“There are some things in this world you rely on, like a sure bet. And when they let you down, shifting from where you’ve carefully placed them, it shakes your faith, right where you stand.” ~~ Sarah Dessen
Vasisthasana Variation (Photo Courtesy of YogaAnatomy.net)
How many of you know of the great Sage, Vasistha, for whom the pose Vasisthasana (Side Plank) was named? There are many stories in the yoga world of his great teachings, but the one that struck a chord with me this week was that of his work with King Ram.
King Ram, who appeared on earth to restore the path of righteousness after being corrupted by negative influences, had fallen into a great depression. He’d become so disillusioned with the state of the world that he felt utterly hopeless in his mission, hitting his rock bottom and unable to do what he was sent here for. He felt let down, utterly let down, and his faith was shaken to the core. Vasistha, in his great wisdom, explained to Ram that one must first see the cracks in the ceiling before being able to see the light shining through. Sometimes, it’s necessary to hit rock bottom before you can begin the journey back to the light. But if you can let go of that which does not serve you, you can then use your energy for the things where you can truly make things better in the world and bring more contentment to your own life.
Reading this story reminded me that I need to focus my attention on where I can actually make a difference. When I stop and look at all the things I do, there are SO many things that really don’t matter because they don’t bring contentment to my life — they actually complicate things for me and stress me out more. And then I looked at the vision board I recently made and noticed I had pasted a quote on there which said, “Don’t give where it can’t help.” I believe this is exactly the lesson Vasistha was trying to teach to King Ram. And I feel that me stumbling across this story, and connecting the dots with the quote on my vision board, was no coincidence. My friends have even been trying to get this same message across to me the past few weeks. This is clearly a sign that I need to listen, don’t you think?
So this week in class, we’ll be working on Vasisthasana, and many of its variations. From a physical standpoint, this pose strengthens all the major muscle groups of the body, along with improving our balance. The version most people know (shown above) is suitable for most students. The full version of the pose, not pictured here, involves raising the top leg perpendicular to the floor. Beginners to yoga, or those with wrist, shoulder or elbow issues may be able to perform the modified version below.
Beginner Variation of Vasisthasana (Photo Courtesy of MarkStephensYoga.com)
There are, of course, a plethora of other variations that can be done, so feel free to explore to your heart’s content this week. But wherever your body ends up with this pose, don’t ignore this one wonderful story behind the sage it was named for. If you want to know more about Vasistha and his teachings, check out the Yoga Vasistha, which is one of the foremost texts in yoga philosophy and mythology. It’s funny…my post on Common Courtesy earlier this week is related to what Vasistha stressed frequently in his teachings, which is that we never know when a random comment of kindness will touch a friend’s heart, and it’s important to our spiritual progress to never give up hope that our actions will change the world.