Being in Relationship with Earth
Yoga is all about relationships –not positions. I’ve said that in class –but what does it mean? Postures are the shapes we put our bodies in to experience oneness. That could be a definition of Asana!
What I mean by that specifically is that our asana/meditation/pranayama/mantra/mudra/service practices are about creating relationships: with Self, the Earth, and other beings around us. We do not exist in a vacuum –what we do, and how we do it matter!
The way we are on the Earth matters. Check it out: next time you find yourself just standing around (in line; waiting for something else…) notice yourself on the earth. Notice: are your knees locked? Can you feel your feet and the relationship between you and the Earth? When I am in relationship I am not alone.
When you stand on the Earth, you have choices –you can be in active relationship –feeling the sensation of yield: your body grounding down into the earth — if you keep your knees a little soft, and actively but gently press in to your feet, you may find yourself swaying a little from side to side or in a spiral… there is a rebound of buoyant energy that comes from the Earth back up to the crown of your head –notice it.
Or … you can be propped or collapsed: your knees are locked –there is a sinking feeling and you can’t feel the soles of your feet –there is a dullness and lack of connection to Earth. Maybe there is a checking out at the level of the mind. This is how most of us are on the earth when we’re not paying attention. Look around at people next time you’re out and about –standing in line, notice how people stand –head forward, knees locked –usually but not always, looking at a phone… we are chronically disconnected from the Earth in this place.
The good news is, it’s totally possible to re-orient yourself! Stand in tadasana –hands softly by your sides; your thumbs face forward, palms at the sides, not facing forward. Close your eyes and take a breath in.
Tadasana means mountain posture –see if you can soften your knees and push down through your shin bones into your feet as you actively straighten your knees and find an inner spiral through your legs, into the deep belly and lower front ribs, and trace it all the way along the front of your body to the crown of your head. Find stability. Now lock your knees and let your weight drop. Notice the difference!
When we are in relationship with Earth –we feel an exchange of energy –we feel the forces of apana grounding us, and prana providing us with buoyancy. It’s active! In fact, we’re never completely still. There is always a movement of Prana/life energy. We suspend it at the top and bottom of each breath for a moment –but then the flow of breath and Prana continue over and over.
In fact –we’re always in relationship with Earth –but sometimes we forget and allow ourselves to check out and prop. I believe it’s this unconscious “checking out” that causes us to feel separate. When we lose our active relationship to Earth –we literally lose our sense of connection to everything else. This contributes to patterns/samskaras that live in the depths of our unconscious, that keep us stuck in suffering and perceived isolation.
So being in relationship –whether to Earth, or to others or our Selves –is something that takes practice! Bringing our awareness back to our literal stance on the Earth. Notice how when you’re standing in relationship, you feel everything a little more lit up! Your navel gently draws towards your spine as you breathe –providing you with support –maybe you feel the natural gentle inner spiral of your legs and pelvic halves. You can sense and feel Prana moving. Your head floats over your shoulders and there is a sense of buoyancy to your physical structure! There is effortless effort.
Collapse and prop are ways that we check out of the body-mind. One could argue that our chronic collapse and prop have created a world out of balance: the Earth is literally screaming at us to get back into relationship. When we are in relationship, we understand that what we do and say, and how we are with each other, how we treat the Earth, what/how we choose to consume –all matter!
In our posture practice, we find an opportunity to come back into relationship with Earth and Self. We’re not putting ourselves into positions when we take a given asana –we are creating shapes that allow us to be in relationship: there is a give and take. We receive and we give back.
Check it out –play with it off the mat! It all starts with noticing!!
Karen Miscal Bannon