Creative Connections Week 2

Winter Trees
Winter Trees, mixed media, 2015

Students began week two of my art and yoga program called “Creative Connections”.  The focus pose of the week was vrkasana, or tree pose.  It’s always a favorite, and everyone seems to know this pose no matter what.  This group was no exception and was very open to learning more about balance when we practiced yoga.

Why is vrkasana, or tree pose important?

Tree pose is a really good pose for a lot of reasons, but I think the main reason is because it allows us to practice a lot of different things within one pose.  We have to be patient, focused, and steady.  If we’re not, our body definitely lets us know because we may lose our balance.

Patience:  tolerance, acceptance, self-restraint.  Vrkasana requires a bit of determination. But it’s also about slowing down and being purposeful with your practice.  It’s not necessary to quickly pop up into tree. It’s important to slow down, notice what you feel, and adjust to make sure you’re not over doing it.  We may know how to do tree pose already and feel like we can balance, however, what knowledge do you lose by not taking your time and being mindful of how you got there?

Being patient also means accepting where you’re at.  Have you ever noticed how you feel when you do tree on the opposite leg?  Well, it may feel different, or you may not feel at ease on one side.  It’s ok, notice what you feel, accept that one side is different from the other and breathe.

Having tolerance is also an important part of vrkasana and all throughout yoga.  Yoga allows us to practice tolerance by being willing to participate.  There may be a time when your mind is sending you all kinds of messages to stop what you’re doing.  Coming back to your breath and realizing that it’s just tree pose, remind yourself it’s temporary, you will come out of the pose and move on to something else.  If you’re uncomfortable in tree pose, notice what you notice, be willing to adjust and practice what you can, knowing that the pose is there to teach you something about yourself.  Balancing is an action, and if you’re in the act of being in tree or falling out of it, it’s all part of the pose and the practice of yoga.

Focus:  centered attention.  Ok, I’ll admit it.  This is a hard one.  I like to look around the room and see what’s going on with everyone, just like the rest of us.  I get interested in what others are doing, I get distracted by noises and what’s going on in the environment.  It’s hard sometimes to be mindful only about yourself, because we care about so many other things.  Some of those things are even thoughts that keep us from focusing on our yoga.  So the next time you notice yourself looking or thinking, check yourself.  All you have to do is notice, call it what it is, and come back to the breath.  This focus can allow us to do really amazing stuff, not just balance on one foot on our mats.

Steady: stable, constant, unchanging.  When we first learned about steadiness, we talked about tadasana,”mountain pose”.  The reason why we started there was to use the simple act of standing to physically feel a connection with the surface beneath our feet.  We actively paid attention to how we were standing and grounded down through to bottoms of our feet so we could feel the whole foot on the floor.  In this way, we created a stable structure to build from.  When moving from your foundation of tadasana to vrkasana we still need to feel that constant to be able to balance on one foot.  To do that, we root down through our one foot, and actively pay attention from the ground up to the top of our head.  In any yoga pose you’re not only noticing your steadiness in the physical pose, but also your breath and in your thoughts.  Notice when your breath changes, or if thoughts come into your mind when you practice.  If it happens, just remind yourself to breathe, and come back to that.

At some point you may notice that practicing yoga mirrors what is going on in your life.  If you take some time to reflect on your practice you can use yoga as a tool to develop self awareness and to give yourself greater insight about the world around you.  Yoga has so many benefits, but the best benefit is that it’s for you.

Tree pose Fitz
Ms. Fitz practicing vrkasana, tree pose.

Creative Connections

Humpback Rocks
Humpback Rocks, Blue Ridge Mountains, Virginia. Reminding me of tadasana (mountain pose). Sturdy, strong and solid.

Last Monday I began a new session “Creative Connections” (the art and yoga after school program).  It was a great practice because we were able to be outside underneath the beautiful blue September sky.  In my opinion, nothing beats practicing yoga outside.  You get to hear different sounds, feel the gentle breeze, and enjoy the welcoming sun.  It’s a different kind of experience to practice outside, not only because of the natural elements, but also because we spend a lot of time indoors.  Everyday, most of us spend a good amount of time inside.  We move from room to room, pass through long hallways, all without making any contact with the world that is outside our windows and doors.  We may forget that sometimes being outside is a way we can connect with something larger than ourselves.

It was the first session of the 8-week program and the theme was “Foundation”.  Together we explored how breath is the foundation of yoga.  We talked about the symbolism of the word and discussed how having a strong foundation gives a basis to build from as the weeks progress, not only in yoga, but maybe within ourselves.

Below is the yoga sequence we moved through this week.  The practice was built around tadasana (mountain pose) and experiencing mountain pose as the action point in different poses throughout the practice.

Foundation Yoga Practice:

Focus Pose:  Tadasana, Mountain Pose

  •  Basis of all standing poses
  • Engaging large muscle groups
  • A starting point to connect to other poses in a practice
  • Increases concentration and provides focus

Benefits:

  •  Good for posture
  • Increase awareness
  • Steadiness
  • Balance
  • Aims of tadasana translate throughout the entire yoga practice

Tadasana
Standing Arm stretches
½ sun salute (forward folds)
Sun Salutation A
Sun Sun Salutaion B (warrior 1 only)
Chair pose (holding)
Knee bend/balance – arms out front to ground
Table pose balance series
Locust pose series
Bhanda konasana
Seated twists
Alternate leg stretches on back
Savasana

Students culminated their practice with a short practice in art.  The art was to reflect their response about their first yoga practice.

Mountains
Students often report an overall feeling of calmness after a yoga practice, maybe like the softer appearance of these mountains in the south of France.