By Dorrie Chase
There were many ah-ha moments throughout my teacher training. It amazed me to discover how much I truly didn’t comprehend about my own practice. I spent years putting my body into various poses, never realizing how much more could be happening. I lacked muscular engagement while holding an asana. My head wasn’t always where my feet were. I just wasn’t always as present as I needed to be. It isn’t enough to just stand tall and proclaim Mountain Pose (Tadasana). I now understand the concept of grounding and being balanced. I take note of the four corners of my feet. Are my collar bones lifted, which in turn will drop my shoulder blades down my back? Is the crown of my head reaching for the sky? All these details contribute to an active Mountain pose. Standing in line at the bank, or check-out line at the grocery store has a whole new feeling now.
Inversions led me to another major discovery. In the privacy of my own home, I dared to attempt throwing my legs up against the wall, but in class my pride dictated it was not an option. Grace is not an adjective I would apply to myself. What if, horrors of horrors, I kicked a fellow yogini in the head? Spotters and props came to the rescue, but knowledge is what really enlightened me. Headstands do not rely on my head! My forearms, core, thighs and even the heels of my feet, while flexed, all work as a team. My first headstand in class convinced me I was in the right place. So many lessons in just one pose!
More was revealed as I continued my practice. One day it all came together for me. Probably my biggest ah-ha moment. It’s all in the details. The sometimes very subtle, nuanced details bring my practice to life. “Draw your belly button in towards your spine then lift it toward your ribs.” Voila! I have now engaged my core. “Draw your shoulder blades down your back”. Hey, my clavicles are lifting! These details were originally conveyed via cues verbalized by my instructor. Eventually these cues contributed to a broader picture. Sequencing came into play. The actions of prep poses carried over to the main attractions. Chakravakasana (cat pose) is an element of Adho Mukha Svanasana (downward- facing dog). The same actions in Tadasana are used in Sirsanasa. These realizations were such a gift on and off the mat.
My lessons gave me logic, and clarity to my practice. My two year old, inner child was tickled to learn the answers to all my “….but why? and “how come?” demands. Peace came with this information. My practice of mindfulness, paying attention to the moment, and listening became heightened on and off the mat.
I try not to cultivate regrets in life. The practical applications of a yoga practice in my younger life would have been a great benefit. I truly believe this. Decisions not fraught with fear of making the wrong choice would be nice. So what if I did? Yoga emphasizes compassion, another endowment. I remember pulling “all nighters” in college. I wish I had the understanding of restorative poses, such as Legs-Up-The-Wall Pose (Viparita Karani), or my now useful, Headstand (Sirasana) to get my creative juices flowing. The art of meditation would have been a God-send. The anger and fears in my life before yoga, created much stress in me. The stress manifested itself physically: skin conditions, anxiety attacks, Bell’s palsy, etc. Meditation, in conjunction with an authentic yoga practice is a much more constructive coping mechanism compared to my various choices.
Hind sight is 20/20. Maybe I had to live what I lived to appreciate my mat today. I can’t say for sure I would have recognized what the wisdom of an authentic yoga practice could do for me then. I can say I recognize and am grateful for it today. That is all I know for sure I have, today and gratitude.