Chatturanga Cowabunga

With a name like “Chatturanga Cowabunga”, how could tonight’s tech session be anything but fun?  : )

(Non-yogis: For many folks in many a yoga class, the pose chatturanga can be the antithesis of “fun”.  It can be a very challenging pose [to put it mildly]; but it is one of the poses in a sun salutation series [which are done frequently in yoga classes].  {For a visual of the sun salutation series, see the image in the header of this blog.}  Chatturanga is a pose that is also included in a mini-series of moves called a “vinyasa” [also done frequently in many yoga classes].  So, like it or not, if a person does yoga for even a class or two, they’ll likely run into chatturanga.)

In fact, our teacher began tonight’s class with this introduction: “Clearly we get to do chatturanga tonight; and, well, it’s just going to hurt.”  And she said it all with such a big smile on her face; so again I ask, how could this be anything but fun?  : )

But seriously, honestly, I was looking forward to this session.  Yes, chatturanga can be challenging; but I’m 99% confident I’m doing things with my body before, during, and after the pose that make it even more difficult than it needs to be.  So I was eager to learn how I was making the pose hard, so that I could then learn how to make it easier on myself.

One primary physical “no-no” I do frequently (both on and off the yoga mat) is using my shoulder muscles to do work that other parts of my body should carry.  I literally try to “muscle my way through” something that is hard – and my shoulders (and neck) bear the burden (much to their chagrin).  Chatturanga is a pose that actually looks like the shoulders could be important part of it; but that’s just an illusion.  In reality, the feet and legs should bear a good portion of the weight of this pose; and while my mind knew that my shoulders (and neck) were too “active” in this pose, my body couldn’t figure out what to change to make it different.

This is where the power of a strong, knowledgeable teacher comes in to play.  Our teacher this evening gave us two instructions that literally changed my pose in about three minutes:

  1. Kick the heels back.  (This “activates” the legs, basically telling them that they can’t slack, they have to work; and this action of putting real physical energy into the heels gets the legs to truly engage, and begin to carry weight and support the rest of the body.)
  2. From push-up pose, go down to chatturanga fast, not slow.  (In numerous classes, I have heard the instruction to move from push-up pose down to chatturanga in a slow, controlled way.  Our teacher tonight basically said instead of trying to inch down into a pose incorrectly, why not just get to the pose fast and then hold it properly once we get there?)

Once I heard these instructions, my mind worked to process and understand them; but my body was the entity that really had to “get” them.  And our teacher, seeing that for most of us, our minds were presently the strongest muscle in our bodies, told us very clearly and directly, “Stop thinking.  Get into push-up pose.  Kick your heels back.  Inhale deeply.  Then exhale, drop, and GO!”  So I tried, then I did, I did, I did, and I did.  And I got it!!

And our teacher saw me (and others, but I’ll just speak for myself) transition from these little Type-A, perfectionistic, analytical, diagnostic people into these body-focused, present-moment-centered beings who weren’t thinking about yoga, but who were doing yoga.  And as our teacher saw each of us individually cross over the imaginary-but-palpable line from “thinking” yoga to doing yoga, from striving to being, she got giddy!  She delighted in our success; she had as much joy helping us get there as we had in arriving.  It was amazing for me to experience my own success; but it was equally fun and rewarding for me to witness our teacher’s enthusiasm and pleasure in both our individual and our collective triumph.

Then literally seconds later, 9 o’clock came, the class ended, and I got in my car and headed home.  But I smiled the entire drive back to the house.  Such is the power of this practice, and the beautiful people who come together to share it.

God, I love this.



About Stef

A "serious" gal who is trying to remember to lighten up and smile.
This entry was posted in Tech Session, yoga and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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