“Feel all four corners of the feet grounding into the earth. Soften the knees, root down through the tailbone as you straighten the spine. Peel the shoulders back and down away from the ears, as you lift the crown towards the sky…”
With that brief verbal cue from my yoga teacher, I no longer attempted to copy what I thought the teacher was doing, nor did I think about how my body should be positioned. Instead, upon hearing those words, my body simply moved into place, and I suddenly realized how I should feel in mountain pose—strong, grounded, serene—like I had become Mount Kailash itself. My body’s response to that simple cue has reflected itself in my practice ever since.
Those who have practiced or taught yoga know too well that having these verbal cues weaved into a class can mean the difference between doing yoga, and being yoga. Doing is simply rolling through postures with the mind in a constant state of thinking and detachment, versus being—where the mind is left at the door (along with our shoes), and the body surrenders to allow the postures to express themselves through us.
Ruthie Fraser is gifted at using these cues, which she refers to as seeds. In her book, Stack Your Bones, which shares its name with the Brooklyn yoga studio she runs, she shares 100 simple and short cues that delightfully help us embody correct posture, and bring all the ignored parts of our body into awareness.
The following cue, where Fraser invites us to feel into the oft-forgotten space above our eyes, is one of my favorites.
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Relaxing the Top Half of the Head Cue
- Stand with your legs and feet under you for support. Bring your attention to your head.
- Notice the placement of our eyeballs. Many of us stand as if we are only as tall as the height of our eyes.
- Feel into the space of your head above your eyeballs. There’s a lot more height there.
As a yoga teacher, I am grateful to Fraser for these original ideas which I share with my own students. And as a student myself, I am thankful for the way in which the seeds deepen awareness within my own practice. Upon Fraser’s suggestion to “wiggle our tailbone,” for example, I became much more aware of this part of my body in every forward bend, which helped me deepen my sense of connection to the earth.
But yoga is not just about our bodies, of course, it is about moving beyond our emotions and limited beliefs, and contemplating the vastness of the being that makes up a human being. Here, Fraser uses her experience to guide us to a place of surrender.
The Gestation Cue
- Things need time to develop.
- Feel the parts of you that are in process—the unfinished projects in your body, the unhealed injuries, the unresolved patterns, the unestablished better habits.
- Acknowledge this unfinished business in your body as parts in development, in gestation.
- Relax into this moment.
With such soothing words, how can we do anything but relax indeed?
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