By Caroline Graham-Wood, Summersalt yoga SUP yoga teacher
In spiritual growth, it is important to avoid imbalances between academic or intellectual learning and practical implementation. Otherwise there is a danger that too much intelectualization will kill the more contemplative practices and too much emphasis on practical implementation without study will kill the understanding. There has got to be a balance.
As the indulgences of December and resolutions of January fade away, it’s a good time to reflect on how we can practically implement changes in our lives that are realistic and sustainable.
We are often told that dramatic and quick solutions will change our bodies, change our lives and change us for the better. However, the longer I practice yoga and as I reflect on the benefits of taking up rather than giving up, I believe that perhaps one word offers more answers to the changes we may seek, than the fads that are sold to us. It is a word that is open to subjective interpretation as well as having the potential to hold a deeper meaning, depending on those we choose to influence our lives and learn from. That word is very simple, balance. Balance can be applied to so many aspects of our lives, from what we eat to how we choose to spend our time.
A key emphasis in yoga is to progress at your own speed, to avoid competitiveness yet to find a level that pushes you and helps you grow in your practice. This is never more true than in the balance poses.
In yoga we seek balance and allow that balance to move in a positive direction, rather than remaining static. In a tree pose we move the ball of the foot slowly up the leg as we progress our balance, from below then above the knee, then moving the heel to the groin and finally up to Arda Padmasana. Once there we can try a further challenge, moving your drishti (view point).
The approach to asanas, especially balancing poses, can often bring out a side to yoga that we need to counter-act. Seriousness, frustration, competitiveness. One fabulous way to challenge these often natural impulses to the balance poses is SUP yoga. This ultimate challenge to balance never fails to release the tense approach that can accompany balance poses, because pretty much everyone falls in the water at least once!
SUP yoga offers wonderful benefits to not only balance your body but also your mind and energy (pranic) flow. It focuses on your core, a powerful centre for the body where manipura charka, the seat of the ego lies. The core is also at your kanda, where the 72,000 nadis (energy channels) converge. The Uddhyiana banda – ‘belly flies up’ – is when we use the muscles around the core to draw the navel back towards the spine and up, promoting the upwards flow of Kundalini energy through the body.
There are many ways we can seek balance in our lives. For me, SUP yoga is an opportunity to understand it in a way that is tangible, that is fun and where in a short space of time you can see progress.
You learn to accept the challenge of doing playful asanas on the SUP, to surrender to the elements and accept that you may fall in! This overrides the ego and also by practicing outside in nature, you create the harmony and reconnection with the world.
In a small way, the way we approach SUP yoga can represent how we often have to approach life. Lets face it, life is not easy and throws many obstacles at us. In SUP yoga we learn to fall off balance, fall in the water, laugh, get back on your board try again! And slowly, with focus, we can try and stay on the board a bit longer.