The Challenge

I’m well into the week of the Camel and some days I’ve indulged in a long Camel-centered practice, breathing length and openness into my shoulders, exploring the relation of my triceps to my shoulder girdle, using them to open more fully. (More on that in another post!) Some days I’ve had 5 minutes there of Sun Salutes, 10 of standing and busted out a camel in between.

I’m reminded through all of this that what camels do is store water. So, am I storing refreshing hydration for extended use, or shedding what has been stored because I didn’t digest it when I first took it in?

And I realize, the camel can’t drink until it creates room anew. It has to use its precious store of glistening droplets before it can drink deeply once more.

And the beauty of this pose is that I’m releasing and drinking simultaneously. I am storing sustenance. I am also letting go to make room. Exchange.

And the letting go can be hard. I’m through the initial terror I wrote about last year (see previous post) . And your responses have taught me that I have been in good company: many of us have stored scary and scared feelings in our guts, hearts and voices.

My new challenge is to release through all the layers of my existence. I’m finding that little – one might even say, petty – annoyances and feelings are coming to light. Feelings, judgments, ideas, words I thought I’d left behind. Ones that don’t bear repeating, but let me assure you they’re embarrassing to find tucked away. And they don’t just confine themselves to my mat. They help themselves to the rest of my day, too. Rude these little judgments are. See! There’s another of those rascals!

What is different is that while they register as feelings, they register as “mine” at first, I am finding it possible to let go of the embodied hooks, see them as “not mine, not not mine”, and not re-store them in new the clothes and layers of new judgments. Now, this isn’t a seamless process, and I’ll be perfecting it a long while. But I’m noticing noticing these packages I’ve left for my new self from all my old selves, and it’s allowing me to be more loving to all of them. And to let a lot go.

So that’s my challenge in the week of the Camel: to be a witness to my own experience, to not get lost in it, to let it do what experience does, which is to pass. And so to be able to fill up anew.

What’s yours?

The week of the Camel… will you join me?

Why isn’t there a groundhog pose in yoga?

I’m feeling like groundhog emerging and realizing Spring. Of course Spring is putting on Summer clothes just now, but the flowery, rainy wardrobe of emergence is not yet shed, and is suiting me just fine.

Coincidences intrigue me, especially as I don’t believe in them ;> so I was intrigued to find that it was just about a year ago that I was playing with Camel and the emotions that it offers up. I wrote a series of blogs over about six months and recently had an interesting comment from Patrick on one of them that beckoned I return to this most inciting asana.

Additionally, many of you have written to me of your own emotional releases and offerings in this asana, and I’ve found other blogs make mention – notably, NiceMarmot (I love that name! and the blog…) Yoga aids us in digesting not only our food, but our spiritual food – our experience. And sometimes digesting, in breaking down the substance of a thing and absorbing what’s nurturing or nutritious and flushing the unnecessary generates heat, discomfort and intensity. It depends on what you’ve been eating. And daily life puts much on our plate that we might not choose all on our own. That’s its offering to us. Nurturing is not always warm and fuzzy.

And here I am again, with you Gentle Reader, on the precipice of Summer. I celebrated Spring with Twists (see the May 2nd blog on yogaeveryday.org) and I’m baring my heart to Summer with Camel this week. I invite you to join me in making camel part of your practice this week, and if you haven’t started a home yoga practice, to start with this asana. Abide in your awareness of your heartful center, know that whatever comes up is not you, it is a residue of experience, and experience of its own, connecting us to the world of other experienciers. In the posts above is a class with Ustrasana as its pinnacle pose, or you might dive in with these videos below. They are different in approach, but each offer valuable instruction.

How does it feel to remain vulnerable in your life? Does it seem a worthy spiritual quest? What are you offering today? As always, I love hearing about your experience on and off the mat. Leave a comment or email me privately. Either way, find your yoga today and dive in, heart and all.

 

counterpose to camel

Our Noon class had as its pinnacle Ustrasana, or Camel pose. It’s such a vulnerable position, baring our underbelly and heart, making an offering of ourselves. We led up to it through Sun Salutations and the Warrior series, a very traditional class.

Our counterpose throughout was Balasana – Child’s pose. Sometimes very active – elbows and armpits raised, pressing down through the thumb side of the hand, the hips descending toward the heels – sometimes quite passive, surrendering and releasing.

