Yoga Solutions classes
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UNDERSTANDING THE BREATH IN POSTURE WORK
Many teachers recognise the importance of the breath in posture work, yet breathing practices (aka pranayama), are mostly practiced 'separately' because it is considered as 'advanced' compared to posture work.
However, if we are free to explore how the breath is naturally involved in active support whilst preparing for a posture, it makes complete sense of the pranayamas. And understanding the nature of the breath makes complete sense of postures!
Freeing up the Shoulders
A regular question i get is about how to be free in the shoulders... but whenever I run workshops in new places with large groups of people, one of the things not asked is 'how to reach up with the arms during sun salute'... Yet absolutely everyone in the room is lifting their arms with their shoulders and neck when they come up... which is exactly what gives them the tight shoulders in the first place.
I start with a 5 minute trick that will get you to understand how shoulders are supposed to move, and then take you into more depth so it can be applied to postures (reclining eagle & Triangle)
Deconstructing Dog pose
Dog pose is such a ubiquitous 'in between' posture in flows and the like that it is rare for people to spend any time finding out if there are better ways of doing it.. here I offer you a broken-down-into-parts approach, so you can feel how best to use your arms and legs so that the posture does what it is meant to do for you.
Tight hips in Triangle?
Triangle (all versions from all traditions) is quite a difficult posture in terms of 'finding the yoga of it'. The bigger wider versions of it can only really be enjoyed and understood whist using a plethora of blocks and other supports - without which the practitioner is likely to strain and pull on their spines (wide angle triangle is notorious for 'causing' sacro-illiac distortions which can become devastating injuries). The clue that you're not doing a particularly useful version of triangle posture is when the front leg hip is holding on like crazy whilst you move yourself into and 'hold' the pose.
Here I offer an approach to a modified version of the posture that might give you a direct somatic experience of what it's supposed to feel like (intense, but light and pleasurable)
How to cause REAL transformation
I share something of my own story and a longterm healing of a mild scoliosis that felt to be the source of a plethora of postural issues that got me to begin my journey over 30 years ago. And how the process of discovery through practice and deep self-inquiry has led to an understanding of things based in reality rather than opinion and bias... and to a life where I get more comfortable, and in many ways younger in my body as I get older.
I also share a little something at the end that shows how the breath is the vehicle for marrying up intention with the natural body in movement....
NECK & SHOULDERS - a permanent solution
Many people get neck/shoulder stiffness or pain, and the reason is simply because we spend all day every day holding the head in space with those muscles...
The head has an important role in you deciding where to move to in space, but here, I explain how the atlas, the very first vertebra of the neck, can be released so that the head's weight can always be given down through the axis of the spine, regardless of what you are doing, leaving your neck and shoulders free of any weight-bearing responsibility.
I also give you something to practice, that will write this way of moving into your nervous system...
If you ever suffer from stiff neck and shoulders (or just have a kind of tiredness that makes you want to be inactive all the time) this practice will make you feel free and light…
WHAT TO DO WHEN YOU LOWER BACK SEIZES UP...
Many people end up hurting their lower backs through some kind of physical labour whilst being bent over - and I am no exception. I strained my lower back doing some DIY... and when I noticed my own fear reactions together with the 'normal' attempt to 'relax' so things didn't hurt, I realised that this standard response was doing me no good whatsoever.
So I had a word with myself (I have solutions right?) and did some practice on the day of injury - following my own understanding and honouring of the notion that 'the body is intelligent' in order to unravel the issue.
And it worked ! The next day I was back to DIY without any problems ... in fact the following day I was more balanced, and stronger than before the back-strain happened.
So here I share both the thinking behind what I did together with the intention behind, and 'how to' details of, the simple practice of balancing on one foot in order to release the issue... You don't have to have a strained lower back to feel the benefits of following this, and if you do ever suffer from that, this will give you a get out of jail free card when it happens...
'FLOW' and the breath... De-bunking the norm.
There is a reason for the 'inhale up/exhale down' instruction that makes 'doing' yoga postures easier for the mind and body, giving the impression of 'flow'.
However, that reason is more to do with habit and stress, than it is to do with the natural flow of a body and mind in harmony with each other in action. Lifting to breathe, and collapsing to release the breath is kind of how we do things when we are both stressed and tired, and practicing yoga in this way entrenches this behaviour into our movement.
Here I guide you into an experiential understanding of how the breath itself can become the source of support and free movement, simply by adjusting your intent, at the specific moments of arrival and release of the breath...
Inner space & Inner support
'Inner space' is a description of a purely somatic experience that most people only have when resting and happy.... Here I give you a way of providing that for yourself directly, simply by using your hands for support.
'Inner support' is similarly a description of a somatic experience that will mean very different things to different people depending on what efforts and tensions they are accustomed to... So I also offer an approach to the same thing as above (as your starting point) to set things up so that the breath itself can give you the most natural inner support you can develop (through the breath), which in turn offers you a strength that leaves you free in your movements through space...
Postural Strategies & the breath
We all have preferred ways of being upright, and our breath follows suit - OR we have preferred ways of breathing, and the way we become upright is determined by this. Most ways of becoming upright involve lifting with our spines (but definitely NOT the only way). Here I unpack this relationship to uprightness and breathing, and show you how you can use either (perfectly natural) pattern as a starting point to discover the 'yoga' of it... ie, how you can use the breath to discover a way of releasing into uprightness through an elongating spine, following a release of breath and tension....
