Thursday, July 26, 2012

Day 330 of 365 - Yoga

My yoga lesson was this morning. I still have a lot of work to do on the fundamentals. The teacher says she could spend an hour on a single pose. I believe it. My takeaways:



1. The 10 minute segments I identified were largely correct, but I missed a higher level pattern. The class ascends to a climax with twists just before the 30 minute mark, and then descends back down starting at the 30 minute mark, with balances. I should think about it like:


a. Warm Up

b. Flow

c. Lunges, All 4's, Twists



e. Balances, Face the wall,

f. Prone, Supine, Abs, Lying twist

g. Hip Opener, Inversion and Shavasana

2. The length of time poses are held is to facilitate this trip up and down. Gradually shorter holds (all the way down to one pose per breath) are used to climb the intensity curve. Longer holds are used build the early climb and the descent.


3. Twisting at the peak of the physical intensity is very intentional.


4. The crescent lunge twist comes first in the sequence, before the utkatasana twist


5. Supta baddha konasana after bridges is primarily a chance for the class to rest and get instruction. If I am physically ready to keep going, I can skip it.


6. The same is true for the prone laying just after the "face the wall" sequence. That one releases tight muscles in my neck that give my shoulder problems though, so I'll keep it in.


7. If backing off on intensity a little will let me align my breathing with my movement, I should do it. Otherwise, I am missing the calming part of the moving meditation.



1. Owning a pose is not about imitating what other people look like, but learning to feel the pose. It is really hard for me to "feel" a pose on my own, without someone adjusting me into that feeling a few times. We did this on a couple poses, and I am going to take a class tomorrow in an effort to memorize those feelings before they fade. This is not intuitive to me, at all. It is probably the most important lesson from the morning.


2. Down dog

2.1 Focus on spreading my fingers and widening my hand position to the edge of my mat.

2.2 Moving my feet closer to my hands so they will go flat on the floor is not the goal. Having the heels off the floor provides space to move deeper into the movement.

2.3 More importantly, I have the habit of supporting my weight with my upper traps. This prevents me from relaxing into a stretch for my lats and upper/mid back. With coaching, I was able to feel the opening in my upper body. I need to remember that and move into it. I think it will help with the upper cross syndrome I am prone to from sitting all day. The teacher says my posture is less forward than it was when I started, so it is quite possible I did not have the range of motion to down dog like this at the start.


3. Vinyasa Transition - Low Plank to Up Dog


3.1 If I am going to separate pointing my feet and the press up, I should move the feet first. This puts me part way into up dog with little effort.


3.2 I am still shrugging my shoulders towards my ears as I descend from high plank. This puts my shoulder in an impingement prone position when I am ready to press up from low plank. Learning to tuck my arms into my sides during chatarunga will help this, but I lack strength in that position. I may need to do some work from my knees to build it.


3.3 Letting my weight drop all the way to the floor before going into up dog (my current approach) adds a lot of extra work. I can conserve energy by learning this transition better.


4. Vinyasa Transition - Up Dog to Down Dog


4.1. Don't pop from up dog to down dog. It misses the physical point of the transition


4.2. The reason people are able to "roll" over their toes is because a proper transition uses the core to transfer weight to their upper body. Relatively little weight is on the legs.


4.3 Almost all of my weight has been on my legs during this transition. I need to stop doing that. The cracked nails on my big toes are the sign of a movement problem, not just something I need to tough out.


5. Vinyasa Transition – Floating


5.1 It is reasonable for me to try floating forward, even though I cannot land between my hands yet


5.2 Fixing my hand spacing on down dog will help with creating space to land in


5.3 Learning to engage my core for down dog will help to control the landing


5.4 Otherwise it just needs to come with time. Until I have the hang of floating forward, I should not worry about floating backwards. That is more likely to lead to injury.


6. Opening on Twists


6.1 Hooking the elbow does not just mean "get enough of your elbow on your knee that you have leverage". It means getting the arm pressed against the side of the knee.


6.2 Until I can fully hook my elbow, there is no reason to focus on opening my arms. I'll probably end up cheating the twist if I open without a proper hook.


6.3 Doing a proper twist without being fully warmed up can be sickening

7. Half Moon - the point of the pose is feel opening of the body, so I should go for the bind, even if my unbound form is not perfect.


8. Extended Side Angle


8.1 The knee should be positioned plumb over the ankle. When I am ready for a wider pose, I need to move my back foot, not lunge forward


8.2 My arm is on my leg to press on the inside of my thigh and open my hips, not to support the weight of my upper body so I can rest. Whoops. The pose feels much different doing this. It is a huge hip opener.


8.3 Once I learn this new feeling, then I can put my hand to the floor, but I should still be using my arm to push my hips open. A block can help here.



Learning physical skills is really hard for me. I am glad I lucked into finding a good instructor and have enough sense to take advantage of the opportunity. There is still a lot to learn (I only asked 2/3's of my questions), but I believe it is worth the effort. The postural problems sitting all day introduces are gradually reducing. Yoga is likely to become a lifelong habit for me.


I suspect if I can get the breathing down for a moving meditation, I will experience more of a mental health benefit. At the very least, I enjoy learning something new and having a reason to get out of the house. Practice calming myself while at my physical limits seems worthwhile. It is going to take a long time before I understand the full mental impact.