Five Ways to Find True North

Imagine coming into a yoga studio that smells of freshly burning incense, where the lights are dim, and the mood is blissful.  For a moment, you’ve calmed the voices in your head preventing you from going to class, and you’re ready to begin. The setting is perfect for calming your monkey-mind and for reconnecting with your body. Yet, a few minutes pass, and your mind says differently; those voices start creeping back into your consciousness, urging you to remain in your comfort zone, avoiding any discomfort or challenge. And, as usual, the struggle between mind and body begins, and you fall into your “default” practice, your comfort zone.

Many yogis experience “default” practice at times, where, for example, transitions between poses are the same as always, when the full expression of a pose never quite reaches the edge, and when it’s easier to quit than to stay in a pose when it becomes too much of a challenge.

You often hear the teacher say for you to find Tadasana in each pose, whether you’re currently in mountain pose, or in crow, or in handstand. Tadasana is True North in essence. With your feet forward, your shoulders back, your belly pulled in, and your head forward, you are essentially in true anatomical position; your body is perfectly aligned. Think of anatomy class, the anatomical models, both skeletal and muscular, are always represented the same way, true anatomical position, Tadasana, or True North. Our bodies are made for maintaining this position in all that we do on or off the yoga mat. Any default practice can be shifted with focus on True North.

Ways to find True North in your Practice can be subtle, but transforming. Consider these small changes the next time you come to your mat, when those voices are telling you not to go for the challenge:

1-     Notice those voices in your head, but let them go; they do not serve you in your practice.

2-     Observe and Listen to your body in each pose. Your expression of twisted triangle, for example, is your own expression, yet could you focus on grounding your feet into your mat, rather than focusing on your brain saying, “you can’t do this?"

3-    Observe and Listen for the alignment of the pose. Are your feet at 12 o’clock? Are you grounding down through all four corners of your feet? If not, do it! It will take your mind off those voices telling you, “no!" So, what if you’re in handstand? Ground down through your hands, lift the pit of your belly, and flex your feet, like you’re going to push to the stars above you. Your focus on True North Alignment will curb the voices in your brain saying, “Come down, won’t you?"

4-     Observe and Listen for possibilities in the pose. If you can pull the pit of your belly in during Mountain Pose, do the same in triangle or half-moon. Once you embrace the full expression of the pose, your edge, you are up to bigger and better things.

5-     Observe and Listen for what’s missing and find access to the tools that will help you right here, right now in the pose. Could you sink a little lower in Chair Pose? Could you mesh your fingertips and palms with the earth while flying in crow?