A DIY face-lift
Self massage for the face, head and specifically the jaw ... jaw tension is often a source of difficulties in the neck and shoulders, and holding-patterns in the face often maintains unnecessary holding patterns in the body and breath... Do this once for a nice experience, do it daily for a week and change things for good.
THE MIND, THE CORE & LOOKING AFTER THE SPINE
How to sidestep the biggest source of confusion in physical practice and avoid 'red herrings' in our attempt to understand yoga.
Moving from the core and ribcage, in harmony with the breath to free up the spine
Moving & expressing FROM the spine behind the heart, Resting THROUGH your central axis.
Moving from the Spine
"Moving from the Spine"
Most restrictions in the body can be simply dropped when you move from the spine ... with the spine at the central axis of everything you are doing. This is NOT the same as working to bend your spine this way and that - particularly if you are using your weight to do it.
Here I try and explain exactly what I mean by 'moving from the spine' and give you a rather fun, simple (and kind of random) thing you can do to naturally awaken the spine, core and other 'breathing gear' in the way I mean...
The best way to use your limbs in practice...
Most people's yoga practice is sourced in their teacher's instructions - following those instructions causes us to do things in quite unnatural ways. Here I offer a simple explanation of how the limbs most naturally support us, and invite you to apply that nature to your practice....
True spinal extension
how to 'open from the heart'...
Most people have problems in backbends for the simple fact that they are relying on passive extension of lumbars and neck to achieve it ... this not only 'pinches' the spine in a less-than-useful way, but it actually prevents any movement from the upper spine happening.
True spinal extension (backbending AND spine elongation in uprightness) originates from a direct reversal of the rounded part of the back (rather than trying to use your weight to lever extension into the spine)... and this in turn is essentially a natural function of the person expressing openness (rather than of someone trying the 'bend' their spine). The folowing shoud help you discover what I am talking about as a direct somatic experience...
If you want to be able to balance, don't try and balance!
Here I explain the reason for any difficulty you might have in 'balance postures' or the even more misleading instruction of 'holding balances'. And i show you exactly the small shift in perspective and understanding that should make things much simpler...
'Gathering together' to create more space!
There is a familiar principle in Scaravelli inspired yoga of 'gathering together ' before 'opening out'. It is an idea that makes zero sense to the 'stretch' camp of yoga, and is often misinterpreted by those familiar with it as a kind of 'contraction' so they enjoy 'opening out' after... Here I try and make practical sense of the thing... what you are actually trying to do AND why it works.
The limbs and your relationship with the world.
The limbs, and how to find a supportive relationship to the world from the way you engage with it.
Most of us are in a habitual and reactionary relationship with the world around us, that involves 'pushing away' or 'pulling in'. Both of these attitudes get hard-wired into our movement and are each equally debilitating for our energy and physical/emotional/mental health. Here I give you the idea with an example or two and show you how to shift this life-dimming paradigm directly through your practice.
(Apologies for the echo 5 mins in - it was a feedback between the FBlive and my microphone... It stops v. soon after)
Deconstructing the humble forward bend
Forward bending is something everyone can do to some degree or other, but how easy and comfortable forward bending is, depends entirely on how you got there.
The simplest of postures offer the most value and content, IF you are prepared to genuinely let go of habit, in favour of exploration of what is both possible and natural...
Here I offer you the reasons forward bending can be restrictive or uncomfortable for you, and give you a way of approaching the movement that should make total sense to your body...
UNDERSTANDING SPINAL EXTENSION
Most of us do back-bending by habitually hyperextending the lumbars and/or neck. Doing so is not a particularly useful practice and can aggravate and exaggerate postural habits... Here I explain what needs to happen for you to extend your spine in a useful and pleasurable way.
Opening the Hips
'Hip opening postures' often have the opposite effect for people.... they try and stretch their hips open, and the outcome leaves them even tighter in the groins/psoas/adductors & lower back. Here I unravel the problem and show you what 'hip opening' actually feels like, so that you can carry a new relationship to your hips with you, that will ALLOW them to open.
Demystifying the body and the breath
When you do things TO the body and the breath, you might develop control of how you move and breathe, but you will be exaggerating the separation between yourself and your body. And separation is at the source of any physical/emotional issue you are using your yoga to redress...
Here I offer a clear and practical explanation of the difference between this, and relating to the world THROUGH your body and breath, which unites you with both. Follow my suggestions and feel the difference in yourself ... if you like the feeling, it will change your practice forever...
If you have a few yoga years under your belt and would like to do my deep dive into pranayama course, go to https://www.acquaviva.yoga/the-sacred-breath-1
THE solution to tight hamstrings
"The solution to tight hamstrings...
When your hamstrings are tight, it is usually because they are overly involved with your support strategy. Here I explain what might cause this, and then offer a practice that is very likely to lead to a completely different somatic experience of opening out the legs, together with actually being able to let go of the habitual hamstring resistance, so they can be 'stretched' without the usual problems that go with attempting to do this."