When it comes to the practice of meditation, or as many refer to it by its more informal name as “sitting”, it has not been rare that I’ve heard people report their experience with it as one that is fraught with boredom, sleepiness, and a general lack of stimulation. This was also the case for me the first 3-4 years of my sitting practice, before I was introduced to the universe of the respiratory system, and its magnificent influence on the mind. The methodology of Yoga is all predicated on the exact procession of the breath. Postures, movement, diet, rest, physiological and mental hygiene, and ethical precepts are rendered lifeless at best, if not altogether dysfunctional, without the conscious cooperation of the breath. Once I discovered that breathing practices were the missing link in my sitting times, my meditation experience was transduced from one that resembled a chore, to something that I actually looked forward to, and even craved.
In my post in January I highlighted the effect that our modern lifestyle has on a very important movement of the hip called “extension”. Hip extension (pic 2) is critical, as both a supporting faculty for the spine, as well as the mechanics of human gait.
About 80% of all people report having Low Back pain at some point in their lives (pic 3-5). It is also one of the most costly medical interventions in our society, right behind diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
The habitually shortened state of the Psoas muscles (hip flexors) is one of the most central culprits in the lack of mobility in hip extension.
Unlike any of the other muscles in the entire muscular system, the Psoas also interacts with the respiratory system. The main muscle of breathing, the respiratory diaphragm, shares some of its tissue with the Psoas, which essentially means that the health and function of the Psoas intersects with the health and function of the breath, and vice versa. This points...
At the final and much delayed birth of this blog, it only seems appropriate to honor the time the respected reader is investing to start off on the right foot and outline why the discipline and philosophy of Yoga is valuable in its complimentary, simple, and accessible implementation to anyone. It’s evolution and progression through time has kept pace with the evolutionary trajectory of human beings. Historically having emerged out of the very same soil that the many practices of what is now referred to as “Hinduism”, the traditions of Yoga have gradually become less sectarian and austere, evolving to include every domain of living. Regarded by some as the “Art of Living”, the base of Yoga is built upon a conceptual framework that includes every conceivable update that comes down the civilizational and evolutionary pipelines. Yoga’s instruments and methods have been stenciled into the very fabric of biological, social, physical, psychological,...
Daily Habits are the corner stone of our success in Yoga, as well as the maintenance of our Health.
The Lower-Crossed syndrome is as comprehensive, as a general description of the average sedentary modern individual can get. One of its most common attributes is the prevalence of weakness in the abdominal muscles. These muscle have been implicated in Low Back pain, and are a very important intermediary between the relationship of the lower body to the upper body.
Every single person that has come through my treatment room has had some level of abdominal muscle weakness or dysfunction.
In assigning students and clients their personal practice/exercise plan, I make sure to start them off with movements or postures that are as safe as possible so that while they attend to something specific, they do not risk compromising anything else.
The supine leg lifts (above pics) are one of the most simple ways that you can start your day with, without a gigantic time commitment, and still have a...
As nearly all Yoga enthusiasts will agree, the practice of posture and breathing greatly helps to provoke the actualization of the essential aim of Yoga to quieten the mind. Understandably so, since a lack of health and fitness in the various systems of the human embodiment can be an energetic/caloric drain on the whole person.
A profoundly overlooked and understated sense that we possess, and one which plays a central role in our practice, as well as everyday life, is Vision.
The late great BKS Iyengar rightly described that the “eyes are the index of the mind”.
One of my most influential teachers, Richard Freeman, was a poet of the art of intriguing the student to apply a certain attitude to the eyes, as a magnet that will carry one’s attention into the body, and the universe of insight available therein. No one ever before, or since, have I heard extend this invitation, live or on digital audio, in the same infectious way.
Our vision is one of the most accurate,...
Being at the intersection between the upper and lower body, places the hip in its own category of importance. This joint not only permits the proper mechanics of the legs and upper body, but also allows the transmission of forces between one another.
Therefore, its functionality is integral both to the spine, as well as the knees and feet.
Common among the multitude of poses, yet so seldom are the anatomical details illuminated, as that of Vrikshasana-Tree Pose (Pic 1)
In a world where reinventing the proverbial “wheel” seems to be the the tool by which an individual can stand out and assert their own uniqueness, tinkering with the arthrokinematics of a joint for the sake of indulgence in something “different”, can bring more trouble than its worth.
This is where the placement of the lifted leg either supports the underlying structure of the hip, or not. The instruction that is all too prevalent when it comes to this leg, is to bring it onto the same plane as...
One of the absolute integral parts of the human body that has carried us all through the years, and which has gained much less recognition that they’ve deserved, are the feet.
There is much talk about “foundation” in the world of Yoga and exercise, yet the feet are not often found themselves to be the main protagonist of this narrative. This is of direct consequence to anyone who finds themselves inhabiting a body .
The truth is, as one of the most influential podiatrists (Dr William Rossi) in our history never tired of expressing, that the feet inform the mechanics of the rest of the body. He pioneered the long awaited revelation that the main culprit that his literally devastated our feet are shoes. “There is substantial and incontestable evidence that no commercial footwear fits properly...”
Picking up the review of Chaturanga Dandasana over the last several weeks in outlining the principles behind the next point:
3. The grip/contact of the hands on the mat
The grip of the hands is a major feature of the overall stability and safety of a pose, when the weight of the body is supported by them. The sheer anatomical complexity of the hands, their influence on the safety of the wrists, and the potential dexterity for which they’ve evolved, requires an investment of mental and physical effort in order to sustain their health.
The most frequent trespass against the proper technique in placing the hands is the shift of weight toward the outer edges of the hands and palms (pic 2). This will place the weight of the body into the medial (ulnar) side of the wrist, which is a fragile and very common site for injury. Without going into the complexity of the wrist, the ulno-carpal joint (pic 3) is susceptible to stress when forced to hold the kind of load that is consistent with...
As we look further into the complex universe of the shoulder joint and the role it plays in our Yoga practice, a posture whose eminence and frequency demands a clear overview is Chaturanga Dandasana (Low Plank). The amount of times I have had students give me notice that they can no longer perform this pose because of the strain they feel in their shoulder/s, exceeds my capacity to recount.
Like many other teachers, the technique that I initially learned to perform this pose with was very cursory and missed the anatomical integrity that it so badly deserves.
The most common and omissions I see over and over again are:
1. Alignment of shoulders with respect to the hands
2. The angle of the humerus (upper arm) with respect to the torso
3. The grip/contact of the hands on the mat
4. Position of the head
The all too pervasive instruction in this pose is to move the shoulders forward of the hands and maintain a vertical line of the forearms (pic 1). The danger with this technique is that it...