Tag Archives: Yoga asana

Constructing Yoga Postures Properly

Yoga postures (asana) provides a lifetime of healthy physical movement when performed with proper construction.

A yoga posture is a guide for strengthening the body’s ability to move, function and heal.  The Yoga posture’s are in perpetual motion. The motion however is usually microscopic. At a neuromuscular level, the motion is muscle tissue, heart-rate and bone in constant adjustment and alignment. There is never a static moment. This is the way asana reconstructs our body. A “picture” of a yoga posture is like a snapshot of motion in time.

Viewing a photo of a yoga posture or asana and creating it, is like photographing an automobile and labeling it “how to build a car.” To put it another way, viewing a yoga pose and attempting to replicate it is not as easy as it seems.  What the photo shows is a result of something that has gone through a construction process. There are many details involved in the process. There’s more than meets the eye. Therefore, construction without proper instruction can create a less than beneficial experience, whether building a car or a yoga asana.

The quality is in the construction

The quality of the construction of a yoga posture is where the quality of your results lie.  “How to build and automobile” would show detailed instructions of every aspect of the process. It would take into consideration, details related to durability, functionality and style. The same goes for yoga asana.  There are many details in the process. Details can be microscopic. Details that can only be discovered and experienced by the creator, you!

The power and magic of yoga posture is in the details of how to construct it. If you are constructing it with poor quality parts, the longevity or benefits will not be as noticeable.  So a photo of a yoga posture is only a veneer of what’s underneath. You can put a Mercedes emblem on a K-car but it wont change the quality. This is to say that the picture is not the experience. Similar to a Hollywood movie where the store front is only a prop. There’s nothing behind it.

OR

I have a  video here,  to share more about this concept.

Many people today get fooled on how difficult certain physical feats. They’ll watch a video, and see how easy the person makes it look. However, we all know there’s more to the process than meets the eye. Like Olympic champions, there’s a process far deeper than the race itself.  It’s like the “People are awesome VS Fail Army” video.

Actors can pretend to be superheros and dancers can pretend to be yogis.  However it’s important to remember yoga is about the details of construction, not snapshots in time.

How to Build your car

In the scope of yoga posture, this phrase is important to remember. “Yoga is not about standing on your head. It’s about standing on your own two feet.”

To be able to stand tall is a monumental feat. Knowing how your feet are placed and how your muscles support your posture is a profound step in knowing how to build an asana. When standing feel all edges of your feet embracing the earth. Allow your toes to spread open to support your stance. When bending forward, allow the spine to lengthen throughout the entire movement.

There are little elements in each posture that make big differences. Little adjustments in alignment can make for a more painful process, but bring the benefits that might have been missed. I can make a slight adjustment to a students pose that may take months for them to perfect.  Without knowledge of the adjustment, they would build a poor quality structure.

YOGA asana proper alignment

Example:

A young woman in class is comfortable sitting on her heals with her toes pointed outward and her butt on the floor.   This sitting posture created a lateral twist of the knee and excluded the alignment for stretching the foot.  I gave her the task of keeping her foot in-line with her leg in order to sit over the feet and help open up the muscle and tendon tissue in the top of the foot. Therefore it allowed stretching the flexors of the foot. This was painful experience for her,  but eventually she created greater ROM in her flexion and extension of the foot.

As you build your masterpiece think of structural alignment.  Play with your movements and expand your capabilities. In doing so, you will progress much smoother with greater confidence.

Where are the instructions?

While it’s nice to have a great guru by your side, sometimes all you need is your mat. Each pose has attributes to its design you must follow.  Therefore, attend a class with a knowledgeable instructor or attend my Online Classes opening this summer. Until then, get a good book like my favorite, Total Yoga.

A book can describe alignment in detail. This can be better for comprehension than trying to listen to an instructor. Remember, each posture reconstructs your body for maximum movement and function. The key to success is performing the asana correctly.

Remember to cultivate mindfulness of alignment while you practice.  The practice of Iyengar Yoga, BKS Iyengar, is known for its detail of alignment.

How does your body react?  When in a pose, stay long enough to look at your posture. How is your breathing? Are you relaxed or stressed?  Is your heart-rate even? Are you engaging the posture enough to warm the body?

