Do you feel good when you experience soreness after a yoga class or a workout of any kind, believing it means you did well? Do you feel you are not doing enough when you don’t feel your muscles clearly stretching or strengthening? Do animal feel sore when they get sporadically very active? Humans definitely do, why is that?
Have you ever considered the possibility that stretching and strengthening could be experienced in a different way and be as efficient?
What led you to start yoga in the first place? Injuries you wanted to resolve? Lingering body stiffness? A desire for peace of mind? Do you experience flexibility and peace between classes? Have you healed your injuries completely? Here is why I am asking you these questions.
I recently attended a wonderful writing retreat in the Redwood Forest in California, and I was privileged to meet a group of 20 wonderful writers working on their book to help the world change for the better by promoting the unlearning of old ways that no longer serve us. Mine is about the Yoga of the Future.
Anyhow, I met a beautiful and intelligent woman there who was very much into her Ashtanga Yoga practice that she attended 3 times a week. A scientist with 2 PhD under her belt, she also was clearly a good listener as we engaged into a conversation. She came to some understanding of the value of my work after she had a mini intro to it. Still before leaving the retreat, she was questioning how one could strengthen without straining or feeling sore when pushing oneself?
I knew from personal experience that I had seriously strengthened doing yoga without feeling sore because I was releasing outer muscles the whole time I practiced. For instance, I had trouble keeping my arms up in Warrior 2 but I kept at it, releasing fingers to fingers through shoulder blades and all the way down into my support every time I was in poses requiring my arms up like this. Months later, I could stay in that pose with no problem whatsoever, having obviously strengthened the muscles required to keep my arms up.
Also, I wondered, how could creating trauma to the body be in line with yoga first principle “Ahimsa”, do no harm? Is it ever appropriate? After all, yogis do teach us that we are all one, so hurting others or hurting oneself comes to the same. No gain without pain has become no gain without strain. Is this tendency to strain a product of universal wisdom or of our human mind always shooting for more?
On his website, Dr Gabe Mirkin said ” We used to think that next-day muscle soreness is caused by build up of lactic acid in muscles, but now we know that lactic acid has nothing to do with it.” Muscle soreness is no longer seen as a good indicator of a good workout. It does not mean that muscles were built, strength gained, or fat lost.
He also points out that even pushing your muscles to the limit to make them work harder to strengthen is not something you do every day. Dr Mirkin explains that most healthy athletes may have a hard workout one day, but then they go easy for one to seven days afterwards before challenging their body again. He adds “world-class marathon runners run very fast only twice a week” and “the best weightlifters lift very heavy only once every two weeks.” while “high jumpers jump for height only once a week.”
When once a week I go to a hot power type of yoga, I do it to sweat and challenge myself. I follow the poses called for, yet I go about them my own way. No muscular lifting, squeezing, pushing or holding in my yoga practice. Instead, I use my Body Intelligence Activation (B.I.A.) Process which connects me to my whole-body guidance in every pose. It always guides me to do the poses the way that works best for me in each moment and although I have quite a muscular body, I never run the risk of overdoing because my mind is not calling the shots, I allow my inner teacher to do so.
Without a tool such as the B.I.A. Process teaching you to connect to your whole-body wisdom even when your focus is to challenge one body part especially, the door to injury remains open. If you are already injured, it prevents full healing and the injury becomes chronic.
You can only be mindful of what you are aware of, so a little education goes a long way especially when you are already mindful!
If you want to learn more about this, join my blog site, attend my online or local events and learn about the B.I.A. Process. You won’t regret it!
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Cecile Raynor has been teaching the Alexander Technique for over 25 years out of which came her B.I.A. Process to assist yogis enhance their practice bypassing the intellect. She is also a Thai Yoga Massage Therapist and a Reiki Practitioner. Faculty at Akasha Yoga Teacher Training, she runs a 12 months Mastermind for Yoga Teachers with a Vision, and a 90 Day Virtual Program for trainees, new teachers and committed yoga practitioners interested in using their body better on and off the mat. Her blog read by 19 000 people and her webinar have an international audience. She is currently writing her book on “The Yoga of the Future and the B.I.A. Process: the Missing Link to Drop the Strain and Keep the Gain.” with BlissLife Press, San Diego California.
Another great post. Lovely pictures from the retreat. I was at the Armstrong Woods a couple of years ago and was totally bowled over by the majesty and the rich scent of the trees. Wonderful!
Anyway, back to the post. I’ve enjoyed running since I was about 15 years old when I was in the school cross-country team. I’ve been through all the pushing and shoving and breaking through personal bests, but it’s kind of end-gaining and nearly always leads to injury.
As a middle-aged adult I still enjoy running, but as a rhythmic, relaxing form of exercise. I need to run at a pace where I can have a conversation with anyone who’s running with me.
I recently read Michael Mosely’s “Fast Exercise” and he advocates short intensive bursts of training. I’m sure there’s a lot of research to back up the benefits of his approach, especially in terms of losing weight, but I’ve tried it and it just doesn’t feel good. It’s still stuck in this “no pain no gain” rut.
Phew! Okay, but thanks, Cecile. Keep up the good work.
Thanks Rob for your feedback! I also find that different bodies with different ability levels will be attracted to different fitness program and ways of doing things. That is normal. What is dangerous is when people do not stay with the awareness of the whole body when engaged in a physical activity or they do only paying attention to their stretch edge or pain edge.
In my experience, knowing how to trigger our postural mechanism ,which I consider the ambassador to our Innate body intelligence when it comes to movements and posture, is the best safety net to prevent injury and get the most out of any activity.
And the Alexander Technique Primary Control is only part of it which is why I came up with my own approach. I now call it the Body Intelligence Activation (B.I.A.) Process while I acknowledge that the foundation of my work is totally AT.
Coming from an intellectual background, I spent my career teaching as much as possible in a way that bypasses the intellect as much as possible. Still, words are needed to communicate how to do this! Hence my writing these blogs and my incoming book!:)