In her book Becoming Wise, Krista Tippet explains that she has recently taken up yoga in order to “inhabit her body in all its grace and flaws.” She says,” In yoga, the transitions between postures are a measure of grace as much as the postures themselves. I find myself applying this physical experience in minute ways in the more cerebral course of my working days.”
Transitions Between Postures
Moving between poses is the time when you are most likely to hurt yourself in a yoga class. That’s when you might stop paying attention to the moment and start to anticipate the next pose or movement. Your mind jumps ahead to where you want to be because the current pose is “finished.”
When you move without thinking about it, you tend to use unconscious movement patterns that may cause pain. For instance, you may forget to use your legs when coming out of a position and use your back muscles instead. Add that to possibly rounding your back and you have a recipe for a pulled back muscle or worse.
To keep yourself safe between poses and not just in the pose itself, mindfulness is always the key. Remember to press down into your legs. Especially after savasana, final relaxation pose, use your arms to press yourself up; don’t pop straight up using your back muscles.
Moving Outside of Class
When you move during your day, try to scan the horizon in front of you to make sure there aren’t any obstacles in your way. Don’t look straight down at the floor. You tend to go where you’re looking, and on the floor is not where you want to be. Look forward so you can see something far enough ahead to change course gradually instead of abruptly.
The Eyes Have It
Here’s an exercise to help train your eyes to move and not your head. When you’re able to look around with your eyes while keeping your head facing forward, you’re more likely to see what’s in front of you. If you have to turn your head to see what’s to the side as you walk forward, you risk tripping over something in your path. Caution: if you’re not used to moving your eyes to see things that aren’t directly in front of you, this exercise may initially make you feel slightly nauseous. Take your time and only practice for a few seconds at a time.
Sit comfortably in a chair. Straighten your right arm out in front of you with the thumb or index finger sticking up. Slowly bring your arm over to the right with your arm parallel to the floor. Follow the index finger as far as you can without moving your head. Bring your arm and gaze back to center. Close your eyes, if you need to, and when ready to proceed, straighten your arm again and move it to the left, repeating the process.
Make it more challenging by moving your arm up and down and side to side as you continue to follow it without moving your head. Gradually, your eyes will be able to take in more information as you move forward, allowing you to stay more aware of your surroundings, move more smoothly, and possibly helping you avoid a fall.