Halfway Lift What Have You Done for Me Lately

Halfway Lift What Have You Done for Me Lately

I spent the longest time breezing though Halfway Lift – Ardha Uttanasana. Surely this pose was simply a way to get us up from forward fold without getting dizzy? It just didn’t seem to do very much. How we all yearn to feel like we’ve progressed and are accomplished it’s only natural. How can we feel accomplished in Halfway Lift?  – what has Halfway Lift done for you lately?

If only I’d had good access to a beginners yoga class. This experience gave me a love of introducing people beginning their yoga journey to these sorts of poses.

It’s my mission to help you connect to the way your body feels in common poses and suggest what you might be getting from them. It’s all part of connecting your mind and your body – so you can play with the pose and notice how it feels different every day. So what’s the purpose behind Halfway Lift?

Halfway Lift’s translation from Sanskrit is ‘half intense stretch pose’

What does that suggest to you? I take it to mean ‘engagement’ – with small, micro movements. It’s almost cerebral – it’s a winner for mind body connection.

You’re stretching your legs – front and back.

You’re engaging your core, you’re  lengthening your spine.

But you are doing this with a small, adjustments! 

✔︎ In Halfway Lift, reach the crown of your head forward.
✔︎ Play with feeling like there’s a thread linking the crown of your head to the facing wall. Feel your spine lengthen as the cord becomes taught.

Halfway Lift, Ardha Uttanasana, yoga,legnth

You’ll find this gives you extension in your spine and your neck. Mark Stephens writes about Halfway Lift:

✔︎Emphasize lengthening the spine, drawing the shoulder blades down the back, and further expanding across the heart center.

✔︎This helps you to root  into the ground with your feet as you extend your hamstrings.
✔︎That in turn helps you keep your legs vertical – there can can be a tendency to shift your hips back during Forward Fold and Halfway Lift.

How to Define Success

This can be baffling and overwhelmingly tiny little adjustments. It is the deepest challenge – but is it currently how do you challenge yourself in your yoga practice. 

I have naturally good balance – and I love balancing poses because I feel like I can do them well. You probably have something similar, and it’s an important feeling, especially considering we often think we are rubbish at yoga – and perhaps at life in general. It’s important to feel like you’re improving and being successful.

You often hear that yoga is not a competition. But in group classes it can be hard to keep sight of that and sometimes we’re fuzzy about what that phrase ‘it’s not a competition’ even means.

Lets think about success in yoga as feeling the connection between your mind and your body – so that you can play with the less flashy poses and feel like you are getting benefits.  

In fact the challenge can be greatest in the poses where the process is more internal, or where we struggle – like Halfway Lift. This can be where we most grow – not in the poses that come easily. What sort of yoga journey are you after today?  H

Want to see these Halfway Lift cues in action?
My free video guides you through these steps to get the most from  Halfway Lift .

Resources

Sometimes using props can help you experience the pose so you get the full benefit. I’ve written a couple of blogs on this:

3 Reasons to Use Yoga Blocks
3 Reasons to Use Yoga Straps

 

We Are All Connected

We Are All Connected

Rubbing shoulders helps us connect

I spent much of my childhood on public transportation and airplanes. We travelled a lot. I was a gregarious kid and travelled hopefully in life. What was going to be the next exciting adventure? It helped show me from an early age that we are all connected. When I was about three, I woke up on a flight – probably overnight from New York to London. The lights were dim and I was bored. I decided to work the plane. I wandered around, keeping my eyes peeled for someone who looked like they’d engage with me. Probably not long after my mother came rushing over and apologized to the man whose ears I was pinning back. He laughed it off, amused.

Life on on public helps with fear of ‘other’

New York City, Subway, 1970New York City, 1970 New York City, Subway, 1970 New York City, 1970 New York City, 1970

Photos are all from The National Archives

Mum and I spent many hours on the London Tube, Long Island Railroad and the the New York Subway. We regularly took the subway to the Loehmann’s in The Bronx – the Kingsbridge Store. This was in the 1970s and many people wouldn’t go on the subway, thinking it too dangerous – let along taking it to the Bronx. Some might have been horrified that my mother did this. But mum has a very good radar and we never felt threatened. I remember general grime, all sorts of folks and a lot graffiti art – some good, some not. My father and a friend of the family who owned a gallery in The City used to have arguments about the artistic value of graffiti. No one thought that it was a bad idea to expose me to the Subway.

