A Bird's Eye View
Since February I've been focusing on practicing and teaching yoga's bird poses. Where I concentrate on tearing apart and putting together one bird posture a week. During each week's worth of bird pose study I'm finding now that it is April the students and I are beginning to soar rather than fret into the balancing demands and heart opening grace of the bird of the week.
I'm practicing this way now because for years I've been suppressing a feeling when it comes to yoga teaching and that is yoga and fashion have a lot in common. Isn't true that you don't wear a puffy parka during summer's heat or shorts during the freezing cold? Now I'm tuning in more and more to nature's seasonal cue to practice particular postures that compliment balancing my energy during the changing seasons of the year. Whether we like it or not everything changes. The weather, our likes, dislikes, the money you earn and so does our taste in dressing ourselves. Why doesn't your yoga teacher switch things around more often and teach postures that compliment your energy during a rainstorm or high winds? You may want to ask.
Ayurveda the natural and medicinal sister practice to yoga teaches that February in the northern hemisphere marks late winter, the beginning of the Kapha season (pronounced coff-uh like a cough). During the Kapha season winter's snow melts more often than it sticks to the ground. You can expect more rainy, windy and chilly days ahead along with the earth swelling with water ready to push through new shoots of fresh growth. With moister and cooler air comes excess mucus that clogs our sinuses while those airborne particles that make us cough and allergic begin to stick to our moist noses, eyes and throat making us sick, run down and feeling heavy.
To counter the lethargic feelings that comes along with nature's dominance of both the earth and water elements from February to late spring, I've made it a point to focus my yoga posture teachings and personal at home practice on poses that make us feel sunny and warm such as repeating plenty of flowing Sun Salutations mixed with a bunch of airy and space activating postures like the wide variety of bird arm balances. There's crow, flying crow, twisted crow, peacock and peacock feather pose otherwise known as the inversion forearm stand. Eagle and bird of paradise poses are one legged standing balancing postures which invite your inner winds to turn turbulent and produce an internal shake or two for you to ride your breath in addition to practicing upper chest opening backbends where you can fluff up and open the tight muscles of your upper chest, shoulder joints and release your tight hips to the earth in the endless varieties of seated pigeon poses. If you soften your senses enough while you're in these postures you will feel nature's elements of sun, air and space enter your body and heal it. Practicing these postures during the cold and wet days of the Kapha season has made me feel more balanced and alert each time I walk off the yoga mat and back into my life.
Now that early spring has sprung in the northern hemisphere I'm noticing north eastern snow birds are flocking back to town. In this case I'm referring to the human variety that has winter homes down south in the tropics. Classes are filling up with golden bronze shoulders and the ladies are wearing fruity colored nail polish to contrast their skin's sunny glow. On their arrival I'm left to teaching about two or so more weeks of bird poses. I'm still researching to see if I left one bird out. As I do I've come to realize my favorite bird postures to practice are the seated heart and hip opening variety. I guess this discovery is in perfect alignment to my new life of being at home more often and nesting as well as having tight biceps from carrying and caring for my 6 month old son Krishna. Mommies who change endless amounts of diapers get a lot of tight shoulder release from practicing backbends and sitting down is always a treat. Being in pigeon postures is perfect for me now.
As a result of loving the seated bird postures I've come to learn by way of observing myself and many students get into the postures that although the pigeon variations are seated there's a quality of balancing the 2 sitting bones, pubis bone and tail bone to converge and meet the ground in order to take root like a tree before the pose can grow. I'll get into the nitty gritty of pigeon pose in another blog post because I've come to rediscover this past week the delight of practicing the seated bird pose heron/krunchasana, a white long necked sub-tropical bird, perfect for the snow birds. I experienced the same fact of rooting the four bones of the pelvis is true for this pose as well as making it a seated balancing pose which invites the air element into the body just as pigeon does.
Take a look at the photo posted of me of me above practicing heron pose. One leg is extended upward and the other is bent at the knee in half hero's pose. When you sit like this most hips can't balance on the floor. To ground your 2 sit bones, pubis and tail bone placing a folded blanket under the hip that is hovering off the floor is best. I can't tell you which hip because it is different for everyone and can vary depending on the weather, your body and consciousness. Sometimes I like to sit both hips on a folded blanket while on other days I don't want any support to ground.
A tip to practice once your grounded is to round your lower spine like the base of an egg. How fitting for April and spring's spirit of rebirth. From there you can unfurl your upper spine to point upward like a heron's long neck and catch the sun's rays on your upper chest as you puff up your chest like a bird.
Finally the Basics class inspired me most while teaching heron pose this past week. I asked the students to be like a shaman while in the posture embodying the heron's spirit and wisdom. To imagine what it would be like to fly through the winds of the sky realm and feel the sun from a new angle. After I said this I opened my eyes to take a look at the class and they were in it. They appeared to be fully immersed in their bird. I gently asked them to come out of the pose and no one heard me. This makes me happy!
As I ponder my next series of teaching the greening of the earth begins. How exciting as we feel new possibilities are in the air.
Vintage tunic from Monsoon London, tights Forever 21, necklace Laila Rowe, multi hoop earrings from NYC street vendor
How to cover up after practicing on a chilly April afternoon.
I don't have a classical khaki trench coat. Here's my trench vest, Forever 21, underneath is a Theory cropped blazer circa 2009, bangle from Forever 21, tote, NYC street vendor, mint green scarf is inspired by the pale shade of green I'm seeing on the trees these days. The scarf is gifted from India.
Clogs, Forever 21, are the perfect after yoga slip on shoe. It is still chilly outside making socks the same shade of brown as my tights and shoes a must to elongate the look. Socks, Filene's Basement
Hat, Pookie & Sebastian circa 2009, works great to face NYC's street corner's winds and covers after yoga practice hair.