Emma Lovell Yoga

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Category Archives stretching

Jules Mitchell

These two podcasts from Ariana Yoga are really worth a listen.  Both are interviews with Jules Mitchell, who inspires a lot of my own teaching.  Among other things, she discusses what we are actually doing in yoga, stretching, injuries, and biomechanics.   Click here for the first podcast- Jules’ suggestion of the benefits of sometimes teaching  ‘mis-alignment’ in yoga practice inspires next week’s classes.  If this sparks your interest then you can listen to Jules’ more recent interview here.

Posted on by Emma

‘There’s a simple movement that we’ve all been doing since the beginning of time. It is nature’s way of restoring full muscle function and length to a muscle and it is much more effective than stretching. It is called PANDICULATION. One could say that pandiculation is like a “software update” for your brain: it “re-boots” the brain’s sensation and control of the muscles every time you do it.

If you have ever watched a cat or dog as it gets up from rest you know that it arches its back, then drops its belly and curves downward lengthening its legs, back, and belly in a full body “yawn.” Animals aren’t stretching. They’re pandiculating. After it does this simple maneuver, it jumps off the couch and goes running off to play. Do you remember when you used to do that? You’d wake up, gently tighten your arms and legs inward, feel a yawn coming on, and then reach your arms above your head, then reach one leg down and then the other. You would first contract your muscles, then lengthen them, then completely relax.

There are three elements to a pandiculation:

  • A voluntary contraction into the muscles…
  • Followed by a slow lengthening…
  • And a complete relaxation.

This action, much like a pleasant yawn, re-sets both muscle length and function at the brain level; it “reminds” our muscles that they don’t have to stay stuck in a contracted state.  Pandiculation “turns on a light” in the sensory motor system and improves proprioception, which helps you sense your own body more accurately. When you contract a muscle tighter than its present contraction rate, the brain (the command center of the muscles) receives strong sensory feedback, which allows it to “refresh” its sensation of the muscles. By slowly lengthening from that initial contraction, the brain can then lengthen the muscle past the point of its former, tighter length and into a new, fuller range. The result is a more relaxed muscle and greater voluntary muscle control and coordination.’ From here


Emotions, back pain, yoga

We’ve been looking at the low back this week in class, exploring how limited mobility in certain areas of the body can affect other areas of hyper-mobility, especially with regards to the low back: ‘the body’s natural tendency is to continually move in the places where motion is already easy’.  Here’s a great article by Jenni Rawlings explaining this, with a few helpful tips when back bending.

Another interesting watch is this video from Leslie Kaminoff looking at the relationship between emotions, back pain and yoga: ‘Emotional suppression does not occur in a physical vacuum, you do it with your body, and your body is where you’re feeling the pain.’

Found here

More on stretching…

Another interesting article to add to the ‘stretching’ debates:

‘Even the stretched out yogi who can put their hands on the floor can have areas of the hamstrings that are painful and held very tight.  Everything around that tight spot is so loose and limber to allow the movement in the joint, but the careful ‘combing through’ the tissue I do as a bodyworker reveals these islands of supreme tension within the ocean of availability.’

Full article here


Appreciating the feet

It’s been all about the feet in class this week.  We’ve been looking at foot and ankle alignment, as well as stretching the muscles around the feet (which can get surprisingly tight).  Here’s a video with some great exercises for foot health:


We often neglect the poor feet, so every so often it’s nice to appreciate what they allow us to do in daily life, and in yoga- balance, strength, stability.

Look after your feet- Give yourself a weekly/daily foot massage.  Put your feet up:

Let go of your toes- gripping the toes could be a sign you are holding something somewhere else in the body

so just stay…and exhale

until the message crawls to the feet

and the gripping goes away

(From: breath:the essence of yoga)

Use your feet- try to walk barefoot as much as you can to allow the foot and ankle the space to move, free from shoes.  Walk on uneven surfaces- when we’re not sitting, most of our day is spent walking on flat, even ground which means we’re never really using the ankle joint and muscles in the feet to their full capabilities (for more information on this, see the amazing Katy Bowman’s work)- stray off the path, instead of steps walk uphill, walk downhill, and don’t forget to squat (see here for how to perfect your squat)!

Jules Mitchell: The Science of Stretching

This interview is a great listen if you’re interested in the science and myths of stretching:

‘We want to be stiff- just stiff in all ranges of motion, not just one range of motion. In a full range of motion “stiff” makes us powerful beings and now we have a full range.’

‘This idea that the more flexible we are the better off we are- when in reality those people have more trouble “holding themselves together”.’

Here’s Jules Mitchell’s blog for further information on her work