Monday, January 23, 2012

2012 Fun with Yoga

Here’s some of the yoga poses I’m working on this month....



In this video, I show some warm-up, preparatory poses before I start getting into the more challenging stuff.

At 1:40 I make an attempt at my Scorpion.  I held it for a few seconds, but that’s all I need, because I’m not solid on the pose. My right shoulder is just finally getting to the place where it can do its part to support me in the right position. It’s been just about three full years, now, since I shredded it.  So, it’s been a long, slow healing process, but its encouraging to be able to support headstands and scorpions again.

Then, at 1:50 I’m practicing my Garland pose. This is a deceptively hard position, but every time I practice it, I get a little bit closer to it.

At 1:55 I start to practice my Crow pose, which is something I have been doing for over a decade and it is no problem for me. But I’m now starting to graduate into the Crane pose, which is like the Crow only both arms are locked straight. Instead of being able to kneel on the back of my arms, my elbow needs to be straight and I have to use the strength of my core to hold me up.  On this particular day, when I tried to straighten my arms, I planted my face in the mat.  I thought it was kind of amusing, so I left it in the video.  Enjoy.  (FYI, it didn’t hurt.)

At 2:20 I’m doing a long, passive stretch for my adductors (the muscles of my inner thigh). I held the stretch for about three minutes, letting gravity work its magic. I also used my hands to encourage the muscles to relax and let go; you can see me tapping on them and massaging them. And then, I’m contracting my abdominal muscles while keeping the thigh muscles relaxed.  It is a mental challenge for me because I have established a neurological connection between my abs and my thighs that doesn’t serve me.  I have a bad habit of simultaneously contracting my thighs and abs, which prevents me from enjoying hip freedom when I’m exerting force from my core.  So the crunch-like things you’re seeing is all about me unlearning that connection.  I’m feeling my legs and teaching them to stay relaxed as I contract my abdominals by themselves.

From 4:00 to the end, I’m meditating. I have started to do the Yoga Kriyas, which are meditation activities.  They keep my mind very busy, which helps promote a nice meditation.  Most of the other techniques I’ve tried leave too much opportunity for my mind to wander. When I practice the Kriyas, I really feel like I’ve gone somewhere.

During today’s session, I also worked on my Monkey pose (aka the splits). I have a sequence of about four or five positions that lead up to the Monkey, as you can see in this video...



At this point, obviously, I’m not into the Monkey yet. But just like all the yoga poses, I’m improving on it every time I practice. I’m now sitting comfortably on the brick and getting my torso more and more erect.  In today’s video I can see that I still need to eliminate some of the arch in my lower back and to contract my rectus abdominus so that my rib cage doesn’t stick out.  But none of that can happen until I gain more flexibility in the hips--especially in the extension. Right now, the tightness of my hip flexors are pulling my pelvis into an anterior tilt, which exaggerates the lower back curve. 

Even though I’m not doing what would be considered a proper Monkey pose, I do get a lot of benefit from this practice.  This is what a lot of people don’t appreciate about yoga. I see many people struggling so much to do the completed pose, that they don’t appreciate the benefits they’re getting from the struggle itself. Notice that I ‘worked’ on the pose for about two and a half minutes and then held the actual pose for about four seconds. It’s more about the work getting there than the end product.



In this video I’ve created a new position by combining two classics. When I sit and position my legs to do the Seated Half-Spinal Twist position, oftentimes my butt isn’t evenly on the floor.  One cheek is sometimes hovering above the floor, being suspended by shortness and tension in my hips. So by sitting in the Seated Twist position, but putting my arms in the shape of the Eagle pose, the pressure of my arms, pushes down on my legs and allows my butt to make firm and even contact with the floor.  So after holding that “Seated Eagle” for a few seconds, I can then go into a Seated Spinal Half Twist, with much better grounded connection. I can also use that same “Seated Eagle” position to prepare my body for a regular, standing Eagle pose.




And this video shows my very first attempt at an Athletic Supine Bow. Some people call the Supine Bow a “wheel” but I know the Wheel pose as something different. My goal in the Athletic Supine Bow is to go into a solid Supine Bow pose (as you can see in the video at 2:10) and then lift one arm off the ground, and use my core to lift that arm up and reach to the sky with it. I can’t do it yet.  You can see at 2:30, I finally do get one arm off the floor, but I’m not strong enough to get that arm up toward the ceiling. You may notice, too, that I can lift the right arm off the floor, but not the left.  This is because of the injury in my right shoulder.  After three years, it’s still lagging behind the left side in strength. After making a few attempts on each side to lift the arm, I then did a few Supine Bow Pushups, hoping to build up that strength.   I will continue to work on this movement and will hopefully be doing it in a few weeks.

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