Change is all around us, constantly moving through our lives. We regularly experience change in careers, families, housing – no matter what we do, change will happen. Our bodies grow older each day, the seasons move around us and the universe goes on. The more open we are to change, the more we can embrace it and accept its movements in our lives – and the more centered, balanced and satisfied we will be. Easier said than done, I know. Change can be scary, even terrifying. When we are accustomed to our own life patterns, we get comfortable and resistant to change.
Practicing yoga can help us to open our bodies, minds and hearts to change, to allow life energy to move through us fluidly, and to welcome the changes that will inevitably come our way. Prasarita padottanasana, or standing wide-angle pose, combines several simple movements to open the self while improving full body flexibility.
Begin in standing pose, ensuring you have enough space around you to extend your legs wide. Inhale deeply, and as you exhale, move your feet to a wide-open stance, either by moving the feet slowly from heel to toe or by stepping one foot to the side in one fluid movement. Both sets of toes should face directly forward. The distance between your feet will depend on how tall you are and your level of flexibility; experiment with what feels comfortable for you.
On an inhale, reach your arms up to the sky, lengthening the spine and engaging the abdomen strongly – imagine that your belly button is reaching to connect with your spine. As slowly as you can, begin to lower your upper body down toward the ground; stop when you can feel a strong stretch in the hamstrings and calves. Maintain a strong abdomen and a slight bend in the knees to avoid hyperextension. Allow the weight of your body to be supported by the outer edges of your feet. Bring the arms down to touch the ground with your fingertips, palms or elbows, depending on your flexibility.
For a more challenging option, interlace your fingers behind your back and rotate the shoulders forward, reaching for the sky with your hands. On each inhale, raise the torso slightly; on each exhale, allow the body to sink down a little farther toward the ground.
As you breathe deeply, visualize acceptance of change with each inhale, and allow your resistance to leave your body with each exhale. Bring your awareness to the openness of your lower body, and consider how you would like to invite this feeling into the rest of your life. Remain here for several breaths; when you are ready, on an inhale and using your abdomen, slowly bring your torso to an upright position. Repeat as many times as you feel you need.
As an adaptation to the pose, and to deepen the opening action, try adding a gentle twist. When you have lowered the torso, arms and hands as far as you feel comfortable, lift your right arm up toward the sky and rotate the torso and neck so your gaze is directed upward. Try to maintain a straight line from upper fingertips through both shoulders to the lower fingertips of the left hand. A strong abdomen is essential here to maintain balance and to protect your spine. On an exhale, lower the right fingertips, and then repeat to the left.
Change happens, whether we feel ready for it or not. By strengthening our bodies, centering our minds and opening our selves, we can prepare to welcome change. We can accept challenges lovingly, and move forward with grace.
Jennifer McLennan is a certified Iyengar yoga instructor who has practiced in India, Canada and Costa Rica. She is currently a private yoga teacher in the beach community of Santa Teresa, on the southern Nicoya Peninsula.