Changing neighborhoods

I saw London change. My grandparent’s flat is in Whitechapel, an area that has always taken in immigrants, put them on their feet and sent them on their way. When I was young, it was still cockney and Jewish. As my childhood rolled along, things began to change as Bangladeshis moved in. The street market outside Whitechapel tube station evolved from cockney accented stall keepers calling their wares, always with laugh and joshing to fruits and vegetables that we didn’t know and bright colors against the dull London sky with spicy aromas from the new restaurants. The transition was full of tension – you could feel it in the racially charged air. In fact, they were very similar to the tensions from when the Jewish immigrants, now being supplanted, arrived from Eastern Europe and Russia at the end of the Nineteenth Century on. At the time, it was said those immigrants had funny clothes, funny food an odd religion and wouldn’t learn the language. In fact, the Russian immigrants in particular could very well be anarchists and about to bomb us all.

See photos that give a good feel for Whitechapel in the 1970s
here and here and
this photo is how I remember just west of Whitechapel Tube Station from that period. 

The only time I felt unease, though, was when some Croatian men moved into the flats during the Balkans war in the 1990s. They didn’t do anything but pass us on the stairs – but their eyes were merciless and cold as they nodded a greeting. It sent prickles up my spine as I wondered what they had seen – and done.

Helping us all connect

I benefited greatly from these experiences which helped me feel that we are all connected. I met people from all walks of life and learnt that ‘we’re all in the same bloody human predicament’ as my mother liked to say. This was a great gift – I can approach people as individuals, rarely making assumptions. I don’t tend to go in with preconceptions.

Yoga teaches us that we are all connected and that has been my life experience. Sometimes it can be hard to feel that way when we meet people who are not like us. Deep feelings can well up: of not understanding, of fear of the unknown – and that is a signal that we have something to probe and figure out. It’s only by bringing these uncomfortable feelings into the light that we can address them. In the end, sallying forth to gain experiences of people from other walks of life and other communities can bring down barriers between us and help us treat each other as individuals and not make assumptions about them.

Tap into your connections with these free journaling prompts!

Yoga Affects You Inside and Outside

Yoga Affects you Inside and Outside

Yoga is more than physical – it affects you inside and outside

Many of us come to yoga for its physical benefits – I know I did! I loved the feeling of how yoga moved me. And it is an important part of the yoga experience.

Recently I’ve written several blogs on asana itself – on aspects of physical yoga practice.

Three Reasons to Use Yoga Straps
How to do Chaturanga and keep your shoulders safe
3 Reasons to use yoga blocks

Yet there’s that moment when you feel something shift inside you and you realize  yoga isn’t just about your body.
When did you notice yoga affects you inside and outside?

The inside shift

Take a little time to imagine how yoga creates more connections in you:  more connections to your body, more connections to your mind and also more connections between your mind and your body.  It’s that connection to our mind that sets yoga apart.

Tell me how you noticed the way yoga affects you overall – how did it move from being simply about your body to a more whole combination of mind and body.

Yoga helps me channel my emotions

Overall yoga has helped me be more open to change and to be curious about life,  and face things with equanimity – but there are constant small differences in the way I feel. The first thing I noticed yoga giving me was that I was able to channel my emotions better. I have big emotions that flare up inside me in an almost physical way and I can find it hard to come round from what should be a small funk. Yoga helps me shrug off those small things as just a minor blip.

I find it particularly hard with food to adjust. Cooking – my meals – food overall – is an important part of my life. Recently a friend and I were deciding what to order. We each chose, and because we thought the brussels sprouts sounded good we decided to share a portion of them.

