Somatic explorations of the spine to transform your movement practice

My yoga mantra at the moment is: Smaller, Smarter, Stronger.

My dear friend Joanne Sarah Avison said recently that “Fascia loves micro-movements.”

It is a timely message. As a yoga therapist I often hear feedback such as, “I can’t do yoga because I’m not that flexible.” When did this practice become associated with such extreme ranges of movement that the average person feels they can’t even walk into a studio?

The purpose of my mantra is to dispel that myth.

Go smaller

If you run a Google image search for ‘yoga poses’, 90% of the pictures shown are positions taken at the end range of movement. No wonder yoga has become synonymous with extreme flexibility! But is that really good for us?

Triangle pose

Triangle pose is often taught with the cue to take your hand to the floor and hinge sideways from the pelvis, lengthening the torso as far as you can to get there. This will involve, for most bodies, forcing your pelvis and hip joints as far as they can go. Not only is this movement unnecessary for hip mobility and functional movement, but it can actually be harmful for some people.

Simply moving your pelvis sideways a few inches can be of great benefit in freeing up your hips. And – if done slowly, in mindfulness, and with control – the movement will balance strength and flexibility at a more even ratio.

Move smarter

Instead of aiming for that full range of motion, go to where you feel a tiny inkling of stretch sensation and then play within that range.

Try doing this mindfully. Do you have control in that small range? Do you feel shaky, or experience little jerks? See if you can do even smaller movements; listen to your body’s cues, focusing on smoothness and control rather than achieving a specific shape.

Backing your poses up and incorporating slow smooth movements in this way will add a new depth to your practice. You will increase your proprioception and interoception by getting mindful and staying mindful as you move. This will increase your functional strength, and also strengthen your brain muscle!

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