Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Yoga For Tax Time

Ideally, the practice of yoga serves to connect us to the abundant nature of the universe, with its infinite possibilities held in any given moment. However, even the most dedicated yogis question the abundance of the universe during tax time, which is why I've rounded up a simple, easy, and quick sequence of yoga poses to help quell the stress that you might feel on or around April 15.

Start with an inversion to clear your head. If you're a newer yogi, just hang forward in "rag doll," putting your head below your heart; knees softly bent. If you're advanced, do headstand. Inversions are a very potent way to shift our vision, change our perspective, or bring a world into balance that feels as though it's been "turned upside down." By putting your head below your heart, you send fresh blood to your brain. In essence, you are clearing out the mental clutter and invoking greater clarity. I wish there was a pose to invoke a refund, but you'll have to settle for clarity. (Note: if you do headstand, be sure to rest in child's pose afterward).

Next, feel the stability of triangle pose (photo, above). The instability of tax time coupled with a wobbly economy can be unnerving, which is why I recommend triangle pose if you need to feel grounded. From geometry class, you might recall that the triangle is the strongest shape in architecture (think: The Great Pyramid). Do this pose to reconnect with the secure feeling of having your feet firmly planted on the earth. Extend through your limbs; open your chest, and breath deeply.

Then, restore balance with half-pigeon pose. Our hips are often a good indicator of how limber we are throughout the rest of our bodies. In fact, many knee problems and issues with back pain can be attributed to tightness in the hips. For this reason, half-pigeon is often an unpleasant posture for beginners; however, with the right modifications (e.g. sitting on a yoga block or rolled up towel), it can quickly become a very healing posture. Stress has a way of settling in our hips, from sitting for long periods of time at a desk, running, walking, biking, chasing after your small children, and all the rest. Therefore, easing tension in our hips relieves stress elsewhere in our bodies. Also, you'll notice that, in half-pigeon pose, the body is in a reflexive state, turned in on itself. In other words, you are restoring your energy by looking and turning inward.

Cleanse away negativity with a twisting posture. Sure, it's helpful to see the bright side of any situation; however, it doesn't serve any of us for me to pretend like tax time is fun or a struggling economy is hunky-dory. Yoga does not encourage us to deny that negativity exists; instead, it helps us cultivate an ability to see beyond it. Stress and hardship effect us all, and it's been said in many ways that happy people do not experience less hardship; they simply handle it better, through any number of factors. Twisting poses just might be one of those small factors to help you shake off the blues or the blahs or whatever you're inclined to call 'em. Twisting poses rinse your internal organs and help bring you back to center. Think of a piece of clothing being hand-washed and wrung out; that's the action of a twist, seated, standing, or reclining. From half-pigeon, I recommend sitting up, swinging your back leg around to the front, and performing a seated twist. (Note: if you feel like you're going to tip over, straighten your bottom leg).

Finally, rejuvenate and relax. Now that you've found clarity, restored stability, achieved balance, relieved stress, and cleared away toxins, it's time to REST in sivasana, also known as corpse pose. This would be the point where I make some joke about corpse pose befitting the old adage about death and taxes, but really, why bother? There's so many out there. Thankfully, you're nearly in the clear until next season.

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