Sunday, 19 October 2014

Actions of Yoga, Ankles, Knees, and Hips: Week 2 Wrap Up

Sitting bones down, top of pelvis back to lengthen lower back.  Then push hips forward without moving them.  Helps firm the tummy in a way you can still breathe calmly.

It gives me joy to see how small cues can make such a big difference to your yoga practice.

This week we learned how simple cues can bring postural firmness.  We looked at the cue of pushing hips forward, even if they cannot actually go anywhere, to bring firmness to the belly in a way that you can still breathe into it.

We differentiated between hip flexion and spinal forward flexion, using cues for the latter to help keep the front of groin from closing off, keep the lower back long, and to begin to engage our abdominal muscles in a 'postural' way rather than squeezing everything to death to get 'strong abs'.  Last year I wrote a post on this, with a video, here:

We learned to 'do' something behind our knees to keep them active when the knees are bending in squatting and in bent knee sitting positions.

The key messages from this week are:

  • keep lower back long with sitting bones down, top of pelvis moving back.  This will also help to keep front of groin open, which is generally very tight on most people.
  • we spend enough of our day with hips in flexion because most of us sit all day.  We generally do not need to get better at hip flexion.  What we could be better at is forward spinal bending so when coming into forward bends try sitting bones down, top of pelvis back (to lengthen lower back), lengthen whole spine first by taking arms overhead towards ears (then bring arms down without shortening spine), push hips forward, then fold forward actively from spine, bend knees as much as you need, finally fold forward from hips when you cannot come forward any further but without shoving your bum up and back.  Your but might move up and back but keep the action of trying to move it down and forward. 
  • try to push hips forward (although they might not go anywhere) in your forward bends, kneeling plank, and downward dog.  Once you get the feel for it you will be able to apply the action in other poses, like trikonasana, parsvakonasana and your seated forward bends as well.  Remember, sitting bones down, top of pelvis back to lengthen lower back first. 
  • firm behind the knees whenever they are in a bent position.  If you forget how to firm behind your knees then just remind yourself by bending your knee as much as possible then put your hand behind your knee and try to squeeze your hand.  You should feel the muscles activate.  Take your hand away and see if you can reproduce the action.  
Remember not to firm too much.  Move slowly, tense less, stretch less, think less, and breathe less.  These things will help you move better.  

If you need more inspiration please take a look at this post from one of my teachers, Simon Borg Olivier,  doing part of our opening standing one legged sequence.  This sequence really helps to bring mobility and stability to the hips and helps our ankles and knees.

Appreciate that for him to do what he is doing with such ease we have to learn what we are doing first!

Link to his writings on this here:

He also gives some great extra details about the anatomical and physiological effects of what we do.

Happy and safe practicing!

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