When my youngsters have been very younger and seated in a highchair, they might intentionally drop items of food—one after the other over the sting of the tray, every time delightedly watching them fall to the ground. By the time my third youngster reached this stage, I had modified my perspective. Instead of being irritated, I informed myself that she was simply “experimenting with gravity.” That all the time made me smile.
When you practice asana, you’re always experimenting or dancing with the drive of gravity and its results on a pose. If you’re to know find out how to follow, and positively learn how to train, you have to concentrate on how gravity “chooses” which muscle tissue are working, and which aren’t, in every asana, and why that is so. This understanding is what I name motion literacy, and it’s the guideline of my on-line and in-person course on experiential anatomy.
Movement literacy is predicated on the understanding that the physique is an orchestra and actions are the music it creates. When you possibly can see, really feel, and perceive the specifics of the physique’s actions, not solely do you turn into a greater practitioner, however you now have the instruments to assist your college students follow extra safely and even probably to assist them get rid of ache once they wrestle in an asana.
Here is an instance: Both Supta Padangusthasana (Reclining Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose) and Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend) are forward bends. Both poses are practiced by flexing the hip joints. But there’s a massive distinction during which muscular tissues are creating every asana. In Supta Padangusthasana, you start by mendacity supine in your mat. To apply the pose, you exhale as you flex your hip joint, bringing your thigh towards your trunk. Your leg comes straight up, shifting towards the pressure of gravity the entire method. Finally, catch your massive toe or maintain on to your outer ankle or decrease leg, relying in your flexibility.
The motion of elevating your leg up is created on this place by the hip flexor muscle tissues which might be discovered on the entrance of the physique. These are principally the iliopsoas, the rectus femoris portion of the quadriceps, the sartorius, and the pectineus.
When you carry your leg up towards the pressure of gravity, these muscular tissues bear a shortening contraction, additionally referred to as a concentric contraction. The hip flexor muscular tissues are creating the motion of bringing the thigh to the trunk, that’s, hip flexion. The complete motion is happening towards the drive of gravity.
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Supra Padangusthasana (Reclining Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose)
Begin by mendacity supine in your mat. Exhale as you carry one straight leg up, shifting into hip flexion. Catch the large toe together with your fingers, or maintain your outer ankle or decrease leg in case your hamstrings are tight. This motion, shifting towards the pressure of gravity, is created by the hip fl exors present process a shortening contraction towards gravity.
But simply since you are shifting into hip flexion doesn’t essentially imply that you’re creating the motion through the use of your hip flexors. When you’re standing up, for instance, and bending ahead to apply Uttanasana, it’s truly the muscle mass within the buttocks and again thigh which might be controlling the creation of hip flexion, not the hip flexors. Thus, the muscle mass which are creating hip flexion in Uttanasana are muscular tissues on the again of the physique: the hip extensors.
Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend)
From standing, together with your ft hip-distance aside, hinge ahead out of your hip joints, protecting an extended backbone. Notice how muscular tissues on the again physique, particularly the hamstrings behind your thighs, are controlling the creation of hip fl exion, not the hip flexors. The hamstrings are working with the drive of gravity to allow you to down regularly.
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The hip extensors are the gluteus maximus and all the hamstring muscle tissues, besides the brief head of the biceps femoris. Plus a small proportion of the motion is created by the posterior fibers of the gluteus medius.
Hip extension is the motion of the femur backward when standing, like once you put together to kick a ball. Or, in asana apply, extension of the hip joint happens whenever you raise one leg up within the Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog Pose) variation typically referred to as Three-Legged Dog, or whenever you transfer into Urdhva Dhanurasana (Upward Bow Pose).
All of those actions are shortening contractions of the hip extensors. But the hip extensors are additionally lively when shifting into Uttanasana, which paradoxically is hip flexion. When bending ahead within the pose, you at the moment are shifting with gravity. When you start the pose by tipping the trunk barely ahead, gravity instantly begins to tug increasingly more of your physique downward towards the earth.
The hip extensors at the moment are present process a lengthening contraction. They are slowly letting you down, such as you would let somebody down with a rope over the sting of a cliff. The hip extensors are appearing like a brake on the physique to regulate the gradual descent into hip flexion. This is extra metabolically environment friendly; you want much less power to maneuver with gravity than towards it. In different phrases, through the use of the hip extensors, the physique makes use of much less power to create hip flexion. Without the lengthening contraction of the extensors, you’d merely crash down onto your legs or onto the ground as a result of the drive of gravity is pulling you down.
Just the other happens within the hip extensors with Salamba Sirsasana (Supported Headstand). Think about coming into Sirsasana with each legs straight. You put together for the pose in hip flexion, together with your arms and head in Headstand place, and your weight on the balls of your ft. You slowly transfer into the pose by creating hip extension towards gravity as you raise each legs up, stacking your ft over your hips. You are shifting into hip extension towards gravity and subsequently the hip extensors are creating the motion.
When you come out of Sirsasana, you’re shifting into hip flexion however the hip extensors are nonetheless controlling the motion. They are present process a lengthening contraction to sluggish the descent towards the drive of gravity and to guard you from damage.
Whether you’re training or educating yoga, it may be troublesome to maintain all of the actions of muscular tissues on the forefront of your thoughts. But if we start to assume first of the impact that gravity could be having on the physique in a pose, it’s simpler to shortly work out which muscle tissue may have to be stronger, and which could must be stretched.
In Sirsasana, for instance, it won’t cross your thoughts that the hamstrings have to be each stretched and powerful as a way to provide you with two straight legs. In Uttanasana it won’t look like the hamstrings are doing a lot of the work of making the pose, each as you descend and ascend. But the hip flexors in Uttanasana will not be creating hip flexion, although you find yourself in hip flexion. Because we swim in a sea of gravity, it’s certainly the hamstrings which are principally controlling each the ascent and descent.
Begin to note in your personal apply which muscular tissues are activated as you apply. Start slowly with the poses provided right here, after which start to watch your muscle motion in different poses. Not solely will this be an efficient option to research muscle actions, however it is going to show you how to recognize much more how wondrously delicate and clever all of our actions actually are.
About the Author
Judith Hanson Lasater, PhD, PT, has taught yoga since 1971. She is the writer of 9 books on yoga, together with Restore and Rebalance and Yogabody: Anatomy, Kinesiology, and Asana. For extra info, go to judithhansonlasater.com.
Take Judith Hanson Lasater’s Experiential Anatomy course, and put these rules into follow. Sign up for the web course in the present day at judithhansonlasater.com/yj.