This is a play off an article I wrote for the newsletter back in May. That one was titled Your Shoulders in Downward Facing Dog. There are perhaps as many variations in what we are told to do with our shoulders in upward facing dog and it is sometimes just as confusing for students.
I think we can all agree about one thing with regard to the shoulders in downward facing dog. None of us like to have our own or see our students shoulders stuck up in our or their ears. How do we get our shoulders out of our ears? In addition what is the effect of this on our elbows, wrists, and hands? Or is it the other way around? Do our hands, wrists and elbows have an effect on our shoulders?
Some time ago I threatened to write an article about pain showing up in the joint that connects the collarbone to the breastbone. I have had a couple of more recent requests to talk about this potential problem in Supta Kurmasana. As always I try to look at the anatomy, its function, observations about the yoga posture itself and perhaps some ways that information may inform the way we work in the posture or adjust it.
We can often gather information from the name of a posture. Sometimes embrace the quality or energy of the name, like Virabadrasana (Warrior). Sometimes the name is exactly what we should be doing. Shoulderstand comes to mind. It’s not neck stand after all is it?
This month’s newsletter article comes out of a recent trip to the Midwest. I was at a new studio with new students and hosts. This piece is actually a request from one of the hosts, Evan at Tapas Yoga Shala. The question arose; Should we squeeze or not squeeze our butt in upward facing dog? As always on the first day of practice, I mostly watch and get a sense for what I want to work on with any of the students over the course of the 5 days of mysore classes.
The basic goal of all the asana practice is finding and maintaining a comfortable padmasana (lotus pose) for meditation. There are a few key anatomical components and principles to finding this comfort. The foundation of the pose is the crossing of the legs and “sit bones” comfortably on the floor. With a firm foundation we find an upward energy and lift in the spine, which eventually becomes effortless.
I hear it in so many workshops. Chaturanga hurt my shoulder! As if chaturanga is a living breathing entity that has the ability to raise up and hurt people. Actually, I hear this about many things, whether they are postures or methods. In other words as an Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga teacher I hear that Ashtanga injures people. What can I say, its human nature to blame something or someone else. As if a posture or method actually does something to us.
As much as I’ve already written about the knee, it never seems to be enough. I often take a poll in workshops when heading into the knee section and on most occasions one quarter to half the students will raise their hands when asked how many people are experiencing knee pain? This isn’t necessarily a yoga problem, but it’s showing up there. Of those students that raise their hand, many of them are dealing with inner knee pain.
I video taped this like 6 months ago and finally finished the edits necessary. It was part of an experiment to see how easily I could deal with subject matter that seems to be missing out there or is presented in ways that could perhaps be more clear and concise.
Doesn’t everyone want to be able to do a handstand in the middle of the room? I can’t tell you how many people I’ve met who do. How many are actually willing to do the work involved in actually making it happen? How many are willing to spend the time to create the patterns in their practice that support making this happen and then do it consistently? I truly believe that it is this part that prevents people from being able to do the handstands they so desire.