by Carley Ewert
What would the cow across the pasture think if I were to drop to all fours and bellow my belly to the earth just as it does on a warm sunny day?
What would the mountain think as I stand solid along its surface with my feet firmly planted into its soil and my spine lifted like its tallest peak?
What would the eagle ponder if it were to gaze down from its perch within the trees and see my arms and legs flapping like wings from the right side bind to the left mimicking the birds exquisite movement?
I doubt the cow, the mountain, or the eagle would think much about viewing these scenes and I know from experience I feel free and in touch with the world around me when I practice everywhere. When I teach yoga I remind my students that the poses we are taking can be created anywhere. I joke that although you might get a few interesting looks if you drop down into pigeon pose while waiting in line at the bank you can always practice tree with an aware and attentive breath to get the benefit of presence. I encourage those that work within offices to sit with a leg crossed over their opposite knee and to fold forward at their desk when experiencing low back pain or sciatica. Neither of these examples are too far fetched to cause social discomfort, yet to some they would. We live in a society that determines which behaviors are appropriate and inappropriate at certain times but does that mean that we have to limit our yoga practice to a yoga studio or gym? No, not at all.
Practicing anywhere at anytime is an incredible way to deepen your understanding and application of yoga. Listening to your bodies need at all times and finding postures that both suit those needs and are doable within your space can become an art. Downward facing dog may not be comfortable on your hands at the corner or 5th and Main but the grassy null two blocks away will provide a wonderful alternative. Headstand in your cubicle to refocus your mind may be cramped and challenging but I don't doubt there is a conference room that will provide both the space and the privacy to tackle the inversion during a break.
A year ago I made a commitment to take my practice off my mat and into all realms of my life. Although I'm still figuring out exactly what that means I know I've found myself doing asanas in obscure locations and practicing pranayama multiple times a day. Through the experience of freeing my concepts of where and when I can practice I've found myself creatively integrated into my environment. The back of the coach transformed into a wonderful prop for backhanding and the pine trees along the trails a great help in stretching my hamstrings when feeling fatigued. One morning I was running around South Lake Union and found a fabulous park hidden along Eastlake's waterfront with a few benches. Called to stop I planted my hands on the bench and began kicking up into a handstand. Shocked and energized that I successfully balanced on the slanted wood platform I returned to my run with a playful smile.
Feeling free and in touch with the world around us is, in my opinion, the heart of yoga. The dictionary describes yoga as a philosophy advocating and prescribing a course of physical and mental disciplines for attaining liberation from the material world and union of the self with the Supreme Being or ultimate principle. Wow, OK. It seems to me like a no brainer that giving ourselves permission to practice anytime and in anyplace is yoga.
I've heard students lament about not getting into class and that their bodies are tight, sore, or even tired from the lack of practice. If you are resonate with that then I have a bit of advice. Find places that nourish you, create a yoga practice that comes from within you, and find yourself liberated and connected in ways you may have not known from practicing solely in studios. My experience has been that the quick re-fuels on the go help me truly appreciate the days I am able to practice on my mat, with my friends and fellow teachers at Be Luminous. Utilize the tools we learn in class, apply them outside of class, and reshape your limitations to possibilities. What would it be like to take cow pose with the cows, stand in mountain on a mountain, and perch next to a perched eagle?