Ustrasana as a model for deliberate and mindful loving.
Love is something we are all capable of and it is something we all learn about throughout our lives. Loving – others, ourselves, ourselves in relation to others, and so forth - is the general blueprint that connects all of life. On some level, life is discerning how to love better. Thriving in life is the embodiment of self love.
I grew up over-identifying love with duty. In our home we did the “right thing” without a second thought. I am thankful to have developed a strong ethic for myself because of this environment and having grown up with such conviction in performing duty. However, these “right things” included being there for others, at times compromising the most important relationships in my life growing up. Duty felt like sacrifice. Duty felt like denying personal joy. This was part of my story and I am grateful for all of it. Self love is the greatest mystery that reveals itself to me in this lifetime.
I am no expert in anatomy. Thoughts shared here are based on what I learned in my Yoga Teacher Training about backbends and from my exposure in energy healing and general nerdiness. These are my not so random thoughts that seemed profound enough to share with the world. This is me expressing a deep appreciation for the body as an intelligent vehicle and as an abundant source of wisdom for living.
Ustrasana: Camel Pose
1. Open from the thoracic spine.
The thoracic spine is the part on the back that is meant to bend the most. This part of the back is the part that has the most mobility, not the lower back. It is most natural to bend from here. What is most natural is more supported. We open where we are meant to open from. Let the self be supported as one opens up. Love from a place that isn't going to hurt. We are beings meant to love, undeniably capable and worthy.
2. Bend with intention.
Bend slowly. Abrupt, blind surrender robs one of the experience of opening up. Bending gradually keeps the destination of the pose in mind. It gives more value and reverence to the destination. Just as in love, every moment has the opportunity to be relished. There is an opportunity to be present every step of the way. The beloved (whether another soul or the self) and love itself, is absolutely deserving of that attention.
We engage the parts of the body that are associated with the root chakra. The thighs must be engaged. The shins and toes press into the mat. We are connected to the Earth and we yield to her. We reach for the ground to support the self. We reach for the ground to remember our own Earthliness. We remember that we are a soul in a body. Here, we let the Earth be supportive. We are souls taking form in a body.
I went to Catholic schools most of my life. In university, one of the things that stuck from my Theology of Marriage class was that it wasn’t enough to let love just be there. Love needs to take a form. It must be expressed for the other person to receive it. It is not enough to let it just be there, just being. We must let love take form.
4. Inhale and exhale.
We receive with every inhale and give with the exhale. In every pose and every step to get to a certain shape, we keep breathing. This keeps the energy moving. Backbends are widely known to be heart openers. The heart chakra is the chakra tasked to govern the giving and receiving of love. Love is dynamic. Let the breath be a reminder of its dynamic nature.
5. Come back to neutral slowly.
One mustn’t lose our self in love, however tempting it may be. Sometimes we surrender because its less work. We surrender and give in because it can be the least painful. But no matter what happens, we come back to the self eventually. We integrate, remember and celebrate that we are capable of the miracle of giving and receiving love.
Love joyfully, love mindfully.
Ramblings of the soul.