Thursday, June 30, 2016

Come out of the pose the same way you went in

I've just come out of Padangustasana in the studio, eager to lie my hot, sweaty body down after the standing series, and I hear Mandi's commanding voice, "you come out of the pose the same way you came in, even slower. You don't just come out any old way".  I couldn't help but think of a close girlfriend that calls our excursions out to do whatever we want, willy nilly. We say that we are going on willy, nilly trip. You don't want to be willy, nilly on your yoga mat.

What's the big deal about coming out of the pose the same way that you went into the pose?  If we take a closer look we can, in fact, see that it is a very big deal, especially if we are wanting cleaner lines of movement in our steps, not just on our mats but off as well.

We need to go back in time to when you were just born. Your mother, or whoever had the joy of caring for you must have put you on your belly on the floor at some point and watched you kick your little feet and hands, and if you were really fortunate she looked into your eyes and held your gaze for a long time. Then she watched as you used your arm muscle strength to push your upper body up off of the earth.

From there you progressed, moving forward and then backward, pushing yourself up to sitting and then eventually standing. That process of getting from birth to standing just happened, it was genetically encoded to ensure your survival. All it took was the activation of 14 patterns of movement from your nervous system to be expressed onto your spine. That's all, just 14 and combined they formed the basis for all of your future movements.

But consider that just because each pattern was expressed, doesn't mean that the pattern was perfected. You can think of the spinal patterns like the formation of your teeth. Everyone gets a set but it doesn't mean that they are aligned, straight and functioning optimally.

Albeit it doesn't have to end there though if you don't want it to. You can go back and "repattern" your movements and one of the ways to accomplish this is to do what our very bright, loving, firm Mandi says, move out of the pose the same way that you came in.

We can think of our nervous system patterns as designs that have order and a system. Jamie and I were talking about this very subject today at the studio, after the 9:15 class. She is once again helping me to train for the upcoming regional championship in October and shared that the judges need to see a beginning, a middle and an end to each pose.

 Each of the spinal patterns has a beginning, a middle and an end.  Each of our poses needs to have a beginning, a middle and an end.

Have you ever thought about competing? It's not as scary as it seems, and there are so many benefits, too many to mention here. Even the intention behind the championship has really nothing to do with competing but rather getting yoga accepted into the Olympics so that it then can be integrated into public schools. I would say a worthy goal. Wouldn't you?  So even if you in no way wish to compete, consider making a donation.  Here is the link to their website

Let's take a closer look at just two of the patterns that umbrella or provide the structure for the other 12 by looking at how they can help us to come out of Padangustasana. Keep in mind that we can apply these two patterns to all of the poses, not just Toe Stand pose.

I bet you can guess which movement pattern provides the structure for all the rest, that is actually a prerequisite, critical, even monumental because this pattern will determine how far you'll reach in the next pattern. There's a universal law of energy and it says that first, you must go down and order to rise up and the height that you will achieve will be inversely proportional to how far you went down. But that's for another blog at another time.

Yes, your first spinal movement pattern was a push off of the earth. When you were a baby, the first push was with the head. In the pose, the push will be a two step process. First, you will push onto the earth, strong and yielding, with your hands and the ball of the big toe. Once your hands are up off the earth then the push will come from the foot that is now flat on the earth.

Then, it will be the second movement pattern that will send you soaring. Once you've firmly planted yourself down, and you trust that the ground isn't going anywhere, only then will you start to reach and the more you trust, the wider your vision will go.  And of course, as Mandi and Jayme are constant reminders for us, where your eyes go the body will follow.

When you were a baby it was a reach with your mouth, looking for a nipple that got your upper body up off of the earth. In the pose, you will want to reach with your head.

So back to Toe Stand pose, you'll push first and then almost simultaneously reach with your head to come up to a standing position.

You can even make it a mantra if you like, push, push, push, then reach, reach, reach.  

This pushing and reaching is the basis for all movement. The next time you see a sporting event, take a moment to watch how the athletes move.  First, they will bend their knees, some ever so slightly, bearly noticeable as they push hard and strong against the earth and then reach wide up into the air.

Practice coming out of the poses the same way that you came in to support and enhance movement patterns inside of you that are probably as old as time itself. When you do I'm sure that eventually, your willy nilly trips out won't be so sloppy. You may even have more fun than you ever thought possible.

Happy Fourth!

Maurene Merritt