Welcome! I want to share a fabulous way to start your practice or your day. Easy Sitting Pose or cross-legged position centers mind and body and helps bring awareness to an internal spaciousness that allows us to connect with our deepest, most heartfelt intentions. Bonus: It's also a great hip-opener!
To comfortably practice this simple pose, find a clear and (ideally) soothing space in which to sit. If you're new to the pose, prop yourself on one or two folded blankets to lift your hips higher than your knees. This will encourage your hips to release and take pressure off your knees. Once you are seated, bring one heel in line with the center seam of your pants and place the other heel either in front of or stacked on top of the first. (You might find that you need to prop your knees with blocks or rolled towels if your hips are tight.) Rest your hands, palms up, on your knees. Feel your "sit bones," the bony protruberances that connect with your seat. Rock forward and back & side to side over your sit bones to settle in the exact center. Inhale and lengthen your spine, as though you are drawing your breath through a straw, up your spine, to the top of your head. Keeping the spine long, exhale and release your shoulder blades downward, like waterfalls streaming effortlessly over a mountainside. Allow your head to balance atop your relaxed neck. Close your eyes and bring attention to your breath. Notice that your inhalation is an expanding breath that promotes more length in the spine and greater spaciousness in the rib-cage. Realize that your exhalation is a condensing breath that invites your abdominal muscles to gently move back to support and "kiss the spine."
Do you feel lighter and more buoyant as you inhale? Do you feel grounded as you exhale? These are two of the benefits of the pose. Feeling lighter and more grounded, your mind can find peace. Your consciousness can turn to your heart center where you can tune into what matters most to you. Embracing what you find in your heart, you are in a perfect state of mind to create an intention for your practice or for your day. For example, you might decide to treat yourself kindly and respect your limitations through your practice or throughout your day. How would this shift things for you?
Maintain Easy Sitting Pose anywhere from 3 to 30 minutes, depending on your needs. Your hips and knees will benefit from the passive stretch. Your spine will become stronger in proper alignment and you will strengthen your core. Your neck and shoulders will learn to release. Your nervous system will shift into parasympathetic (rest & digest) mode and your mind will enjoy a quiet spaciousness that promotes clear thinking. You will come to know your deepest heartfelt desires and you will garner the strength to pursue them. Not a bad result of "easy sitting," right?
Helpful Hint: If sitting cross-legged simply won't work for you, sit upright in a firm, high-back chair with feet flat on the floor, hands resting on thighs, palms up. Follow the rest of the instructions above. The benefits will be the same with the exception of hip-opening (which you can do in other ways ... stay tuned for tips on hips!)
Thank you for your interest. I'd love to hear from you, answer questions, respond to comments. Please post your comments below and check back frequently for replies.
PS: Thank you for the above photo, Alex Stavistsky-Zeineddin, fellow yogini, friend and colleague.
The lovely Shannon Mayhew makes meaning of her yoga practice at Inner Reaches.
Step onto your yoga mat and make something of yourself. That's right, it's easy, it's meaningful ... and it's good for your brain. Stand in Mountain Pose and BECOME the mountain ... majestic, intractable, beautiful, powerful, you name it. Balance in Tree Pose and consider the type of tree you are ... a redwood, a willow, a mighty oak, a flowering magnolia? What sort of soil do you grow in? Or, do you grow in water like the mangrove? Do you drop your leaves in the fall? How far do your roots stretch?
Albert Einstein was famous for saying, "Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.” As it turns out, imagination also encircles the brain.
Neuroscientists describe "mental workspaces" in the brain which become active during imagining. These "workspaces" are widespread neural networks that coordinate activity across several regions in the brain and consciously manipulate symbols, images, ideas and theories (Medical News Today, Sept. 22, 2013.) This means that imagination exercises not just specific regions of the brain, as once believed, but many regions at once.
In my yoga classes I encourage students to embody their asanas. This is an act of imagination that stimulates the mental workspaces mentioned above. The more complex the mental image, the further reaching the neural network. In other words, when we "become" the mountain in Tadasana (Mountain Pose) and we mentally conjure the image of a snow capped Mount Ranier, covered in pine forest, supporting wildlife of various kinds, sun shining down, light glinting off of flowing streams ... our brain is working to coordinate messages from visual, auditory, olfactory, and kinesthetic areas, plus engaging memory, and other forms of cognition. Our brains are making meaning of our yoga.
Vrksasana ... Tree Pose, anyone? How much more stimulating it is to our brains to reach our roots deep into the ground, searching through fertile soil for water, drinking nutrients provided by mother earth while stretching our limbs and branches high into the heavens, receiving nourishment in the form of sunlight, offering safe haven to colorful birds and busy squirrels.
So, if you want to exercise your brain while you exercise your body on your yoga mat, make meaning of the poses you practice. Embody the mountain, the tree, the fish, the cobra. Manifest the qualities inherent in the essence of the pose. Envision your surroundings. Smell the odors. Hear the sounds. Engage your imagination as fully as possible. The added plus ... you will have more fun ... and like Einstein, you will encircle the world.
Inner Reaches Blog
Dee Gold M.A., ERYT-500
Dee is owner and director of Inner Reaches Yoga & Health. She has been teaching yoga and practicing healing arts for over 40 years.