My self-prescribed yoga therapy for the last several months has included a great deal of uttihita chaturanga dandasana aka plank pose. I’ve had low back pain for as long as I can remember due to a combination of my personal body composition (long torso, short legs) along with the years of abuse I’ve heaped upon it through excessive running and innattentive asana practice. Add to this the toll that pregnancy, childbirth, and carting around an ever-growing child take and it is no wonder that my back is constantly crying for some attention.
In the few months since I have added plank to my daily yoga therapy sessions I’ve gone from holding it with proper alignment and breathing for about 30 seconds at a time to up to 8 minutes. My back feels better than it ever has, and my arms and shoulders and abdominal muscles are stronger than they’ve ever been.
Beyond these physical benefits is where I’ve found the really good stuff, though. At our core resides the manipura chakra, right in our navel, and it is from this place that we act courageously. Our self-esteem, our sense of self-worth, our fire comes from this energy center. By strengthening and nourishing this life-affirming energy, we can move through the world from a more solid place.
Sometimes when I talk or write about the chakras it feels a bit … fluffy. The language surrounding the energetic body doesn’t seem quite right – always a bit too esoteric and theoretical. And yet, the experience is very real. By strengthening the physical center of my body and attending to the weakness and pain in my spine, I am inhabiting my body in a more assured and comfortable way. Feeling at ease in my body helps me to be more in tune with myself and more grounded in general.
It seems strange that performing a physical exercise with your body can affect your psyche in such a way, but it does. There is something incredibly meditative and calming about plank pose once you move past the initial 45 seconds or so. Breathing deeply, relaxing the jaw, and drawing all of your energy into the space behind the belly button.
It’s done great things for me. I feel solid, strong, capable and this, in turn, empowers me to act courageously; to choose to behave in a way that reflects who I am at the very center of my being, even when I’m fearful of an outside situation or the opinions of others.
Yoga can do all that? Yes it can.