YouTube Yoga Class: Exploring Movement and Stillness

This 50-minute contemplative yoga class explores the balance between movement and stillness. We’re labeling this as an advanced class because it includes arm balances and transitions from crow pose to headstand. Our peak pose is a half-lotus variation of tripod headstand.

For more details on how to work up to these challenging postures, and more thoughts on our discomfort with stillness, keep reading…

Movement + Stillness

We’re addicted to movement. Not only in our bodies, but we’re addicted to the movement in our minds. We notice this on a personal level each time we sit down to meditate. How hard is it NOT to chase the movement of the mind?

We also notice this on a collective level, as we refuse to sit tight through a global pandemic, and let boredom, restlessness and our greatest movement addiction, ‘economic growth,’ drive harmful behaviors.

In this practice, our intention is to be present with stillness and notice what arises. Sometimes it’s the discomfort of a too-long child’s pose when we want to get back to the ‘workout.’ Sometimes it’s relief we feel, as we drop our knees to the ground from down dog.

Notice how we mindlessly fidget in certain postures, for no reason other than wanting to ‘do.’ Can we channel a sense of not ‘doing’ but ‘being,’ even as we move through the asana? The goal is mindfulness. We simply observe the lessons learned from this process of being present with stillness and wide open space.

Mindful Movement

Making friends with stillness allows us to move in a way that’s more in alignment with our highest selves. Instead of moving for the sake of movement, instead of moving out of habit, instead of moving out of the compulsion of our addiction to movement itself, we move with mindfulness.

When we’re so comfortable with stillness that we no longer need to move, we find ourselves in tune with a spaciousness from which a more mindful movement can arise. We move intuitively, not habitually. We move intentionally, not reactively.

We often say that our yoga practice is the process of creating space. One way in which we can do this, is simply by ceasing to unnecessarily fill up the space that already exists.

half-lotus tripod headstand
Our peak pose, half-lotus tripod headstand

Half-Lotus Tree Pose + Headstand

There are a couple of challenging transitions in this practice. The following are some pointers on how to best execute these moves. As always, work within your level of comfort, and keep your body safe. The necessary work of learning to move in alignment with your best self includes saying no when you need to.

Crow Pose to Tripod Headstand

In our first complex transition, we shift from crow pose to tripod headstand. The following are some helpful tips.

  • Plant your hands shoulder-width distance apart (or more) for stability
  • Slightly turn your fingers out, wrists squeezing towards one another
  • Spread your fingers wide to take up more surface area on the mat
  • Dig, press, push, grip the tips of your fingers down into the mat
  • Activate this sense of pushing from the earth even more strongly as you begin the shift
  • Squeeze your big toes together and upwards
  • Draw your belly in and activate your core
  • Cat pose round the spine as much as possible, especially as you lower your head
  • Slowly shift your gaze back towards your toes to aim the crown of your head down
  • HOLD HERE – if you cannot hold here, you’ve done enough – continue to strengthen your crow
  • With strength and control, slowly lower the crown of the head to the ground
  • By pushing away from the earth all the way down, by lifting the hips and the core, you should be able to lightly land crown of the head to the ground

Half-Lotus Tripod Headstand

Our peak pose in this class is a half-lotus tripod headstand. First, you’ll need a flexible and comfortable half-lotus. Secondly, and perhaps separately, you’ll need to feel comfortable in a tripod headstand.

  • Externally rotate the hip of your lifted leg
  • Place the outer edge of your foot into the hip crease of the standing leg
  • Allow the sole of your foot to face up towards the sky
  • This requires open hips and flexible thighs
  • If there’s knee pain, it could be that the hips are not yet flexible enough for this tree pose variation
  • With the legs in half-lotus, come into crow pose first, as we did before OR…
  • Plant your head on the ground and set up for a tripod headstand
  • Before you even think about reaching your legs toward the sky…
  • Engage your core to stack your hips over your shoulders
  • Keep pushing, grabbing, gripping against the earth with the fingers
  • Only once you feel stable with hips above the head, should you extend the non-lotus pose leg to the sky
  • Exit with just as much control and attention as you gave to the opening, if not more

Rest and feel good about the work you just did. Let go of the outcome. Every point along the path is necessary. As you rest, notice the play between movement and stillness in your body, your breath, and your mind.

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