Stepping Forward

Sometimes moving forward is a matter of just letting go, and at times it seems we have no choice – the sweep of time, the press of activity can be like an airport walking ramp leaving us lusting for a moment to stop and savor, reflect and process.

But other times, stepping forward takes conscious planning and determination, a bit of knowledge and even some practice and preparation.  This is the kind of moment for which the flow from Downward Dog to the lunge in Sun Salutations can prepare us.

It might seem like leg strength is called for here, but underlying the graceful sweep of stability is core strength. One of the most important muscles in bringing the thigh into the core is the illio-psoas, which connects the lower spine, the pelvis and the femur by attaching to each. The functioning of this deep, long muscle structure is supported by the abdominal muscles and the pelvic floor.

One of the small experiments that helps me and my students learn about this web of connectedness in the core of the body is “puppy dog”. Start in child’s pose, a very active version with the wrists and elbows lifted, pushing the hips back onto the heels with the toes turned under. Pay attention to pressing into the thumb and first finger of each hand, lift the knees two inches off the floor, pushing the hips back and a little up.

Notice which muscles you use at first: most folks feel this in the legs or arms. Connect to the breath and pull your abdomen toward your back, drawing up the pelvic floor. Feel your pelvis tilt forward even as you reach back through your tailbone.

Take frequent breaks, this is a new way of moving so it can wear you out. You want to approach each change with an air of awareness and study, as if trying to catch all the subtlety in a new and complex flavor. As always, practice consciously and kindly – as I’ve said on my other blog… force cancels yoga and pushing doesn’t burn up samskara – it drives it deeper.

Repeat puppy dog several times bringing your attention more and more to your belly and pelvic floor. Try to feel as if you are lifting your entire torso up and backward with your core muscles.

Another exploration I’ve found helpful is to reach one leg at a time up & back for a one legged Down Dog. This stretches the psoas, accesses the consciousness of the opposing muscles, and in conjunction with the consciousness gained in puppy dog can lead to smoother, more conscious and aware sweep-throughs of the leg in the transition to  lunge.

Then you can step forward with the other foot and practice that sweet surrender in a luscious forward bend before rising up.

Practice mindfully, aware of the metaphor pervading your intention and motion.  What are some ways you could use more strength, intention and planning in moving forward in your life? Where do you need to nourish strength quietly? Where can you focus on your core and create more beauty and awareness for yourself and those around you?

Take the small steps, the moments of minute study and feel the microcosmic changes that build force to transform your life!

(post copied from my blog journal –

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