Tapas Report from Gabriel, Santa Cruz, CA

On May 10th 2009 I began the first of 108 days of Extended Pyramid. Three weeks earlier I completed a hundred and eight days of Hanuman which was a very difficult and rewarding austerity. I thought after that I would hold off on doing a tapas for that many days in a row for a while. As the days went by I missed having a specific focus to work on no matter what and I was still feeling that I needed to open the hips more to be able to sit for pranayama and meditation with greater ease. It was during the last day of a TriYogathon in Santa Cruz when we were doing Extended Pyramid for seven minutes that I thought “this should be the posture I work on for the next several months”. Shortly before we came out of the pose I looked up at Kaliji and said to her “today is day one, a hundred and seven to go”. She seemed very happy that I had chosen the next austerity for my asana practice. Earlier in the the year when we spoke after a workshop I told her how excited I was to continue to work on Locust and other such backward bends. She said “yes and work on butterfly as well” reminding me that although I have progress still to make in my spine the foundation of the spine is the hips and I have even more progress to make in this area (as do most people of my gender with running and cycling backgrounds).

So in mid-spring I began my Extended Pyramid tapas, not only emphasizing this pose but usually doing Penguin and Frog to prepare for Extended Pyramid, Seated Pyramid, and Seated Butterfly. I practiced this during all different times of the day but most often right before bed which felt really good as I tend to be more open at the end of the day. To help compliment all the abduction stretching and external rotation of the hips I would often sit for a brief meditation in Tortoise at the end to counter balance with internal rotation. This was a great evening ritual and I would sleep very soundly afterward, often waking up well before the alarm clock which has never been an easy thing for me.
The days went by quickly, spring turned to summer and although this type of opening comes less naturally to me than Hanuman, I was having an easier time with it as I was more used to the mental discipline of repeating a intense posture every day for so many days. As I continued my yoga practice I also continued to study Ayurveda and was thrilled to find out during the summer that Seated Pyramid Forward bend is a very good pose to balance the fiery pitta mind. Summer is pitta season and pitta is my dominate dosha, so I had chosen a very good time of year to emphasize this practice. Seated Pyramid became one of my favorite poses and I would mention to my students that it had been a weakness for me but that it is a good thing to embrace our weaknesses and poses that aren’t our favorites, so we can more easily reach balance in our bodies, learn to love our weaknesses, and make them into our strengths. Doing this practice also helped with a huge number of other poses such as seated poses, standing poses, Swan, and Hanuman. Pyramid variations are great to not only open the hips but the backs of the legs as well which is the aspect of Hanuman that I need more work on rather than the inner thigh. I was taking a break from practicing Hanuman on my own but still loved doing the pose when it was called out in class and thanks to so many days of practice in the past and the new tapas I was working on to my great pleasure the opening was well maintained!
There is so much powerful energy stored in the hips. I found myself laughing spontaneously very often even when by myself. Some times the release of energy was intensely emotional, so as well as the laughter came the tears. I was happy to experience both as I always felt really good afterward. For me this was not only a great help for the body but the mind and spirit as well. I could sit more calmly in meditation by the end and I could also sit more easily in Lotus which is another very special pose that I haven’t had the easiest time with. I highly recommend this or a similar daily practice to any one wishing for more freedom in the hips and quality of mind. Even doing this once or twice a week would be hugely beneficial so don’t be discouraged if you don’t think you can do so many days in row, the important thing to remember is to practice regularly, breathe deeply, and enjoy
The original purpose of yogasana was to open the hips and strengthen the spine so that one can sit more easily for meditation.
May you always have open hips and supple spine!
Victory to the flow!