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Posts Tagged ‘Body Alignment’

I just ran across a yoga article on an online fitness site Testosterone.Muscle Unapologetic Muscle-Building Elitists. (Okay, not your typical yogi reading material, I’ll admit.) Mike Robertson’s article Yoga is Overrated makes a case against the yoga fitness craze. Surprisingly, I agree with him on a number of his assertions. Be sure to read the full text of Robertson’s article, (with my apologies for the cheesecake picture at the end). A summary of his points:

Yoga the Good

  1. Mind-Muscle Connection
  2. Decrease Stress
  3. Balance

Yoga the Bad

  1. Instability
  2. “Tightness” does not equal “Needs to be Stretched”
  3. Group Exercise/Lack of Individualization

Getting the Most Out of Your Yoga

  1. Find an educated teacher
  2. Smaller classes
  3. Focus on Quality vs. Quantity

His points on instability and tightness do not hold water in the context of Anusara Yoga where the emphasis is on balanced action — you do not stretch a muscle until you draw in circumfrentially with muscular energy. However, Robertson’s “Yoga the Bad” reflects what IS bad in what I’ll call psuedo-yoga offerings. Unfortunately, there are all too many of these kinds of teachers and classes, not only in the gym setting but perhaps (more damaging) in the yoga studio as well.

Just like I’m sure Robertson would agree that incorrectly performed body building exercises are not good for you, I whole-heartedly agree with his assertions as they relate to “incorrect” yoga. His tips for getting the most out of your yoga are worth heeding; his summation a great prediction:

“I may be living in a dream world, but I believe that there will be a revolution in the yoga world in the coming years that puts a serious emphasis on moving in a biomechanically efficient manner.” ~ Mike Robertson

That revolution is here baby, it’s called Anusara Yoga.

* * *

I would really love to hear your thoughts and opinions of this article, and invite you to discuss your ideas here. What do you think of his assertions? Side note: My comments are written with an obvious bias towards Anusara Yoga which I study and practice. Other yoga methods also emphasize the biomechanics and provide effective instruction (with a tip of my mat to my Iyengar friends)!

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We just wrapped up the second part of the Anusara Immersion, the sixth weekend of nine in our deeper exploration into the Anusara system. The Immersion has been a great experience. We’ve received inspiring and detailed instruction from Christina which has increased my understanding of the principles that inform our method. I am excited because things are starting to click in meaningful ways.

Along with that, my friendships with those who practice with me have grown deeper — from great talks during breaks to great shopping from car trunks! Today Zoe had beautiful shawls and fun purses, Jenn had handmade jewelry (that I missed out on) and my friend, Michelle, who owns the Yoga Studio of Corpus Christi, brought up a trunk full of clothes from her studio. I got a fabulous pair of new pants and matching top. I really love these pants, and I promptly put them on.

Difficult things take a long time, impossible things a little longer.

~Author Unknown

Today we worked a lot with thigh bones back. Let me just say, mine truly like to lead the way so this has been a challenge. But today, in my NEW GREEN PANTS, I felt something different start to happen. I GLIMPSED thigh bones back in parsvakonasana. Lots of work for sure — I even had to sweat — but I experienced the freedom that comes when the thighs move into the back plane. (I suppose it is not without coincidence that the symbol on the back of my pants is FREEDOM.)

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Freedom comes with shins in, my NEW pants and a little help from Christina

I also briefly accessed tucking my tail bone withOUT tucking the whole pelvis into my typical retroversion pattern AND keeping my thighs back! Perhaps those “things that are starting to click” are REALLY my femurs moving into their hip sockets! Did I mention I love the pants?!

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I may not be there yet, but I’m closer than I was yesterday.

~Author Unknown

There’s a wonderful children’s story about a little girl preparing for a ballet recital. She lacked confidence and stumbled about until she was presented with a “magical” pair of ballet slippers. She was told that with the shoes on, she would be able to dance beautifully. And so she did. It came time for the recital and she panicked because she couldn’t find her slippers. It was then that she learned that the shoes had no magical powers; they just gave her the confidence to do what she knew how to do. And she was able to go on stage and perform flawlessly. She was exuberant!

There have many times when I have struggled to understand and implement the principles of Anusara in my practice, and I’ve doubted my ability to EVER do it. I am certainly a long way from a flawless parsvakonasana but the jubilation I experienced in those brief moments when my thighs MOVED back is right up there with that little ballerina.

“It’s gonna be brutal, but it’s worth it!”

Pamela

Zoe & Michelle

The Parking Lot “Pushers” of Clothes & Accessories: Zoe & Michelle

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Root to Rise

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Partner Work: Jeff & Anne

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Long, long ago, in a galaxy far, far away, I was giving birth to our first child. Crazed with back labor, I was very focused on getting that epidural. No natural childbirth for me, I was all about pain relief, and it came in the form of a needle to my spine. I am not ashamed to admit it. After writhing around the Brigham & Women’s maternity ward for several hours, my request was granted. Then, just as quickly as the pain started, it subsided. That blessed wave of relief washed over me just in time for the doctor to say, “It’s time to push!

And I remember thinking, “Push? Push WHAT?!” With numbness enveloping my body, I thought she might as well be asking me to bend a spoon with my mind! There was no sensation, no discernible thing to push or focus on. I felt powerless, frustrated and helpless.

I have experienced that same feeling many times in yoga practice. I hear my teacher (whether in person or my head) saying something like, “Reach your inner-outer edge of your pubic bone down and back.” And I think, “HUH? … Did someone just give me an epidural?!” Just like my OB-Gyn, I know she wants me to do something that involves my pelvis – and I want to do what’s asked of me, really I do – but exactly how I’m going to accomplish her request ranks right up there with pushing that baby into this world. It’ll be some kind of miracle if it ever happens!