Counterposes neutralize the effects of the preceeding pose, usually the effects on the spine. Thus, counterpose to backbends – forward folds. To twists, the other side. And, of course :), visa versa.

Given the courage required to bare your center in Ustrasana, Balasana is a natural returning to center, curling in, effecting singularity, a seedlike position, ready to spring forth, trekking on a journey of the soul.

counterpose and camel pose

I love seeing what searches bring you here! Two of the searches yesterday really made me think:

“counter pose to warrior III” &

“why does camel pose in yoga store emotion”.

I have been looking for what others think about camel pose – or ustrasana – and emotion for a while (see my blog on “camel terror”). I haven’t found a lot of guidance, but here’s what I’ve decided: Ustrasana doesn’t store emotion, rather it releases emotion, particularly emotions we’re storing in our bellies and hearts. The third and fourth, and even the fifth chakras’ physical seats are opened and activated in ustrasana, as well as the front channel, or meridian, of the body. Anything we’ve squirrelled away there is stirred up when we lean back and expose those areas of our bodies the way we do in camel pose.

For me, I feel my third chakra, the solar plexis, most riled up by leaning back into this pose. I physically feel emotion at that location and then it spreads up and to a lesser extent down. I think that, like camels who store water, we store emotion along the body parts stretched in camel, and this position is a really juicy way to let go of what we don’t need.

The counter pose question is really good. A counter pose is a pose that’s meant to balance the effects of a preceeding pose, like fish for shoulderstand, or back for forward bends (or visa versa). Now, Vira III – or Warrior III – is a one sided balance pose, so by one way of looking at it, the opposite side is the counter pose.  Counter poses are usually used to neutralize effects on the spinal column, and in Vira III the Spine is long and neutrally aligned, so there is no need to neutralize.  I was unable to find any listed counterposes in the sources I consulted.

So, that’s all for this session of “ask the yoga instructor” 🙂 I love looking through the searches, but also feel free to email me with your questions or yoga concerns:

yogaguides (at) gmail (dot) com 

Yoga ON!!!

Camel Contentment

Been doing more doing than writing lately, but a lot of the doing has been exploring Ustrasana – camel pose. The one thing that’s clear is that the more I play with it – gently, respectfully – the more the sensations and emotions change. Or perhaps it’s my perception of the sensation that’s changing the emotion.

The original emotion was overwhelming fear. I now look forward to this asana, and usually end up with a pleasurable lightheaded feeling afterward.

I’ve also played with a lot of preparation. I prepare by playing with a lot of other backbends and twists, lengthening gently my quads, pecs, abs, warming up my knees. At first I cried a lot after coming out of this pose at home during my private practice. Not about anything really, just wordless tears.

It was during one of these times I remembered a quote I recorded from Mukunda Stiles when I took the workshop:

“There is nothing to do except to watch your reactions to your situation. From this comes samtosha, contentment.”

So I applied this meditative stance to my fear, my crying, my distress. When the crying was over, my distress had dissolved. And I’d learned a lot about contentment.

camel terror

English: Dromedary camel in outback Australia,...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

I’ve been attending Bikram yoga classes now for a week and, much to my surprise, really enjoying them. I am fascinated with all the emotion churning up and know from experience that some of this happens with each yoga pose when fully engaged. However, the intensity is, well, intense.

 

Most of it is palatable and not undiscovered territory. However, the abject fear I feel in camel is suprising to me. Because of it I back off a bit, focus on my breath. Today in class, the teacher mentioned that this is normal. Now, for me at least, it’s not a situational fear: I’m not afraid of falling back or anything. It’s primal, abject, ontological, objectless terror. I feel like I’m in a horror movie when I come up & look in the mirror.

 

I surmise this has something to do with third chakra opening. The third chakra, where we process raw materials and the focus is on getting our needs met. Perhaps even the integration of the first three. But I haven’t found anywhere where anyone’s written about this emotion specifically with this asana.

 

Teacher also mentioned that some of its effects come from the compression of the kidneys and adrenals. This could have something to do with it. But again, nothing found in references.

 

Does anyone else have this experience? Has anyone dissolved this experience – by that I mean, did you used to have it and now experience something else (maybe even bliss?) in camel?

 

Just wondering. I guess the universality, while intriguing, is practically meaningless. The point, really, is to be present with what arises and remain clear enough to notice that it changes. But I’m still curious…. leave me a comment about your camel experience, please:)