Integrating the Shadow (or lovin’ Halloween)
“The truth will set you free. ”
We’re all adept at seeing certain truths. For some of us, it’s easy to accept that we’re pretty, attractive, talented, loved, or successful. (And sadly, for some of us, it’s easier to accept a truth that we’re unattractive, unsuccessful, unloved, or untalented!) But these are simply ideas that we’re comfortable with, stuff that is easy to swallow. These are the truths that we’ve gotten used to and repeated to ourselves – or had it told to us – many times.
However, the truths that will really set us free are the ones that resist our attention. They are the shadowy impressions that we turn away from because we’re afraid of change, pain, or hurting someone else.
However, if we have the bravery to take a good look (as terrifying as it can be), we will discover that the truth is never as frightening as we thought. It’s like when we were kids and we turned on the light in the closet. Instead of discovering a terrifying demon, we find our laundry basket and some stuffed animals. When we trust in our truth and accept responsibility for our feelings, we will actually be relieved. No longer do we have to lie to ourselves about how we feel or think. Once we embrace our truth, we can become whole and begin to heal.
Sometimes there are painful consequences to the finally embracing our truth. Relationships or jobs may end. Friendships may change or priorities shift. In yoga class, we may realize that we have to radically change our practice. But frequently, the acknowledgment of truth creates a launching point for change. When we arrive fully in ourselves and are able to see a situation more clearly, we create the space to take positive action. Even if we don’t quite like where we’ve landed, we can now take authentic steps to transform our circumstances, rather than paddling around in the dark.
Halloween is the perfect time of year to welcome the shadows into light. We can get quiet, look inside, and open ourselves to our own personal truth. What truths have we been hiding in the closet? Can we risk opening the doors and letting in the light?
Pincha Mayurasa (forearm stand) is a pose that demands truth and patience. There are no shortcuts. A challenging inversion and backbend, pincha Mayurasana requires us to get quiet and be present. By working on the pose at the appropriate level, we can set up the correct pathways to open the pose in the future. If we try to ego-jump to the end point, we will topple or risk injury.
This week, we will use Pincha Mayurasana to teach us to embrace our truths. Working step-by-step, we unpeel the ego and explore one of the great heart openers. The journey is not about completing the pose; all we need to do is show up and authentically participate in the process.
Like all backbends, the lower back is at risk for collapse.
Shoulders: (arm flexed at the shoulder, external rotation of arm, forearm flexed at elbow, forearm pronated)
Warm up with poses that use this arm position: Utthita hastasana, Gomukhasana Arms, Forearm Prep (dolphin), Virabhadrasana I, Virabhadrasana III)
Hamstrings: Warm up with Uttanasana, Prasarita Padottanasana, Parvottanasana, Trikonasasna, Parivrtta Trikonasana
Thoracic backbend Warm up by opening upper back while working to lengthen the lower back. Baby Cobra, Urdhva Mukha Svanasana, Sphinx (nice because it mimics forearms parallel). Teach the backbend into the upper back only, so to avoid crunching the lumbar.
Core: Plank and forearm plank and abdominal variations.
Legs neutral/Adductors: Work on poses that teach neutral rotation of the legs, like three-legged dog, extended cat/cow, Virabhadrasana III, parvottanasana, lunges.
Possible Sequence (feel free to comment/question):
Cat/cow, add leg extension (check that leg is neutral in hip)
Forearm cat, raise back leg (lengthen lower back, reach sternum forward, leg neutral)
Plank pulses (inhale: lift sides of waist up, exhale: back to forearm plank)
Surya C with lunges (first time low lunge, second time open twist, third time high lunge, 4th time high lunge with twist) Vary the backbends: low back, sphinx, cobra/UMS
Trikonasana, working to lengthen sides of waist
Prasarita Padottanasana with twist, opening upper back
Utkatasana with block between thighs and between hands
Vira I with gomukhasana arms
Garudasana (eagle) with Gomukhasana arms into Virabhadrasana III, release arms, standing split, Uttanasana, Tadasana (R/L)
Vinyasa to Parivrtta Parsvakonasana – straighten front leg to long Parsvottanasana
To wall: Urdhva Mukha Svanasana at wall (toes on floor, heels up wall, body on floor, hands under elbows. Legs straight and in line with hips. Lift chest forward and up to UMS. Focus on upper back, press heels into wall.)
Virabhadrasana III at wall (hands on wall, hip height)
-add with sphinx arms, strap above elbow
Pincha Mayurasana prep with strap and block