Wake Up The Tiger

By Marta Swiezynska- Yoga Teacher -

We all know that the world is spinning, the nature of things is to change and the universe is constantly expanding. When I think about these things happening in real time, it is an image of a gracious and gradual shift and it can be a beautiful thing to see.

But sometimes I find it difficult to embrace the speed with which the world is spinning and there are times when it feels like life happens as if someone pressed a fast forward button and life becomes a tornado,  that is throwing my weightless self around. Yes, I end up being slightly bruised and battered, but I shake off the dust and move on. Technically, time and experience in life should offer us some decent weight, so we are more centred, so we are more like a tree, rather than a rag doll. And sometimes, that’s the case. But sometimes we do have to make an effort to find our centre, our roots, strength and resilience against the tides. So here we are..

There are some fascinating practices within the science of yoga that can bring us back to our centre, like a short emergency meditation or a balancing breathing exercise. There is always Plank Pose, which demands of us to be still and steady and brings your attention to our core and fire within, while challenging our physical and mental strength.

There is also a practice known as Sleeping Tiger!

It comes from a less known yoga tradition of yeon dahn and is known as energy accumulation practice.  To me it has become also a practice of focus, concentration and release of things that need to go, that no longer serve me.

Sleeping Tiger 1 Marta Swiezynsa

Enthusiastically I brought Sleeping Tiger to my yoga classes, just to find out that it seems to be one of those Marmite asanas (you either love it or hate it), but everyone, regardless of which aspect of the Marmite discussion they are, is incredibly drawn to it. For many reasons, I gather!

Perhaps, because we are working directly with the lower abdomen energy centre (emotions), and our busy lives do not offer us many opportunities to look at emotions?  Additionally, if we implement focused and mindful breathing (as per instructions below) and we are channeling breath energy to both, the upper belly/solar plexus (impulses, wishes, being, willpower) and root of the spine (physical being, physical needs, survival, self-expression, ambition) it becomes a multidimensional practice, that involves a lot more than holding a posture that deceptively looks like inverted Cat Pose.

So all in all, in Sleeping Tiger we are getting a pretty good centering energy body work-in and physical body work-out. Some of us might not be aware of these layers, but it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t work this way. For many reasons Sleeping Tiger is worth a try, whether it is for your curiosity, or if you wish to challenge yourself, or to observe your emotions and impulses from a distance, or to be productively still. It may suddenly feel that rather than being at the mercy of a tornado, you are in the very eye of it, still and solid.

Try it a handful of times at least, see how different it is every single time.. and perhaps see on which side of Marmite discussion you are. You might just find yourself somewhere in the middle, which is a pretty good result, if what we are trying to do is finding your centre!

For “Sleeping Tiger” practice:

  • Begin laying down in lying on your back, resting with your eyes closed, releasing tension from the physical body and bringing your attention to the breath and its movement in the belly
  • Inhale, as if you were breathing into your upper belly and exhale, as if you are breathing from the upper belly to the centre of the pelvis
  • Whenever you are ready, hug your knees to your chest
  • Slowly bring your arms up, your palms facing the sky, your elbows straight but soft
  • Draw your thighs away from the chest, so your thighs are perpendicular and shins parallel to the floor, with your feet flexed (the hip and knee joints at 90-degree angles)
  • Keep the knees and feet hip distance apart

Hold the posture for about 10-20 breaths and with each practice build it up a little (5-15 minutes when you’ve practiced for a while)

As you hold the posture, focus on your lower abdomen. You may feel heat and energy gathering here. You may also experience some shaking or burning in the muscles as your energy meridians open up.

  • When you are ready to release the posture, slowly bring your arms and legs down. Bring the soles of your feet together and knees apart while resting one of your hands on your lower belly and the other one on the uper abdomen. Observe all sensations there and tune inward to notice the energy circulating in your body. Either return to your relaxation pose or hug the knees to the chest and then slowly come up to sitting.

Practice notice:

As you hold Sleeping Tiger, you may notice your mind wandering and your willpower is being challenged. This is the very nature of the practice, so don’t worry. Just keep bringing your mind back to earlier established breath pattern

This posture teaches you how to stay centered and calm – and true to your highest self – throughout your day.

Tweak it down: Rest your arms.

Sleeping Tiger 2 Marta Swiezynsa

This posture looks deceptively easy, so if you are finding holding the posture with arms and legs up too challenging, or if if you have any problems with your lower back, simply rest your arms by your sides, pressing them into the floor. Your arms, shoulders are becoming your anchor and you can distribute the weight of the legs with greater ease across the pelvis and back.

Tweak it up: Standing version.

Try holding the Sleeping tiger standing, with feet firmly planted on the floor, knees bent and arms extended in front of you. This seems to be taking the practice to another level and feels a lot more like energy accumulating pose.

Note: This posture is also good for relieving pain in the neck and shoulders. If you have a history of spinal injury, practice this pose carefully. Before you begin, it is recommended to stretch and open your body. You may want to practice “Sleeping Tiger” at the end of your daily yoga routine, or any sort of stretching, to ensure you warm up your muscles and joints.

To read more about Marta click here

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