learning yoga, yoga

Finding your center line

When someone’s good energy lifts you up

Have you ever been in a subway car, checkout line or any other place with lots of people and suddenly noticed a shift in the energy of the place when one person with really good posture and energy entered it? I don’t mean the kind of person who commands attention by showing off. I mean the kind of person who moves with grace and clarity, who knows how to live in their own body, who fills the space with clear, positive energy without detracting from others.

Being in the presence of such a person makes you notice because it feels so good. You want to be around that energy, have it rub off on you, create some yourself. That energy makes you walk a little taller, feel lighter, more calm and confident.

While that burst of inspiration lasts a just moment, with practice, you can make it your normal state. You can become another person whose energy uplifts and inspires people around them. One of the best ways to develop that state in yourself is yoga.  

Daily imbalances that throw you off center

Like most people, you probably spend too much of your time under the weight of heavy backpacks, bags and packages, twisted into awkward positions in subway cars struggling to find a handhold, hunched over a phone or computer, slumped in chairs that don’t properly support your spine or worse, claim to offer ergonomic support but don’t.

Much of our built environment encourages slumped posture that leaves you feeling cramped, contorted, tired and sluggish. Most chairs and definitely most car seats force the spine into a C-curve that’s the opposite of how a spine should be shaped, leaving your vertebra and internal organs compressed. Years of this compression and distortion can lead to problems like herniated disks, weak limbs, scoliosis and other forms of imbalance. No matter how long this has gone on, you can change it.

Getting your spine back in line

Try this experiment when you have a few minutes and can maintain a sense of openness and curiosity. Sit up straight in a sturdy chair or cross-legged on the floor on some support. Notice where you’re positioned in space before closing your eyes. Now imagine that your spine is like a pole, rising up perfectly straight and perpendicular from the base you’re seated on.

Take one hand and place it across your opposite knee. Next twist the two sides of your rib cage in opposite directions around that pole, without throwing it off it’s a vertical axis, maintaining a steady pattern of inhaling to stretch up, exhaling to twist. Keeping in mind the image of your spine as a pole that your head, neck and ribs are rotating around.  Gently twist your ribs around the imaginary pole, starting at your waistline, then up to your lower ribs, then your chest, then your shoulders coming as close to making a 90° turn as your flexibility allows. When you’ve twisted as far as you can in one direction, open your eyes, and tucking your chin towards your chest, look down and find out: is your head lined up over your sternum? Did you lean to one side the other? Did your head move a lot but your rib cage not so much? Did one side of your ribcage turn more than the other? Most people will be surprised to learn they did at least one of those things. Now try it on the other side and notice what seems the same and what seems different.

Start, then keep practicing

If you did the small experiment and learned something, you have entered a path of change and self-awareness. Yoga teaches you to observe where you are in time and space. It teaches you how to let go of wishing things were other than what they are. Yoga teaches you how to make meaningful day to day changes over time that transforms your body, mind, and spirit. Yoga helps you create an energetic presence that feels good to embody and to be around.

If you are not already doing so, try studying with an experienced teacher you relate well to. You can also benefit from doing a few simple practices on your own.

What you will notice

The small experiment you just did could be the beginning of your taking better care of your physical body. If you attend classes regularly and spend even a small amount of time every day practicing what you learned, your posture, energy, and mood will improve. And people may start to notice that it feels good to be around you.

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