High, low, Up, Down

Building strength as postures blend rejuvenates the entire body. The vigorous work from high plank through the chaturanga sequence is often repeated in every asana countless times. The four limbs supporting the body are the hands and feet while the movement integrates the upper and lower body.

To remain stable 2 rotations need to be active;

1.  the shoulder blades remain wide across the back and drawing down.

2.  the hip bones and pelvis revolve back drawing the abdomen upward lengthening the lower back arch and tail bone toward the heels.

Where ever the body comes in contact with the mat this is your foundation and the pose builds from there. In high plank the hands and feet are your foundation as well as a steady gaze at your finger tips. Line up the hands with the shoulders and this stacks the bones of the arms distributing weight equally. Press through the feet drawing the heels back aligns the ball of the foot with the ankle. This is your strong foundation and the work begins from here.

Here are two examples of high plank giving you a visual of a strong foundation and one that needs slight adjustment.

Integrating the upper and lower torso to keep the weight from collapsing into the low back when the sequence is in motion requires an understanding of internal locks or “bandhas”. If you can feel your breath move up and down the torso you can find the internal locks. Simplified explanation; the inhalation widens the low ribs side to side and front to back, the exhalation draws the back of the ribs and front of the ribs toward each other narrowing toward the waist (this is a lock). The same is true of the chest cavity the inhalation increases the volume and size of the chest, exhalation releases the breast bone and brings the upper spine toward the sternum (this is a lock).

I like to refer to this as staying close to the breath, always feeling the movement of the bones inside the body. Once you have established your foundation and found the locks internally you will breath easier and struggle less.

I like to introduce the idea of rocking forward and backward in high plank before running through the chaturanga sequence. This enables breath to movement, works on strengthening the upper body and internal locks while maintaining correct alignment.

From these photos you can see how the eyes and where your focus is can challenge the alignment of the pose. If your focus is out in front of your hands the spine remains long and weight is evenly distributed, if the focus is down the upper back rounds, the shoulders become compromised and the weight is unevenly distributed.

 

 

 

 

 

Connecting The Movement

Integrating a sequence of movements into “flowing postures” creates internal energy, heating up the body and pumping the heart steadily. Each pose flows right into the next inspiring a deeper release, brilliant momentum and internal heat. Maintaining steady, rhythmic breathing is the single most important element of a yoga practice. As you become skillful at matching your breath to your movement, the two will no longer feel separate.

The breath should begin before the movement and act as your guide. In general, you inhale as you rise into the pose and exhale as you fold down to close the pose. Maintain equal duration for both the inhale and exhale breath, timing each movement with a full inhale and a full exhale. Throughout your practice, keep remembering to breathe…deep and free.

Standing In The Feet And Balance

Standing and balancing postures involve two key elements; a focused gaze and the breath. Learning the art of breathing correctly feeling movement inside the body as you breathe, allows you to find your center line of gravity and discover your own weightlessness. A concentrated steady gaze inside and outside the body centers you, streamlining your attention to a single point of focus. In all balancing poses, your gaze is essential and comes from a calm centered mind.

Learning to stand correctly on the feet with the big toes and heels in a line (not at an angle), will systematically contract the hips, draw the abdomen back toward the spine and bring the chest forward. Take a look at where the sole and heel of your shoes wear out. Bearing your weight on the heels, or on the inner/outer edges of the feet cause alignment problems and hamper spinal flexibility. It is therefore essential to master the art of standing correctly.

USD Summer Session

A Greater Understanding Of “The Inner Body”

Much of my understanding comes from thinking of my students as “teachers” and taking “instruction” from their movement patterns. By using my eyes and touch I construct a sense of the individuals anatomy that is particular to each person I come in contact with. I have learned that as long as a new pattern of thinking is active during movement, then a new pattern of muscle activity is automatically being used to decrease physical stress and a more balanced alignment of skeletal parts.

Over a period of time and daily attention to new patterns in thinking and action, the body’s shape will be transformed. I watched this transformation in students who committed 2 times a week for 6 weeks at USD’s summer fitness yoga program;  Strength, endurance, alignment, body shape, focus and breathing were dramatically different. By the last week of the program everyone was up in supported head stand in the center of the room….Bravo and Well Done!

Looking forward to an outstanding Fall Semester