Ahhh... the holidays. Aren't the holidays just grand? The food, the decorations, and the warm glow of FAMILY. (Insert the sound of the needle scratching across the surface of the old-time record).
For many of us, despite how close we may be to our nearest and dearest, this is a time of putting on our best faces and ignoring some of the small comments that make us cringe. Even if our familial relationships are fantastic there is always that one person that you hold your breath around, praying that they won't belch at the dinner table. As they say, "you choose your friends, not your relatives."
Additionally, family and the whole busy vibration of the holidays challenges even the calmest of individuals. It is a time when our third chakra (our power center) is in high gear. The third chakra relates to your relationship to your intimate communities—who are you within your family structure? Who are you in your work environment? At church? In other organizations? It even relates to who you are within the small community fighting over the last ‘whatever’ on the shelf at the Toys R Us.
It is truly a time when we need to reach deep and find our flexibility. Focusing on the mobility of our spines is one of the easiest ways we can access this mental and emotional flexibility. The spine is the gateway to our stress response—the less stressed we are the less rigid our body becomes. The entire nervous system pours out of the spaces in and around the vertebrae. The health of the spine is paramount to any other movement concept you may consider. Its proper alignment and flexibility is at the heart of all things Rasamaya. If it works well you can comfortably stand in your place of personal power without needing to be overly aggressive, assertive or downright angry.
So how do you work spinal flexibility? One important and simple way actually is to use movement to work against the natural curves of the spine. It seems counterintuitive but for many can provide great relief. For instance in cat arch (where you lift your head) the spine will naturally want to move into the lordotic (lower back) curvature and in cat tuck (where you tuck your head) your spine will want to move into the kyphotic (upper back) curvature. Try reversing this pattern—as you arch, focus on drawing the tailbone back and dropping the heart towards the floor instead, as you tuck focus on pressing the lower back to the ceiling rather than the upper back. For most this provides a great sense of relief in the spine and increases the disc space. I offer this movement with the consideration there are no serious spinal medical issues such as herniations, stenosis etc.
The mantra to memorize here is "width and length." It's one I come back to often in my own movement practice. It’s important to find the most width and length in every movement, whether that be triangle pose in yoga, chair pose at the barre, or single leg stretch in Pilates. Think of the spine like a garden hose in every movement posture. The question to ask yourself is, "where am I placing the spine not to put a kink in the works?" Find long lines in every movement —forward bends, back bends and particularly twists. Many students will lean back putting a kink in the hose in order to crank the shoulders around—this results in no flow and decreased breath capacity.
If you don't stop up your own plumbing you can more easily "go with the flow." All of a sudden, it becomes a cinch to let the last "Let's Rock Elmo" go to someone else with the wild crazed look in their eyes, or to calmly pass the gravy rather than throw it at your loved one. You may even find you do so with a sense of gratitude for your own sustained sense of calm and well-being. Go ahead, be flexible and give yourself a little pat on the back.
-- Carrie Tyler
Carrie Tyler is the Founder and Creator of the Rasamaya Method. She is the proud owner of several Rasamaya studios and runs teacher trainings, retreats and workshops within the US and abroad. In her private practice she specializes in women's health, chronic structural issues and sexuality in and sees private clients when she is not traveling. She offers lectures and consultations on the Business of Yoga. Learn more about her at www.rasamaya.com