When the dish arrived, it turned out my friend had had a different brussels sprouts dish in mind! I felt really bad, but she wasn’t fazed at all. We joked about it, because it barely bothered her and I know if it had been the other way around I’d definitely have work to do adjusting to the different dish.

The things we can shrug off easily as opposed to those that are harder vary from person to person. what do you find hard to shrug off?

Navigating change

We all know that change is a constant in our lives – but it is still difficult and unsettling. Yoga helps us navigate change – the small tacks we have to make to our course every day and the big life changes we have. 

Claim your free video to a calming breath technique, which is always a benefit of yoga.

What is it about yoga that helps us navigate change?
Before I discuss that in another blog, let me know what you think!

Three Reasons to Use Yoga Straps

Three Reasons to Use Yoga Straps

Why Use Your Yoga Strap?

Straps are the most overlooked prop in yoga – but I’m a great fan. It can be intimidating to see some of the complicated ways yoga straps can be used. Yet are some very straightforward uses for a strap that can be extremely beneficial – and you don’t even have to buy one,  just use the belt from your robe or something similar. Consider these three reasons to use yoga straps.

forward fold, yoga, strap Yoga, forward fold, strap

Alignment – and bad habits

Are you full present during forward folds? When a pose isn’t difficult our mind tends to wander – it’s only human nature.

Next time you do a forward fold – whether standing or seated – a strap can help focus on

  • lengthening your spine rather than reaching.
  • We tend to have the habit of bending our back to get closer to our body  – we’ve all done it – but that’s not as good for our spine. Notice any difference in feeling when you use a strap.

Best of all,  I find using a strap reminds me
to be present and really notice my forward fold.

Extend Your Arms – and feel the pose while gaining flexibility

strap hand to big toe pose yoga
See how cramped I am without a strap – I’m not very flexible

yoga hand to big toe pose strap
See how open and steady I am using my strap. The strap is also building more flexibility.

I’m quite inflexible, and I like to use a strap to help get the benefit of a pose that is ‘outside of my grasp’. This is true of some more complicated poses like Dancer Pose or Hand to Big Toe Pose, but makes a huge difference in some more straightforward poses like supine leg stretches. You can get my guide to using a strap for supine leg stretches.

What happens with a strap is that you can do the pose while keeping good form
and this in turn means you benefit more from the pose while increasing your flexibility.

Tune into your Body That Day – connect your mind and body and prevent injury

Some days it makes sense to dial it back and take it easy. Perhaps you’ve mastered Hand to Big Toe Pose but it doesn’t feel like a day to extend yourself to your fullest. Listen to your body, some days ease into the pose and feel what it’s like with a strap. Another day your body will tell you that it’s ready for a good stretch.

Don’t let your ego interfere with what you’re body’s saying
– that way lies injury.

There are many  reasons to use yoga straps –
let me know how and why you like you yours. If you don’t use a strap -experiment with it  and let me know how it goes. 

How to do Chaturanga and keep your shoulders safe

How to do Chaturanga and keep your shoulders safe

What should a good Chaturanga look like?

 

Are you ready for your next Sun Salutation or transitioning in your sequence via a ‘vinyasa’? Many yoga classes have a lot of these! There’s a lot be said for the rhythm of these parts of yoga and the heat that creates but I have my concerns with the volume of Chaturagas in classes. Lets focus on how to do Chaturanga and keep your shoulders safe. 

  • many yoga practitioners enjoy Chaturanga, but it’s a complex pose that also requires strength. A lot of the Chaturangas I see are inviting injury. I suspect the increase in yoga shoulder injuries is at least in part due to this.
  • Instructors use sun salutations and ‘vinysasas’ frequently – so a yoga practice will have many, many Chaturangas. Too many, to my mind. If I’m in a class like this, I’ll avoid chaturanga after the first few.
  • Many classes are quite fast paced – people like to move in their yoga! Yet the most vulnerable time for injury is in transitions. The quick cuing leads to faster Chaturangas making their shoulders more vulnerable.

So what’s the solution? Taking back your own control over your chatuanga!

