body resting on your toes, if you have enough flexibility today. To warm up, place your hands on your sacrum with your fingers pointed towards the ceiling. With an inhale; gently lean backwards against your hands as you expand your heart area with your breath. With your next exhale, move slightly back towards an upright position. Continue this process for several breaths.
If your neck is healthy, you may wish to drop your head back, in order to open up your throat area more fully. If you have any neck or upper back issues, please continue to gaze at a point just in front of your Yoga mat, while keeping your head upright. If you would like to enter more deeply into Camel Pose, place your hands on the back of your heels with your fingers pointing down towards the Yoga mat. With each inhale; expand your chest more fully with your breath. With each exhale; gently release the intensity of the posture by moving a few inches back towards an upright position. Continue this wave-like motion with your breath for a total of five breaths, and then release the posture and move into Extended Child's Pose, before proceeding with the rest of your Yoga practice.
If you were working on refining some New Year's resolutions that you have recently made, you may wish to pause for a few moments after you practice Camel Pose, in order to enter some reflections in your journal that arise from the center of your being when you ask yourself the question, "What is it that I really need and want in the year to come?" The answer to this question will help you to become clearer about your own internal truth, or Satya, which will help to guide you in refining your New Year's resolutions. In this way, the resolutions you make and keep during the year to come will truly reflect the light and the love in your own heart.
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 writer and an academic support specialist. She is currently accepting Yoga and health-related writing assignments and may be contacted at:firstname.lastname@example.org.