Where is your energy going?
According to the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, the state of yoga is realized when the agitations of the mind are still. Yoga gives us a way to become aware of our thoughts. When we are aware of our thoughts, we have greater choice with regards to what we think and how we think about it. It is said that where our attention goes our energy follows. In practical terms, this means that the way we feel and behave reflects our thoughts. If we want to feel and do good, working with our thoughts is the first step.
Many yoga classes begin by setting an intention for the practice. An intention is a thought or idea to which we devote the energy- the tapas, or work- of our practice. Unlike a personal goal, an intention serves not only our egoic self, but also the highest good of all.
Set an intention, do the work.
We can set an intention off our yoga mats as well. Intention-setting is a wonderful way to begin our day. We can even set our intention before we get out of bed! When we wake-up, we can determine what we would like to devote our energy to. Perhaps we intend that all of our thoughts, words, and deeds be in service to creating a more just and peaceful world. Or maybe we simply intend to prayerfully walk through our day with the awareness of an ill loved one. Whatever intention we choose, we can visualize seeing it through to fruition to give it an additional boost!
Setting an intention is not enough, however. Like the work we do on our yoga mats, we do the work off our yoga mats for the intention to manifest. At first, this may seem to make our lives more complicated. Actually, it is just the opposite, particularly when it comes to decision-making. Our intention acts like a daily personal mission statement. Throughout our day, if there is a decision to be made all we have to do is recall our intention to determine the best course of action. If it is in alignment with our intention, our decision will more than likely be favorable.
Join the universal dance!
When we set goals, we take particular steps to achieve a specific, usually pre-determined outcome. Intentions are a co-creative dance we participate in, allowing the Universe to take the lead. We remain present with our intention and apply it one moment at a time. For example, if our intention is to make ourselves available to be of service to the creation of a just and peaceful world, then every action we take throughout the day is an opportunity to bring it about. The uniting of the mystical and mundane, of consciously honoring life as sacred, is indeed yoga.
Practicing Extended Side-Angle Pose
We can embody the process of grounding and channeling our energy through our asana practice in Utthita Parsvokonasana, Extended Side Angle pose. Here are the steps for practicing this pose:
- Begin in Tadasana (Mountain Pose). Step feet about 4 to 4 ½ feet apart.
- Turn the right leg so that the foot is facing the right short end of the yoga mat. The left foot continues to face the long side of the yoga mat. If a line were drawn through the middle of the yoga mat from short end to short end, you would be standing on that line with the instep of the left foot lined up with the right heel.
- Bend the right knee. The right knee should be stacked over the right heel, or a bit behind if this is uncomfortable. The right knee should not pass the right heel. If it does, take a wider stance by stepping the left foot to the left a bit.
- Extend both arms to the sides at shoulder height, as if practicing Virabhadrasana II (Warrior Post II). Look beyond right finger tips.
- Hinge into the right hip crease and reach as far as possible to the right. Extend the right-side body over the top of the right thigh.
- Keep pressing into the left foot.
- Place right hand on the mat at the baby toe side of the right foot. If this is not accessible, place right elbow on top of right thigh.
- Extend left arm overhead. The left upper arm is close to the left side of the head.
- Rotate the trunk upwards towards the sky. Gaze up toward the left palm or elbow. Imagine a long line tracing the left side of the body from the outer edge of the left heel to the left finger tips.
- Remain in this shape for about five to ten breaths.
- To release the pose, inhale to return to Virabhadrasana II. Exhale and straighten the right leg. Relax arms to sides.
- Repeat the entire sequence to the left.