Most yoga classes don’t spend time teaching form for Chaturanga – so here’s the lowdown

First, lets try to banish our ego – somehow we take any form exercise as competitive when it definitely shouldn’t be in yoga. Part of yoga is listening to our body and understanding it. I’m actually very strong – but there are days I just don’t want to do Chaturanga. 

It’s not a personal reflection if you do a variation
or just decided to skip Chaturanga altogether.

Here’s an overview of the main things to bear in mind when doing your Chaturanga. It doesn’t go into details, it’s a highlights of how to do Chaturanga and keep your shoulders safe

Chaturanga requires strength – from most of your body.

You need to be able to lower yourself in a plank position, which requires good core strength. There’s a  tendency to what my yoga teacher friend calls ‘sway back’.

It’s not just about your upper body and arm strength

Chaturanga requires complicated movement and alignments

There’s quite a lot of different motion going on during Chaturanga that makes it tricky. 

→ The bit that is often overlooked is the ‘hinge forward’.

As you move, your weight moves forward, so your body is not just going down, it’s also moving forward. This protects the shoulders..

→ You also want to have your bum in line with your body. 

This will activate your core and reduce the pressure on your shoulders.

→ Don’t let your arms go down more than 90 degrees.

You don’t have to go as far a 90 degrees, but going farther is a stress on your shoulders. This is why Chaturanga is often paired with Upward Facing Dog. 

 

Chaturanga start, yoga

Begin with your bum down and in line with your body, to activate your core.

Chaturanga, yoga, form

Slowly come down, keeping your body in line and spine straight, with forward movement.  Finish before your arms go past 90 degrees.

Chaturanga, hinge forward, safe shoulders

Here, superimposed, is the difference between when I start my Chaturanga and where I end it. Note that my heels and head end up father forward!

Why Bother with Chaturanga?

Quite often I don’t! You can stay in your plank and go back to Downward Facing Dog.  You can find your way down to the mat to participate in cobra.

There are many options to do instead of Chaturanga – check them out, ask your Instructor!

Get Form – how to do Chaturanga and keep your shoulders safe!

If you do want to have Chaturanga in your practice it’s important to pay attention to your strength and your form so you don’t injure your shoulders. You also might want to go easy on the volume of Chaturangas during your practice!

Taking a Beginner’s Class and asking the Instructor to go over Chaturanga is a great way to develop your Chaturanga.

Want to build up your strength to Chaturanga? Outside of many great poses that build up strength, there are variations you can do when the Instructor says ‘if Chaturanga is in your practice’ – I go over two of them in my free guide. 

There’s no reason to have Chaturanga in your practice – and no reason not to. But if you do want it in your practice, it’s worthwhile making sure you’re doing it well so you don’t make yourself vulnerable to injury and are getting maximum benefit.

Don’t miss your free guide to some Chaturanga variations that also build up your strength and form!

3 Reasons to use yoga blocks

3 Reasons to use yoga blocks

Why don’t we use blocks?

It’s obviously unmanly or unwomanly to reach for a block because our thrusting society we shouldn’t need the ‘crutch’ of a yoga block. We should rapidly be moving through variations. Believe me, I’ve had those moments – we all want to feel like we’re rocking our practice. In our minds, a block can make the pose seem less then. 

I’ve really come to understand that a block is part of what can help us all rock our yoga practice. Blocks are there because we all have different bodies and wherever we are in the pose, we should be able to explore and play with the pose not feel like we’re in a battle to finish. Lets explore 3 reasons to use yoga blocks!

Use a block to feel a pose differently

A block can change how a pose feels – like using a block in low lunge. It depends what we’re after in this pose. Blocks under the hands give more space, emphasizing an open chest and a backbend. How wonderful to shift the focus of a pose!

Low lunge, yoga,

low lunge, yoga, yoga block

Use a block for support when you’re between variations

Hip flexibility come into play with Lizard Pose. With the help of a block, we can enjoy engaging our body more – especially hips.

Listen to your body for guidance – some days you’ll want to push, sometimes back up a little. A block can help you when you want to engage with the next variation.

