Extended Penguin

Spring Tapas by Bhavani, PA

Last March, opportunities presented for a 108 day asana tapas. First opportunity: I was in the group Citrini was leading through Level 2 training. Second opportunity: the weather was inclement, resulting in delayed start or cancellation to the work day (I work for a public school district). This allowed for a longer asana practice in the morning. I was exploring the third series in Level 2, specifically, extended pyramid. My body was not happy with the alignments for extended pyramid, so time for wonderful Basics and extended penguin. Three mornings in a row found me in extended penguin, and it felt like the beginning of a process. I’d read Gabriel’s stories, and was intrigued with the concept of a commitment to an asana. I made the commitment for myself.

I really enjoyed the time. There was a short time for flow on routine work days, but I held true to extended penguin. As a time keeper, I used a mala round of Sri Swamiji’s mantra. I loved all the openings I found in other postures as the days went on. Such wonderful surprises! Postures that were out of reach are coming closer. Postures, where I followed cueing but didn’t quite understand in my body, came toward understanding layer by layer, such as half-tortoise twist. I could enumerate postures that opened to me, or observations in self-inquiry, but I know each person’s experience is their own.

I would make sure the posture was comfortable. I pulled out all the props, and changed them to give appropriate support. I wanted to have proper alignment. This is more difficult when practicing alone. I like to use the wall, and I put a mirror in the corner along the other wall. I also tried to align a block in my hip, to find the 90 degree angle. Sometimes my cat joined me. She would support me, behaving as a prop, sitting over my hips or spine.

I loved the daily commitment, as asana is followed by pranayama, by meditation. The stillness of extended penguin permeated all postures and practices that followed.

I observed how life also flows, expectations can be altered. At work, I’d volunteered to participate in a YMCA sponsored program for girls in grades 3,4,5 called “Girls on the Run”. This also ran March to May. I’d thought perhaps I could return to a little running exercise. During the 108 days of hip opening, I felt that running was not something I wanted to do. So, I supported the girls by walking with them.

I’m maintaining this relationship with extended penguin. I love to visit it often. I now look for places to insert an extended penguin in other flow sequences. I’m still stubborn at times, thinking I will relax the hips without the support of props. (Is stubbornness the lesson here?) But, if I have the prop close at hand, I’m quicker to use it. I have the experience of tapas, and I’ll happily embrace another opportunity for asana tapas.