The first set of postures in Bikram's class is the Half Moon series, where we bend the upper body to both sides and then backward. These positions warm the body effectively because they stretch the same muscles that are engaged and strengthening. This generates a lot of heat.
When we bend to the right side, we are held up by the muscles on the left side of the body - in the hip, abdomen and torso. These are the same muscles that are being lengthened, so the body and mind must find a balance between engagement and release. Technically speaking, this is called eccentric contraction -when a muscle is engaged while getting longer. Contrast this with concentric contraction, where we engage a muscle and make it shorter, like a bicep curl or Cobra Pose. In concentric contraction, the muscles opposite the contracting muscle automatically relax and lengthen. In a bicep curl, the triceps relax. In Cobra Pose, the front chest, abdomen and hip flexors relax.
The fourth posture of the Half Moon series is Hands to Feet Pose. Unlike the side and back bends, Hands to Feet Pose is not an eccentric contraction. We contract the abdomen in order to stretch the back, so it is concentric contraction. This series of warm-up bends would be better served by an eccentric forward bend that engages the backside of the body while stretching it.
I dislike pictures of people doing yoga postures in beautiful places: mountaintops, beaches, meadows at sunset. It promotes the idea of yoga as a luxury and as something that is distant from the everyday life. I think yoga should be promoted as a lifestyle, simple and essential way to be healthy and happy. Like eating healthily or getting enough sleep.
Above on the left is a picture of me doing exactly what I dislike. On the beach in Los Cabos, Mexico, the day after completing Advanced Practice with Tony Sanchez.
On the right is my ordinary practice at home. No fancy props or beautiful backdrops. Just my body, breath and mind. And my dog Bug, who has become a big part of my practice. He has a way of coming into the room at the perfect time, when I am upside down or in deep concentration. He licks my face or jumps up on me. I consider it part of my practice - to maintain focus and stillness regardless of what is going on around me (or licking me).
It is not strength in the muscles
Or flexibility in the joints
Or standing on one leg
It is not balancing upside down
Or holding the breath
Awareness of every fiber of the body
Every impulse of the nerves
Every beat of the heart
Every twitch of breeze and breath
After two weeks of living in hotel rooms, airports, airplanes and cars, I am finally home. I am happiest to see my dog. The challenge of being home is to maintain the passion and dedication to my yoga practice that grew again during my recent dedicated study. It is hard to maintain that focus amidst the commitments, emails, dishes, lawn and countless other things.
This journal honors my ongoing experience with the practice, study and teaching of yoga.
1) Sridaiva Yoga: Good Intention But Imbalanced
2) Understanding Chair Posture
2) Why I Don't Use Sanskrit or Say Namaste
3) The Meaningless Drudgery of Physical Yoga
5) Beyond Bikram: Why This Is a Great Time For Ghosh Yoga