The End #3: Coming out of the Pose
Today I’d like to talk about the last part of a pose. It is easy to think that when it is time to coming out of a pose you’re done. In yoga, coming out of a pose requires just as much (or more) mindfulness and practice as going in and staying in the pose.
Let’s say you’re in Tree Pose. (Maybe you already fell out of the tree…happens to all of us. Oh well!) So your instructor says, “OK, come out of Tree.” The trick is to remember that you are not letting go. The trick is to lower your hands with the same reverence you raised them with; to lower your leg with the same care that got you there; to center your balance first on the standing foot, then re-center your balance on both feet. It is much easier to just collapse the pose, but that’s not where the benefit comes from.
Collapsing a pose can, under the right conditions, cause injury–not the goal of yoga! Coming out of a pose offers a great opportunity to stay in your “yoga mind” and build strength in your body.
Once you step onto your mat or sit in your chair if that is how you are doing yoga, you are in your practice. Once you step off, you are finished your practice. Everything in between is the yoga practice. In between specific poses is the practice. Going in, being in and coming out of the pose–all of it is the practice. Your mat is your refuge and your hostess. It is there to re-mind you to your practice. It is a wonderful tool.
Let’s put this into practice. Get seated on your mat (or chair) and find your balance. Place one hand down to the side and ‘inhale’ the other arm up so it is overhead. “Exhale” your arm over your head to the opposite side for a side stretch. Hold it there and take a couple of breaths while you enjoy the expansion of your body while you side stretch. Keep the same side sit bone connected to your chair or the floor. Then take a deep breath in and as you exhale bring your body back to its straight line with the arm overhead. This movement is totally engaging your core, your back, possible your lower body. Inhale again, and as you exhale slowly lower your arm. You can feel that your arm is fully engaged and for a longer period of time than if you had just let it drop.
Imagine if you did this kind of exit from every pose. For example, let’s go back to tree pose. Try it. It takes a lot of control: control of your stamina, your breath and your mind. Think of how many steps are in that first part of the pose. The balancing on two, the balancing on one, the raising of the foot, the hands. Reverse the pose thinking of those same steps. When you are back to standing from the first part of Tree, stay there for a few breaths before coming into the pose on the other side. I often see that people don’t seem to enjoy that pause in the middle. Don’t rush it. It is part of the pose, and you have nowhere else to go. Repeat for the other side. Beginning, middle, and end. And then once the movement has stopped and you are back to full body balance.
Embracing the three Tenets for each pose will allow your practice to become a moving meditation. It prepares you for your quiet meditation at the end of your practice. All those poses and intentions are there to lead you to that incredible time of calm you are looking for from yoga. For 60 or 90 minutes your mind and body have been practicing the art of when to engage and when to relax. Your body has been guided to do the same. All in preparation to be still. Your final meditation is something you achieve by design and practice. The quiet is something that comes of its own volition to the welcoming place you have created for it in your body and your mind.