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Pose of the Month: Upavistha Konasana

Transient

Pose of the Month: Upavistha Konasana

When I think about expanding to the edge of my limits, I think about my earliest days in this practice.  Before I understood the depth of Yoga practice, it was all about the stretch for me. I would push my body at all costs, reaching for the “perfection” that only a hyper mobile body and youth can bring.  And, invariably I learned a lot of painful lessons, and fell short of learning the one’s with any real meaning.  Sure, I had the “yoga” high that so many do after pushing beyond my physical and sometimes mental boundaries, but I didn’t have the strength or foundation to maintain that expansive feeling off my mat. Now, after a fair share of time coupled with many humbling experiences, I approach asana differently. I give equal amounts of focus and attention to the foundation and the strength need to make expansion sustainable just as I do in a really deep stretch. I believe that when practiced with full awareness, Upavista Konasana (Seated Angle) can teach us how to reach to the very edge of our limits through strength and groundedness, so that the feeling of expansion can reach well beyond our mats and into our lives.



Upavista Konasana challenges us to expand to our fullest. In respecting our foundation and our strength, we are able to stretch to the very limits of our experience while continuing to respect and honor our boundaries.  Two experiences which can be so synergistic, but so difficult to achieve simultaneously.  Often when we seek to expand the limits of our experience, we push beyond the edge of comfort or even intensity and into the danger zone of pain beyond the realm of safety or consciousness.  It is easy to do in the experience of Upavista Konanasa, to reach for our toes or our chest on the floor without any support from the core or at the cost of losing our ground.  On one dimension, it may seem to be a great gain, but truly experience sustainability and contentment, we seek an experience that is opening without leading us down the path of danger.

To explore the edges of our boundaries and even to expand beyond them requires us to develop a difficult but powerful ability to stay rooted to our foundation and connected to our center.  If we push or retract from the experience of intensity, as we often encounter in a pose like Upavista Konasana, then we arrive at an impasse.  But instead of moving forward at all costs or running away, we can cultivate the strength of our core and our connection to the ground to assist our experience. As we open in this pose, as in life, we may feel vulnerable and exposed. Instead of retracting in fear, we can guide ourselves to stay present every step of the way, and move more slowly.  Then, we can us this awareness to move from the strength deep in the core of our body, rather than flop haphazardly without consciousness.  In this way, we gain confidence and even more willingness to open.

As often happens in striving for an external goal, we can push ourselves to achieve instead of rooting in our foundation to expand.  In Upavista Konasana both in myself and in countless students, it is common to see a very deep stretch and expansion without any foundation.  As our sitting bones disconnect from the earth beneath us, we do find more space, but we lose our strength and sustainability in this asana; we miss the point.  We start expanding so much that we forget the roots from which we started and easily can become lost or hurt.  To support our connection to the ground, again we turn toward the strength in our center and keep our base connected to the earth from which we all rise open to the sun.

When practiced with full awareness, Upavista Konasana can be an exploration of the bliss (sattwa) of synergy.  We can stretch ourselves to our limits and even beyond in if we stay aware of the importance of our center and our foundation, and in the process open more fully to the potentiality contained within us and circulating all around us.

Kelly Golden

 

Upavista Konasana (Seated Angle) focuses on opening our adductors. The adductors help us to connect with the center of our bodies, our core.  By engaging the adductors, it becomes more accessible to engage the pelvic floor muscles that contribute to pelvis and Sacroiliac stability.  By learning to relax and open the adductors we can begin to relax our core.

Upavista Konasana differs from other adductor opening postures in many ways.  In the pose the hips are externally rotated, abducted and flexed.  The stretch is focused on all the adductors because of this external rotation and abduction of the hips.  When you bend forward in this posture the stretch moves into the Adductor Magnus.  Because the knees are straight, it includes a stretch of the Gracilis, something you do not get with a similar pose, Baddha Konasana.  In another similar pose, Prasarita Padottanasana the hips are internally rotated and abducted, which decreases the stretch because you are not stretching in all planes of motion and because the feet are on the ground some people will be limited by the calf muscles. 

There are five adductor muscles: Adductor Brevis, Adductor Longus, Adductor Magnus, Pectineus and Gracilis.  The adductor muscles play an important role in the alignment of the pelvis and the knee.  These muscles run from the pubic bone to the inner femur and in the case of the Gracilis to the tibia.  Tightness of the adductors may contribute to adduction and internal rotation of the thighs causing an increased angle in the alignment of the hip to knee to foot.  Weakness of the adductors may contribute to altered mechanics of the patella in relation to the femur.  It is important to note here that muscles can be tight and weak.  A common dysfunction is to have increased internal rotation and adduction of the knee with lateral patellar tracking (a result partially of weak and tight adductor muscles). Dysfunction of the adductors is a common source of hip pain, knee pain and low back pain. 

