‘CLASSICAL’ YOGA ASANA?
DIANE BRUNI·SUNDAY, MARCH 25, 2018
THE YOGA AND MOVEMENT RESEARCH COMMUNITY IS CURRENTLY CO CREATING A DOCUMENT TO UNDERLINE WHAT WE BELIEVE TO BE IMPORTANT ADDITIONS TO THE ‘TRADITIONAL’ YOGA ASANA CLASS. THIS RESEARCH PROJECT HAS BEEN ON GOING FOR MANY YEARS, UNDERTAKEN BY INDIVIDUAL TEACHERS WHO FOR ONE REASON OR ANOTHER DISCOVERED THE NEED TO EXPAND THIER PERSONAL DEFINITION OF WHAT A ‘CLASSICAL ASANA’ CLASS CONSISTS OF. THIS DOCUMENT CAN BE EDITED BY ANYONE IN THIS GROUP WHO FEELS CALLED TO CONTRIBUTE TO THE ONGOING DIALOGUE WE HAVE BEEN HAVING IN THIS GROUP FOR THE PAST 2 YEARS. I HAVE TAKEN EXCERPTS FROM A THREAD STARTED BY Julian Marc Walker.
FROM Julian Marc Walker
* no pulling —so trying to add some pulling where possible.
* overemphasis of flexibility at the expense of stability —so balancing that out with stability work.
* overemphasizing straight line geometry at the expense of the body’s actual spiral structure —so adding non-linear movement.
* overemphasis of “top down” movement controlled by the neocortex and focused on external appearance —so inviting “bottom up” intuitive, expressive movement and tuning-up proprioception and the sensory motor cortex: embodiment.
* overemphasizing certain ranges of motion and ignoring others —so encouraging integration via both intuitive, asymmetrical, non-linear exploration, AND by bringing in overlooked healthy ranges of motion as part of creating variation in the postures.
* overemphasizing certain types of joint motion, and static stretches that mostly target big structural muscles in terms of “opening” joints in certain ways —so finding ways to be more engaged in terms of the fascia and nervous system, with things like nerve flossing (also called neural glides).
* fetishizing passive range of motion/flexibility without also having strength and motor control in those places —not sure what to do about this yet…. suggestions?
Lisa Paterson Nice Julian Marc Walker. I would add “overemphasizing exteroception – in particular, encouraging people to mimic/imitate the form of a pose or movement – so instead, learning interoceptive and proprioceptive cues, and learning how to invite embodied inquiry instead of requiring students to follow you”.
Garrett Neill Love it man, this is a good list!
I would add:
•More postures with Hip Internal Rotation (yoga favors a lot of external)
•Better understanding of the Glute complex facilitation & it’s role with hip/spinal movement, stabilization, and balance #nomoreyogabuttsyndrome
•Proper Breathing mechanics (360 degree breathing & IAP- Intraabdominal Air Pressure) & how it relates to Core strength and stability
•Emphasizing novelty in movement & Asana rather than traditional adherences to repetitive movement.
The common theme I see in a lot of your points is a need for yoga teachers to better understand the nervous system and how it relates to just about everything being mentioned.
Garrett Neill I’ve found that a lot of these are very easily applied to Vinyasa.
When I removed chaturanga from my teaching and stopped giving it as a transition I still had a lot of people doing it throughout the flow. So I started adding alternative transitions that were just as challenging, if not more, and now people don’t give two
￼📷￼💩’s about Chata.
You just have to give folks an alternative if they’re seeking a challenge. Give them a new hurdle and show them how much safer, more engaging, or how it’s functional (translates to bettering their life off the mat) and they’ll most of the time happily convert.
Garrett Neill Jennifer there’s a few that I use:
•2 Legged Downward Dog
•High plank -> side plank (often with the bottom leg lifted)
•High Plank -> Crouching Tiger (Knees hovering Table Top – thanks to Animal Flow there’s a plethora of options there)
•High Plank variations (usually lifting/reaching 1 arm and the opposite side leg)
I have a few more. Ill be writing about this in the near future and hopefully have an article up with videos & breakdowns of the transitions.
I also completely agree with the chicken costume hahaha. Teachers reading this, don’t be afraid to introduce new content. Have a clear intention why & fun with it and they will love it!
From Michelle Nayeli Bouvier options for Chaturanga strength & transition:
•High Plank knee pulses extend/contract
•High Plank hand touching heart, alternating
•Flowing Plank- from side to side through center, with breath
•Traveling Beast (Animal Flow term/form) activated crawl up and back on the mat
•Transition through Ashtanga Pranam (knees/chest/chin) OR Anahatasana (puppy(?) pose) for the descent portion of Chaturanga
Camilla Sinclair I have been complimenting my teaching with gentle spinal rotations, such as Laban-Bertenieff movements. Students have seen how it helps later in the practice with twisting postures and mild backbends. Used a sequence from Julie Martinstepping into standing spirals and back again. Class was centered around Nataraja -The Cosmic Dancer. Funny how depictions of Shiva as the cosmic dancer looks (almost) nothing like the yoga posture Natarajasana.
