My motto since I started teaching yoga has been
Your body, your mind and you – a balance between flexibility and strength, will and surrender, concentration and expansion.
I was listening to the latest Yogaland podcast in which Andrea Ferretti talks to Jason Crandell (These are my favourites. Highly recommended! Check out the link and the series.) and was reminded of the process that took me away from an I-just-can’t-get-enough-flexibility approach into also developing strength. After an accident I was left with a painful sacroiliac joint. A teacher at the time was trying to get me to stretch more and more with the idea that that would get rid of the pain, but this was not working. I later discovered that my SI joint was unstable and what I actually needed was strength to hold the joint in place.
A functional muscle is a muscle with tone. That means that it can both contract and relax, with a wide range between extremes. A healthy practice includes a balanced recipe of isometric contraction (the muscle contracts without generating movement), concentric contraction (the muscle contracts bringing its ends closer to each other), excentric contraction (the muscle contracts while its ends come away from each other – imagine you sit down while also resisting the pull of gravity, as if in slow motion), stretching and letting go. The way I see it, the ultimate aim of yoga is integration. Starting with the physical not only gives us healthy functionality but helps us progress towards integration and equanimity at the more subtle level of the psyche.
Thanks to all my students at Yoga Hub Berlin, who inspire me with their practice.
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