Recently, I had an opportunity to co-host a small event on a warm Sunday afternoon. The event was an art and yoga meet up through the website http://www.meetup.com. Earlier in the year I had attended an art therapy meetup event in Busan which I really enjoyed. The hostess Justina, is a Korean art therapist who lived and worked abroad for many years; she has been offering meetups in which participants create art together in a group setting. Justina and I discussed hosting an event together that involved yoga and art, which materialized just two weeks ago, and I believe that it was a success!
When I considered what I was going to teach for the event, I knew right away that I wanted the lesson to have an element of community. The reason being that I knew some group art would be made together by the participants. To create a sense of community, I started class with a chant of Om. I absolutely love the feeling that I get when I close my eyes and make the single syllabic sound with other yogis. Om creates this vibration that encircles everyone and brings the class together. It’s natural to have a sense of nervousness or roll your eyes at a room full of adults chanting together, but it’s something that should be tried. There’s no need to feel shy because all eyes are closed, just follow the lead of the teacher and ride it out.
After the opening chant, I led the six participants through a quick 30 minute yoga session. I designed a class focused on heart opening. Practicing heart opening poses, such as a simple back bend in tadasana, help to open up the upper spine and back and are good to practice to create a sense of general openness in the body. Not only did I want everyone to feel open in their bodies but also in their hearts, open to the experience and to each other, and likewise open-minded.
After the yoga we reconvened in a small room to start the art which Justina led. We created works individually and together. It was a fun afternoon and good experience for me as a teacher. Below are some poses that you can try before activities involving creativity.
- Back Bend in Tadasana After warming up with some sun salutes, stand at the top of your mat with feet hip distance. Check your alignment, make sure that your feet are pointing directly forward and that your knees are above your ankles, your hips over your knees, and shoulders over your hips. From there, point your fingers up to the sky behind you and place your hands on your lower back, near the top of your pants. Hug your elbows in towards each other. On an inhalation, lift your chest and press through your hands to move your hips forward. Focus on opening through the chest. Gently release your head back, but if that causes you any discomfort, then tuck your chin to your chest. A slight bend through the knees may increase comfort. Hold for a few breaths. Return to standing on an inhalation.
- Sphinx Pose Also known as, SalambaBhujangasana in Sanskrit, is one of my favorite back bending postures. It’s a very subtle pose that has great effect. This pose begins on the belly. Align your elbows directly under your shoulders. You should have a 90 degree angle, if you look at your elbow and your bicep is touching your forearm, creating a long crease, then you probably need to bring your elbows up closer to the front of the mat. Spread your fingers wide and place your palms down directly in front of your elbows. On an inhalation,isometrically pull your arms back towards the back of your mat, whilst simultaneously pulling your sternum through your arms. Your body won’t actually move much, but imagine that you’re performing these actions and you will feel your lower back working to open your chest. If you have any pain in the low back, then decrease the action. Exhale to come out.
- Back Bending Tree This is a fun variation of vrksasana or, tree pose that plays with balance. It’s best to try this at a wall for support. Stand with the left side of your body at the wall. Place the sole of your right foot either somewhere on your calf, low on the thigh (just above the knee,) or reach down for your right ankle and place your foot as high as you can on your inner left thigh. Never place the foot directly on the knee to avoid knee pain. Place your hands on your hips. Once you find your balance you can try to bring your hands to prayer at the chest. If that feels good then inhale your arms up over your head, palms face in towards each other. To bring the back bend into the pose, inhale and lift your chest up towards the sky while leaning back carefully. It will be a little bit easier to do this with your hands at prayer at the chest or on the hips as opposed to arms extended, so adjust your hand placement for more stability, or keep them overhead for a challenge. Use the wall to support you if you start to fall out. Just like in tadasana, be mindful of your neck and find a placement of your head that feels comfortable for you. Inhale to bring your torso back over your hips. Exhale and release the lifted leg down. Switch sides.
Have fun trying these poses that open you up both physically and mentally. Maybe they will open you up to feel inspired to create something for yourself, whether you create art, a meal, something with your hands, or simply openness in your body.
The event was an art and yoga meet up through a group called Busan Creative Art Healing : http://www.meetup.com/justina