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I was listening to an old Liberated Body Podcast yesterday with the Original Strength guys and it got me thinking about head position in common yoga postures like High Plank and Chaturanga Dandasana. They (Original Strength) emphasise the importance of crawling (contra lateral) patterns and how the head follows the eyes, and the body follows the head. Our whole sense of balance governed by the vestibular system is located between the ears so to speak. But in the modern world we have totally lost this connection to the relationship between our heads and the rest of our body due to all the time we spend looking at screens, and “Forward Head Posture” and “text neck” are an epidemic.
So we know that while standing the ears should be over the shoulders, which are over the hips, over the knees, over the mid foot. But should we maintain this alignment in other positions?
Many physiotherapists, yoga teachers and trainers advocate keeping this alignment while doing planks and push ups. The reasoning being that as soon as you extend the neck (head up) the lower back also extends and core control is lost.
Yet if we look at our evolution then we can observe that the first thing that infants do is lift up their heads to begin crawling because we need to see where we are going. You can see this in the animal kingdom as well. This is why it’s natural to want to look forward instead of down during planks and chaturangas.
I tried these movements while balancing a stick and noticed that it was nearly impossible to keep my neck in neutral and I needed at least some extension.
Conclusion: Try both!
Perhaps one of the most obvious examples of the blurred lines between yoga asana practice and modern day movement culture is the identical movements found in gymnastics and popular forms of practice like Ashtanga. In Ashtanga this sequence would be known as a ‘jump back and jump through’ though usually done with crossed legs - with the components being the postures known as Tolasana and Lolasana. In gymnastics these identical movements are called (Tuck) V-Sit, (Tuck) L-Sit, (Tuck) Planche and I’ve noticed in the last few years that some of these terms - like L-Sit are making there way into the common vernacular of modern yoga.
It’s worth noting that the idea that yoga is not ‘mere gymnastics’ has been around for a long time, but, as Mark Singleton’s book, Yoga Body, so potently points out, the revival of modern gymnastics in Europe during the 1800’s was based upon the same principles as much modern yoga practice today: the union of body, mind and spirit, and the belief of building a ‘a sound mind in a sound body’. As the book also illustrates, western gymnastics and physical culture heavily influenced a period of experimentation and remodelling of what Yoga was to become back in Mysore, India, in the 1930’s.
Today, I find it very interesting that the term Physical Culture has been replaced by Movement Culture and we are experiencing a revival/re-enactment of what happened on a global scale during this period of the 1800’s and early part of the 20th century, as Instagram, YouTube and the globalisation of the planet, is creating this climate of experimentation and fusion of various disciplines. On the one hand we could worry that this is the end of ‘tradition’ and ‘authentic’ practice, or we could embrace it as an exciting time and become the innovators of yesteryear today.
. @thekozm hat and sweats
Ok so this one is a good way to apply the knowledge of physiotherapy rehab/prehab exercises like the Y and the T - which involve retraction, upward rotation and posterior tilt of the scapulae, as well as the modern day handstand, gymnastic and circus approach of elevating the scapulae in the overhead position. We can find many applications of these different approaches in common yoga postures like Triange and Twisting Triangle (using the T position), and depending on your intention either the Y or the elevated scapulae in sun salutations, downward dog and handstands.
It’s common in Triangle pose for the students to attempt to turn toward the ceiling by pulling the hand backwards - which actually pushes the chest down and the shoulder forward and leaves the scapular protracted. By activating the musculature surrounding the scapulae as done in the Y it is easy to correct this and find better alignment in the pose.
In downward dog and handstands there is often a lack of pushing - or elevation - which creates a sinking feeling of balancing in the shoulder joint. I understand why it was taught this way - to reduce tension in already over active upper trapezius muscles but the research shows that this is not the best approach.