Align with your reflection

A mirror can help you discover alignment.  Is your foot straight?  Are your arms straight? Are your knees bent, locked etc?  After awhile you can feel the alignment from within and will need the mirror less and less.  So you will begin to feel the pose more clearly.

A yoga mirror can help align what you feel about your posture and how it really is.

Yoga is a method of exercises to strengthen all aspects of our lives. It’s not a sporting event or race. Yoga can prevent injury and enhance your physical performance.  Yoga is the “practice.” Remember the reason for the asana, the time to strengthen, body, mind and spirit.

Yoga Asana building space
create an inspirational yoga workspace

For more instruction please attend my online yoga classes beginning this spring. In doing so you will receive much clarity of the process of health and rehabilitation.

Learn more in my post about Mindfulness in Yoga.

Blessings on your journey

Elenture Full-Zip Exercise Yoga Mat Carry Bag with Multi-Functional Storage Pockets (Stripe)

 

 

Yoga and Your Body Type

Yoga is adaptable to every body type and requires knowledge of how our body is suited for each movement.

Practicing yoga is a powerful way to strengthen and heal.  However, it requires the ability to adapt your body to function within each pose. Our yoga practice requires us to realize the challenges we face in achieving the benefits in yoga related to our body type. Let’s look at your body type today in our blog class for yoga and your body type.

Jay, the Russian fitness trainer strapped me into a leg machine then stopped and said, “I didn’t realize you were so tall. Are you over six feet?” Why do you ask, said I?  He told me that the length of my legs were equal to a body over six feet tall.  It was then I had a revelation about my body type and subsequent excuses for why I couldn’t perform certain fitness or yoga exercises.

Stand me next to the shortest person in the room then have us sit down side by side. Whilst I tower over the short person standing, they suddenly become taller than me when we sit next to each other. With these super long legs comes a short torso. I sometimes wonder how all my organs fit into such a small space and another reason why my rib cage is so large. Point being, my structural uniqueness carries with it some challenges and some advantages.

Structurally speaking leg lifts or boat pose “Navasana” are the most traumatic exercise experiences for me while bike riding is the most structurally easy exercise. In leg lifts my torso has to nearly be on the floor to counterbalance my legs. In bicycle riding, my long legs provide great muscle mass for peddling while the short torso keeps my center of gravity lower.

Many new to the practice get frustrated by body type comparisons.

Why some postures are such a challenge when others can master such postural moves easily. It is really all about our physiology.

I had a friend who mastered a head stand from a wide leg position and other arm balances easy.  Like Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps, he had a long torso and short legs. He is 6’4″ and our legs are the same length. His extra length is in the torso. He could put his head to the floor easy because of his structure. It was almost as if his legs would naturally come off the ground to accommodate his torso. With such mass in the upper body, inversions are easier. Many think inversions are the end-all to mastering yoga when in fact inversion postures are simply another direction to test the body. Some find it easy some do not.

Here is a visual of the differences between torso body types, the weight and mass of the legs  in comparison to the torso.

Structural differencesDaily movements of our body requires finding our center of gravity.

Gravity is what we work with to move ourselves.  When we begin a practice of yoga we become aware of our structural design and integrity.

Early on in yoga practice people use structural design as an excuse as to why they can’t do certain postures. I tried it, but my teacher wouldn’t buy into my excuses and called me lazy. Over time I simply became more aware of myself, dropped the ego expectation and humbly worked within my framework.

We all have structural differences which make certain activities easy and others more difficult. If you’ve ever played an auto racing video game, before the game starts you get to design your car. The design of the car will provide the parameters from which you get to experience the race.

Select your car

Whatever our structural design we all benefit from the yoga practice

Eventually we will be able to perform all the poses in the class. I see students struggle with expectation and humiliation but the humbling effect brings one further into the benefits of the practice.   Remember yoga is simply a process of understanding.

Whatever your belief or excuse about your body type, it’s the starting point to becoming aware of who you are. All the poses I had excuses for have now become easy.  This is true with any perceived limitation of health or ability. When we release the expectation and ego, we can begin to discover the magic of who we are.

Blessings on your journey. I’ll see you in class.

~Douglas