Postpone The Stretch Sensation

Postpone the Stretch Sensation

flexibility

POSTPONE THE STRETCH SENSATION

If one of the goals of our physical yoga practice is to increase flexibility, we may automatically believe that we just need to stretch more. It’s critical that we understand that increasing flexibility is much more layered than simply stretching. Yes, we know the stretch sensation has the potential to feel really good; in fact, it can feel GREAT when done appropriately for our bodies and at the right time.

What if we were to entertain the idea of postponing the stretch sensation in order to increase flexibility? This might sound like we’d be moving away from our goal, but we’d actually be moving more expeditiously along the path. In today’s video, Matt demonstrates strengthening techniques that target hamstring flexibility. Instead of simply stretching, we can apply techniques that not only cultivate length in the muscles but also foster the overall health of the muscles.

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HAMSTRING STRETCH PREPARATION

As we prepare our hamstrings to stretch and create more length, we must understand the difference between tension and strength. If we go straight into stretching, attempting to go beyond our current threshold with the intention of progressing, it’s possible that our bodies will tense up and go into “protection mode.” Tension is activated to halt potential injury.

Preparing the hamstrings prior to a good stretch involves strengthening. At the beginning of today’s video, Matt demonstrates two postures that get us started:

Crescent Pose Preparation

Preparing the hamstrings also means activating the gluteus muscles. What we see are techniques initiated by the feet and pelvis that promote these activations.

Forward Fold

Pressing the heels outward here helps activate the tensor fasciae latae (TFL) muscles, which tips the pelvis and lengthens the hamstrings.

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POSTPONE THE STRETCH SENSATION: HAMSTRING FLEXIBILITY TECHNIQUES

STRETCH TECHNIQUE DEVELOPMENT

To progress, we need to find multiple ways during a given yoga practice to implement the acquired techniques within the area of focus. When we do this, we train our brain and body to respond with greater precision. Two more ways to explore the hamstrings before executing a stretch include:

Twisted Monkey

Matt demonstrates a drill in which we go back and forth between activating the hamstrings and activating the quadriceps.

It’s important to be present and intentional about activating the muscles; just going through the motions means we are not implementing the techniques with accuracy.

Warrior III Preparation

Here, Matt emphasizes activating the hamstrings and the glutes by lifting the back leg higher than we might expect. We get a little closer to understanding two concepts: facilitated stretch and reciprocal inhibition.

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STRETCH YOUR PERSPECTIVE

Matt teaches us how to apply actions that will promote transformation, rather than just executing postures in the “traditional” way. This may be different from what we’re used to in our asana practice, but when we stretch and challenge our perspective on how to practice, we begin to cultivate change.

In the video, after getting into a Cobra pose variation, Matt teaches us how to activate the hamstrings by first flexing the feet, which helps minimize potential cramping in the calf muscles, then pulling the heels towards the back. He then provides the option to undo it by lengthening the legs out. Going back and forth can assist us in deepening the activation sensation.

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FROM TENSION TO RELEASE

Last, we see the demonstration of both strength and stretch in action when Matt transitions from Dandasana to Paschimottanasana.

In Dandasana, we learn to activate the hip flexors while stretching the hamstrings. This is an example of reciprocal inhibition: activating the opposing muscles of those we’re stretching.

Matt continues to lean more forward in the posture but cues pressing the heels down into the floor and pulling them back. Here, we’re both lengthening and activating the hamstrings. This is a demonstration of a facilitated stretch.

We have postponed the stretch sensation long enough now to more safely enter into Paschimottanasana, where the stretch can be more passive. After strengthening the muscles, our brain and body feel safe enough to release into the stretch.

This process of learning and exploration is available in Matt’s upcoming online course, The Pose Factory. Access the waiting list here!

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Video Extracted From: Twists & Folds Immersion 

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Seated vs. Standing Dandasana

Seated vs. Standing Dandasana

Prepare for Seated Forward Fold

staff pose

SEATED VS. STANDING DANDASANA

Seated vs. Standing Dandasana (Staff Pose)—why compare the two? Not only are we going to examine how they differ, but we’re also going to dive in and really look at the parallels between these 2 yoga postures and how they inform one another. There is no way around the foundations of your yoga practice, and in today’s video, Matt demonstrates Seated versus Standing Dandasana. Not only are they substantial enough on their own, but they also serve as an important preparation for Seated Forward Fold. Matt also intricately demonstrates Seated Forward Fold at the end of the video, so that you’ll be able to see the direct correlation among all of these postures. Let’s take a look at how you can level up these foundational postures.

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PASSIVE VERSUS ACTIVE FLEXIBILITY

Unless you have been exposed to practicing asana in a way that offers a balance between active and passive flexibility, it’s likely that your body is widening the gap between the two. What is the difference between active and passive flexibility?  

Active flexibility happens when a particular joint moves through a range of motion without any external assistance (e.g., a yoga strap, wall, or chair). The opposite is true for passive flexibility, which occurs when you are utilizing an external force (including gravity) to explore a given range of motion.

For example, Standing Forward Fold, when approached more passively, is not necessarily the best preparation for Seated Forward Fold because a greater amount of muscle engagement is imperative to safely and successfully execute the postures.  

However, it’s not just about the postures. In his classes, Matt teaches us about the benefits of learning how to be more conscious of how and when to engage and release muscles. Being more conscious and intentional in this way means that the communication between your nervous system, brain, and body has become more intelligent and capable. Your ability both to move more dynamically and to hold postures/positions on and off the mat has multiplied because you are more proactive, rather than reactive. This also means that you have narrowed the gap between the two, and your body becomes more willing to surrender passively after you have spent time actively engaging muscles. This is where Seated versus Standing Dandasana comes in.

