Time and time again, Yoga emphasizes the value and importance of realizing who we really are as opposed to who we think we are. A pose that can help focus and reveal our true nature is Parivrttaikapada Sirsasana, or Twisted Split-Legged Headstand… (The Tao of Sean)
As I sat performing a wonderful out loud chanting Kundalini raising meditation, my attention on my first Chakra (Muladhara) was less than perfect. In my ‘observer self,’ I saw a small piece of my mind fretting over this Wednesday’s article. My original plan fell through Tuesday morning, and here I was taking forty five minutes to meditate…blah, blah, blah, whine, whine, and whine some more! As red light began to blaze in the core of Muladhara, a gentle laugh filled my mind and I could feel my entire spine light up with a surge of red fire. A short three-word sentence sang itself into existence: “A single Asana.” All became still, and my meditation and chanting went on without interruption. I had this article’s topic, and all would be well.
(Incidentally, if you haven’t had the opportunity to climb a hill, or mountain, or be brave enough to do it in your back yard or the middle of the street in the middle of the night; pick one of these locations and go there as soon as you can. When you get there, chant, sing, pray! It doesn’t matter if it is a mantra, your own prayer, a favourite song, a Kundalini practice – as long as you do it at the top of your lungs and with all of your being. Let it come from within the depths of your soul and intend to fill the universe itself with your song!)
Back to the single Asana thing! Parivrttaikapada Sirsasana or Twisted Split-Legged Headstand is one of what I consider the master poses, and by “master” I mean that mastery of any one of these master poses is a direct pathway to ‘remembering’ the state of total union that is the ultimate goal of Yoga. This mastery is not only of the physical, but mastery of the spiritual and mental components of the Asana as well.
Safety Note: Be sure you can comfortably maintain a headstand without use of a wall before attempting this Asana in your own routine…
Parivrttaikapada Sirsasana has two important components that can help lead us ever closer to our center of being. The physical component involves letting go of our normal point of view, and this is achieved through being upside down and twisted while maintaining split legs – all at the same time. Perhaps more importantly, the mental component of this pose guides us to achieve the necessary physical balance through going ever deeper within to find the Sushumna Nadi, or central channel of Prana within ourselves.
When we study the construction and location of the spinal cord and the Sushumna Nadi, it seems clear that they are one in the same. Our Western medicine deals with the gross physical aspects, while Yoga and its many great masters deal with the finer, more subtle characteristics. The Sushumna Nadi extends from Muladhara Chakra (second vertebra of the coccyx region) to Brahmarandhra, the aperture in the crown of the head where it terminates. In Western medicine, this canal is known as Canalis Centralis. Within this canal, the spinal cord is dropped or suspended in the hollow of the spinal column. In the same way, Sushumna is dropped within the spinal canal. When the breath flows through Sushumna, the mind becomes steady. This steadiness of the mind is termed “Unmani Avastha”; the highest state of Yoga.
With continued practice, focusing your mental and physical energies towards your central channel will free you from your normal state of consciousness and lead you into the present moment – The Now – where all things exist and all things are possible. What’s more, you will come to understand that you are not human at all, but truly part of all Creation and therefore can never die, grow old, or suffer in any way. That part of you that you believed was you disappears in the light of truth and connectedness with your true self and the Creative Essence of the universe.
As with any journey (and I do like to consider performing Asanas as micro-journeys into Self), there are certain preparations that if undertook will insure your safety and comfort. In order to prepare for this sequence, part one starts with a series of standing poses. As you perform these Asanas, feel your connection to Mother Earth through your legs; grounded…firmly rooted in the loving energy of the planet. These four poses will energize your body and will loosen and flex the spine lightly:
Begin with Tadasana, or Mountain Pose. While in mountain pose, feel the strength and firmness of your connection to the earth beneath you. Despite its simplicity, the art of standing properly can restore balance and looseness to your spine. I am always amazed when standing in long lines at the grocery store, or at the bank, that the majority of people I see are leaning or supporting themselves unevenly, never realize the damage that this can cause over time.
Next, perform Utthita Trikonasana, or Extended Triangle Pose. Allow the energy from the Earth to flow through your hand which touches the floor and flow out through your other hand. Feel how rooted you are in the ground and breathe evenly.
Third, move into Virabhadrasana, or Arrow Pose. As you relax into the pose, check that your shoulders are loose and focus your attention on your spine and the channel of energy that extends through it and up and out through your head and through your hands.
Finish with Warrior Pose, again focusing on breathing energy into the spine. Feel its looseness, its elasticity – from the spines base to the crown of your head.
On Friday, we will turn all of this – and ourselves – upside down! Until then, perform this warm up sequence a few times and take a run out into the street (watch for traffic) and chant a couple of thousand Aum Mani Padme Hum’s or try the Jewish mantra “Hu” instead!