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Monthly Archives: July 2012

An Anatomical Experience

This week has been very unusual for me because I’ve had the opportunity to dissect a human cadaver. It has been a fascinating experience at every level.

To say I’ve learned an amazing amount about the human body is a significant understatement. If anyone has any doubt that every part of the body is connected to every other part, it can be eliminated. The fascia, muscles, bones, arteries, veins, nerves, etc are all connected. What happens in one area of the body effects every other area.

Right now, it’s hard to articulate my experience and I will be processing it for a long time to come.

Focus on Your Spine

Every once in awhile, I like to be a student and take another teacher’s class. It is so nice to be able to let someone else guide me through a practice. Sometimes I take classes from teachers trained in the Viniyoga tradition like myself and sometimes I don’t.

Recently, I took a class from a very caring teacher not trained in my tradition and, as frequently happens, I was struck by the differences among various types of yoga.

A big difference between Viniyoga classes and other yoga classes is the attention to the spine, and the role the spine plays in the sequencing of postures throughout the practice. All asanas (postures) are categorized by the spine’s direction of movement into forward bends, backbends, twists, lateral bends and axial extensions.

A key issue is how to transition from one asana to another during the practice and, in Viniyoga, it’s done through the forward bend. Forward bends neutralize the spine and are safest for the spine. For example, twisting asanas would only be followed by forward bends.  A typical sequence would be twist, forward bend, backbend. You would not go directly from a twist to a backbend. Think of a car with a manual transmission. You need to push in the clutch before changing gears or you’re going to have a big repair bill. Forward bends are the “clutch” for the other directions of movement.

This attention to the spine is part of the art and science of sequencing found in the Viniyoga tradition.

Many “Right” Ways – That’s Viniyoga

You’re in yoga class and the teacher is leading you through a posture (asana). Perhaps you’re becoming a little frustrated because you don’t feel like you look exactly like the teacher or some of the other students. And, you might begin to think that you must be doing something wrong.

Sadly, many people – teachers and students alike – think there is only one right way to do a posture. This thinking is one of the reasons injuries occur in yoga. Not all bodies are alike. In fact, every body is different with different abilities and needs and these difference need to be respected.

The purpose of asana is not to master the posture based on some external concept of “right”. The purpose of asana is to be a tool for understanding your individual body and its conditions. To do that, you need to understand why the posture is being done, and your attention needs to be directed internally. Then you can adjust the posture to meet your needs and still get the intended benefit.

Let’s take forward bends as an example. The primary purpose of a forward bend is to stretch the low back. If you happen to be someone with very tight hamstrings, you will need to bend your knees until you feel the stretch. Otherwise, you’ll feel the stretch primarily in your hamstrings. Perhaps, your classmate doesn’t have tight hamstrings so he has only a slight flex in his knees. (No straight legs – please!) You will look very different as you both do the same forward bend. And, you’re both right because the primary purpose is to stretch the low back.

Of course, there are many reasons for doing a particular asana and the way an individual does the asana depends on that reason for doing it.

Viniyoga views asana as a tool for exploring your own particular body. There is no such thing as only one way. Happily, there are many right ways.

What Are Those Popping Sounds?

Have you ever had the experience of hearing or feeling joints popping during your yoga practice? Several of my students have experienced that sensation and wondered … what’s causing it?

Synovial joints are typically the ones making that sound. These joints are freely moveable and have a joint capsule enclosing them. Some examples of synovial joints include shoulder and hip joints, elbow joints, knee joints and vertebrae. The inner surface of the joint capsule is lined with a synovial membrane which secretes synovial fluid. This fluid acts as a lubricant and decreases friction during joint movement.

When you make a movement that stretches the joint capsule, synovial fluid rushes in to lubricate the joint. As this happens, gases are rapidly released and form bubbles. These bubbles pop as the fluid rushes into the joint, causing the sound.

Of course, if you feel pain when your joints pop, stop doing the posture right away. And, you might want to consult with your health care professional if the pain persists.



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