In spirituality, it is advised not to wish for anything, but accept everything with open arms. As I begin the first week of my ashtanga-vinyasa yoga teacher’s training course (TTC), I believe this may be good advice. When I left my job (that a million girls only dreamed of), I was wracked with insecurity – “Will I get enough work? Will I be able to supplement my salary? Will I be happy?” Now less than a month later I have more work than I can handle, a new Labrador puppy, and after years of planning I’m finally training to be a yoga teacher. Everything I’ve ever wanted has come to me at the same time, which means I work and study from the moment I wake up, till the time I go to sleep (weekends included).
Over the past five years, yoga has changed my life. It has got me down from size 14 to 8, cured the pain from debilitating physical condition, helped me cope with loss, and given me friends for life. But my first day at the TTC wasn’t ideal to say the least. I was woken up by my puppy at four in the morning, had to finish some writing before I left for the yoga studio (six hours/six days a week), got stuck in a traffic jam from hell, and reached 45 minutes late. I also had three meetings afterwards that wrapped up by nine, followed by homework that I had to finish before hitting the bed. I would be lying if I said I didn’t wonder what I’d got myself into.
The yoga sutras (principles) talk about the nine obstacles that block our progress, and I think these can be applied to every aspect of our lives. There’s illness, a ‘who cares’ attitude, self doubt, carelessness, fatigue, over-indulgence, wrong perceptions, lack of grounding and instability that leads to regression. I can safely say that to some extent, I’m still feeling all of the above in small doses. But my teacher, Seema Sondhi has asked us to drop all judgements and surrender for these five weeks. So I’m following the advice of the father of ashtanga yoga, late Pattabhi Jois: “just practice, practice and all will come.”
While I try to find this new life balance, follow along for a new lesson every week. This week, I learnt all about posture and how everything I knew about it was wrong. I finally understood correct alignment when we practiced the Tadasana or mountain pose. It seems like a basic standing posture, but Dr BKS Iyengar once said that if you have to do just one asana, make it this one. Not only does it improve posture, expect more strength in your legs, an open chest and spine and an elongated spine.
Here’s what I learnt:
- Stand against a wall and spread your toes grounding the four corners of your feet – the big and little toe, and the outside and inner corners of your foot. Also place the centre of the heel firmly on the floor, and lift at your arches.
- Pull your kneecaps and inner thighs upwards.
- Align your pelvis so the back of your hips lightly touch the wall. To get this right, imagine your pelvis as a bowl of water. If it’s too arched or tilted forward, the water will spill.
- Lift your chest. Imagine that you’re creating space between the vertebras of the thoracic (chest and abdomen) region. Roll your shoulders up and back so they also touch the wall.
- Elongate your neck and lightly tuck the chin. The back of your head should also touch the wall. This is the correct, aligned posture. Do this every day to make it a casual habit.
Vasudha Rai is doing her teacher’s training course at The Yoga Studio, New Delhi, and blogs at www.vbeauty.co.