Yesterday was a bright and frigid February day - the kind that yield brief love-affairs with winter - and I spent it as I spend most of my days, sitting at my laptop writing. I couldn't seem to wake up or clear my mind, I was getting progressively frustrated at my inability to put together this blog entry. Copious amounts of coffee produced only numerous bathroom breaks, and my vexation only augmented, leaving me unable to produce much of value at all that day. Then, while soaking in the tub last night I realized that what I needed was, (as usual) right under my nose: If I had only done the pose which I was so painstakingly trying to write about, I might have actually succeeded! It's an embarrassing oversight to admit - especially as a yoga teacher - but this was a perfect example of how easily the mind can get carried off in a whirling sandstorm of unnecessary thoughts and tasks, and loose grip of how to get back down to the ground (and to work). It can be so difficult, especially for us self-directed freelancers, to be focused and productive, to be the manager and the employee in a sense, as well as to be compassionate with ourselves in those moments when are simply uninspired. So for those of you having trouble focusing on your task at hand, even though the last thing you might think you need is to step away from your project, it's probably the best thing to do. So get off your butt and throw your legs in the air with Viparita Kanari. Also known as legs up the wall, is a deliciously restorative pose that helps relieve headaches, mild backache and anxiety. This pose is perfect any time of day, as it calms the nervous system, thereby relaxing your mind, lending clarity and coherence to an otherwise scattered brain, and is an especially good alternative to sleeping pills : now that's a mighty fine asana.
The Set Up:
Find a nice empty slice of wall space in the warmest most relaxing room of your home. Turn off your phone, shutdown your computer and mind, and put the top edge of your mat or blanket right against the wall. Sit with your right hip a few inches away from the wall, and swing your legs up against the wall as you lie down on your mat. Your legs and lower back should be comfortable, so adjust the distance between the your bum and the wall until you are resting effortlessly, (if you are shorter, you will be closer to the wall, and visa versa). Settle your shoulder blades flat against your mat, and slightly tuck your chin into your chest to open and release the back of the neck.
Let your thoughts melt away, and focus instead on the sensations in your legs, and breathing deep into your lower belly. Let your body be heavy and grounded. Rub your palms together to create warmth, then place them over your closed eyes, letting the fingers fall over the forehead. This releases eye-tension, and from here, massage the temples and the cheeks over the jaw bone. Then grab an eye pillow (aka shirt sleeve, scarf or tie) placing it over the eyes, and bring your arms down to the ground, palms up, about a foot from your body. Notice what is feels like to surrender all effort in the body; notice what it feels like to surrender every thought.
When you are ready to come out of the pose (I suggest hanging out in it for 10 minutes), slowly bend your knees, hugging them into your chest, rocking side to side to release the lower back, and roll over to one side, resting here in fetal position until you are ready to sit up. Stay sitting on your mat or blanket for a few moments with your eyes closed: how different does your body feel from when you first sat down? What about your mind?
How can you bring the same sense of ease and surrender into your art today?
What would you create from an inner landscape that is calm and grounded?
How could the state of mind you find in this pose help you cope with an unproductive day and move forward?