Special note: I do not usually open with a “special note;” typically, I write one to highlight or elucidate a thought within an article. Today, however, the writing muses intervened, and an idea-motivated post became a complete practice outline. (I have highlighted five basic yoga postures that arise as a result of the practice.) So heads up!
What a week it has been: nearly recuperated from two months in injured mode, only to re-injure due to carelessness; Full Moon and its effect on sleep (i.e., lack thereof); and a late Winter snowstorm that required heavy digging and lifting, which countermanded gentle healing… My “writing mind” moved into triage-the-moment mode, and thus thoughts of karma took a short hiatus. Or did they?
Last week, I was all set to delve into a piece on the presence and reconciliation of karma through the energetic realms of the 10 Bodies. The recent “injury” (a wear-and-tear scenario coupled with a minute muscle tweak that turned into a limp-inducing, very painful strain) seemed to throw a spotlight on lifelong patterns of physical misalignment and vulnerability: Because I have been highly conscious of karmic patterns, I chose to view the injury as a spiritual tutorial; I would track the types and areas of injury that have followed me through this lifetime.
Then the tumultuous week arrived. Somehow, though, the rough edge of “unfriendliness” that can often accompany such upheavals never arrived. Instead, the sudden shifts of energy and required responses seemed to fit right in with the trajectory of thoughts that I had been contemplating. So, while my aching body seemed to collapse another degree, and Mother Nature delivered her own crippling wallop, my mind was oddly calm—as if it had finally realized that no matter how hard one works, or how bright the integrity of intention, sometimes a complete overhaul of effort and expectation is necessary.
For you, I offer the idea that if ever you find yourself coping with repeating aches or injuries, you might find that going back to the very beginning could be very helpful. Further, even if you feel in top physical shape, and your movements are light and easy, it may be wise to check in with your developmental foundation. Most of my life, I have enjoyed a graceful, freely moving body, so it did not occur to me that some ultimately damaging habits had been hard-wired into my developing anatomy. Even with past injury, I would just be grateful that I healed well, and thus carried on without any thought to deeper structural concerns.
As a result of the hip rotator strain and resulting pelvic rotation that I have been contending with, I found that some of my most beloved yoga poses—including Happy Baby Pose—became unavailable to my body. I could begin on my back with bent legs and arms akimbo, but my ability to easily move the knees and thighs to the floor with my hands was severely limited. I realized that to lie on my back like a flipped bug was a primary developmental position; it made sense that in order to find ease again, I would have to revisit basic movement patterns.
I recalled the thoughts of a Feldenkrais practitioner, David Zemach-Bersin. He reminds us that all animals (mammals), except humans, arrive in this world with a sort of “chip” that activates their ability to stand and walk within a day or so. Humans, however, require about a year of trial, error, and observation, in order to “color in” the neural pathways with efficient muscle memories. Because we may create a picture for our nervous system that is based on skewed input, we therefore also may create a movement foundation that harbors physical vulnerabilities, and subsequently leads to use injuries.
So, try this: Start on your back, lying with bent arms and legs akimbo in the air—Happy Baby-style. Then note how your ribs, shoulders, and hips roll in unison to send you to your side. From there, your elbow makes contact with the floor, and the opposite arm reaches to that side.
Special note: Pay close attention to the kinetic line between elbows and pubic bone; join the three points in your mind as you begin to roll from your side to your belly.
Now on your front, focus on both elbows on the floor in front of you, with a keen felt awareness of your pubic bone. Essentially, this is Sphinx Pose. From there, begin to draw one knee—slowly—in toward your body, pressing up with the base of your palms (emphasis on the thenar, or thumb side). Then the other knee draws in, and you can press onto all fours, i.e., the foundation to crawl—or to practice Cat/Cow.
You are also in the perfect position to rock back and forth from hip to shoulder, or knees to hands, i.e., from tail to head, and head to tail. Bring your attention to your coccyx; instigate the rock forward from the base of the spine as you inhale, and rock back as you exhale and let the ribs and hips open and relax.
Soon, the rocking will spur you to lift your knees; allow them to remain bent as they lift, and straighten your arms at the same time. You will be in a sort of bear crawl, or “ready to pounce” position: You will also be very close to Downward Dog.
At this point, a baby likely will find something to help it stand. For you, try moving hands toward feet (or feet towards hands), staying aware of where you hit a snag. Babies do not “roll up through the spine,” as so many of us have been taught to do; rather, their knees stay bent, as they pull and push their way up through a squat.
Special note: Stay mindful of the previously mentioned connection between pubic bone and elbows. Hold your bent arms easily by your side or at shoulder level; as your begin to rise, visualize the triangle of energy between elbows and pubic bone. As you straighten up, retain that pathway; your neck will likely lengthen as you come to full standing. Arrive in Tadasana.
This is a slow, mindful practice, and with practice and repetition, it can establish a cleared and restored base from which to operate. Thus, we return to the notion of karma; Just as the physical technique described here is one way to retrain and rejuvenate the body, the spiritual and energetic pathways of the 10 Bodies can help us redirect and reconcile our karma.