Coming Home to Your Self Through Yoga
I recently had the privilege of practicing with my lovely and amazing teacher, Shiva Rea, in Boston. You know that Buddhist proverb, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear”? Well, that’s sort of how it happened with Shiva. In my early days of discovering yoga, I came across one of her CDs and practiced at home with it for months. I found it very challenging, but her voice was soothing and the poetic, spiritual quality she brought to her teaching I had never experienced before. I continued practicing heated power yoga in studios and gentler hatha and restorative practices at home. Some practices felt more mechanical than others. All were more fitness-focused than holistic.
When I moved to Cambridge, MA, I started going to Om City Yoga. That magic of yoga, which through breath and simple movements had the power to shift my entire being into a blissful, transcendent state, kept me coming back. I fell even more deeply in love with yoga when I discovered it could transform my state of mind and bring me closer to my spirit, as well as keeping my body healthy! Dee Greenberg, the owner of the studio (who is now in southern Florida), fostered the spiritual aspect of the practice that I was craving. One day, Dee was advertising a Yoga Journal conference workshop. I recognized the teacher’s name — it was Shiva Rea! Shiva was Dee’s teacher. I was intrigued yet a little nervous to go to an event that included seemingly esoteric practices, like chanting, which made me a little uncomfortable. Nonetheless, I signed up and I LOVED IT! Shiva was even more amazing in person (of course), and the group energy she cultivated, I’d never felt before. When I returned with new enthusiasm for yoga, Dee encouraged me to sign up for teacher training with Shiva. It was something I’d never considered, but truly transformed my life for the better and continues to do so!
Today I’d like to share a very simple, yet very powerful practice based on Shiva’s teachings: Prostrations, or what she calls “Pranams.” This practice can be done on its own or at the beginning (or anytime during) your regular yoga practice. The idea behind it is that you are bowing to a higher power, releasing your sense of control and being receptive to what arises. A prostration is an act of reverence and submission, an expression of devotion and faith. You don’t need to be religious in order to perform this act and receive substantial benefits. You are simply coming home to yourself, to that deep wisdom that resides within. Releasing yourself completely to the earth, feeling your forehead connect with the ground, and listening to your inner voice can lead to great transformation, acceptance, and awareness. Sometimes powerful emotions can arise in this process. Sometimes solutions to problems or other creative ideas spontaneously emerge. Pranams are powerful and accessible to all. Do one or do 108! It is all good! Enjoy this heart-opening practice:
In the first round, I show the first stage, bending the knees as you come out of plank down into chaturanga. Then you rise up into cobra pose, keeping the legs on the ground. Use the back and stomach muscles to rise up, not the hands — they are there to support you though you should be able to hold cobra without their help. In the second round, I show the next evolutionary stage, coming down into chaturanga with straight legs and then rising up into upward dog. Stand on the hands, shoulders away from ears, only the tops of your feet touching the ground. Notice how the hands stay connected to the body throughout much of the practice. I like setting a timer for 20 minutes in the morning and doing this meditative practice. I also do this practice when I am feeling too restless for seated meditation. Big changes are happening in my life and I am finding it very helpful to maintain this practice daily. It stretches your entire body, grounds you, and brings you in tune with your intuition. Rest your frontal brain to the earth in this grounding practice and feel what arises.
Have a great day, everyone, and let me know if you have any comments or questions!