by Sandra Bark
Thanks to The Cloudspotter’s Guide by Gavin Pretor-Pinney, I’ve been learning the science of clouds. Nacreous, undulatus, pannus, perlocidus… Clouds have names like poetry. Yet these heavenly shape-shifters are more than pretty, more than poetry: they are our oracles of storm and sun.
Consider the billows suspended against the blue. Will rain burst out like an exclamation and then subside? Or will the gray pour its heart out all day? The difference between cumulonimbus and cirrostratus matters if you want to know if you should wear your shades or pack an umbrella.
Until we learn to decipher their messages, the clouds just float above our heads like a celestial Rorschach test.
All of this sky-gazing has made me realize that much like practicing an awareness of cloud formations is a way of learning to read the sky, practicing yoga is a way of learning to read your body.
Thanks to my teachers at Mala, I’ve learned that well-defined muscles are about more than looking pretty. Consider the muscles that anchor your shoulders to your back. Have you been avoiding the elusive serratus anterior? Abusing the more accessible trapezius? The difference between the muscles we activate matters if you want to know why your neck has been aching all day.
Until we know how to make the most of our muscles and attachments, they just float there around our bones, useless onlookers instead of a well-trained support staff.
Want to be able to predict the weather? Clouds are only confusing until you decipher the alphabet of the atmosphere.
Want to be able to translate the twinges? Muscles are only mysterious until you decode the building blocks of your alignment.
Head in the clouds, feet on the mat, eyes on the prize. Whether the gaze is aimed up at the sky or six inches in front of the mat, whether you are focused on lucunosus or ileopsoas, paying attention pays off.
Transversusabdominus, gastrocnemius, vastus medialis…