Lunging like a Lizard

Not so long ago my hips were in meltdown.

What started as an apparent niggling running injury slowly, but surely, progressed to ‘So Deana, you have no cartilage here, in fact you’ve lost bone mass in this femur. You need a hip replacement. Now. When can you come in?’

Of course, there were many months between these two episodes. There was also an extraordinary amount of pain and enough codeine phosphate consumed to sedate the entire population of Monaco. Thankfully, the operation went well (hussar) and so began the months of building muscle, coaxing ligaments into life and teaching my body how to walk properly again.

Even now my hip stability is less than rock steady. It’s been almost three years since the operation and yet I still have less body awareness in this area than I enjoy elsewhere. Curiously, my hips are also the last place from where I lose excess weight. It’s almost as though I have additional padding, just in case they need protection from attack.

To this day the ligaments and tendons in my left hip groan like creaking floorboards and so why we must always be mindful of over stretching I am aware my left hip needs stretching attention. This is why my asana of the month is Utthan Pristhasana.

Why Utthan Pristhasana?

  • This asana gives a suitably strong hip release without the balancing act involved in high lunges.
  • You can use props.
  • If you topple you’re rolling, or at least not falling far. This frees the mind from the fear of crashing out/into the person on the next mat along.

How do I get there?

Start from a low lunge, a la sun salutations, but as you’re going to be using this as the base for your Lizard, best to get yourself nicely lined up rather than fly through as part of a vinyasa.

Anjaneyasana (Low Lunge)

From Downward Dog, step the right foot forward and extend the left leg behind you. Ensure you have:

  • A nice 90 degree angle between you shin and thigh so the knee is over the ankle of the right leg
  • Your left foot should extend back in a straight line, toes pointing.

Now check your pelvis and trunk.

  • Locate your tailbone and ensure it’s pointing at the floor, not your foot.
  • Bring your pubic bone forward and up towards the sternum (the bony bit below your collarbones).

Reach up and inhale…

  • Breathe into your side ribs
  • Create space between your shoulders and ears
  • Imagine heavy weights hanging from your shoulder blades, drawing them down
  • Feel the energy drawing up from the soles of your feet, flowing through your trunk and radiating from your fingertips
  • Breathe three, full deep Ujjiyayi breaths

UtthanPristhasana (Lizard Pose)

From Low Lunge transition into your Lizard.

As you exhale, lower your hands to the floor. Your right hand should be near your right instep. Your hands should be shoulder width apart. Remember to:

  • Fold on the exhale
  • Draw the hips in towards each other as you fold
  • Rest your hands on blocks if that is more comfortable for you
  • Protect your joints
  • Press down into the floor with the mound of the right toe joint
  • Keep that knee-shin-thigh right angle in place.

Next Level Variation

If you are comfortable here and want to try a variation you can lower your elbows to the ground, and on an exhale fold forward as you rest down on your forearms and bring your hands into prayer.

Take several ujjiyayi breaths and swap legs.

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Autumn leaves

Ageing your yoga

This week I’ve read some very interesting yoga blogs, but one which really caught my imagination was by Amy is A Human  about the Economics of Teaching Yoga – Part 1 which in part examined the motivations of our students and our motivations as we move through the phases of our yoga life.

Like the year, our relationship with yoga changes as we spend more time within it. Amy’s motivation for learning yoga began with her desire to be as graceful as a dancer. When I began yoga it fed my ego, I enjoyed being flexible and was driven to perfect my asana – to be the best in class. (You should be able to hear my cringing now, but that’s who I was in my Twenties, focused of getting ‘there’ wherever ‘there’ was). It was only when I spent time considering my motivations that I started to see that what’s in front of your face isn’t the big picture.

Autumn walk

Yes, the path ahead looks enchanting but in your rush to scamper forward you could be missing out. What if you just took the time to examine the path from a different perspective?

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Squat down and you get a sense of the majestic carpet that is laid out before you. This isn’t just a path, it’s a work of art, completely unique in this point in space and time.

But what if you step off the path and step into the trees? And what if you look up into the branches?

Autumn leaves

Above you is a whole different world, right above your head. Stand on tip toe, look up higher and you get a whole different view.

autumn leaves 2

Really lift up your heart and it’s as though the leaves are drifting over you, like floating under water.

And if you bring your attention to one leaf. Just one, slightly nibbled leaf you can see the beauty that radiates even in its near-death imperfection.

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When I was younger I used to really push myself for perfection in asana. For me that was the goal.  Now I see asana as a means to strengthen and lengthen my muscles, create a space in my body so I can gain more in meditation. I focus on creating space and light in asana, I’ve stopped pushing.

Having had a full hip replacement last December I know there are asanas that are never coming back. But that’s ok. That’s life. Life isn’t about straight lines. You’re not moving from A-Z.  Look in nature. It’s all circles and spirals where imperfection is as beautiful as anything else.