 

yoga, yoga block, lizard pose 

Use a block to feel good in the pose

I’m not one of those super-flexible yoga practitioners. I reach for a block to feel good in a pose.

A block helps us all be open or stable. But there’s something about that aha moment: this is a good way to feel the pose, A block can help you understand different aspects of the pose. You know it does when get that recognition in your body.

This is true of many poses – I’ve made a video to illustrate how a block in Half Moon Pose helps give more openness. Snag it now! 

There are definitely more than 3 reasons to use yoga blocks – let me know how you use yours.

Walking Meditation Benefits for Spring

Walking Meditation Benefits
for Spring

Are you Ready for Spring’s Walking Meditation

Recently we had a day with tantalizing and heady weather – spring will be here soon! Now that it’s a bit gray and raw again – with some snow in the forecast – I feel ready for my favorite DC season! Are you longing to get out into spring too?

Spring in DC is glorious. There are blossoms lining the streets and peeking out of gardens – as well as the famous cherry trees surrounding the Tidal Basin. I also love the fleshy magnolia blooms that seems to beckon in spring.

Most of all I’ve missed good walks – it’s been a really windy winter, making it unpleasant to be outside.  I remember going for walks all my life – Brits are huge on walks. In the winters of my childhood, it was wonderful to be out in the cold fresh air – and to come back inside to tea and crumpets!

Do remember a childhood full of walks? And where do you walk now? I like city walking as well as enjoying country rambles. I generally don’t go for anything to steep or difficult as it can give me a touch vertigo.

Walking is yoga

Walks are like yoga – in fact, a walk can definitely be yoga. You get moving and connected to your body. It’s also an opportunity to unplug and slip into being in the moment. There’s nothing like taking in the scent of earth and feeling the leaves underfoot in autumn. Spring’s riot of color lifts our sprits from winter’s gray and if we close our eyes we can tune into spring’s specific scent – the wonderful, sharp aroma of new grass with sweeter flowers adding a top note. Doesn’t that just fill you with possibilities for renewal! It’s a walking mediation – with benefits!

Outside my comfort zone

Should you step out of your comfort zone?

When we go for a walk, just like on the yoga mat, we should tune into what our mind and our body need that day. It will vary.  Generally I don’t like to get ‘too close to the edge’ with my walks. But sometimes it’s good to get out of your comfort zone. On a walk a while back, I took the strenuous trail. I could feel the pull of Rock Creek in the background with a little tickle of vertigo. It was a challenge but not enough to make me freeze. I’m glad l did it.  Other days a gentle stroll, taking in what nature has to offer is what I crave – and before long I’m enjoying a walking meditation and all its benefits.

How do you know when and how to push yourself? How do you enjoy your walks?

Enjoy your free spring renewal meditation – and set the tone!

Perception and Reality – adjusting your perception with yoga

Perception and Reality
adjusting your perception with yoga

What’s your reality?

Have you been surprised by how you remember an event differs from someone else’s take?

Sometimes when reading old letters to see that my memory and what I’ve written in the letter don’t match! My memory at the time and my memory years later can differ – how extraordinary.

Our perspective changes with our stage of life too. I touched on this just last week, discussing that what we look for in friendship evolves over time. We certainly see things through a different lens as a child than as an adult.

Paddington – and a child’s logic

Paddington Bear

When I was a child, I was logical. I was actually fairly logical by any standard, but sometimes my logic was my own.

The most hysterical example of my ‘logical’ brain is when I travelled with Paddington. I got a lovely Paddington when I was eight and I am still devoted to him. It was the year we lived in Germany and we took many road trips. Paddington came along too of course and he took it all in his stride.

I took it less in my stride. I was most concerned he enter each country legally so I decided his ‘please look after this bear’ label was his passport. It fell to my father to ‘get his passport stamped’, which caused much hilarity at boarders and airports. The guy at the Polish boarder even borrowed Paddington to show him to his colleagues. This was 1976 so things were very different.