Laurel Beversdorf I have so many ideas right now. I will share three that haven’t been mentioned yet.
1) I think we’d open up a wider realm of possibility if we ditched the yoga mat every once in a while. It has several functional purposes – it makes the floor softer and stickier – but it can also create ‘a box’ that becomes hard to ‘think outside of’ somatically. One of the most fundamental human characteristics is our ability to move efficiently across land. Shouldn’t our yoga practice facilitate ways for us to explore our humanity in this way? The room is traversable, the mat not so much. Also, traversing the room means more interaction potentially with the other people in it which could foster a greater sense of community – something many are starving for.
2) Also, related to this, practicing with socks on (on hard wood floor) can also create some pretty new and exciting conditions for practice. I just shot a class for the Jenni Rawlings class library that involves socks and no mat. The force of friction is an amazing tool for harnessing more diverse types of resistance in many poses. This is also a piece of equipment that everybody already has and so doesn’t involve going out and buying another thing. Zooming out, we might consider other everyday ‘equipment’ to add to our practice (in addition to subtracting some of the more ubiquitous equipment per my first idea.) Dowels, for example, are pretty incredible tools.
3) I’d like to see space created in class for spontaneous movement expressed and felt from what you describe, Julian Marc Walker, as the bottom up approach. I think the fact that a group of people gather together to do exactly what they’re told to do with their bodies from the start to the finish of class misses an opportunity. Room for spontaneous, undirected movement would be potentially quite educational for students in the right amount. I went to acting school where we were all perfectly happy with moving spontaneously for hours on end. Others feel unsafe or out of place unless they are told what to do each moment. Finding a balance between these two populations might be a challenge, but even small amounts of undirected, spontaneous, internally guided movement could be profoundly helpful, especially if facilitated skillfully.
Nathan Schechter I particularly like #4 and #5. With the emphasis on the importance of being able to move in ways that are intuitive.
Learning movement – is largely the process of organizing inner experiences in new ways. It is SO important what the inner experience is viewed as an important component of what is being discovered and integrated, not just what the shape of the body looks like on the outside.
Moreover, the purpose of teaching the A,B,Cs is to create independent students who can read and write, not students who continually do exercise after exercise on shaping letters.
At some point intuitive movement based on what you know has to become a part of the experience (especially in a class that is supposedly … flowing movement …) just as driving can’t be fluid if it stays at the “keep your hands at 10 and 2 o’clock” level. And what about moving in a way that puts you in touch with deeper levels of your self (or that just are health producing, or healthy for your particular body). Hard to do if you’re always thinking.
Unconsciously we’ve taught people not only yoga, but HOW to teach yoga. People often teach how they were taught. But it would be nice to have teachers and students hold space where many ways of moving and learning can be together. I think that is often what many, in their heart, want, but often it is hard to create in the time frames and settings available.
Many students, many ways. But let our methods serve our hearts, rather than obscure them.Manage
Yasmin Lambat Great discussion. I would add
1. Interoception. Fascia as a sensory organ. How the body responds to mood and language. Being aware of our state. How movement can shift our state.
2. Intuitive can be misunderstood. Restoring through repatterning early childhood movement.
3. Emphasis on cueing the felt experience of whole body movement. When initiating a movement in one part how does the rest of the body respond?
4. Pandiculation and other primal self restoring practices like Bouncing pulsing rocking, rolling, shrugging, finding, sensing.
Heather Dennis emphasis on balance…understanding how to engage functional slings for spinal stability and then engaging them in balancing positions
Katie Rose I love this. Thank you for sharing your list. I have felt alone in my local yoga community because I’m the black sheep who was trained in a more Iyengar style who has shifted my teaching over the past 3 years to an exploratory style that’s more biomechanically informed. I think if we do the opposite of all the “overemphasized” things you mentioned, and increase attention to the underemphasized, what we will find are more functionally capable students. Since I made this shift, my classes are more “popular” because while challenging, they’re accessible and less flexibility demanding. I have to introduce things in small doses it seems since we’ve gotten into the habit of moving like Lego Minifigures. However, as students build awareness I believe the Sherlock Holmes approach to exploring/experiencing postures is more welcome. The thing about Sherlock is that he uses his senses and he trusts them before he trusts what he’s being told. In my 200hr YTT, I’m using the 7 principles of movement as our foundation for Asana experience. I find it really creates an embodied, bottom up experience/expression. I’m not sure who said it in here, but I loved the comment about teaching them the ABC’s so they can read and write independently.
