Monthly Archives: January 2014

Off The Mat Yoga, Inner Motion and Sitting Meditation (Cushion or Chair)

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You know what moving your body means , but do you know about inner motion?
On the Mat Yoga and Off The Mat Yoga are the two sides of the same coin. The way you understand and perform movements in everyday life affects how you understand and perform yoga poses or how you sit in meditation. When you “hold” a yoga pose or “hold” yourself upright on the meditation cushion or chair, inner motion is difficult to experience . Unnecessary muscle tension is used to hold the skeleton. True stillness is effortless. Holding is an effort. This is why at the end of a meditation, you may feel an urge to collapse in relief!

What is inner motion? Does it bring about an easier way to sit in meditation?
Inner motion is an ability you have to release unnecessary tension all over your body without loosing your skeletal height. Instead of releasing tension by stretching your body,  do it on the inside without moving. Like sand in an hour-glass, allow tension to drip down your body into your support while you stay tall.

As the constricting muscles soften around the skeleton, your whole body is free to expand up and out like bread dough rising. This is inner motion in action. Your postural reflexes get activated when the released tension reaches your support. As they activate, your posture realigns itself with ease. No holding or stretching is necessary to be relaxed, tall and wide as you sit on the meditation cushion.

What is meditation?
Meditation is the art of being aware of what you are doing while you are doing it. Breathing in, you are aware that you are breathing in. Breathing out, you are aware that you are breathing out. You are in the present moment. Yesterday no longer is. Tomorrow does not exist yet. Your mind tends to be distracted by ongoing thoughts pertaining to the past and future. Meditating is coming back to the now, over and over.

Stay present to whatever arises. If a thought comes in,  don’t push it away,  just choose to not engage with it,  let it go like a little cloud passing by in the sky. You do not need to sit to meditate but sitting meditation does help you strengthen your ability to come back to the now in daily life. Anything you do, with awareness of what is in the now,  becomes a meditation. With inner motion, yoga and meditation become deeper practices!

HELPFUL HINTS:
THE PRACTICE OF SITTING MEDITATION

– Choose a quiet space with no draft but not overly warm either so you can stay alert

– Preferably, sit on a leveled chair, feet flat on the ground, the back of your hands resting on your legs

– If you can, do not lean against the back of the chair as you want your torso to stay aligned

– If need be, you can use a firm pillow for extra back support if you can stay upright

– Make sure however you can release any excess tension straight down into your seat

– Aligned above the sits bones tip,  there is no urge to arch your back to sit up and no urge to slouch when you relax.

– Your meditation can begin!

Just listen to the silence of your mind, observe your breathing and go back to it as often as you can. Enjoy!

For more instructions on meditation or being mindful, check Vietnamese Monk Thich Nhat Hanh’s books

such as “The Miracle of Mindfulness” or Spiritual teacher Eckart Tolle’s books such as “The Power of Now” or “A New Earth”.
Here is a very short U Tube videos just to give you a taste:

Off The Mat Yoga and Computers.

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Understanding with The Body
You may have experienced neck or back pain after using the computer. Shoulders or wrists feeling tight after typing? Possibly you can feel a headache coming on or your eyes become sore and red? Even medical and alternative practitioners can experience such discomfort! I have my own story to share. I thought I had everything under control till something happened to me. Suddenly I felt a shooting nerve pain in my lower back. Ironically,  even as a specialist on  postural balance,  I found myself completely off center with a severe and unusual discomfort. What is going on I wondered? What could have caused this pain?

What do you do when you start experiencing sudden pain?
This was not happening from lack of exercise since I do it everyday. In fact using the elliptical was still fine but doing my yoga triggered a nerve discomfort, and that was not good.  At first I went for outside help  even though it was a costly choice.  I went to see a massage therapist first, then a network chiropractor, and an acupuncturist. They helped in the moment but then, the benefit did not stay. Something more powerful was at stake here. When I realized that, I went back to square one and asked myself, “Can it be something I am doing to myself?”

Could it be something you are doing to yourself?
Well, I started observing my every movement and sure enough, I found the main culprit: my screen time with computer work and movie watching! First I noticed that I was leaning to the left on my elbow while at the computer. I was doing that because my desk is not designed for a laptop so there was no room for my mouse on the right unless the laptop was slightly pushed to the left. It had actually become so habitual, it felt very natural to lean on my left elbow. I actually caught myself doing it as I was watching a movie curled up with my elbow and forearm resting on the left side of the couch.

In that case, what can you do about it now?
Sure enough, logic had me make some ergonomic changes. I added a little folding table next to my desk on the right. This way, I could use my mouse from there while re-centering the laptop in front of me where the opening for my legs is. Then, I made a point to sit on the other side of the couch while watching a movie to avoid surrendering to my leaning to the left habit.

Things started getting better as I received some more hands-on work. Now the positive effect had more staying power. It took a few months to realize what was going on and a few more months to feel I had changed my habits sufficiently to feel almost back to normal. Spending more time at the computer to write a book had started this off or took what already was to another level!
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Are ergonomic changes enough?
Without making changes to my computer space I would now be in chronic pain,  feeling that nothing was helping. Although ergonomic changes helped break down the harmful habitual pattern, it was still not enough to heal fully. I needed to be aware of my postural reflexes (see blog #2). Triggering them re-centered me over and over thanks to the innate wisdom of the postural mechanism.

Changing a habitual way of moving by controlling the skeleton with muscle tension does not work. For instance, you use unnecessary muscle tension to hold yourself up and since it is neither comfortable nor natural, the next minute you collapse and think it is a lost cause! Sounds familiar?

Awareness of your body and postural reflexes activation are an essential part to quality ergonomics. It does for you what good ergonomic equipment does for your work station. This is why, your awareness of the basic facts below can be quite helpful in preventing trouble or in moving away from discomfort or pain. Including the tips below into your yoga practice turns your yoga into a way to address computer related problems. The young lady below stopped doing yoga as it seemed to be hurting her back. Notice the improved alignment when she was taught how to activate her postural reflexes. Her hip joint socket released and suddenly her knees released and her head released at the top of the spine and she felt the increased ease within her pose!

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HELPFUL TIPS for both your Yoga & Computer Use
1) Always use the least amount of tension necessary while keeping your head, neck and torso aligned whether doing yoga or in front of a screen. Excess tension does not help building strength, it only builds up excess tension!

2) Know that your head, neck and torso won’t cooperate in staying open and up unless you are allowing your sits bones to point towards your seat away from your head. It is true whether you sit upright or lean forward towards your desk.

3) Releasing does not mean collapsing into yourself, it means letting go of excess tension all over your body without sacrificing your skeletal height. Releasing may feel like sand or water dripping down your skeleton into your support allowing your skeleton to expand in its full space almost like bread dough rising.

We function in two very basic ways: either we are in a state of contraction or we are in a state of expansion. So when we stop unnecessary tension to shrink our stature, the skeleton is ready to spring into expansion! And what a joy that is on or off the yoga mat!