For more information on the Y,T,W,L check out @fitnessfaqs and for more information on the importance of elevating the scapulae in handstands etc check out @cirque_physio
Another great example of the cross over between both present day movement culture and yogasana practice is the Horse Stance - which I believe originated in Chinese martial arts? If anyone has knowledge of the origins of it I would appreciate knowing.
My first introduction to it was as a student of @simonsynergy in 2000 where he would incorporate it (though he called it Elephant Stance) into the Prasarita Padottonasana sequence - . As a new student of Yoga at the time I never thought to ask him if he came up with the idea or borrowed it from another teacher. I know Shandor Remete was already incorporating martial arts and Indian classical dance movements into his Shadow Yoga method, and later Shiva Rea was possibly the main influencer of the the current yoga world bringing her studies of the Indian martial art - Kalaripayattu into her asana sequences and refashioning this pose to her female students as the “Goddess Pose” - unless that was already a name? Does anyone know the origins of this?
In my current training with Ido Portal the Horse Stance is a part of the daily practice and I imagine it is used commonly amongst others teachers in the movement community.
In these videos I’m using the same approximation of the @simonsynergy sequence of combining the stance with 4 primary spinal movements - flexion, extension, side flexion and rotation, as well as shoulder and scapular movement variations. I also start with a passive stretch followed by PNF (pressing my hands and knees against each other) followed by active stretching- pulling the knees away from the hands using the glutes.
I finish the sequence with a handstand press and an one arm handstand for good measure in the spirit of evolution .
So I’m back after a good break from the gram and I’m inspired with a new project to share with you all: looking at the asana practice through the “movement/mobility” lens.
I’m going to start with Upward Facing Dog Pose which is actually a complex movement that can literally make or break a yoga practice.
First of all we need to understand the planes of movement in the body - in this case we are dealing with both the transverse plane and the sagittal plane. In order to understand this on a visceral level it’s extremely helpful to practice both spinal waves (sagittal plane movements)- bottom to top and top to bottom or vice versa, as well as chest and hip circles (transverse plane movements). These were once the domain of dance classes but now they are increasingly found in the mainstream movement culture and my training with @portal.ido has made these a part of my daily routine.
So when we apply these movements to Updog then we can see/feel that the hips extend (front part of a hip circle or the start of an up wave) and as the lumbar spine extends one vertebrae at a time we move the T-spine both forward (like the forward part of a chest circle) and up (as in a spinal wave). Just like the spinal waves, the Updog can be initiated from the top or bottom. The same is true for the transitions in and out of it.
Something else to consider is that when extending the neck it is far healthier for the cervical spine to not allow the ears to go past the shoulders so as to keep the sense of stretching the throat rather than compressing the vertebrae.
It can be helpful to practice these patterns in a variety of ways like kneeling and standing, for example, and then start to apply the same patterns throughout your practice.
Watch the different videos and see if you can identify the sagittal and transverse plane movements and where they are initiated from.
It’s #plasticfreejuly and I’m going to be trying my best be free from it this month (and forever onwards). Did you know every bit of plastic ever made in the history of man kind still exists somewhere.... and sadly - figures show that on a global scale, around 8 million tonnes of plastic is dumped in our oceans every year.
this is detrimental for the health of our marine life, and the future of our oceans... and since we as humans get 2/3 of our oxygen from the ocean - it is detrimental for us too!
the exciting thing is - there are so many exciting things that are being done globally to combat plastic pollution!
here are a few things you can do right now to help protect the big blue!
1) start to observe your own plastic consumption — pick one thing, like plastic straws or cups, and find an alternative. allow that to become a habit, then pick a new plastic item to eliminate!
2) if you see plastic on the ground, pick it up!
