What is the functional benefit?

Welcome Back everyone! A special hello to those of you following the sun over the winter months - don't forget to think of us on Friday mornings - especially those brave early class attendees. Don't forget your torch!

Over the past 15 years I've studied far and wide in an effort to improve the way we feel via the way we move. I recognised in my early days of teaching yoga that there was a pattern to the painful issues people experienced in our part of the world. I could see that too many of us were having similar problems and I knew that there must be a common thread. I've been very fortunate to be able to study with teachers who could explain those patterns to me - leading me to the ongoing development of the programs that we work with today.

There are 2 main parts to what we do here:

  1. we re-educate muscle function through gentle somatic yoga and

  2. we develop optimal ways of moving through awareness of the common causes of pain in our society and the ways that we can step out of those self-reinforcing patterns.

 The bottom line in everything we do in classes is:  

"what is the functional benefit?" (Paul Grilley).

I never put a class together without asking myself that question many times. This practice is about getting the most out of our bodies out in the world every single day. By helping our bodies to work more efficiently we also reduce wear and tear and increase longevity. 

This is probably a good time to point out that for that lofty ideal to work - you need to take on board the things you learn in class and apply them to your life.  You can come and see me once a week and feel better for that - but if you stay in all of the habits that have potentially brought you to discomfort in the first place - that may be of limited value.

Each week I will suggest your daily maintenance program, and I'll keep it to the basics. You can expand upon it as much as you like. I used to struggle to keep up regular practice too - until I stopped thinking about it as something I had to fit in within an allotted period. Now I fit in bits and pieces almost all day. I am calf stretching while I type this. I'll be finger stretching while I'm waiting for the kettle to boil. And later on I'll be loading up my backpack and walking to the post office (you get the drift). 

This is the new look legs up the wall. Bolstering the back of your body helps to take all of the fight and habits of compensation out of this one - instead you can get maximum release of chronically tight muscles and encourage those ribs to drop back. 

It takes time to re-educate our muscles and repattern our movements. You cannot force this change. It does not work to go at it like a bull at a gate. I know because I've tried repeatedly. For best results truly become aware of where you are now, then slowly start to open up new ranges of motion and different habits of action. If it feels good while you are doing it you are probably on the right track. 

It is invaluable to learn how to feather your movements (especially so if you are working with a painful condition). Rather than struggle (which can cause your muscles to contract even more) gently approach sensation by moving towards your edge and then backing away. Over time you will find your body responds by making space - it can feel quite wonderful when you've been caught in painful contraction for some time. It is almost as though those tight and tired muscles finally take a deep and nourishing breath.

I've attached a James Knight Gentle Somatic Yoga Class at the end of this blog for you - just incase you missed the recent newsletter. It's not part of daily maintenance (but hey, it could be!) James talks regularly about feathering your approach to muscle activation and release.

Daily Maintenance Week 1 (Handout given out today on Gait Essentials):

Calf Stretch - 30 seconds to one minute each side, at least twice a day (if you don't have a 1/2 dome you can use a rolled up hand towel or something similar) - refer to handout for details

Psoas Release on 1/2 Dome (or block or book or rolled up towel). We did a series in class today that evolved an earlier version of the Psoas Block Release. This is a great post from Susan McLaughlin that you can use to refresh your memory. Start off with the third release, (feet on floor) and then the first movement (one leg extends at a time).