December 31, 2013

Ground Down to Open Up. ~ Sapha Arias

Over the last few years, I have often found myself saying that the only way to open up is by grounding down, and for a while (before I found yoga and before I could understand what all this hippie dippy talk was truly about) it seemed a strange concept to me, since I tend to reside in the clouds, surrounded by my many daydreams.

But as my practice began to evolve, I began to notice that the longer I spent focusing on and working on my grounding asanas (anything and everything from tadasana, to anjaneyasana to parsvottanasana) the more delicious my openings or, in this case, my backbends would become.

Baffled by this realization, I began to explore each asana more fully and began to really work on grounding into each pose in order to access deeper back bends. I should explain briefly why I wanted deeper backbends before I go on. And no, it wasn’t because I was yearning to post a picture of myself in urdhva dhanurasana {wheel} on Instagram, but because I knew, and have known for some time now, that I need backbends in my life.

I need backbends to help me confront my trust issues. I need backbends to help me be more open. I need backbends to kindly push past the fear of rejection and abandonment that were so deeply ingrained into my being at a very young age. I need backbends to love more deeply and feel more readily and live life more fully.

So, there it was (and is), my reason to get deeper into my back bending practice, both on and off the mat; and the realization that I could get there if I was willing to spend just a little more time grounding down amazed me.

I decided to pay really close attention to how my body reacted to different poses and circumstances. For example, I noticed that the gloomier it got outside, or the more it rained, the more I wanted to curl up into a little ball and stay protected forever. While, the more the sun shun, and the more comfortable the temperature, the more I wanted to leap, and bounce and open my arms up to receive all the great light that was available to me.

And yet, I know that life is not all sunshine and unicorns. Life is so much more than that! Life is rain and storms, it is tranquility and turmoil; it is light and dark and it is meant to be lived to the fullest at all times, no matter how dark, scary, uncomfortable or miserable it may seem at that moment.

So if this was true about life, I thought, then, the same must be true of the practice. Practice, remember, always mirrors our lives and gives us a chance to learn how to live more fully through our breath and even our asana. And if this was the case, then, it meant that all the times when it was rainy and miserable, I should have been just as willing to open my arms up and leap for joy and all the times the sun was shinning and the weather was perfect, I should have been able to curl inwards and be more aware and loving towards myself.

I decided to try a little experiment. I decided to follow this train of thought and open up every time it got gloomy and murky, while going more deeply into myself whenever the sun was shinning and things seemed perfect. I have to say, the results were lovely.

When the rain came, I unrolled my mat and began a new journey. I heard my body cry out for comfort and protection, but instead of indulging it, I calmly began a new path. And as the rain patted down over my house, my breath steadied, my practice was focused and sharp. I spent time noticing the feel of the earth beneath my feet, the connection of my bandhas and how they helped the body’s movements. I added subtle back bends to this pose and offered up my heart to the skies as though I wanted to become one with all that was around me. I even enjoyed the connection of my palm over my heart in some of the gentler backbends.

And then I allowed myself to connect with my core (not my physical core, you know, the one we always talk about when we want to get a six pack; but my true core at the very center of who I am. The core that says, this is who you are, and you are powerful and immense and unlimited and beautiful…that core) and from the depths of this center I allowed myself to explode out of my heart sustained by my soul and grounded in my faith that this was as it should be; vulnerable and open and ready to surrender to the earth.

I began to notice subtle changes in the way I related to the day and the people around me and I became, for once, a true lover of a good rainstorm. Up to this point, my favorite thing to say was “when it rains, bad things happen.” Now; however, I like to say, “when it rains, ground down and open.” I mean this in all aspects of life, not just when it is raining physically, but when our life seems to be filled with nothing but storms and downpours, when all we want is some sunlight and good news.

Think about it this way; the very first chakra is your root chakra, the chakra that grounds you down and supports you. The chakra that helps you know your true self-worth, your stability and your self-confidence. The chakra that helps you remain calm and steady even when all around you, there is chaos.

So if you are able to keep your first chakra steady and grounded, then no amount of storms will topple you over. Think of those massive trees that have stood tall for decades with out being toppled over by a harsh wind, or a massive storm. Those trees, the ones that are firmly rooted, are a good reflection of someone who is so deeply rooted into who they are at their very core—not who they have been told they are or who society perceives them to be—but who they truly are deep down, good, bad and in between.

Those people are the fighters, the survivors, the heroes of myth and the legends that inspire withstand the test of time and storm and tragedy. Just like those magnificent trees, a person who knows him or herself can withstand all the storms that may threaten to topple him or her over, so long as that person can remain grounded and willing to open even in the scariest of times.

And it is that opening that leads to a beautiful expansion and growth. From this knowledge and faith of the self, from this grounding comes the most beautiful life, the kind of life that brings forth leafs and flowers and branches so immense and so beautiful, that those all around can not help but notice and be inspired.

Sure, it is always scary or even terrifying to hear the thunder rumble or watch as the lightning strikes all around you. But what’s even scarier than venturing out into the storm or giving yourself the chance to move through it, is staying stuck and stagnant the rest of your life.

If you are too scared to discover how wonderful you are and chose to never ground down, there is absolutely no way for you to ever open up fully. And remaining curled up into a little protective ball when all around you there is rain and uncertainty and darkness means that you will remain stuck in the darkness forever. And truly, who wants to stay stuck in the same place forever? It isn’t even natural. All of nature, all of creation is in constant movement and development. So, remaining still is equal to not opening up, not evolving or growing, and not living.

So take some time, next time you are assailed by storms, to ground down and open up. I promise, once you learn to listen to your soul and give yourself the chance to open up to all that is around you, knowing who you truly are, the whole world will change right before your eyes.

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 Assistant Editor: Daniel Garcia/Editor: Bryonie Wise

Photo: elephant archives

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