Monthly Archives: June 2014

3 Common Oversights by Yoga Lovers that keep their Muscles and Joints Strained. Part #3

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SECOND COMMON OVERSIGHT: SKELETAL MISUSE

Let’s see how it happens and how you can remedy this oversight!

Here is what Yoga Guru IYENGAR himself had to say this month of May 2014 at age 96 to the question“So what exactly does yoga do?”: “Yoga generates a lot of energy in the body. Correct positions generate energy. If the asanas are done correctly, according to the body constitution, without putting any impediment in the flow of energy, it gives tremendous recovery.”

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It is important to address skeletal misuse properly on-and-off the mat, because intending to not overdo on the mat cannot prevent all the overdoing happening on-or-off the mat when skeletal misuse is happening. And by addressing skeletal misuse, I am not talking about holding yourself upright. “Holding” is actually a big part of the problem. It interferes with flow and is neither sustainable, nor necessary thanks to your postural mechanism, which is designed to work for you. As you release all excess tension into your support, your postural reflexes are being triggered to do their job and in response, you can expand from the ground up and out, like a tree. When you do this, you become “Balance”.

My recent Survey Monkey for “Yoga Lovers and Injuries “ showed that many yoga lovers still suffer from chronic discomfort in the neck, shoulders, back, as well as knees and wrists, which puts them at risk of getting further injured on the yoga mat or in daily activities. At best, they can modify or avoid some poses. The fact is, once injured, sometimes, yoga lovers cannot do what they love so dearly because of how they used themselves on-and-off the yoga mat before getting injured.

Before reading more on skeletal misuse and solutions, check this video that says it so well!

As seen on this video, skeletal misuse actually comes from habitual patterns of movements you develop in everyday life such as the way you walk, the way you sit at your computer or the way you carry your backpack on your right shoulder for instance. As shown in my blog about working in the kitchen, it can get quite complex like the way you carry your young child on one hip while squeezing the phone between your shoulder and ear as you are stirring the dish simmering on the stove. These repeated ways of being take their toll on your postural alignment, which gets distorted progressively. At some point, you mistake what is habitual for what is natural. This corrupted postural sense becomes the basis for all your movements’ on-and-off the yoga mat. As a result, the muscles overdo to compensate for a lack of integration in your movements and yoga can enhance the issue instead of fixing it. Here is how this on and off the mat connection plays itself out.

Let’s say you catch yourself slouching in a daily situation and you decide to sit up or stand up instead, you may be arching your back in the process and pulling your shoulders back in an effort to feel taller and straighter. However, this being neither natural nor comfortable, you cannot sustain it for very long and most likely, seconds later you find yourself right back where you started. Sounds familiar?

As a result, when you are on the yoga mat and a pose requires proper postural alignment, you only know to arch your back to a lesser or bigger degree, yet you experience yourself to be aligned. Although proper alignment is part of good posture, there is more to good posture than proper postural alignment. Unless all excess tension is totally released, holding is happening and good posture is compromised. This is how skeletal misuse can make yoga harder than it is meant to be. Yoga has its challenges but creating unnecessary strain on your muscles and joints is not one of them not to mention it is counter-productive to your yoga practice! Yoga can help release tension or create more tension depending on the quality of your movements in general. This is why it is so essential to optimize the quality of your movements on and off the yoga mat.

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Do you see the difference between these two chair pose demonstrations? Which one is more balanced because her weight is evenly spread through her feet? Which one is arching her back and overdoing with her legs to compensate for her lack of balance?

NEXT TIME YOU ARE IN  A POSE, TRY THIS:

Using your beginner’s mind, as you picture the pose you have in mind and as you get into the chosen pose allow your muscles to let go of all excess tension into your support and refuse to strain. Allow small changes to happen on their own. Remain flexible as you stay in the pose while embracing your support. You will be guided instantly and every time to your sweet spot, the best way to handle the pose of the moment with no unnecessary tension. If you let it, your body wisdom can micro-manage your skeletal alignment as you release excess tension from muscles and joints. It is a fascinating experience.

Observe and learn from your own body wisdom guidance, your very best teacher!

Good luck practicing releasing all excess muscular tension while keeping your skeletal height and width.
Let the innate wisdom of your body guide you and say good bye to the unnecessary straining in your yoga practice!

Part 4 coming soon!

 

3 Common Oversights by Yoga Lovers that keep their Muscles and Joints Strained Part # 2

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Elegant Pigeon Pose

Elegant Pigeon Pose

Ironically, the 3 common oversights I am addressing here can happen precisely as you are trying very hard to be conscientious about exercising and building healthy habits. The root problem of all oversights comes from starting the building process without clearing the harmful habits you have developed over time.

As a result, you spend time, energy and money yet the results don’t show up or don’t have staying power and naturally confusion or discouragement can follow.

Did this ever happen to you?

It is like building a beautiful house on bad foundations. Sooner or later, trouble starts showing up. The work offered at Off-The-Mat-Yoga is addressing the foundation of all movements precisely to avoid unnecessary trouble to show up for you on or off the mat!
With a good foundation, you end up with Simple, Integrated and Elegant Movements and Poses!

Integrated Down Dog

Integrated Down Dog

                                     FIRST COMMON OVERSIGHT: MUSCULAR-OVERDOING

                             Muscular-overdoing is not always pure oversight.  

Sometimes you choose to overdo because you think of it as pushing your limits to be strong. And it does show strength of character and will power. However, in doing so, you overlook the input of your innate body wisdom. You know how inefficient it is to talk and listen to someone at the same time, right? So when you focus on doing the pose the way you think it ought to be, you are listening to your mind and you miss out on hearing the whispering guidance of your body wisdom .  And if you are not listening to the innate wisdom of your body, at the service of what part of you, are you placing your will power?

Your postural mechanism is designed to function so you can move with the appropriate amount of tension for each movement during every activity. Yoga is no exception. You can assess how in tune you are with your body wisdom by how fluid and light your movements are or how easily you find your sweet spot when on the mat.

As a yoga practitioner, if you do not know how to let your postural mechanism work for you, you are putting a lot of unnecessary stress on your body. While you are working on building up strength and balance, you are also actively building unnecessary muscle tension.

Using props, working with a  Thai Yoga therapist or an Alexander Technique teacher can help you progressively expand your motion range without sacrificing your skeletal alignment and without interfering with the optimum functioning of your postural mechanism.

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Overstretching is also a form of muscular overdoing or excess tension. In fact, did you know that too much tensing or stretching actually weakens your muscles natural tone and interferes with the efficiency of your postural mechanism? It is one way that gets you in trouble on-or-off the mat. It is also placing your will power at the service of your human limited mind or ego mind. It is using blind will!

Working on expanding your growing edge however, is not overdoing, when done in harmony with the innate wisdom of your body. Then, it is placing your will power at the service of wisdom. It is using wise will!

This being said,  some of you may not want to overdo, still you find yourself straining into a pose. Due to daily movement habits,  you may not even realize you are straining, yet later on your body hurts or feels tight. This type of overdoing on the mat can be caused by unconscious or semi-conscious skeletal misuse carried over from how you handle your body off the mat.

How do you develop such skeletal habits, and how can you improve skeletal alignment without using muscular effort?

This will be the topic of my next blog on Skeletal Misuse & Solutions!