Cues To Lose (well at least think about..)

February 21, 2018

 

 

 

If nothing else, I want you to think about it.  To consider it.  To feel it.  To observe it.

 

One of the greatest things we can do for ourselves is allow alternatives.  Not necessarily adopt them, but allow and consider them before deciding.  It’s super easy to get locked into one way of knowing, doing or explaining something and because our minds and our egos are wired to feel ‘right’, we often ignore or resist different approaches.

 

There are three quotes that I love that encapsulate this process and reassure me when I’m feeling ‘too convinced’ of my ways or understandings (i.e. defensive, inflexible, judgmental):

 

  • I never trust people who are ‘sure’ of things.  I trust those who are temporarily confident in their current interpretations. – Dr Andreo Spina

 

  • Do the best you can until you know better.  Then when you know better, do better. – Maya Angelou

 

  • ‘A ‘ohe pau ka ‘ike i halau ho’okahi (All knowledge is not taught in one school). – Hawaiian proverb

 

I hope in reading this, you’re opening up slightly to the idea of critically reflecting on the cues used in yoga classes, where they may have come from and what purpose they serve.  In going through this process, I am hoping that we open up more avenues for variation within movements and poses, new areas of mobility and strength and a safer practice.

 

Let’s unpack two things we hear and do in twists – both widely used and considered ‘traditional’.

 

Number 1: Using hands/elbows/arms as levers.  Do this little experiment:

  1. Come to a comfortable seated position with hands in prayer at your heart

  2. Without using your hands, twist as far as you can to the right

  3. Place your left hand on your right knee and right hand behind you on the floor

 

Did you notice the change in engagement and sensation when you used your hands?  For most of us (unless you know the answer!), we will have been effortlessly and unconsciously using our twisting muscles right up until the moment our hands connected with their targets… at that point, most of our bellies will have let go and spun back toward centre and the muscles in our shoulders and arms will have taken over to keep the look of the twist.

 

Let’s add on to the experiment:

  1. Come to a comfortable seated position with hands in prayer at your heart

  2. Without using your hands, twist as far as you can to the right

  3. Place your left hand on your right knee and right hand behind you on the floor

  4. Take your hands off your knee and the floor

 

Did your body spring or recoil away from the twist a little OR did you quickly recruit your twisting muscles to maintain the active twist?

 

Number 2: Twisting on the exhale.  More experimenting:

  1. Come to a comfortable seated position with hands in prayer at your heart

  2. Inhale

  3. Exhale fully and twist as far as you can to your left

 

If you followed the instruction, ‘Exhale fully’, it’s likely that you used the muscles of forced exhalation and ‘locked’ your belly.  How did this feel in general and how did it feel to twist?  For many of us, it will have created a little bit of stress and tension in the body.  If this is how you usually enter twists, maybe even with a few rounds of breath twisting further on each exhale (probably using your hands!), this may not be a feeling that registers as uncomfortable for you.

 

The catch is that the muscles of forced exhalation are the muscles we use to actively twist our spine.  Without getting too technical, when we twist to the right, we engage the right internal oblique and the left external oblique – this means that the left internal oblique and right external oblique must lengthen and relax in order to allow the twist… are you still with me?  If we have deliberately exhaled and engaged both sides of both sets of obliques, we have lost our range of motion.  The stress, tension and discomfort comes from a mind trying to impose its will (“Get into a twist!”) on a body that is still following the previous instruction (“Exhale!”).

 

Let’s try again:

  1. Come to a comfortable seated position with hands in prayer at your heart

  2. Inhale, relax your belly, lift up and twist to your left

  3. Hold the twist and passively exhale (only as much as is released without engaging your belly – i.e. there will still be some air left in your lungs)

  4. Inhale, lift up and twist a little further to your left

 

Was there more ease in your breath and belly this time?  Could you twist a little further?  Was it more comfortable?

 

If you’re interested in learning more about this example and many other common yoga cues, we will be doing lots more experiments and diving deep into how you can create space to find more mobility, stability, ease and comfort in a practice that will still increase strength, length and endurance (I promise it’s possible!) during our Cues to Lose workshop on Sunday 18 March at The Studio Upstairs.

 

Can’t wait to play with you! Book your spot HERE

 

 

LTT x

 

P.S. Let me know in the comments what you found in these experiments AND if there are any other cues or poses that you’d like me to write about or address in the workshop!

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