There are multiple reasons why we practice asana, but most of us would agree that the primary one is that we feel better after afterwords. Asana offers us an opportunity to get to know our body and mind on a deeper level because it demands our full attention. You can't mentally check out while holding a balance posture, you must stay present. Its that type of focus that allows us to advance in so many ways.
The issue for most yogis is that they are not provided with a focal point for their mind during their practice, and therefor they quickly reach a plateau that seems never ending.
Some great teachers will guide their students to focus on their breath, parts of their body, intention, or mantra, but most teachers would rather not get in your way…and so they say nothing at all. On one hand its nice when our teacher lets us have our own experience but on the other hand, we are often seeking guidance from those we trust, and would love the input from out teachers. I’d like to invite
you to focus your mind on something specific in your practice! In this blog, and the corresponding Vlog that goes with it, we will direct our mind to a specific method of practice. I have found that for those of us that want to advance our physical practice it is highly beneficial to approach the asana in a certain way.
What does it mean to advance your physical practice? You can place whatever meaning to that you’d like of course but for the sake of getting on the same page, I am referring to an increase in strength, flexibility, and/or body awareness.
Approach the simple posture with a complex mind. Use your mind to ponder, wonder, and explore your body.Take a simple posture like lunge pose for example, and study how your body is reacting to the shape. Ask yourself, what muscles are naturally engaging? What muscles are stretching? What muscles feel relaxed? By asking yourself these questions, not only are you training your mind to focus on your physical body, and the sensations but you are developing the awareness that there are many possible options available to you. Know your options is what is required when approaching more complex postures, or dynamic movements. If you do not know how to voluntarily engage your adductors (inner thigh muscles) while in a familiar, simple posture, you will not be able to activate them when it comes to a challenging posture. Watch the Youtube Video I have posted hear to see how I explore different muscle groups within a simple lunge posture. In the video I also go over what I call the "Four Key Movements of The Body
Four Key Movements:
Squeeze in: This can be any movement where the extremities are moving or trying to move toward each other, or more specifically toward the midline of the body. It can also mean the front body contracting inward toward the center of our core - a full tuck position or balasana childs pose. In anatomy terms I am referring to Adduction, and Flexion of the body.
Push Out: This is the opposite engagements or movements- away from the midline or when the front body expands like you are stretching out after a good nights sleep. Anatomically speaking this is Abduction and Extension of the body.
Turn in: When the Extremities Rotate toward the midline of the body
Turn out: When the Extremities rotate outward away from the midline.
In addition you have side bending and twisting. Side Bending is a push out on one side and a squeeze in on the opposite, while twisting the spine is a rotation along the central axis. My suggestion is to start with the four key movements as they will provide a strong platform to work with
If you are looking for one on one guidance, inspiration, and customized practice based on your specific body, check out the Mentorship Mastery Program. If you are wondering if this program is right for you, lets set up a free session to discuss your personal goals, obstacles, and intentions for your practice.
Short and Simple:
By exploring the multiple options within simple poses you will gain tremendous insight about your body, and the possibilities available to you. The simple truth is when you focus your practice in this way, more advanced postures will become inevitable. The Engagement of the various muscles groups within the foundational poses of the practice will build a relationship between your mind and body. You will become stronger, and gain greater flexibility because the health of your muscles will increase. When You engage the muscles that are stretching you will gain a greater elasticity that will give the muscle the ability to stretch further like a new rubber band. Your range of motion will increase, and you will gain the ability to intentionally activate muscles making it easier to hold poses longer and make smoother, more controlled transitions. Try the suggestions I provided in the video. If this approach intrigues you, set up a free call with me about your practice. If you have questions please send me an email: Matt@TheYogiMatt.com. Focus your mind, and you will advance your practice!