Happy Snow Day Readers!
So, due to the fact that first period would be beginning in 5 minutes, and that I am still in my jammies (hooray!), I thought I would write a bit before committing myself to lazing about for today.
Time for Jillian to request that all yogis remember the importance of COUNTERPOSES. A counterpose, as the name implies, is a posture one does, in order to balance out the effects of a previously done posture. They are important because they help keep the body in balance, so that no side is over-, nor underworked, or over-, nor under stretched. This prevents injury and discomfort. While looking for quotes online, I stumbled across one from the father of modern yoga, Krishnamacharya, that explains his viewpoint on counterposes, “You must be cooked on all sides.”
That made me smile. To quote another great mind, Einstein, “If you cannot explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” Well done, Krishnamacharya, I shall use that quote in yoga class.
I stress fractured by right tibia when I was in high school, because I was running like a madwoman. My calf muscles were overdeveloped, and I wasn’t doing anything to stretch them, nor strengthen/stretch the muscles around my shins (tibialis anterior, extensor digitorum longs). This is also what happens when you get painful shin splints!! Smothering one side, neglecting the other. So- bad for cooked food, bad for runners, bad for yogis!
I know that, depending on the type of class you are in, it is sometimes difficult to hit every single counterpose within a time frame. If you are in a gentle class and ask them to do a weight bearing posture, you might get some mean looks. If you are in a power class and want them to hold a stretch, eye rolls might ensue. However, the benefits of counterposes outweigh skipping over them to appease the masses. Remember that there are many, many ways to counter certain postures, and dozens of modifications that you can make to them, so that all can feel a tangible benefit from taking it.
Gimme, gimme, gimme!
Please don’t forget my Pyramid Pose! I love it. It is my favorite. I could stay in it all day. My hammies and baby moo cows (calves- teehee) need some lovin’. Don’t make me do ten thousand Crescent Lunges or Warriors, without allowing me time to elongate those muscles thereafter! Our hamstrings are the biceps of our legs and effect our knee extension, as well as the flexibility of our hips and lower back- did you know that!? Our hamstrings and calves are shortened DAILY because of us sitting and wearing heals. When our calves shorten, they pull on our hamstrings. When our hamstrings shorten, they pull on our glutes and lower back muscles. When our lower back muscles are pulled, down comes the pressure on our upper back, neck and shoulders, and out comes the Ibuprofen. Please grant me my pyramid, so I don’t have to try and sneak it in, instead of a flow! Take this into revolved triangle and I will love you forever- twisty, hamstring stretchy yumminess? Yes please! (Plus, look how pretty!)
Gimme, Gimme, Gimme!
Ok, so I have no idea what this pose is called. I have seen it/heard it called Post pose, Extreme Quad Stretch, Flying Dragon, Kneeling Baby Dancer, or Low Lunge with Quad Stretch. I shall call it, “Jillian’s Thighs are Burning from all those Chair Poses you made her do, so let her groan as her quads are flexed” pose.
We know it, strong thighs are gorgeous. Have you seen Brad Pitt’s in Troy? Drool. Don’t you just want to hate Jennifer Lopez/Aniston, but you can’t because your so impressed? Yep- I am. However, if you overwork your thighs to the point that you cannot push yourself up after tinkling, without help, you are going to get hurt. Injury means rehabilitation, which just delays your ability to do all those lunges and (growl) Chairs, to get the strong stems you want. When you build muscle, you are actually making tiny tears in them, that regrow together more strongly. Strong and stiff usually go hand-in-hand. Think of a body-builder and a male ballerina. Who do you think is actually stronger? The one who can lift a semi-truck, but cannot touch his toes, nor scratch his butt, or the one who can move and use all their muscles, in every function they are meant to be used? Holding your bones together, flexing, contracting, propelling are those functions, btw. If you guessed dancer, you’d be right!
Let me stretch my thighs! They are whining at me and are shaking like leaves and are threatening to drop me if you don’t give them time to COUNTER the contractions of lunges, with stretches! This pose with too many names also gets some juiciness into our hip flexors (oooohhhh shiver), so that we can enjoy a multitude of other poses more! Have me do this up the wall (called the pedicure ruiner by some) and my quads and hip flexors will send you flowers.
Gimme, Gimme, Gimme!
HOLDS. I love Sun Salutations (grimace…sometimes the Chaturangas), because my muscles work better when they aren’t stiff, and these traditional warm ups to a vinyasa class help fill them with warm blood. However, just like any ballerina, gymnast or ice skater will tell you, the true test of how strong you are, is how long you can hold. Those movements that olympians make look effortless, are usually the most difficult to do! I can throw myself into a handstand against the wall, but if you want me to utilize my muscles from forward fold, forget it- hopefully one day! Plank is fine for a breath. You make me hold it for 5 breaths, and I will find a plank to hit you with (Ahimsa- Ahimsa, Jillian!). Although yoga uses less momentum than dancing, there is not a complete absence of it, especially in Surya Namaskar. However, take a few moments to HOLD the poses that are some of the fastest moving in yoga, and you will begin to feel your core strength improve, and your awareness of your body heighten. Your body will be working, even if just staying in Tadasana for a few breaths. The 12 postures of Sun Sals are the optimum time to focus the attention on mudras, bandhas and, most importantly, your breath cycle.
Educators are told that the traditional wait time to allow students is 10 seconds. Try doing that with someone today. Ask them a question and count 10 Mississippis in your head before they are allowed to answer. It will feel like an eternity. I just timed myself and took 4 cycles (in and out) of Ujjayi breath, and it lasted 32 seconds. We rarely hold any Sun Sals for that long. But we should sometimes! Isn’t that one of the points of yoga, allowing ourselves the slow down from this hectic flow of life?
Alright, time for me to get my day going. I shall COUNTER my lazing about since 6 AM, when I awoke, by getting moving for a while.
Namaste for Now!