GRAVITY IS MY FRIEND…
Saying that is pretty bold and remarkable coming from someone in their 60’s. Oh yes there are times looking at my various saggy body bits that it isn’t exactly uplifting (haha), and yet I’ve found gravity to be my friend.
This blog is not about coming to terms with saggy flesh, although that’s a worthy practice in and of itself – acceptance, impermanence, blah blah.
This is about contemplating the magnificent mysterious force of gravity that we live with and how it can be a powerful ally for wellbeing.
Years ago, I discovered
and it’s to her that I credit my first understanding of using gravity to assist in the yoga postures. She wrote about it elegantly. She helped me understand how to use gravity’s pull to first feel grounded and rooted to the earth before the lightness and lift arises through spine stretching us upwards through the body.
“ The pull of gravity under our feet makes it possible for us to extend the upper part of the spine, and this extension allows us also to release between the vertebrae. Gravity is like a magnet attracting us to the earth, but this attraction is not limited to pulling us down, it also allows us to stretch in the opposite direction towards the sky.”
It’s remained an integral part of my practice and I continue to consciously bring attention to feeling the effects of gravity when going about daily activities. Much like a plant that needs to send the roots deep into the earth first before rising and opening towards the light, we open to higher states of consciousness and creativity when we are connected deeply to the Earth.
It’s why I love and practice
Yin style yoga
and how it suits my aging body. Not that it’s only for elders, but it’s a remarkable practice for anyone at any age. The practice of maintaining a stretch and being in stillness for a longer period of time helps us to go deeper into listening, receiving and connecting to our creative source.
Our restless mind can begin to witness rather than react. This is challenging for most. Movement is easier. But as we let gravity assist us we find we can let go more easily and effectively slow down the rushing mind and our habit of being pulled here, there and everywhere.
Gradually as we bring awareness to the force of gravity our physical body can sink into the deep hug of mother Earth and we release the tensions physically, mentally, emotionally all quite naturally.
I’ve witnessed how students, including myself, unintentionally practice yoga postures with stress and tension in their bodies and minds. A sense of striving underpins the practice (what are we striving for?) By the end of class lying down to rest can we truly let go even then?
I attended a Yin Yoga workshop with Paul Grilley in the late 90′s. This was a big aha moment. Mostly because of his teaching on anatomy and how he eloquently showed how unique we all are and that there is no one-size-fits-all practice.
Bringing the awareness of gravity into a Yin practice facilitates that deep surrender and trust in the support, which allows the body’s tensions to melt away. Surrendering to the force of gravity brings our awareness into the body and into the present moment. Last month I wrote a blog on“just because you have a body doesn’t mean you’re in it”, and how being embodied opens us up to the many connections, opportunities and possibilities that are within each of us, like a seed waiting for the right nourishment to flourish.
And even though I’m focusing on “surrendering” to gravity here, I just want to be clear that there is always balance. There is a place for resisting gravity – when we are building strength to rise upwards from the ground. Being in balance between effort and surrender.
Overall, I sense that in our fast paced world we tend to be easily out of the balance and more in a state of chronic stress and tension. Our bodies have forgotten it’s natural relaxation response. So grounding practices such as Yin and Restorative yoga helps to re-ignite our cognition of what it feels like to relax; the balance of yin and yang and effort and surrender (abhyasa and vairagya).
Being aware of gravity allows you to feel held by the earth and this naturally relaxes the muscles and the nervous system. It’s a beautiful unwinding of tensions. Remember how wonderful it feels to lay your body against the ground?
And as we learn how to unwind and relax deeply, we connect to our creative source and our creative energy channel open and flows. We feel abundant, infinite, joyful, fulfilled, heartfelt, relaxed and at peace.
How can you create the structure that will help you release tensions and stress on a daily basis?
Here are a few suggestions:
1) Consistent practice that will help you move out of your head and bring consciousness into your physical body.(Examples: walk in nature, meditation, mind/body physical practices such as yoga, chi-gong, pilates, dance)
2) Practice deliberate “Pause & Breathe” throughout the day – the more you practice “pause and breathe ” the more you will remember to do so, and the more you do so, the more it becomes a part of your daily life. Pause now and breathe in, breathe out.
3) Make a commitment to not go on your mobile devices or computer at night. Set up a cut-off time. (Mine is 6:30pm)
4) Leave at least a 30-minute window before sleep to be quiet. No television, movies etc. right before sleep. Have an inspirational book by your bedside and read a few passages before lights out or listen to a relaxation audio (download my free mind/body relaxation audio)
5) Morning quiet time –before your day starts. Even if you only manage 5 minutes some days, it’s a great start to a life-enhancing habit. Sit quietly and connect to your breathing by simply being aware of it. Watch any thoughts that come to your mind as if you were a slight distance away, allowing them to come into your awareness and then dissipate as you re-focus on the movement of breath rather than the thought.