Each week smile in the sky feature a different yoga pose and 5 physical health benefits and 5 mental health benefits related to it
This week…flying pigeon pose [Sanskrit translation: Eka Pada Galavasana: eka (one) pada (legged) galav (dedicated to galava) asana (pose)].
This pose requires balance, strength, and a high level of hip flexibility. Although by no means a simple pose to master, practice in maintaining ease in difficult postures may transfer into life.
Physical benefit: HIP OPENING
The strong pressure created by the bent front leg compressed by the arms to open the outer hip requires an adequate warmup and flexible hip joints. See here for a preparatory sequence.
Mental benefit: EMOTIONAL RELEASE
Hip openers are traditionally associated with the release of stored emotional tension in the hip. Although this is a strong pose, with practice it can become less effortful, and may be a calming way to allow emotions to flow more freely. See this fascinating article for more on how science is discovering how our minds and bodies carry our emotional stress.
Physical benefit: IMPROVED BALANCE
Spreading the fingers wide provides a solid base, with finger tips active and engaged, and the space between thumb and forefinger pressing the earth away. This creates a dual action: pressing downward to allow you to fly upward.
Mental benefit: MINDFULNESS
‘Paying attention, in the present moment, on purpose, non-judgmentally’, is one definition of mindfulness. Clarity in the mind, or the lack thereof, is made abundantly clear when your nose is wavering dangerously close to the earth! See here for a discussion of the origins of mindfulness and for a sequence of poses in which to practice it.
Physical benefit: CORE STRENGTHENING
As with all arm balances, engage the pelvic floor. Engaging two of the yogic locks: mula bandha and uddiyana bandha support the lower back and keeps legs lifted, and assist focus and concentration. See here for more on bandhas.
Mental benefit: IMPROVED CONCENTRATION
The ease and beauty of this pose can be experienced fully when you find the balance point, and experience weightlessness. Long slow breaths in and out through the nose assist stability in the pose. The point of focus, or ‘Drishti’ is about 30cm ahead of the hands, or alternatively on the breath.
Physical benefit: SHOULDER STRENGTHENING:
Chatauranga dandasana and plank pose are great preparation for this pose, maintaining an open chest.
Mental benefit: VISUALISATION
Before entering the pose, try closing the eyes and visualizing yourself in the perfect posture, flying your pigeon and maintaining the pose with ease. Activation of the visual cortex through imagination helps prepare the body for the pose.
Physical benefit: LEGS AND GLUTEAL STRENGTHENING
Keep the back leg active from buttocks to toes. This constant energetic lift will help maintain the balance.
Mental benefit: SELF-CONFIDENCE
When you create this pose, a joyous feeling of achievement is well deserved. Bask in the glow of doing something new, appreciate your body and mind and all it can do for you. Celebrate all that you are! For more tips on improving self-confidence see here.
Ideally our yoga practice is a both a metaphor for life, as well as a toolkit for life: a daily opportunity to ‘be with’, and experience difficult sensations and emotions in a safe way while we do our best to maintain poise. But most importantly having a good giggle when things don’t quite go to plan! So when that inevitable fall occurs we pick ourselves up, and either give it another go or allow and accept our current capabilities, be kind to ourselves, and rest.
To learn more about the mind-body connection and our services, including workshops for mental health, yoga, and research consultancy, please see www.smileinthesky.com
Next week...handstand [Adho Mukha Vrksasana]