Still I listen and I try … to draw the head of the arm bone back, to root the femur in the socket, to move the sacrum as a unit with muscular energy, to broaden the thighs and make room for my pelvis. In search of that elusive “optimal blueprint,” I try to bend that spoon with my mind. I do this with the belief that my teacher KNOWS! I do this thinking that SOME day, it WILL click. And I do this knowing that even in the attempt of these actions that I will yield benefits.

A few months ago, my friend, Lisa, mentioned that she was going to take a class at Austin Community College, Anatomy for Dancers. I have wanted to learn more about anatomy to enhance my asana practice and this seemed liked a good fit. I didn’t really want HARDCORE Anatomy, but something that would help me better understand the mechanics of the human body. The semester started last month, and it’s a perfect fit. With every class, I find myself making connections: Ahh, THIS is why we root our femur, THIS is why we draw our arm bone back, THIS is why “our way” works. I knew the Anusara method worked, and now I know why. The synapses are firing!

For the past couple of weeks, we have been studying the pelvis. I never knew the pelvis had so many different landmarks and components. Dig your thumbs into your side waist and feel your iliac crest. Palpitate the bones on the front and discover your Anterior Superior Iliac Spine (ASIS), your “headlights”. Observe the alignment of your pubic bone with your ASIS … Is it forward of your ASIS (retroversion) or does your ASIS lead the way (anteversion)? There is so much to learn about this one area!

I leave Anatomy each day and head directly for Christina’s class. Tonight we worked on hip openers. As she requested us to externally rotate our hip, or release the inner groins back, I reached a deeper place. With my new vocabulary and increased understanding of the pelvis, I was better able to access the action she described. I could see the femur rotating in the acetabulum; I could visualize the pubic crest moving back; I could “feel” the stability come to the sacrum as I drew in. I could see it all in my mind. My pelvis is no longer one ambiguous “thing” but an understandable unit with many parts. Like the fog lifting on my epidural, this anatomy class is granting me access to a whole new place.

The miracle is starting to happen!

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Pain has been on my brain: Where did it come from? How can I make it go away? Brian & I both embrace an active lifestyle — mine primarily through yoga & (spurts of) jogging, his in triathlon training & cycling. We also love the water — wakeboarding and water skiing occasionally, countered with spring break trips to the mountains that give us an annual opportunity to take on the slopes. As we age, we are forced to confront the realities of our bodies’ less than enthusiastic response to that which we ask of it. We just don’t bounce back like we did. This is an obvious fact borne out by our respective nightstands which house a collection of ace bandages, ice packs & ibuprofen. As if adding insult to injury, my reading glasses herald in that chorus, resting on top of my new favorite reference book: Listen to Your Pain.

In the first sentence of that book, Dr. Ben Benjamin states: “Pain is a signal that something is wrong.” (I paid good money for this.) But seriously, it reminded me of a post I wrote last summer about the importance of distinguishing pain from discomfort and the different response each requires. I thought it was worth revisiting, so here ya go! (It’s my blog, I can repeat if I want to!)

STOP ~ YIELD ~ U-Turn: Reading the Signs in your Life & Practice

During this morning’s class, I talked about listening to your body, the importance of discerning discomfort from pain. When we feel something in our yoga asana practice, we need to take notice and discern if it is discomfort or pain. Pain is a STOP sign. It says, “Stop what you’re doing right now. Do not pass ‘go,’ do not collect $200!”

Discomfort, though, is like a YIELD sign — saying, “Slow down here & pay attention. Consider your next move carefully.” Some of us are too quick to move AWAY from discomfort to a more familiar, less challenging, place (which we unknowingly deem “safe”) AND thereby miss out on an opportunity for growth. Many times if we can just stay in the pose, breathe, & work through the discomfort, we become stronger, more flexible, more steady. We deepen our practice. We strengthen our resolve.

But sometimes, that “Discomfort YIELD” sign IS signaling, “Hey you’re possibly moving in the wrong direction here (read: alignment). Stop sign — PAIN — just around the corner!” When you experience discomfort, YIELD & decide the appropriate course of action. An adjustment in your alignment may be all it takes to continue. But when you experience pain, you must STOP!

The same thing is true in your life off the mat. (Isn’t it always!?) Discomfort in our life (relationships, profession, health) is a sign to YIELD and figure out our next move. If we are too quick to revert to our comfort zone, we miss out on important opportunities for growth.

Consider this idea in the context of a partner relationship. Maybe one’s tendency when things get tough is to turn to other people, popping off to friends & family complaining about your partner. There is comfort in that, perhaps, but not growth. And if that’s what you’ve always done, then it’s so just so easy to take that path every time. It is as if you’ve seen the trusty U-turn sign: “Take me back to my safety zone!”

The alternative, the yield sign approach, is to pause and consider your next course of action. Maybe we just need to endure, hold fast & steady and in that very action we find the deeper meaning. Or maybe we need to adjust our alignment, maybe WE really need to change something, like the way we communicate or address conflict in our lives. Could it be a signal to change our very ATTITUDE!?

Only you can decide what the sign suggests: sometimes the best course is endurance and sometimes — as in your asana practice — you really DO need to “adjust your alignment.”

FINAL THOUGHT … When we don’t acknowledge & address life’s discomfort in some way, it almost always moves from discomfort to PAIN.

The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers.~ M. Scott Peck

May the signage in your life be clear & well placed,

Pamela

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