Saturday, February 04, 2006

Meditation on child's pose

Child's pose: kneeling on your mat, spread your knees wide to the edges of your mat. Bring your big toes together. Rest the tops of your feet on the floor behind you. Bring your hips to your heels, and your forehead to the mat. Extend your arms toward the front of your mat, palms down. With each inhalation, expand the space between your ribs. With each exhalation, contract your ribs and relax more deeply toward the floor.

Chakra: wheel -- a place in the body where energy collects and rotates. There is a chakra in the center of the forehead. Some call it the "third eye," and it is associated with insight. Resting it on the floor does not close the third eye -- it connects it to the earth.

Earth is mother. Earth is Gaia. In child's pose, I become part of Earth again, connecting my mind to her. Allow her to support me, for physics teaches that Earth pushes me up with the exact same force that I press down. My vision blurs, my eyes nearly touching the mat.

While sight still works a bit, my mind shifts away from it, the blurred light patterns become wallpaper. My mind channel surfs from breathing to the tight fold of my hips to the day's events to the convexity of my lumbar spine to a half-remembered conversation to the scent of a towel to the blurred image before my eyes to the bridge of my nose that is touching the mat to the next pose I'm headed for to the breath to spring break plans to a law brief I haven't finished to my brother to the breath to a pain in my right hip to the position of my toes to the wanting to move to the gardening that needs to be done...

Part of child's pose are all the things that don't happen -- or rather the things that do happen, but that I only notice when they don't happen. Like regulating blood pressure. When the combinations of exertion, heat, and locking bandhas in other poses lead to dizziness, child's pose promptly relieves it.

First, by putting me firmly on the ground, not resisting gravity's pull, but rather acceding to it, child's pose calms my mind -- it no longer needs to worry whether I'll fall over. Second, and more subtle, there are nerves in the neck that detect differences in blood pressure. When blood pressure in the neck is low, those nerves trigger various ways for the body to increase that pressure, trying to keep oxygen delivered to the brain. One of those ways is to increase the heart rate. Putting the head and neck below the heart enables gravity to assist the flow of oxygen-enriched blood "upward" to the head. That raises the blood pressure in the neck. The nerves in the neck detect the increased pressure and tell the heart to slow. The slowing heart rate calms the body. The calming body calms the mind. And as the brain gets the oxygen that the exertion and bandha locks had deprived it of, it, too, relaxes a tiny bit of its grip on its desires, its obsessions.


As infants, my children slept on their stomachs, their hips, which had never borne their weight nor yet muscled to do so, splayed wide to either side of their bellies. Each breath moved their entire bodies, from their toes to the skin covering their fontanelles in their still-assembling skulls.


safety. peace. rest. comfort. internal. blur. embrace. insight. support. yin. soften. close.