Saturday, March 29, 2008

Connecting to grounding energy in Warrior Part 2

Because it's relatively simple, the warrior poses are excellent poses for experiencing this connection to that grounding energy.

So it's no wonder to me that the "Warior" asanas are named after the demon Virabhadra, as this grounding energy, not to mention that well-developed lower body strength has long been prized by martial artists, bar-room brawlers and competitive athletes.

That "energy" is how we experience the "structure" and the "power triangle" defense teacher Mark "Amimal" MacYoung talks about in his books on violence:

Let us categorically state: Martial arts poses were developed to create structure. If these poses are correctly taken, the body's own skeleton, tendons, joints and muscles will "lock into place." When this occurs your momentum will be delivered into your opponent.

As an aside, while MacYoung seems to be an expert on hurting people, his approach is about as "non-violent" a fighting method as you'll find--deglorifying violence and the "hero" mentality and emphasizing avoiding it instead.

And while we're on the subject of expert people hurting, I have to mention competitive fighter Benny "the Jet" Urquidez (why is it that hurting people earns you a cool nick name?) While I now have trouble with any sport that glorifies violence, Benny's body intelligence is masterful, and images of him in action have deepened my understanding of this grounding energy. If you don't mind the violence (after all, Virabhadra wasn't exactly all bubble gum and roses)here's one of the less violent clips of Benny available on youtube. Check out this "structure" he always comes back to--that's our "warrior" pose, no?

Feeling it:

Here are some tips that have helped me get in touch with this grounding energy:

The wall.

1. Breath. Take a high warrior position (like Benny in the video) with the front foot about an inch from a wall.
2. Allow your back leg to bend a little (which helps to feel the flow of energy) and let your upper body feel relaxed.
3. Breath. Relax.
4. Place your hand against the wall like an open handed "punch." Push. As you push against the wall, you may first feel your core tighten into a relaxed toned condition and your posture adjust appropriately to convey the force from your body into the wall. This will be your ideal posture for virabhadrasana.
5. Once your core is engaged and your body stops shifting, you will start to notice that same energy transmitting directly from your feet, (probably especially the back foot) into the wall.

Yes, this may all seem very mundane at first: "I'm pushing the wall and I feel the force in my body, so?" Well, yes, it's very mundane, but this experience is putting you in touch with you innate kinesthetic intelligence and focusing on this transference of energy has brought great mindfulness to my yoga practice.

In Virabhadrasana.

Now that your on your mat, how to cultivate this feeling in the pose? This helps me:
1. Visualize doing your warrior in the ocean with a giant wave approaching you. Take your pose and then strongly visualize that wave pushing you, let your body prep for the wave and direct that energy into the ground. Again you should feel your core and your essential protecting musculature energizing and your non-necessary muscles relaxing. Now rise up from that rooting energy and make sure to keep your torso erect. That's how I find my ideal warrior.

2. If you want to get into the spirit of Virabhadra, you can also visualize enemies pushing you from all sides--don't let them push you around! Let your body prep for it. But hey! Most importantly, relax and remember to treat those imaginary peeps with compassion!

3. Take a Tai chi class, especially one that does "push hands" practice. Tai chi and yoga are very complementary, to me. And "push hands is all about feeling the flow of this energy (again, look for the "warrior" poses:)

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