Sunday, September 20, 2015

Create firmness in tummy and stabilise shoulders with these cues

Tiny things can make an enormous difference to your practice.

In this post I share some small tips to help you in suriya namaskar.  They will help create postural firmness in your tummy and around your shoulders.

When you use these tips you should feel from but calm.  If you were beside someone you should be able to be in the posture and talk to them normally, without feeling breathless.  Otherwise you are too deep in the posture and you need to back off.

When applied mindfully these little tips will help you practice less with more benefit.  Then you can spend more of your time living your practice and being happy and helpful to other people and less time in the practice arena.

Watch the video then read the written and visual instructions.

In your own practice you should maintain the free feeling in your spine.  It is easy to hang in your shoulders and your lower back and the cues I give here should help you avoid this and thus avoid strain.

Four cues

  1. I have put circles around the lower back area to show you that it is always in a lengthened position.  I would not call this neutral or tucked under pelvis.  I imagine I am lengthening my sitting bones towards my heels and my top of pelvis back.  This lengthens my lower back and lengthens the front of groin area.  I am looking for this feeling of lengthening and freedom throughout the cycle.  CUE: Sitting bones down, top of pelvis back to lengthen lower back.
  2. I have put circles around the shoulder joint area to show that I am focussing on not dropping or sining into the shoulders.  Instead I feel that I am lifting out of them.  Pressing my hands down and forward helps with this lifting feeling.  CUE: press hands down and forward.
  3. I have also put circles in some positions around the elbows.  The cue here is that I am bending the elbows so they point back towards the knees/hips/toes and squeezing them together as though they are trying to touch.  Even when my elbows are straight, as in the plank or down dog, I feel as though I am making those actions but with straight arms.  This gives me a feeling of broadening across upper back and neck.  CUE: elbows bend towards hips, squeeze in.
  4. I have put circles and arrows around feet and knees.  I try to keep as little weight as possible on knees and toes as possible.  I make an effort to drag the toes or knees (whatever is on the ground) towards the hands.  This creates more tummy activation.  CUE: feel as though you are pulling toes/knees towards your hands. 

There are more things you can do in these postures but these cues will help create postural firmness in the tummy and around the shoulder joint so that you feel like you are doing something but can breathe naturally and without feeling stress or strain in your spine or shoulders.

From Plank

Be on the very tip toes in your plank.  Not on the ball of the feet.  Right up there on the toe nail area.  Over the tops of your toes if possible.  With the shoulders over the wrists this should automatically create firmness in the tummy in a way you can still breathe. 

The feet feel like they are pulling forward towards the hands. This should create more postural firmness.

It is important that you start from a position of the lower back lengthened.

The lower ribs are lifting.  If you look at my spine it is more in a straight line than with any dips.  No valleys between my shoulder blades.  

Kneeling Plank
I lower my knees softly here.  In the video I show how I raise and lower the knees and the knees feel light on the ground.  I feel as though I am pulling my knees towards my chest.  Shape of spine did not change. 

Bend and squeeze elbows
From kneeling plank I bend elbows back towards hips. It does not change the height of the posture.  I do not dip into my shoulders or create valleys in my shoulder blades. 

I also squeeze my elbows towards one another.

Your elbows might not bend very far.  It is not important.  You should feel the work around the under arm and side chest area and that your neck has become more free. 

Lean forward
Lean the whole structure forward.  You are not trying to lower.  Try to stay up.  You will lower somewhat but that is not what I am thinking about at all.  I am trying to maintain the integrity of the structure I have created and just lean the whole thing forward.  

Most people will find they cannot go very far.  That is not important.  Maintaining integrity is important.  Don't let your ego write cheques your body can't cash (do I need to put the reference in there?  It's from Top Gun of course!).  

Knees up
If all is good maybe, just maybe, you might feel you can press your heels back to lift the knees while maintaining your integrity.  There should be no change in the structure aside from a secret knee lift.  If you cannot make that secret knee lift then you are not ready for this version of the posture and go back.

Knees down

Pop knees back down if you took them up.

Chest forward and up

This sequence of postures has me maintaining, in particular, integrity of my lower back.  Feeling as though I am drawing my knees forward helps tremendously.

I do not dip into the shoulders.  I simply (well, if you try you will maybe find it is not that simple after all) try and wriggle my spine forward and up through my arms.

Take your pelvis away from the floor if you feel any strain in your lower back.  This should not feel like a back tensing posture.  It should feel like a spine lengthening posture.

Down dog

Ease your way back to a buoyant child's posture and to down dog.

In Sum
A feeling of ease and length in your spine is glorious.  You will feel less like you are stretching and more like you are just having a bit of a jet spa inside your body, loosening and relaxing your muscles.  You will definitely still feel like you are doing something.  But practice to a level where you can still breathe easily

This is the way I like to practice.  It is better than any massage I have ever received and, when done well, you feel like you are floating buoyantly.

I hope to impart this type of knowledge and practice to you in my Canberra outdoor classes and in my upcoming retreat in Sri Lanka.

Practice mindfully.

Much metta,

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