By Jennie Williford
Pranayama Yoga Studio
BKS Iyengar, founder of Iyengar Yoga, poses a question: “Why think of the heavens when we have not made real contact with mother earth?” We only want the final benefits of yoga, aspiring to great spiritual heights through breath-work and meditation. We forget that these heights need first a good foundation of disciplined practice and focus of mind, taking ourself out of our head and connecting deeper down into the roots of our own true self. Thus, the practice of Iyengar Yoga brings focus back to the roots of yoga through teaching the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, but also builds the practice of asana (physical postures) from the ground up.
If we do not know how to stand on our own two feet, planting deep roots, how is it possible to grow a strong physical vessel to manage our life’s energy? To not waste or even misuse the energy (prana) we are given, we must nurture our connection to the earth first in a very physical way before we can hurry on to the final goal.
Most of our lives are lived in our head. We literally put on our shoes each day and run into life without thinking of any connection between our feet and the earth. With this disconnect, we become bodiless brains, continually distracted, wasting energy worrying or wishing in the past and the future. Without strong roots, we feel unanchored among life’s constant winds of change. It is only rooted in the present moment that we can find some peace, and it is yoga that can give us the tools to stand still.
Yoga is a step-by-step process for growing into a strong tree with deep roots. The eight “limbs” of yoga take us from moral precepts (yamas) all the way to enlightenment (samadhi). Building awareness through physical postures (asana) begins the process of taking our mind away from distraction and into quietness. The simple act of removing our shoes and reconnecting to our feet can have a strong impact on our physical, mental and emotional well-being. Through this connection, we draw the mind away from the distractions of the brain and energize the first chakra (energetic center), bringing balance and focus back to the source of all action. From there, we can move awareness and energy throughout the whole body, getting us out of our head to standing firmly on our own two feet.
So, how about your feet? Have you taken the time lately to really “see” your feet, “feel” your feet? Take your shoes and socks off and take a good look, first with your eyes, and then with your senses. The feet are an amazing form of intricate joints, muscles and tendons. When worked and moved, they are like any other part of our body, becoming stronger and more supple with exercise and use. They are our physical and energetic foundation to all other action, so problems in our feet and how we stand on them can show up anywhere above. When our backs, hips or knees hurt, we never think that something could be going on in our feet to cause these things, but weak roots typically lead to a weak plant.
So, now with your shoes off, stand up. Bring the inner feet together so they feel one another, and lift and spread the toes for a more broad connection to the earth. Actively press into the ball-mounds and heels equally to awaken the arches. This physical lift and support from the arches lifts energy from the earth up into the legs, and ultimately up through the spine. Standing actively and energetically with full awareness and attention is Tadasana (mountain pose), and is the basis for all other standing actions. With Tadasana, we grow deep roots of balance and stability to anchor us in our efforts and actions toward the higher “limbs” of yoga.
Aspiring only to heightened states without this stable foundation can lead to dysfunction and even more distraction, leading us away from a quiet mind instead of toward it. We may delude ourselves into thinking only of the heavens, but until we make real contact with mother earth and with ourselves, the heavens will be out of reach. Come make first contact with your feet and with yourself from 9 to 11 a.m., June 30, at Pranayama Yoga Studio.
For more information about Pranayama Yoga Studio, visit www.yogarockford.com or call (815) 968-9642.
From the June 27-July 3, 2012, issue