The only sticky situation as at Frankfurt Airport:
My father to Immigration Officer (in German): Could you stamp my daughter’s cuddly toy for her?
Immigration Office: But sir, it’s an official stamp!
My Father: I know, but as you can see from the other stamps, it means a lot to her.
Immigration Official: Sir – I cannot put an official stamp on a stuffed bear.
My Father: I’ll just stand here until you reconsider

The immigration official stamped it with such force you can see the wobbly lines.

I love looking back at my child’s perspective, but my reality is very different today.

Perception and Reality

When someone’s interpretation of something is different from your own, you stand there wondering what is The Truth.

Of course, the fact is that they can both be right.
But do you want to keep your reality?

What perceptions from our past might not serve us well?

Perhaps you didn’t feel listened to as child. We all want to feel heard! My mother often cuts me off, assuming she knows what I’m going to say. No only is that rude, she often guesses wrong!

The result is that I’m very sensitive – and sometimes over sensitive – about being interrupted and that people aren’t listening to me.

On the good side, I am am a close listener and really focus on the person I’m talking to.

We can get so caught up in our own truth that it limits us. We all have our point of view, we can gain by opening up to someone else’s lens.

Often at work,  childfree people feel that those with kids are taking advantage of them while parents think that their stresses are not being understood.

How would it be if, rather than seeing this as childfree v parents, we zoomed out out and thought this way:
‘we all have times when we need flexibility and that should be honored! No-one wants to pay a late fee, whether it’s for childcare or eldercare.’

The Yoga Way – bringing perception and reality together

When we deepen our yoga practice – physical or meditative – we get in touch with who we are and understand the perceptions we carry. It helps us decide if we want these perceptions as part of our way forward – or not. Do we want to take them into our interactions?

When we understand our perceptions, we can choose to carry them forward to change our point of view. Yoga can give us the ability to do this.

Have you found yoga has led you to change how you see something?

Not sure how to understand your perceptions? Get your free journaling prompts!

Marie Kondo Method – friendships and yoga

Marie Kondo Method
friendships and yoga

Tending and ending friendships

Have you noticed that friendships change over the years? We talk a lot about how to tend or how to end a romantic relationship – but not so much about friendships. Perhaps it’s because I’m an only child, but my friendships are very important to me. I nurture them and they give me great joy. My husband’s family have a habit of giving speeches on special occasions. At my Fiftieth birthday party, he gave a speech on the theme that I have a genius for friendship. I would like to think I do, and certainly we should value our friendships. Yet it doesn’t necessarily mean that all our friendships have value.

Recently I’ve seen several articles on how the Marie Kondo Method relates to friendships and this has made me think about how my friendships – and my my view of what friendship means – has evolved.

How To Use Marie Kondo Method To Break Up With Friends
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up (Your Relationships)
How to Marie Kondo Your Friends – How to Breakup With a Friend

Yoga will change your friendships

You will have different chapters in your life and different things will be important to you. Your friendships will ebb and flow. We all hope to have some super friends for life. But as we move through new chapters, different things will be important to us and we’ll look to different things from our friends. Perhaps wanting good company and being up for some fun in friendship has given way to valuing loyalty and generosity in the friendship.

Yoga gives us many tools to navigate change, and as we develop our yoga practice we will see our friendships with new eyes. I touch on this happening to me in my introductory video.

Find Your Supportive Community – Marie Kondo, your friends and yoga

There’s a Buddhist concept of Sangha – that’s your supportive community. It means you surround yourself with people who will support you and be there for you.

Thich Nhat Hanh says here :
The Sangha doesn’t need to be Buddhist. Buddhism is made of non-Buddhist elements anyway. When I met Martin Luther King Jr., in 1966, we spoke about Sangha building. We spoke a few times about the beloved community. The beloved community is the Sangha. 

Your sangha should of course ‘spark joy’ and have your back – but it should also stretch you and help you out of your comfort zone, encouraging you to be your best self. This is where yoga comes in. As you practice yoga you connect more with who you are.

Valuing Friendship

Three friends and I have a birthday club! I’ve known these people for years – two of them for over twenty years. We get together for lunch four times a year on a weekend near each other’s birthday to celebrate. Turns out all our birthdays are in the first half of year, so we try to get together once a month anyway for the rest of the year.

