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Your Lungs Begin at Your Legs. Inquiry and Experience.

The function of the lungs is enhanced by the action of the legs. Here’s why. The skin of the thighs is attached to the skin of the hips, the belly and the ribs. The skin is not just what you see but what is connected beneath the surface to the muscle, connective web and bones. Try this. Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet on the floor. Take a generous inhale and full exhalation to observe that sensation. Now extend straight arms to brace the tops of the thighs forward. Take another generous inhale and full exhalation. Observe the sensation. I hope you notice that on the second inhale the belly draws down as the deep abdominal muscles stretch and you get a fuller breath.   On the next breath bring your attention to the upper back. Spread the chest and settle the outer shoulders back and take a full breath again still pressing the thighs. The legs anchor the diaphragm from below while the shoulders anchor at the top. May the breath satiate and please you!...

What Does “Move Energy” Mean in Your Yoga Class?

Energy is shrouded in mystery because we can’t see it. What we see and feel as the materialization of energy can be confusing as well.  Yoga is sometimes described as a method to manage energy. That refers to the energy of thought and intention. The means to that is physical energy because physical gives bodily sensation to something intangible. In yoga we create the sensation of energy by giving it weight. We contract muscles to create force. We synchronize the restriction and release of the muscles in coordination with the breath.  The first weight is made by the windpipe.  The breath becomes sensational and intimate as you orchestrate the narrowing of the windpipe to hear breath and feel it in a pleasing way.   There are also muscle groups that act as sphincters or round muscles. The constriction of those sphincters is sometimes referred to as bandhas.   Bandhas turn on as we create force along the spine, pelvis and shoulders by engaging the muscles of the limbs, buttocks and belly with precision to ignite our posture. The effort of the muscles will have varying effects on our spine depending on the pose. We are not just moving muscles and bones but corralling energy to become form.   Asana is the intensification of awareness. When that awareness dissipates we can escalate the movement of energy by tweaking the posture. We are moving energy. A finished posture is the eye of the storm. Force formed a shape to contain the quiet. Then energy no longer needed weight. You became the sum of that energy for the moment until something shifted...

Your Yoga Practice is a Tandem Rowboat Race

The two rowers rowing in ‘tandem‘, need to be well matched and synchronized to make this work. If one pulls too hard or the other not enough, the boat will go off course. You have two of each limb, this many fingers, these toes, matching hips etc. which is why you buy two shoes, two gloves, two legged pants. But they don’t work exactly the same way. They may even look different on close inspection but you don’t notice. It’s like, how long have you had that mole? I don’t know. What mole!   We don’t notice the subtle differences one side to the other because they don’t matter until we are uncomfortable.   The intelligent way to practice yoga when you want to refine your impressions is to work unilaterally.   Divide the body down the spinal line to conquer habit and dullness. Bring your awareness to the skull as well, divided by the bridge of the nose. When you can expand your focus to hold more events at once, you will unite and conquer the same postures that can otherwise be your downfall.   For example, you can spread your collarbones and stop or you can see if one or the other can move again. The one that can move again would not have had the opportunity if you had left it at the first pass. Behind, the shoulder girdle and its muscles will become uneven in effort and tone as well. This will effect the spinal muscles which will effect the pelvis.   The tailbone is an interesting place to consider as well.  You can’t see...

Asana Happens Behind the Scenes: Inquiry and Experience #10

Note: This is for intermediate students   What draws the viewer’s eye to a yoga pose is the surface. The viewer does not observe the work beneath the surface but if the pose is executed with grace it is because the work beneath the surface is done with integrity.   This is balance through opposition. This is bridging the places in between. This is the bandhas. Ardha Chandrasana (Half Moon) is an excellent posture to demonstrate this lesson. Assume the posture with your back to the wall and the right foot leading. You will use the wall for support for the back body, including your head. The right foot is a few inches from the wall to accommodate the pelvis. Bend the right knee until it’s over the ankle and then lift the right knee to lift the right hip. Allow the left leg, the back leg, to rise and stop when you feel resistance. Pulse the back leg and up and down a few inches. Stop and observe. With the left leg stuck at the point of resistance, lift up vigorously with the right ankle bone to ignite the lift of the knee and then the hip. The buttocks muscles will respond and begin the rotation of the pelvis. The muscles will move to the bones and pull the skeleton to the mid-line. That is the impetus and support that now allows you to raise the back leg higher. Raise the left leg firmly and note the relation between the two legs. Assume the posture Supta Padangusthasana,(Reclining Hand to Foot Pose) with your back on the floor.  Place...

Pull Your Socks Up

  Sharon’s mother is British. If life is making her daughter gloomy she says;” pull your socks up!” I have an image of England as a country which doesn’t approve of depression. Citizens should keep their sunny sides up by doing something pro-active rather than despairing; an attitude one cannot argue with even if it is only my imagining.   This morning I needed to pull my socks up though I didn’t notice until I was standing on my head in front of a mirror in my folk’s house.  It’s not usual to watch ourselves as we practice but the sight of yourself with your own eyes is a good idea now and again. I like to look, adjust, close my eyes to feel and then look back again. That’s how I noticed what it felt like to pull my socks up. That’s how I noticed how good it felt to keep my sunny side up.   I’ve been standing on my head for a few decades but it doesn’t mean I always know where I am because I have the common combination of flexibility and injuries that can pull the veil of illusion over any yoga pose   Headstand is one of the kindest postures on hip joints as they are unloaded. And it is liberation for the belly. When doable, one should learn to stand on legs no matter where they are in space to notice the support born from rising which is different than the support of leaning or collapsing. It is the support of oneself. It is independence.   I’m surprised to note that I’m...