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.
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