Feel your fascia
The benefits of thinking of the body as a whole organism, instead of in parts, are profound. When we truly comprehend and feel this in our own bodies and see it in our students, we can move and teach with more integrity. That said, as yoga becomes physiotherapized, or made into a practice resembling physical therapy that helps people restore movement and function (a necessary and positive process in general), asana are often reduced to which muscles are stretched—think “Downward Dog is good for your hamstrings.” In reality, while tight hamstrings may be a common experience, your edge in this pose may be deep in your calves or butt, or along the fronts of your shoulders. It depends on your patterns—the way you were grown and what you took on. Try this exercise to help you feel that your anatomy is more like a plant than a machine, and to help you move away from separating yourself into parts: ADHO MUKHA SVANASANA Downward-Facing Dog Pose Move into Down Dog. It is easy to feel your back body in this pose as you lift your hips, drop your heels from the middle of your legs, and lengthen your spine. But take time to spread your awareness and attention throughout your entire body in order to find points that lack awareness and are unique to your experience of this pose. Here are some points to ponder:
È Track the front of your spine in this pose, as if you were rolling a warm red ball up the front of your spine from your tailbone, up the front of your sacrum and the lumbar and thoracic vertebrae, then behind your guts and heart.
È Relax your voice box, then your tongue, then your jaw. Let your head dangle. Let yourself be stupid for a moment, then re-establish the length in your cervical spine without the tension.
È Move your breath into the back of your ribs, which can be frozen in your early work in this pose. Can you feel the ribs moving under your shoulder blades? Are you moving your lower ribs behind your kidneys?
È Move your weight around your feet while in the pose. This can be subtle but powerful. If your heels are off the ground, move slowly, medially then laterally, on the balls of your feet. Feel how that changes the way you feel the rest of your body. If your heels are down, move slowly all around your feet like a clock: At what position do you lock up? Work there.
È Because the deep lateral rotators are often limiting in this pose, can you let the area between your sits bones bloom? Try rotating your knees inward in the pose to help find your limitation, and keep working your hips upward. Remember, you are whole. Someone may describe you as a machine, but that is not the scientific truth— wholeness is.