In our lives we all have moments of frustration and anger to deal with, these arise when the mind is desperately wishing for something to be different from the way that it's presenting itself. These emotions can be overpowering as they take over the physical/mental self in waves of intensity. We can feel bombarded and overwhelmed by the force of feeling so that when challenged we react to a situation rather than respond from a calmer more centred position.

'As we learn to witness the rise and fall of emotion, particularly when we are holding postures for extended periods of time, we are developing a kind of desensitisation so that we see the events in our lives without the original feelings of confusion and terror attached.' Amy Weintraub

Holding a yoga posture for 5 whole minutes offers a controlled scenario to work with intensity of sensation as it builds in the body. Providing a platform for investigation into the internal dialogue that emerges around discomfort. It's an experiential opportunity to grow more familiar with the witness self, the observer of the narrative rather than the one engaged in the narrative. Observation of the mind's activity - without judgment - helps to deepen the ability to express oneself, to truly listen to others, and to be authentic in relationships.

This technique offers a chance to develop compassion and mindfulness in practice. There are 5 tools to use with prolonged holding:

Breathe, Relax, Feel, Allow and Watch.

Using a timer can be helpful to allow full immersion into the experience without being distracted by watching a clock... a watched kettle never boils.

Extended mountain pose is a safe and powerful posture to begin to explore the experience:

Stand with feet hip distance apart, raise the arms overhead, snuggle the shoulder blades into the back ribs, let the gaze be soft and passive, look straight ahead.

Once the posture is established let the breath flow freely and deeply. Allow the diaphragm to move and the belly to balloon in and out. Maintain deep flowing breath, it will help to sustain the posture.

Breathe, relax and feel.

As the sensations begin to build, consciously relax muscles that are not essential to holding the posture, this process is an exploration into consciously being and doing, relaxation and effort. Notice and allow the wave of energy to intensify and engage, feel free to adjust your posture with micro movements. (Whenever you wish come out of the posture to rest for a while and take it up again when you're ready)

Questions you may like to ask are:

  • Where can I soften in this posture?

  • Where is the edge between extending and force?

  • Where is the line between stretch and over effort?

Watch and Allow

The mind will begin to play through its habitual patterns as sensations increase, become the observer of the mind without judgement. At any time you may return to the anchor of the breath, allow the mind to follow the movement of the inhalation and the natural completion of the exhalation. Let the breath be at the forefront of your experience.

Another area of focus may the foundation of the posture, consider the feet in detail, you may lift the toes and spread them, be aware of the balls, the heels the outer edges of the feet and their weight and placement on the mat.

As you turn attention inward towards the concentrated aliveness of sensations in the body awareness will grow of change and flow, from the progression towards crescendo to relaxing into release. Let the experience be what ever it is, surrender to what's happening. Be courageous and curious, you are connecting with an organic intelligence, with the wisdom of the body.

When the time is up, very slowly and cautiously begin to release the posture; there are new layers of sensations to be experienced in letting go of tension. Pause for a while to reflect before doing whatever feels good, a counter posture, child's pose or corpse pose, make time for integration of the experience. This insight and understanding on the yoga mat reveals how you play in the field of life, how the microcosm reflects the macrocosm.

Based on Kripalu Stage 2 holding.

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From the beginning of yoga practice with Beth I began to learn how to open up the inner constrictions of a lifetime and experience the wider deeper sensations of the inner body. I had never known that such a great and profound space existed within me which is my birthright and true abode. Beth became my guide in a slow, deep and conscious exploration that will remain with me in each breath and each step I take. For the first time yoga on the mat became yoga in life...

Tina Nevans

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