As we quickly transitioned from a beautiful mild fall, to this awakening cold, I am focusing on the acceptance of change. We either painstakingly resist it, or wholeheartedly embrace it. Change is beautiful, uncomfortable, exciting, and frightening… but at all times, no matter what, both within us and around us, things are ever-changing. Rather than looking back at what was, or looking ahead to what will be, let's try to find gratitude for what is, in the present moment. This isn't to say that the emotional impact of change should be ignored; but rather acknowledged, processed and embraced as a part of the change itself. By living with more presence, we feel more comfortable living in the gray… We become more flexible, adaptable and resilient… With change, space is created for something new and possibly wonderful to emerge.
"All the things that truly matter - beauty, love, creativity, joy and inner peace - arise from beyond the mind."
~ Eckhart Tolle
If you haven't read this book, I recommend it - it's a life-changer.
Chaturanga dandasana, four limb stick pose, or chatuari (Ashtanga) is the fourth vinyasa of sun salutes A and B. While we can allow ourselves to slip, using this pose as a transition, the proper expression requires significant strength and attention to alignment.
In practice, you will often hear teachers offering an alternative by transitioning straight to adho mukha svanasana, or downward facing dog, rather than through chaturanga dandasana due to the strength required and heat produced by transitioning through the vinyasa.
This month we are honoring the yama asteya, which translates to non-stealing or more broadly, the concept of accepting one’s own self as it is. Chaturanga dandasana is a challenging pose and it is important to recognize and accept where we are in our practice and take variations or modifications until we build the strength needed for proper alignment to reduce the risk of injury.
We’ve broken down a few common misconceptions about how the body should look in chaturanga dandasana to assess which variation or modification might best suit your practice.
Don’t roll forward or let your shoulders go lower than the elbows, as this can risk injury to the shoulders.
To correct this action, keep the belly firm pulling the navel toward the spine, rock forward so that the shoulders are in front of the wrists and contract the chest muscles. Make sure to align elbows above wrists and hug toward the midline, lowering shoulders no lower than the elbows, keeping the upper arm bones parallel to the floor and lower arm bones perpendicular to the floor.
It helps to keep the roots of the toes grounded and the legs firm by contracting the quads, isometrically pressing back through the heels, pulling forward with the breastbone while squeezing the hands back on the mat.
A modification that can be used is simply lowering knees to the floor so that your body creates a straight line from the knees to the head, then lowering down, keeping the elbows squeezing in toward the midline.
Ashtanga pranam, eight-limbed salutation, or knees-chest-chin pose, can be used in place of chaturanga entirely to work on building strength, or simply in the beginning of a sequence as a gentle warm up. Beginning in plank position, shoulders over wrists, drop the knees to the floor keeping the toes tucked under, and hug the elbows in toward the sides of the body. Keeping hips lifted high and off the mat, bring the chest and chin forward, resting the chest between the hands and the chin gently on the mat.
No matter what variation you choose will depend on your level of practice. Be patient as you build strength and honest with yourself regarding where you are in your practice. Slowly but surely you will work up to the final expression of this beautifully challenging asana.
Written by Natalie Bratcher
Edited by Kim Manning
"It's about letting the universe know what you want, and working toward it, while letting go of how it comes to pass. Your job is not to figure out how it's going to happen for you, but to open the door in your head, and when the door opens in real life, just walk through it. Don't worry if you miss a cue, because there's always doors opening. They keep opening."
~ Jim Carrey
Watch this phenomenal speech in its entirety:
I live in Chicago with my partner Tim, our 34 year old turtle Freddie, and 7 year old dog Fagan. We just lost our 21 year old cat, sweet Belle, may she rest in peace until we meet again. We live in Lincoln Park and absolutely love living in the city. We enjoy taking Fagan to the park every day, living so close to the lake and the beach, the restaurants and the food, and the energy of the city... there is just so much to love. I love my job and enjoy a full-time career as an animal welfare research scientist, a role that I worked quite hard to establish. But this is just a part of my life, and I am a big believer in a balanced life. Not long ago, I was very much a hermit... I didn't get out much beyond work, didn't have a lot to identify with... My life has really opened itself to me in the past 5 years. Finding balance and connectedness was an inside job that required time. It's amazing how much happiness, connection and balance can bring. In our free time, Tim & I enjoy working our independent business, where we have met amazing people and formed lasting friendships. That, and we're excited to building supplemental and residual income! I also love everything music - see my Music and Yoga Playlists blog for more on that- but I enjoy both playing and listening to music. I also enjoy cooking, spending time with friends and family, and staying healthy by exercising and practicing yoga. I discovered yoga only a few years ago, during that moment in my life where I was seeking balance and connection. The timing was perfect, and yoga helped me to find peace in accepting that at any moment, life is as it should be. I immediately knew I wanted to become a teacher, to share with others the experience and practice that was so profound in my own life. I completed my 200-hour teacher training in 2014 with Alyson D'Souza at Village Yoga Chicago. As a yoga teacher, I appreciate the practice from a different perspective and am grateful to be able to share it with others, seeing the profound impact it has on the lives of those who practice.