3) be prepared — BYO cutlery, cups, containers, drink bottles. leave them in your car or at the bottom of your bag in case of plastic emergency. @plasticfreejuly is also here !! why not try quit plastic for a month we have so much potential to turn things around! we just have to start now. epic video // done by legendary @davidebbottfilms
tune // @xavierruddofficial from his new album Storm Boy
This was one of the beach cleans we did during our month intensive in Bali in June // hosted by @jalayoga.co in collaboration with @ecobalirecycle and the wonderful @deepikamehtayoga with the best group of humans in the world x
In order to prepare the body for leg behind the poses there are some prerequisites and protocols that I like to share with my students (and use in my own practice). First of all (Video 3) is cross legs, to double pigeon to active pigeon/loaded pigeon. Remember God is in the details... attention must be paid to foot placement, joint rotations, spinal movement etc. It’s too difficult to describe in adequately here but I am using a combination of techniques - moving actively in and out without using my hands, a bit of passive stretching, PNF - contract and relax, and moving the hip joint in six directions; extension, flexion, abduction, adduction, internal and external rotation. This combined with the loaded pigeon variations is a great way to prepare the nervous system for the demands of putting the leg behind the head.
The next one (Video 2) is the lizard lunge - actively moving the head behind the leg in this case. This is a great way to train the obliques for the necessary twisting movements involved, as well as the hamstrings to remain active.
When entering the leg behind the head (Video 1) I first attempt to enter the posture without using my hands - which is a ‘compression’ exercise which trains the body to switch on the muscles required for this movement. I then go through various stages of contract and relax (creating resistance between my arm and leg) until finally entering the full position - I then create a counter action by sitting up straight using the spinal muscles, while deepening the pose with my legs - hip and knee flexors/external rotators. All of which makes a nice and steady position in which it’s easy to breath and stay calm and relaxed . @thekozm shorts
Here’s a sequence I created to help myself learn the ‘air baby’ while synchronising each movement with the breath - in essence combining what I’ve learnt from my yoga practice with other body weight skills. What I like to look for is movement patterns that are similar across different movement practices then bring the same awareness of the breath that my yoga practice has taught me into the sequence. Here you will see a downward dog progression into what looks like a half moon pose variation and then a one armed Eka Pada Bakasana - aka Air Baby.
Refining the basics...this is a point I am always trying to emphasise with my students because it’s something that I’m forever doing in my own practice.
When I first started on this “handstand” journey a few years ago and discovered the ‘straight’ handstand I became obsessed with trying to find a ‘straight’ line. It’s only been this year that it dawned upon me that the spine is not straight - and everyone has a different set of spinal curves. So, for me, trying to emulate the completely straight back I saw in others was causing me to create too much tension in my abdomen. This is a lesson that can be easily translated to the Yoga practice; so often we look at other practitioners and want to do postures the same way as them, without considering our different body types/constitutions and all the subtle nuances that are found even in seemingly similar body types.
This handstand drill is a great one for learning about the relationship between the pelvis and the rest of the spine. Usually the back to the wall handstand is synonymous with the banana handstand - but if you pay attention to the details here you’ll see that done correctly this exercise can teach you a lot - as the basics always do.
It’s been a while since I posted a surfing photo.... but you know apparently it’s #internationalsurfingday and surfing has been a big (maybe not as much as I would have liked) part of my life - but I hope to be doing it for many more years to come. Here’s a sweet capture of one of life’s best experiences - a little bit of tube time - from the other day at #padangpadang ♂️🤟🏼#surf#bali#isd#surfing@lloydmoore
Having problems opening the shoulders in Prasarita Padottonasana C? You’re not alone, as many yoga practitioners find the combination of shoulder extension, external rotation and scapular retraction difficult - but quite often nothing seems to change even after years of practice 🤨. Using the gymnastics rings can be a great complementary practice to yoga asana practice (and when I have my own shala I will definitely have multiple rings set up) and the German Hang shown in this video is a great way to build strength and flexibility as you move through this range of motion. It’s best to start with a modified version (feet on the floor) as shown, before progressing to the full position and full body weight. A good protocol would be to move dynamically in and out of the position for 5-10 reps and then hold statically for 20-30 secs.