Asana A-ha’s

Ever since taking my yoga teacher training, I’ve been even more fascinated by the idea of body and breath as gateways to our inner wisdom. In my quest to discover more about these concepts, this weekend I took a continuing education course called “Yoga Asanas and the Emotions: Creative Exploration of the Body Self” at JFK University. According to the instructor, Sophia Reinders:

“Through attention to the kinesthetic experience, yoga allows emotions and feelings that have taken a silent shape in muscles, posture and movement to come to conscious awareness.”


We started off Saturday by spending a couple minutes drawing where we most live in our body. My picture came in stilted scribbles and crude caricatures. (I had to get over that the drawing resembles some sort of weird chicken.) Regardless of appearances, it represented my feeling of grounding and rooting along with expansive creativity in my heart and mind and expression through my arms. Looking back after having seen all my images together, it seems like I created this one more from my head rather than my physical experience.

Next, we sketched where we least live on our body. I can’t stand doing any kind of leg extensions that require internal rotation. They just kill me. I always feel like my torso caves in because I can’t stretch very far over and that I have no energy coming out of my feet. So, I avoid poses like the Prasarita series and Upavistha Konasana. I also depicted how my shoulders get really tense when I’m stressed out and when I don’t deal with my emotions of anger and sadness. My collapsed rib cage stifles the creative and loving energy from my heart and I’m left feeling very stuck.

Sophia had us explore different poses to see where we habitually resist and how we overcompensate to avoid going where we don’t want to go. By opening up the stuck places (in Prasarita, no less!), I felt my chest and back lengthen and my fourth chakra have room to expand. I also played with getting more energy into my lower body in poses like down-dog and Prasarita. This helped me feel more grounded and stable. By the end of the day, my drawing had evolved to something much more fluid and integrated. I tapped into a feeling of unfolding and radiating from my heart center.

My yoga teacher training taught me how powerful adjustments can be, and it was cool to now add on this new layer of shifting poses from the emotional field, too. Sophia said that yoga is such a great access point to our emotions because the variety of postures gives us the opportunity to move our body in all the different ways its capable of. That way we can find and play with our edge.

This morning, we explored shoulders (where we tend to carry the weight of the world!). I doodled this image to represent the knots I hold in my shoulders and the release of tension when I allow myself to stretch.

We also did some great guided meditations on our breath and also on exploring the different sides of our body. What a great reminder that just simply lying down for even just a few minutes to tune into my breath and body, I can feel so much more refreshed.

Then finally, through authentic movement (basically making up our own dance) we expressed the polarities of our different sides in order to learn how to integrate them better. For me it was seeing how to bring together the fluid, creative left side with the action/doing right side. So instead of having the “must do all these things” energy run me, I can ease into it and let my creative intuition allow things to manifest. The final exercise was to spend a few minutes writing a poem of our experience:

Fluid strength
Rises with creativity and action
Expansion, gathering, moving through space
Horizons widen like thick brush strokes
Coloring the canvas with bold shades
And smooth textures
A powerful force of grace and authority
Blend together in beauty and brilliance

By the end of the course I felt like I embodied both sides of me and felt much more integrated and fluid. Given how stuck I felt this past week, it was good to have a place to explore and release. I also enjoyed the change of pace with this class. In Ashtanga, I’m usually in the flow, moving fairly quickly in and out of poses. With this exploration, I can slow things down and be even more mindful. And now whenever I feel like skipping out on my yoga practice, I can notice that resistance and ask myself to just get on my mat and explore what’s there. As one of my fellow students said, “What’s in the way, is the way.” So, if I’m willing to look, there are many “ah-a’s.”

[tags]yoga, asanas, emotion, art therapy, creativity, JFK University, art visioning[/tags]

3 thoughts on “Asana A-ha’s”

  1. what a powerful class! I love your drawings! you’re very in touch with your body and it comes across in the colors and shapes you’ve used here. there are so many places i feel stuck! how did the teacher work with you to open those stuck places?

  2. Hi Leah! Thanks! Yes, it was a pretty amazing class. I was resistant at first and then just went with it and got much more out of it once I did. To answer your question about how the teacher worked with us… She had us try out several different poses and really pay attention to what we were feeling in our bodies. For example in Warrior 2 noticing where your torso naturally leans – forward/future or back/past or right in the present? Or in something like Down-Dog or Triangle, seeing where do you naturally place your energy – do you carry your strength in your upper body or lower body. Then when you notice where there’s an imbalance, focus on putting more energy in the place that’s more dormant. We usually will overcompensate in the place where we’re stronger or more comfortable so we don’t have to deal with the places where we go unconscious (and then those places remain stuck!). It also really helped to have someone else watching to give suggestions on adjustments because often times it’s hard for us to see our habits ourselves. So, a private instructor or a friend might be a great resource for pointing those things out to you. Have fun getting “un-stuck!”

  3. thanks for explaining all that, jenn! i have so many stuck places that i think an instructor would have plenty to point out to me. hehe. but yes, i will have fun working with my stuck places. 🙂

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