From Michelle Nayeli Bouvier:
1) more Contralateral movement, including through space
2)locomotion and considering movement in relationship to space/environment
2) locomotion and considering movement in relationship to space/environment ust rolling off the mat 1x and back, doesn’t take up too much space
4) balls as self-massage for interoception (I think we are already doing this:)
5) Curling/coiling 3D non-linear approached to the core (Bertenieff, Axis Syllabus, rolling, etc)
6) curling/unfolding non-linear entries into poses: especially backbends! Spinal movements in all directions!
7) Non-linear non-linear non-linear (I know it’s been said but biggest piece!)
Magdalena Weinstein-Comen I love this list! I’ve been applying all these principles for a while in classes and people tend to love the innovations and getting out of the old paradigm of yoga. I would add to this list: -incorporating developmental patterns-primitive reflexes into the sequence. Something similar to the bottom up approach, but with the core principle that we haven’t finished our development yet, most of us didn’t even developed all our secondary curves or master crawling, so working from the idea of the development first and foremost.4ManageLike · Reply · 6h · Edited
📷Jennifer Snowdon This is a brilliant list of movement options and ideas. I’ll limit my comments to breathing. — In general, let’s stop telling people when to breathe. The breath, if it needs to be coordinated with movement, should lead the movement, not the other way around. — Most pranayama are advanced breathing exercises that should not be practiced until people have functional breath (at rest 8–12 breaths/minute, the ability to nose breathe only all the time, proper mechanical diaphragmatic breathing — these three things are a minimum requirement). Until this point, the only breaths we should teach would help people learn to do these things. After functional breath is achieved, breath work should be done with care to not make breathing less functional again. — “Let’s all take a deep, sighing breath” is not found in any yoga text or practice, outside of modern colloquialisms we’ve created in the west. Teaching people to over-breathe can be dangerous. — Hyperventilations (Bastrika, Breath of Fire, Kapalbhati) are not pranayama, but are kriyas. These kriyas are advanced breathing techniques which should not be practiced by anyone who has dysfunctional breathing. Once someone has functional breathing, practicing these should be done with great care (and some would say not at all).
Ariele Foster To step back a moment, the reason for this list’s existence is a history of glorifying asana as we know it. Somehow we have been part of a community that saw yoga asana as whole & complete, and any deficits or discomforts or pain in our bodies as due to “poor alignment” or “not disciplined enough” or “moving toxins through”. Messages like “The sun salutation is a complete workout” are still repeated today, despite the fact that common sense tells us we need other movements in our lives. I would say less than adding to this list, yogis need to create a culture of common sense, and a willingness to question everything…even our lists. (If we were wrong before, we will be wrong again). I will never see what we do on the mat as complete, and I will never convey that message to my students or patients.
Brea Johnson Love this Julian! I would also add working with boundaries, knowing one’s range of motion and respecting that range while slowly expanding it if needed, or strengthening/stabilizing within it. And in my experience, working with boundaries in the physical body, helps with boundaries in relationships and other areas of life. One of my favourites is making sure we are moving in a variety of ways along with little bits of yoga/movement more often. Rather than always thinking we need a one hour or more yoga session, short and frequent movement breaks is lovely. And more savasana Louise Bloom I find myself coming back to tiger curls as a regular posture for clients who present with weak abdominals, pelvic floor and hip flexors and consequent lower back pain from sitting. Also a variation on ‘happy baby’ and lots and lots of dolphin with people who have slouching shoulders. Non-asana I come back time and again to gazing exercises and eye-rolling as I find people have frequent issues with focus and attention with great esults. Thank you for this document. I love the yoga foundations I have but I think it is entirely appropriate to review this for modern activities of daily life.
I would like to see the world “modification” eradicated from the yoga teacher lexicon. “Variation” is more appropriate. It’s avoids shaming and doesn’t position hypermobile risky poses as the goal of asana practice.
Trina Altman Thanks for compiling this list Julian Marc Walker! Here’s something to add to the list: No external load. Asana only deals with body weight load. We can try to ameliorate this by using stretchy bands or cork blocks for external load but the upper body pushing strength required for updog, dfd, handstand and chaturanga needs to be trained incrementally over time with progressive overload. It’s ok if yoga asana classes don’t include external loading as long as we explain to our students that they need to cross train it elsewhere. Especially if they want to do things that require pressing more than half of their body weight without getting injured.
Source : https://www.facebook.com/notes/yoga-and-movement-research-community/classical-yoga-asana/1969541136640993/
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