The River is Wide

This morning, for the first time all year, someone was sitting on "my" bench down by the river. So I walked down the uneven path to the river and sat on a rock less than a footprint from the water.

It gave me a very different perspective there. I thought to myself - like the song: "The river is wide".

I felt on a par with the river - maybe not its equal - but in a different relationship to it. It was slightly breezy and peaceful and very quiet. I observed the tiniest life forms moving very freely in the water, and I wanted to stay there all morning. I experienced a connection to the river that was different.

The wideness of the river made me think of the yoga workshop I attended this past weekend and my own class on Tuesday. Both of my teachers worked on very similar things and tried to get me to embody more deeply the same action.

In Anusara Yoga we have a mantra that is often used: "Shins in, thighs out!"

It is a refinement of the second of the Universal Principle of Alignment - which is Muscular Energy. However, the "thighs out" is also a component of the third principle - Inner Spiral - because one must turn the thighs in, take them back - and widen them apart all the way into the lower back, opening the pelvic floor, and making room for the tail bone.

Getting the femur bones back and apart is not an easy thing to do for me. It begins with softening the groins and includes widening the sitting bones apart as well.

I had an insight this weekend at the workshop and in my class at how much more deeply I need to work this principle. My teacher has been focusing on another corollary to "shins in, thighs out," which is - "shins forward, thighs back." One can see how this relates to the principles mentioned here.

When the shins come forward, it allows for the tops of the thighs to go back more deeply, and also brings the leg into greater alignment. The tendency is to do the reverse. Yet by lifting the toes and connecting all four corners of the feet, we begin to activate ankle, shin, and thigh loop.

There are seven energy loops in Anusara Yoga which are refinements of muscular energy. For the most part (with one exception), adjoining loops go in opposite directions, balancing each other out like cogs on a chain. Thus, ankle loop bisects the ankle and the flow of energy goes down the heels grounding them, then stretches forward through the sole of the foot, lifting the toes, and circles back into the ankle - intersecting with shin loop (like a figure eight) - which travels up the back of the shin, lifting the calf muscle - and bisects the knee coming down the front of the shin - bringing the shin forward.

This all probably sounds esoteric, but it illustrates the precise bio-mechanical alignment principles of Anusara Yoga which when learned, are applicable in all the poses.

Part of me felt frustrated after Tuesday because I still feel such a novice at understanding all these principles. The other part of me marveled at how the principles worked. And still another part of me curiously played with what it would take to embody these actions more deeply in my body.

Yoga provides us with a constant road map and journey towards self-discovery. I remember Desiree Rumbaugh sharing this weekend, that after 14 years of studying Anusara Yoga, she is finally beginning to get it. This reminded me of my college music theory teacher who always said, "The first hundred years are the hardest!" We are never done learning! And a true student of life and any subject knows that.


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