Is it ever ok to give the finger in a yoga class? It may sound like an odd thing to say but someone did in my class recently! I was there for my regular Tuesday chill-out and everyone was on their mats. We’d warmed up and were getting into the asanas when a latecomer flew in, set down his mat in the middle and got straight into the seated twist pose (Ardha Matsyendrasana). However as we were twisting to the left, I saw him position his arm so that he was giving someone the finger whilst in the pose! In this posture your arm would normally be up in a kind of ‘halt’ gesture, but your hand is fully outstretched with all the fingers together!
It was a little surprising! In all the years I have done yoga, I’ve never encountered any form of aggression or unpleasantness in a class. The nearest being when you are relaxing in Savasana at the end of the practise, enjoying the quiet when someone who can’t wait until the class dismisses, gathers up their things and leaves – interrupting the peace. (It always sounds so much louder in yoga than it does in any other class at the gym!) But it isn’t aggression – just modern life – people needing to rush off, and whilst it is an unwelcome disturbance, no-one moans about it as everyone is so chilled from the yoga!
I think the ‘finger guy’ was reacting to someone at the other end of the room who had made a comment about him being late, but either way – thankfully no-one reacted to it and nothing escalated! Can you imagine a room full of yogis in an argument?!!
It made me think, yoga has some fantastic benefits for your body, keeping the muscles lean and flexible – reducing joint stiffness and helping you to stay in shape, but it also has incredible effects on the mind too that maybe this chap was missing! Different yoga poses are good for relieving different things, but I wanted to share a few poses that I enjoy, for achieving calm and relaxation. I love to know the Sanskrit names for the asanas so I have included these in brackets!
Eagle pose (Garudasana)
This pose is great for balance and it also releases tension in the shoulders, legs and back. It is an empowering pose that helps to destress you by literally squeezing tension out of the body! Because you need to focus for balance, it also calms your mind. I am not yet able to ‘double cross’ my legs yet – wrapping the top leg around the supporting leg’s calf, but I am working on it!
Chair Pose (Utkatasana)
Chair Pose works the muscles of the arms and legs and is a balance pose that energises the body. This empowering pose also has mind calming qualities.
Hero pose (Virasana)
A relaxing and meditative asana that soothes the mind, improves digestion and is great for people with high blood pressure. It stretches and strengthens the thighs, knees and ankles but if you feel this pose is too strong on your legs and ankles when seated on the mat, you can kneel directly onto your lower legs rather than sit on the mat between the legs.
Wide-Legged Standing Forward Bend (Prasarita Padottanasana)
This is a calming pose that also opens up your third eye, sending energy to this area and it is my all time favourite pose. It doesn’t matter how close you get to the ground, what matters is that you stabilize your legs and your back while you bend into this mild inversion. As well as building strength in your shoulders and upper back, this forward fold promotes extreme calmness. I can hang here for ages – I love it!
Child’s pose (Balasana)This is a restful pose that creates instant calm and is a great pose for the end of your practice. It is also a useful posture for during a class if the other asanas you are engaging in become too much. I find this pose very restorative.
Yoga has such meditative qualities, it’s hard to hold onto stress when you are doing it. The act of focusing on the breath and the way it brings you into your whole body and not just being in your head has a calming effect to help you to decompress and feel the tension melt away.
The times when we feel we just don’t have time for yoga are probably the times when we need it most. It’s not always easy to fit it in but I think that is the challenge. Maybe the finger guy was creating a new hand pose to relieve his own stress but a better way to decompress would be to fully immerse yourself in your practice – shutting out everyone else and the world around you to be in the moment.
At the end of class we bow and say “Namaste” which means ‘The divine within me sees the divine within you’. It is an acknowledgement of the other people in the class and is a gracious way of recognising the belief that our life force within us is the same in us all. We are one. So with that I will bow and say “Namaste”. Come and visit again soon.
Do you have a favourite yoga pose? Let me know in the comments!