When we step onto our mat to practice we often come with determination. We aspire to do the poses; we want to master, conquer or “get it right.” What does that really look like in the body? Is it even about the shape our bodies form in an asana, or the movement of prana, energetic consciousness? In my experience, it is a little bit of both and I like to use bhavana (the cultivation of feeling or intention) to bridge them.
Our bodies and abilities are all different; when we find the internal alignment of the body that suits us best, then more prana is contained. The progression of our practice does not depend on how much we can do, but instead how we engage in the process, feel about ourselves, treat our body, and how much patience we can cultivate. Asana is more about being aware than performance. Have we learned to adjust so that we can sustain our fulfillment on the yoga mat and in our every day lives?
When we use a bhavana in our yoga practice we are able to integrate the movement of our muscles, bones, organs, breath and mind with intention. Warrior III is a great posture for this because it is so challenging. When intention starts to weave into our practice, you may experience a shift in the physical posture as it shapes your attitude and directs your focus.
Practicing Warrior III
Let us practice with Rod’s suggestions: everything is impermanent, therefore adjust when necessary. Instead of trying to make the posture static and permanent, use this asana to experience the balance between the upper body and lower body.
Start at the front of your mat with your feet as wide as your pelvis. Feel the bones of your legs like pillars supporting your torso. Place the hands on the pelvic bones/hips.
Lunge your right foot back keeping the foot in line with your right pelvis with about one and a half feet of distance between the front foot and the back foot (adjust this space when necessary).
Feel the front knee bend slightly allowing for buoyancy in the leg and the ability to make small movements to adjust and experience balance in warrior III.
Keep the right foot on the ground and lean the torso forward; shoulders slightly passing your hips. Notice how the lower back lengthens and your body begins to move into flexion. Allow the knee to bend more if you feel this will give you more support.
Find your center in the pelvic/ abdominal area; acknowledge that this is the area, including the standing leg (left) that will balance the upper body and lower body. Bring your awareness to the bhavana: “everything is impermanent.” Observe how this intention shapes your breath. Feel the breath move into the body and notice when it exits. Without thinking about it, you naturally adjust with your next inhalation.
Begin to move the shoulders and torso forward and the back leg up and back simultaneously. The standing leg returns to being a pillar and you can extend it. I find that when my knee moves into a “locked” position, I no longer can experience the subtle movements in my leg. I adjust by bending the knee, just enough to again feel buoyancy in the leg. Eventually your torso and leg meet, parallel to the earth.
Allow the body to make its adjustments and embrace them knowing that this moment too shall pass; remember impermanence. Stay engaged in the pose, notice all the micro movements the body makes, even if you lose your balance completely.
Notice if your mind is part of the process of the posture. When you are ready to complete the posture, gracefully allow the leg and torso to return to the lunge. Step the back foot towards the front of the mat again feeling the stability of the legs. Repeat on the other side.
If you come across la great deal of instability in warrior III or haven’t done this pose before, adjust! You can use a chair or wall for extra support. Place the hands on the chair or wall, then continue to follow the steps above. When you feel confident and ready you can try moving the hands one at a time to the hips. Remember the bhavana: “everything is impermanent, adjust when necessary.”
When you are done with your practice take a moment to feel gratitude for your body and it’s movement, as well as the breath that guides and the mind that holds our intention. In the yoga class-room we use body, breath and mind to adjust, so that when we step off the mat we can learn to do the same in our lives. “In the context of life, adjustment refers to being aware and always being willing to respond to what life is trying to teach you.”
We have one more pose to review for next week. Please post your experiences as a student or teacher with warrior III, lets dialogue!