As you’d expect, we’ve been through a lot together and we know each others strengths and foibles. I’m the one who can be particular and rock the boat. I’m not rude or incredibly demanding, but I’ll ask if we can have a different table or mention that my chili is luke warm and would I be able to have another bowl steaming from the pot.

Recently I’ve been thinking more about this. I was a very easygoing child, and somewhere along the way I became a bit more rigid. I could do with more relaxing. In fact, I haven’t so much been thinking about it as yoga has been evening that out a bit more. It’s one of the profound changes yoga is bringing to my life.

Yoga isn’t making me fully into a go with the flow person, but it’s helping me to understand where I want to put that energy. I’m less likely not to be bothered by the things I cannot change. I am reining some of this in – sometimes it’s easy, sometimes it’s more of a struggle. I mentioned this last weekend at one of our birthday lunches and got a round of applause. These friends kindly rib me about my foibles but also support me as I try to grow.

At the same time, food is important to me and being able to increase my enjoyment of a meal out gives me great joy. I still want see if my delicious bowl of chili can be nice and hot – it will really enhance my enjoyment. Yoga is giving me the ability to work through things and zone into my true self.

Finding Joy in Your Friendships

Yoga helps us understand what it important to us – and important in our friendships. It also helps us navigate change so we can have harmonious friendships that we enjoy.

Unsure how to delve into your friendships? I’ve a free meditation to help you on this journey.

Functional Movement and our movement habits – tune in and focus on feet and standing

Functional Movement
and our movement habits

Lets talk about turning movement on its head. Now we’re not going upside down – we’re going to think about yoga and movement differently.

How you create movement habits?

We all have habits in how we move. They affect our overall function. I’ve always thought I have tight hips – you should see my Pigeon Pose, not the prettiest. Yet Hero Pose comes easily. How did this become a movement habit?

I am extremely short and all my life I’ve sat on my feet so that a table will hit me at the right height and not under my armpits! In fact, it’s comfortable for me to move from sitting on my feet to sitting between my feet. I have really developed internal rotation of my thighs and hips.

Movement one way affects other movement

Hero Pose probably contributed to my being extremely tight in the external rotation of my hips. I always like to sit in Easy Pose on a meditation cushion or blanket otherwise my knees are flapping around and I’m not very comfortable. The good news is that there are ways to build up strength and increase my external rotation of the hips. My Warrior II and other external hip rotation poses are feeling smoother. I can even squat with my heels on the ground these days.

So how did I move from struggling with my Warrior II to feeling more comfortable? It all started Side Angle Pose – and using a block. I can come down onto my block and focus on externally rotating my thigh and hip. Slowly I began to feel the difference in my body and the difference in my Warrior II.

Blocks are great – they really help you get the benefit from a pose. Never hesitate to use them.

Tuning into your body and movement

This movement habit is quite subtle – but a movement habit can be quite simple aspects of how you go about your day too. What movement do you find easy and with which do you feel resistance? Often they are connected. It is fascinating to let that inform your yoga practice and daily life – beginning with our feet, the foundation.

Getting the movement balance right

Feet come into play

  • Sit barefoot and spread your toes so there is space between them. If this isn’t accessible use your fingers gently to create space between your toes.

Bringing balance into the mix

  • Stand barefoot and bend one knee slightly, so the foot is flexed and is barely off the ground. Just an inch or two high, not very far off the ground. Stand like this, perhaps using the back of a chair to help with balance. Do you feel your standing foot using muscles you don’t know are there? Repeat with the other foot. Do you notice a difference between sides?

Safely going barefoot is very beneficial. There are many muscles in our feet that we don’t use because we’re in shoes so often. Accessing those muscles is very helpful for balance.

Balance and center of gravity

  • hop, skip and jump – we don’t change our center of gravity much as adults. Tap into your childhood play and tune into your center of gravity.

Balance off the mat

What in your life unthinkingly comes easily for you? How has this affected your ability to do other things? Is there some balance you want to bring back into your life?

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