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SEATED VERSUS STANDING DANDASANA: PREPARE FOR SEATED FORWARD FOLD

SEATED DANDASANA

As Matt demonstrates in the video, Seated Dandasana (Staff Pose) is a great precursor to Seated Forward Fold because of the muscle engagements involved. 

One of the first steps involved in Seated Dandasana is to sit more upright. This involves lifting your belly in and up to engage your transversus abdominis. Once you’re sitting more upright, you’re also getting your back muscles involved, muscles like the quadratus lumborum (QL), particularly as you bring your pelvis into more of an anterior tilt. This anterior tilt, in conjunction with maintaining a strong lift of your chest and belly while keeping your legs straight, really helps to fire up your hip flexors. When you watch the video, you’ll see that Matt outlines a couple of key actions that also contribute to this hip-flexor firing. Those actions are creating dorsiflexion in your feet and pulling your kneecaps up in order to support the action of drawing your femur bones in towards the hip sockets (this helps to sustain and deepen the engagement of the hip flexors). All of these actions within Seated Dandasana help to create strength in a part of the body, the hip flexors, that is neglected in many. That alone validates the importance of this posture as one to incorporate into your practice on a regular basis. It equally validates why it offers excellent preparation for Seated Forward Fold.

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STANDING DANDASANA

In Standing Dandasana, there are wonderful opportunities to work on a great deal of muscle engagement for the hip flexors; this may also allow time for a greater examination of how to engage the lower back muscles. In the video, you’ll see how Matt pushes his heels out isometrically in order to activate the tensor fasciae latae (TFL), which is a hip flexor. Additionally, the placement of your hands really informs how much sensation and strength you can create in the lower back. Lengthening your arms all the way out in front of you increases the effort and dance between keeping your sit bones lifted (which is the same anterior tilt required for Seated Dandasana and Forward Fold) while maintaining the lift of the chest. This is surely a recipe for the firing of the QL and erector spinae muscles.

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HIP FLEXORS & HIP FLEXION

As already explained, one of the most important actions for Seated Forward Fold is hip flexion (the thighs moving closer to the chest, closing the hip joint). We’ve also established that hip flexor strength is essential for Seated Forward Fold. When attempting to gain strength of the hip flexors when it comes to Seated Forward Fold, you need to apply your understanding of the difference between active and passive flexibility. Allowing gravity alone to create the shape of Seated Forward Fold would likely simply create frustration due to the length of time it takes to see the results of going deeper into the posture. With the development of hip flexor strength and the practice of the articulation of the pelvis in postures like Seated and Standing Dandasana, you simply can’t go wrong when it comes to Seated Forward Fold.

SEATED FORWARD FOLD

After exploring Seated and Standing Dandasana from the perspective Matt offers, your body will display its readiness. During the setup in the video, you’ll see where Matt marries the passive and active in this posture. You’ll tap into the strength of your lower back with the same lift of the belly and chest along with the anterior tilt of the pelvis. Just like in Standing Dandasana, you’ll push your heels out isometrically, which will internally rotate your upper thighs, switching on TFL.  Once you’ve performed the actions you practiced in Seated Dandasana, that is, plugging the femur bones into the hip joint and pulling the kneecaps up, you can lean more forward. This is the crucial point at which you may begin to relax your back muscles and transition to a more passive state in the posture. The negotiation that takes place in the body, however, is that while your back relaxes, you’re still maintaining the suctioning of the quadriceps and tensioning of the hip flexors. This creates an exciting conversation within your body. It creates a marriage between active and passive, which Matt describes as the nervous system more fully participating in the experience and improving the health and functionality of your muscular system overall.  

Practicing in this way unleashes the potential functionality of your body. Registering for this month’s immersion will take you on a journey of deeper understanding, and it will help bring new life to foundational postures like the ones examined here. 

You can register for Twists & Folds here.

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Video Extracted From: Twists & Folds

MOVE

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Continue Learning

Hanumanasana Hints

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Hanumanasana HintssplitsHANUMANASANA HINTS Applying intelligent techniques to a posture like Hanumanasana is crucial.  Simply hoping for the best is definitely not the way to go.  That mindset leaves us vulnerable to injury.  It’s also the type of pose that can be...

read more
Chin Stand

Chin Stand

Chin Standganda bherundasanaCHIN STAND Without a doubt, Chin Stand requires preparation. This posture must be approached with the utmost humility, essential in order to respect the potential risk. If this pose is not explored regularly in our physical practice, it may...

read more
Postpone The Stretch Sensation

Postpone The Stretch Sensation

Postpone the Stretch SensationflexibilityPOSTPONE THE STRETCH SENSATION If one of the goals of our physical yoga practice is to increase flexibility, we may automatically believe that we just need to stretch more. It’s critical that we understand that increasing...

read more
Wake Up Your Wheel Pose

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read more
Spinal Spaciousness

Spinal Spaciousness

Spinal Spaciousnessdancer poseSPINAL SPACIOUSNESS Some key indicators of spinal health include strong bones, durable yet flexible ligaments, supple discs, and strong supportive muscles. Aside from nutrition, it’s not enough to say that movement in general is enough to...

read more
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Steps to Scorpion PosevrschikasanaSCORPION POSE Exhilarating, stimulating, and enlivening are a few words we can use to describe Scorpion Pose. We can also use words such as grounding or even relaxing, which might initially be considered strange descriptors. When we...

read more

THE FREE TECHNIQUE PACK

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  • the Technique Pack: 15 yoga pose breakdowns
  • exclusive online course discounts
  • exclusive blogs and videos
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

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