May 2, 2011

Three Yoga poses to deal with conflict in wake of Osama killing (navel gazing not one of ‘em).

Take one look at any paper, news site, Facebook, one glance at Twitter or one scan of Elephant Journal, and you can sense the conflict.

On the one hand, there is the human urge to celebrate a victory in Osama Bin Laden’s death. On the other, there is perhaps the more human urge to recognize that celebrating death is not what we are here for. The feeling I would use to describe my own reaction to this news is “conflicted.” I am quick to judge reactions of others, myself and the media, but I’m not entirely sure what the “right” reaction should be.

If you feel this conflict (or if you are a teacher sensing this conflict in the studio this week), try these poses for release, clarity and compassion.

Yoga Mudrasana – Psychic Union Pose

From a comfortable seated position, take the arms behind the back and grasp the right wrist with the left hand. Inhale, grow long in the body, exhale, folding forward. The “psychic union” aspect manifests when the third eye center has contact with the ground. If you’re not quite able to get there today, use a block or bolster to create the same effect. Remain in the pose as long as it is comfortable. While there, allow yourself to “dump” your brain of thoughts you’d rather not have. Allow them to melt into the ground, asking the Earth make them into something more positive. Take a moment to feel connection with the Earth, and in doing so feel connected with mankind.

Halasana – Plow Pose into Deaf Man’s Pose

Iyengar says the fastest way to shut out the world is to use Deaf Man’s Pose. To reach into this version of halasana, start seated with the legs stretched forward. Slowly lower down the back until you are lying in savasana. On an exhale, begin to draw the legs up over the head, supporting your back with your hands as you go. If possible, bring the feet in contact with the ground over head. The beauty of Deaf Man’s Pose is, in this variation, the knees are bent, coming into contact with the ears. This has a womblike effect, cutting off the senses momentarily and calming the central nervous system. Remain in the pose as long as is comfortable with the goal of forgetting the outside chatter and asking yourself how you truly feel, uninfluenced by media, Facebook, text messages and external stimuli. Slowly roll down the back in order to exit the pose.

Ustrasana – Camel Pose

Photo gratefully borrowed from lululemon

Building a sequence around a peak back bending pose is perfect for dealing with conflict. In a back bend, the chest is expanding, awakening anahata chakra, the heart chakra, center of love and compassion. Starting from child’s pose, inhale, raise the chest until seated on the heels. Place the hands on the belly for a few breaths, closing the eyes, preparing the breath and chest for expansion. On an inhale, rise up to kneeling. Place the hands at the low back, fingers facing up if possible, elbows hugging in toward each other and the midline of the body. Take a deep breath in, then out, and on the next inhale puff up the chest toward the ceiling, leaning into a backbend as much as possible. If it is accessible to you, begin to move the hands to the heels for the fullest expression of the pose. Hold for five to twenty breaths.

My amazing teacher, Julie Rader, offers a beautiful sequence of backbends that would serve well in this situation. Preparing for a series of three to five backbends, begin to cultivate compassion with this affirmation. In the first, think of your beloved, the person who brings a smile to your face any time. As you begin to backbend, say out loud or to yourself:

May you be happy.

May you be healthy and strong.

May you live with ease.

Exiting the pose, take a few breaths with the hands on the belly. In the next round, picture yourself, either as you are today or as a child. Bending into camel, repeat the affirmation aloud or to yourself. You have now expanded the love in your heart for those most important to you and for yourself. This last backbend will need that love. Arching into the pose, picture the person who most needs forgiveness at this time. Hold the image in your head as your heart opens toward the heavens. Say aloud, in a firm voice, for all the world to hear:

May you be happy.

May you be healthy and strong.

May you live with ease.

When you are able to calm yourself, shut out the chatter, come to a place of love and compassionately ask for happiness and peace for those least deserving of it, our world will truly be free. Namaste.

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