There are two zero points in the physical practice of YEM: one horizontal, and one vertical. They are the foundations upon which other poses are built, points of reference to consider as you move through more complex physical sequences.
The vertical zero point happens in standing practice. In this, your upright spine is an active conduit between the nature body and the cosmic intelligence. A yoga practice session might consist of nothing but Tadasana, the mountain pose, as you discover greater evenness and lightness within your body as it relates to the Earth and the heavens. Like the god Shiva, you are alert, vertically receptive, cosmically connected. You learn how to stand with your weight distributed evenly, your spine elastic and your mind clear. When you stand out of alignment, the natural flow of energy in your body is impinged, placing stress on your spine and leading to a dull mind.
This pose is key to understanding the energy flow in any other standing pose. Always take a moment to establish two-way moving energy in tadasana before you step into a different pose. Tadasana strengthens yang energy, drawing you up out of any excessive heaviness. At a physical level, it improves posture; strengthens thighs, knees and ankles; and improves circulation. It helps to relieve sciatica and flat feet, and regulates digestive, regulatory and respiratory systems.
- Stand erect, feet hip-width apart so that the space between them is as wide as one of your feet. Your knees are neither locked nor bent, simply relaxed. Let your navel move gently back towards the spine. Your tailbone tilts slightly inward towards the front of your body, so that it releases like a plumb line towards the Earth. Your eyes are fixed on a point in front of you, as the crown of the head broadens and floats gently upward towards the sky. Your shoulders are relaxed.
- Breathe in. Breathe out. Allow your breath awareness to deepen. Let your breath be natural, not forced. Notice what you feel in your body. Sense that your spine, the central channel of energy that runs through your body/being, connects the sky to the earth, through you.
- Bring your awareness to downward-moving energy. As you breathe in, your belly rises. Exhale, allow the soles of your feet to release towards the floor. Let the tailbone be like a plumb line, heavy, releasing towards the ground.
- Let each of the vertebrae through the lumbar spine and the lower back begin to shift and release towards the floor. Sense the pelvic basin become heavy and release towards the floor.
- Each of the internal organs through the belly start to relax towards the ground. Allow the hips and thighs to release towards the floor. Let the knees release and feel more spacious. Let your shins, calves, ankles release.
- The soles of your feet broaden into the ground. If you were standing on something soft like sand, you would notice the imprint of the soles of your feet deepen into the sand. Breathe in, belly rises. Your legs are tubes of breath for energy moving downward towards the very core center of the Earth.
- Once you have a sense of the downward-moving energy, bring your awareness to the crown of your head, as though there is a golden string attached to the very center of the crown. It lengthens you up towards the very center of the cosmos. The spine grows up and out of the pelvic basin. Your shoulders release; your chest is broad and relaxed. Your chin is just slightly tucked in. Remember that it is the crown of your head that is the extension to the spinal column. Let your ears be placed directly over your shoulders. Allow your body to continue to be an open, spacious conduit for energy, lengthening towards the center of the cosmos, and releasing towards the center of the Earth.
- Scan your body. Where do you hold tension in your body? Where do you feel relaxed? Can you allow yourself to continue to open, to release, to feel a flow within the whole? Let your feet root and settle into the ground. Feel the energy move downward, towards the core of the Earth. Feel your feet.
- Notice the crown of your head. Let it float effortlessly upward. Feel your connection to the cosmos, the whole. As your feet release into the ground, the Earth meets you and a wave of energy rebounds up through your body towards the crown of your head.
- Allow yourself to feel rooted in the awareness of your physical sensations, the energy that flows through your body; and aware more globally of your sense of place within the whole. Feel within. Feel without. Feel the flow between the inner and the outer and let these become one.
Parvati is an award-winning musician (I Am Light, Electro Yog, Yoga In The Nightclub), yogini (YEM: Yoga as Energy Medicine), author (Aonani of Avalon, Confessions from Your Awakened Self) and founder of the not-for-profit Parvati.org. All her work is dedicated to protecting all life on Earth by establishing the Marine Arctic Peace Sanctuary (MAPS).More info: parvati.tv; parvati.org.