To move into this posture, start with the legs out in abduction with a neutral to slight anterior pelvic tilt.  Keep the normal spinal curves.  The width of the legs will depend on being able to maintain this neutral pelvic and spinal position.  Using a blanket to sit on may help with this pelvic alignment.  Lengthen the spine by engaging the pelvic floor and transverse abdominals and then begin to fold forward at the hip joint.  Engaging the hip external rotators (i.e. Piriformis) and Quadriceps will help to keep the position of the legs and will help relax the Hamstrings and Adductors.  If you do not reach the ground you can use a bolster under your torso, or keeping your hands on the ground pull yourself forward with a natural spinal position.

Marlysa Sullivan

Copyright YogaBasics.com, reprinted with permission.

Ocean of Enough

There is an ancient yogic teaching that says we are steeped in unconditional nourishment and nurturing. That our purest state is one where we always are, have, and give ENOUGH. The sage Shakara in the the Saundalaharya states it this way.  The world is an infinite ocean of ambrosia and our bodies are just an island.  Our ability to receive and be touched by the waves of nourishment that are forever overlapping and enveloping our island is one of the most powerful things we can access to remember that we already have everything we need, and there is nothing we can’t handle.

It's a great irony that we are floating in an Ocean of Enough and desperately flailing around trying to shore up our perimeters, thinking our salvation lies in protecting ourselves from a tsunami.  It's as if we have forgotten that we are immersed in sufficiency, and we spend our hours, our sweat, and our neurons trying to craft a fortress around our island to keep the ocean out.  At the end of the day, we are exhausted, depleted, and parched.  Our archipelago scorched and raw.  

Now let's be clear.  Enough isn't Shangri-la.  Enough is enough, on all levels.  Enough abundance, enough success, enough love; yes, but also enough challenge to help you grow, enough resistance to propel you forward, enough disappointment to help you remember that what is special about you doesn't depend on what you achieve.

In her book, The Soul of Money, Lynne Twist relays a moment of awakening inspired by one of her own mentors,

...he said for centuries, perhaps thousands of years, we've lived with the belief that there's not enough to go around, and that we need to fight and compete to garner those resources for ourselves...but at this point in history, we are able to do so much more with so much less that as a human family, we clearly have reached the point where there actually is enough for everyone...(59)

Even if you have arguments about the sweeping nature of this statement, the fact remains that capacity and opportunity we have in our life today to call upon the feeling of enough is inhibited primarily by our personal judgements about what "enough" is rather than the truth of whether or not we have what we need and, whether we receive or resist what is offered.

So in those moments of doubt and lack, where do we go in our mind and heart?  Do we close, push, force, climb?  Do we open, bask, surrender, and expand the capacity of our island to take in the sweet waters of enough?  Do we allow our thirst to be quenched or do we keep reaching beyond what is offered to the promise of a sweeter drink?

To assist you in opening to receive the nurturing waters of enough, I am offering a short meditation.  May it help you feel the sweet relief of your own wealth and open you to receive exactly what you need. 

Ocean of Enough Meditation

Starting your day with Grace

Transient

How do you begin your day?  Slamming the snooze button, racing out of bed to beat the clock, lingering in the yumminess of the dawning light?  How you start your day impacts your entire experience of it.  Ya know the old adage, "got up on the wrong side of the bed?" Starting rough is a hard one to recover from, so here are a few quick suggestions to make your emergence more easeful.

  1. Wake up and give thanks. The minute that the alarm sounds or the light penetrates through your dreams, feel grateful that you get to breathe, see, taste, feel another day. Don't think about the grudges or challenges, don't contemplate the bills or the list, for just one moment be grateful that you are alive, then turn off the alarm and roll out of bed.

  2. Be aware that you are a part of a much bigger process. As you blink your tired eyes open, acknowledge that there are thousands of others in the world doing the same thing. Wearily waking up to look another day right in the eye. You are not alone, you are, in fact, an integral part of a huge waking family of earthlings. All species and genders, all ages and experiences, waking up to participate in life. Just like you.

  3. If you are blessed to have a window to look out of when you first awake, then pause for a moment and look. Take in the fact that the world is an amazing place. Beauty is all around, and unfolding for you in every moment. Whether it's trees, water, highrises, train tracks or interstates, the world outside of your window is nothing short of a miracle. Begin your day in acknowledgement of it.

  4. Admit that you are a miracle. Upon waking, take a deep breath into your body. Be present with the literally hundreds of processes taking place in your body at the moment you breathe. Feel your lungs, your muscles, your bones. Feel your heart beating and the blood rushing through your veins and arteries. Before you start thinking about all of the aches, pains and worries, be present with the miracle of you.

None of these choices take more than a few seconds.  None of them will make you late or behind.  None of them need to be spoken or shared.  All of them have the potential to shape your entire day into an experience of beauty and grace.  Simply by acknowledging the power of Grace in your first waking moments, you begin to shape and form a day that offers you unending positivity.  And, even if a heinous day unfolds, you can carry with you the memory of your waking moments as refuge.

Be warned.  This is a practice.  It's a practice of remembering (smarana) in the deepest sense.  You work to remember every day.  You slow down your reactive response to waking, and you receive a slower rousing, one which invites the flow of beauty into your life.  There will be the mornings, where out of habit, you race out of bed and forget, and at some point in your day, you will remember.  On those days, use the moment of remembering to plant the seeds of grace.  And see what happens.