My Posture Project

Getting help with Pasasana

In 2012 I am making a concerted effort to improve my posture. For some years now I have been working with the first fourteen poses of the Ashtanga second series. These include a lot of chest openers – Pasasana (the noose), Dhanurasana (the bow) and Ustrasana (the camel), among others. This work is essential for good posture, and it has an important mind-body dimension, as suggested by the fact that teachers often refer to it as “opening the heart.” I was reminded of this not too long ago when I read Elizabeth Kadetsky’s “yoga romance,” First There Is A Mountain (2004). It is her memoir of studying yoga with B.K.S. Iyengar and his family at his institute in India. Iyengar’s daughter, Geeta, comes across as someone who terrorized Western students like Kadetsky, frequently ranting about their bad posture and superficial values. Yet I was struck by the insight Geeta offered in the teaching described here:

 “Geeta stood behind [a French woman] and, gripping one hand over each of her shoulders, dug her knee between the student’s shoulder blades. Geeta pulled, causing the woman’s sternum to move forward from her shoulders several inches. The woman looked instantly more confident, though the illusion faded as Geeta moved again across the floor. . . ‘You never see a person who is depressed walking with an open chest,’ Geeta was saying . . . She instructed us to lie on our backs with wooden blocks pushing our sternums forward. ‘Life’s sadness collects behind the sternum. Your sternum is like an introverted child. Make it the extroverted child. When the mind is lifted it is pure. When the mind is dropped it is impure. Have the lifted mind in the chest.’”(122-5) 

 Clearly, for my posture project, in addition to the chest openers, there is internal work to be done. I have found affirmations to be very useful in the past when I have seen the need to shift an attitude or perspective and need support in actually making that shift. The guidelines for composing affirmations are simple: they should be short and specific; in the present tense; and framed positively. Then you repeat daily for at least three months until you gradually begin to live the intention the affirmations express.  Here is what Geeta’s teaching inspired for me: 

I lift my chest and let go of sadness; I lift my chest and make room for joy 
I lift my chest and let go of regret; I lift my chest and make room for compassion 
I lift my chest and let go of fear; I lift my chest and make room for love 
I lift my chest and let go of discontent; I lift my chest and make room for peace

Sounds good, doesn't it? Check back with me in three months!