The Yoga Squeeze - 5 Poses and Reasons to Hug Yourself
When was the last time you squeezed someone really tight? You know that feeling of really holding someone in your arms, hugging them to you because they are so precious, because you want them to know that you are with them, that you are close to them, that you love them, that you feel their pain/trauma/joy/happiness, more than shoulder to shoulder, more than words can say - its a strong and powerful message of unconditional love.
As Desikachar says in the Heart of Yoga, we use asana practice to develop a deeper understanding of ourselves. Some poses in yoga use gestures of the body, legs and hands to draw your focus inwards. For example, when we do twisting poses, cross legs and arms in Eagle pose (garudasana), even when we draw the palms together to say namaste, we bring our attention into the 'mid-line', we draw our attention away from our extremities, from moving outwards into the world, and draw our attention close to our Selves, gathering our energy inwards to the things we hold close to our hearts. Loving touch is such an important basic physical human need that it seems silly not to do it to your Self.
From Heart to Hands
When I am able to find an intimacy with myself in my yoga practice, it feels like coming home, I feel what its like to be me. And often after a practice of hugging to the mid-line, I notice what I call the 'off-the-mat effect'. It improves my relationships off my yoga mat because I feel like hugging everyone close to me, squeezing them tight because I love them...obviously I know my boundaries and who is open to my squeezy ways!
Here's 5 poses to practice hugging - from easy to challenging
1. Lie on your back with knees bent up (semi-supine) and arms up to the vertical, with fingertips towards the ceiling and shoulder blades flat on the floor, hands facing each other. Relax your shoulder blades as if they are feet in the ground, and gaze up into the column of space between your arms and hands. Then cross your arms so the hands come to the opposite shoulders and give yourself a squeeze. Take a few long breaths into the space between your shoulder blades to find space in the upper back. Then allow your arms to unfold like large wings. Why? Creates space at the back of the heart centre where loving energy originates, and creates a warm hugging effect from your heart all the way down your arms to your hands.
Supine twist with arms resting
2. from your semi-supine position, keep your arms out to the sides but this time cross your right leg over the left. From this position, take both knees across to the floor to the right and turn the head to the left. Keep your right arm out to the side, and left thumb into your hip crease and gently draw down to create space along the spine. Breathe your right shoulder blade down on each exhale. Why? loosens the shoulder and hip joints in preparation for garudasana, lengthens the spine and brings focus to the central nervous system, deep inside the spine itself, the network of nerves which help you to relax, rest and nourish all the cells in the body.
3. Twisted Lunge (Parivrtta Anjaneyasana) - Lunge with your right leg forward, left leg back with knee away from floor and reaching back through the left heel. As your breathe out, feel as if the legs are scissored out away from each other, as you inhale draw the thigh bones up into the pelvis to square your hips, on the next exhale draw your palms together in front of your heart centre, then twist to the right, bringing your left elbow to the outside of your right knee with left hand facing up, and your right hand pressing down on top with elbow up to the ceiling. Feel this strong squeeze of the body, the hands, and a deep twist as you stay and breathe into the pose. Give yourself a little time when you finish to unknot, unravel in a symmetrical down-dog or lie down on your back. Why? Creates strength in body and power in the mind. Draw away from extremities and into the molten core, the heart of the matter, focusing on what is close to your heart.
4. Eagle pose (garudasana). Spread your arms up into a v-shape like a flying eagle and lift the right foot away from the floor, and cross the right knee over a left slightly bent knee, tucking your right toes around the side of the shin. Sit down slightly as if you are landing and then cross your left elbow over the right and wrap the arms around each other like ropes to bring the palms together-ish. You will need to balance and focus, squeeze inwards into the mid-line, hugging yourself close to your Self. Then spread your arms out wide and return both feet to the ground. Why? Plug your limbs in towards the centre, align your physical and energetic body, feel a sense of belonging to yourself.
Iyengar's version may not be yours!
5. Cobra (Bhujangasana) Lie on your front and rest your forehead on the backs of your hands. Squeeze your thighs together, and move the tailbone back and down. From the base of the spine, feel as if you are squeezing a tube of toothpaste from the bottom and feel the ripple up your spine, lifting the chest and head. Take the arms back behind you with your hands pressing into your outer thighs. Advanced version - clasp your hands together and stretch them back to open the chest more but only go as far as you can with the legs together. Why? Opens the front of the heart centre, opens the spine gently from the inside with legs pressed together, keeping your focus on the midline, whats inside, not how far you can go back.
Finish lying on your back in relaxation pose (savasana) or go back to 1. Notice your intention and allow the divine molten core of your energetic body to ripple out towards the surface. Then notice the off-the-mat-effect - see what happens over the next day or two but be warned - stop, look, listen - be mindful of who you squeeze!
by Judy Hirsh, yoga teacher. Preparing to teach.
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