Grateful for Memories: Around the World in 30 Asanas

(art by asampaiz.deviantart.com)

Like so many projects not meant to be, this one started out with a healthy serving of gusto, and ended on an unexpected note.  I’d just finished teaching in the arm pit of the Middle East, and I couldn’t wait to start out on my year backpacking – off to see friends and family and continue my yoga studies without distraction.  I took photos and wrote articles in California, Hawaii, Nebraska, Chicago, Baltimore, New York, Ireland, London, and all over India.

And then it hit me – bam!  India’s new school inflation.   There goes my travel mula.  

So I didn’t technically make it all the way around the world (at least not in this mini-rotation ;)), but fulfilling the “schtick” isn’t what matters, right?  It’s all about what you learn along the way.  It’s about how deeply and sincerely you love.  It’s about broadening your capacity to share.  It was also about eating a whole lot of idly.  Mmmm….idly.

Here’s a small sampling of the contemplation that went down along the way, originally published on Yoga Lovin’ in 2011.

Hawaii: Land of Freshness

Around the World in 30 Asanas: Garudasana . . .

. . . in Honolulu, Hawaii!

Ranked at #13 in Monocle’s annual Most Liveable Cities list of 2011 – and the top choice of only two American cities that made the cut (the other is Portland, Oregon, another green-friendly underrated slice of paradise).  This probably comes as no surprise – Honolulu’s known for its beach-side (and mountain-side!) views, fresh international food choices, and happy friendly people.

It’s also stop number 3 on Around the World in 30 Asanas!

My family on my Mom’s side are all from Hawaii and I was born and raised between Ewa Beach and Honolulu.  Ewa Beach is where I formed my earliest memories, but Honolulu is where I had my first kiss and won my first debate.  It’s also where my Mom and I lived in tiny wee apartments throughout the high school years.  Oh, Mama.

Hawaii always unearths themes of family for me, and in the legend of Garuda, we see the ultimate in a child’s dedication to their mother.

After losing a bet with two evil snakes, Garuda’s mother was taken prisoner as a slave in an underground urban hell.  To save his mother, Garuda promised to deliver a cup of amrita, the nectar of life, to the evil snake captors.  This would require three incredible obstacles: flying through a ring of fire (he put it out with river water), a circular spiked door (shrank himself and avoided even a scrape), and defeating two venomous snakes (blinded them with a wingy dust storm before pecking ‘em to death!).

Garuda used his divine powers in each of the obstacles and found himself victorious – winning the freedom of his mother.

This story is particularly meaningful in my personal life right now.

When things get all twisted up, we often move into ourselves, either to retreat from the stress of it, or to look for answers.  And like Garuda, the only way to be victorious is to dig deep until you unearth your divine nature (mortal translation: problem solve before you get burned, don’t let pride keep you from appearing smaller than you are in the right situation, and learn some booty-whooping moves.  They may come in handy!).

The Posture

Stand with your feet hip-distance apart and come into a half-squat.  Cross one leg over the other, twisting your legs as much as you can, squeezing from the inner thighs, wrapping your foot as far behind the opposite calf as possible.  Then hook one elbow under the other  and twist your arms around one another until your palms touch (or come close to it!).

Tuck the belly, sink a little deeper, square the hips, and reach the arms as high up without compromising the twist as possible.  Alternatively, you may sink the arms lower and lower until, eventually, you’re peeking just over the tops of your fingertips.

(Arms are crossed opposite to the normal way this pose is taught.)

Benefits

  • Strengthens and stretches the ankles and calves
  • Stretches the thighs, hips, shoulders, and upper back
  • Improves concentration
  • Improves sense of balance

(Just be careful if you have a hip or knee injury – whether it’s current or a haunt from the past.)

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