‘Raise your left arm into the air. Great. Now check and see if the shoulder joint also went into the air. Did it? Now, put the arm and the shoulder back down and raising your arm without taking your shoulder with it. How? By thinking “pull the left shoulder blade down as I lift my arm.” Why? Because arm movement should happen mostly at the shoulder joint and not so much between the shoulder and the neck. For better long-term shoulder health (and less neck tension) maintain those finer motor skills (look Mom, I can move JUST my arm), which keep the smaller muscles in the shoulder joint more mobile and well-circulating and reduces the pull on the vertebrae of the neck. How’d you do? Try the right side too!’ Katy Bowman, from blog post ‘Want Traps with that?’ Full article here
We’ve been fine tuning our arm and shoulder movement this week and trying to reduce neck tension in the process. If you want to practice what we did in class at home then take a look at Katy Bowman’s ‘Alignment Snacks‘ which are roughly 20-30 minutes sessions on different areas of the body. I recommend ‘Rhomboid Madness’ and ‘A Real Pain in the Neck’ if you want to repeat some of the exercises we did this week.
Also take a look at these two videos from Jill Miller’s Yoga Up®:
‘A lot of our days are spent with just the hands and the face, and if we are not careful, this behavior becomes ingrained. In other words, we drop out of the felt sense of the rest of the body and become ‘just faces and hands’. This is happening more and more as we become so deeply immersed in a digital world which prioritizes eyes , ears and hands….It’s no wonder the world is becoming more and more heady and less and less body.’ Body Intelligent Meditation Ged Sumner.
Remember this guy?
This week’s class has been about bringing us back into our bodies as a whole, rather than the bits we are aware of most (see image above). I recommend reading Ged Sumner’s Body Intelligent Meditation book for a further understanding on embodiment and coming into the body as a whole, and for numerous meditation exercises on being present in the body.
Here‘s a nice article by Bo Forbes on the importance of embodiment and interoception (a sense of what’s happening inside our body) in yoga:
‘What’s the relevance of interoceptive awareness to our health and well-being? It turns out that many illnesses—anxiety, depression, gut disorders, eating disorders, and more—are diseases of disembodiment. In these illnesses, awareness becomes skewed. In chronic pain syndromes, for example, we tend to predict what we’ll encounter, and to remain there ruminating about it.’ Bo Forbes Interoception: Mindfulness in the Body. The Continuum of Embodiment
Grab a cup of tea, take a seat (or squat) and have a listen to this fascinating podcast from Joanne Avison on Liberated Body. This will change the way you think about the body and how you move. Here’s the synopsis:
Joanne Avison, author of Yoga, Fascia, Anatomy, and Movement, talks with me about fascia and why it has been overlooked historically (which includes a fascinating tour through the history of anatomy and its relationship to the Catholic church), how we form embryologically and what implications that has for biomechanics vs. biotensegrity (or biomechanics vs. biomotion). We also discuss what that changes when we have to reconfigure the language we use about movement and the body.
Click here for the interview.
‘ It is not until you become physically aware of how your own health is entirely reliant on the health of the great web of life, that ideas such as deep ecology absorb themselves into your arteries, sinews and bones.
If the air that filled my lungs became polluted, if the nutrients in the soil that produced my food became depleted, or if the spring water which made up 60% of my body became poisoned, my own health would suffer accordingly. This seems like common sense, but you wouldn’t think so by observing the way we treat the natural world today. Over time, even the boundaries of what I considered to be “I” became less and less clear.’ taken from ‘Living without money: What I learned’ by Mark Boyle, aka ‘the Moneyless Man’. Full article here
‘In the first movement, our infancy as a species, we felt no separation from the natural world around us. Trees, rocks, and plants surrounded us with a living presence as intimate and pulsing as our own bodies. In that primal intimacy, which anthropologists call “participation mystique,” we were as one with our world as a child in the mother’s womb.
Then self-consciousness arose and gave us distance on our world. We needed that distance in order to make decisions and strategies, in order to measure, judge and to monitor our judgments. With the emergence of free-will, the fall out of the Garden of Eden, the second movement began — the lonely and heroic journey of the ego. Nowadays, yearning to reclaim a sense of wholeness, some of us tend to disparage that movement of separation from nature, but it brought us great gains for which we can be grateful. The distanced and observing eye brought us tools of science, and a priceless view of the vast, orderly intricacy of our world. The recognition of our individuality brought us trial by jury and the Bill of Rights.
Now, harvesting these gains, we are ready to return. The third movement begins. Having gained distance and sophistication of perception, we can turn and recognize who we have been all along. Now it can dawn on us: we are our world knowing itself. We can relinquish our separateness. We can come home again — and participate in our world in a richer, more responsible and poignantly beautiful way than before, in our infancy.’ Joanna Macy, World as Lover, World as Self
Rose window , Erin Case via here
‘…our bodies are casted not only by what we do, but by what we don’t do. For example, many of us have “casted” the ciliary muscles of our eyes through exceptionally high amounts of close-looking (computers, smart phones, iPads, books, the walls of our homes, offices and classrooms) and exceptionally low amounts of looking to great distances.’ Katy Bowman. See full article here for further explanation.
Here are a few exercises you might like to try to improve muscle weakness around the eyes and to help eyes strain.
For generations the people of Tibet have used natural methods to correct visual weakness and improve their eyesight. Chief among the methods employed has been the use of certain exercises which have proved useful over long periods of time. The figure on this chart was designed by Tibetan Lama Monks to give the necessary corrective exercises and stimulation to the muscles and nerves of the optical system. The eye Muscles focus similar to a camera shutter. The purpose of these exercises is to strengthen the eye muscles to improve vision. Practice a few minutes morning and evening and see if you notice its effects.
How to Use the Chart
These exercises are to be done without eyeglasses or contacts. Do each movement for 30 seconds while in a sitting position, spine straight and do not move the head side to side. Move only the eyes.
1.) With the palm of each hand cup both closed eyes to relax them.
2.) Move the eyes clockwise around the outer circle of dots
3.) Repeat this movement in a counterclockwise rotation
4.) Move the eyes back and forth between the dots at 2 and 8 o’clock
5.) Repeat this movement back and forth between dots at 4 and 10 o’clock
6.) Blink the eyes briefly and finish therapy with the palming same as exercise #1
Repeat exercises as desired being careful to avoid strain.
Here’s a couple of exercises from this article in Yoga International:
Rub your hands together for 10 to 15 seconds until they feel warm and energized. Then gently place your hands over your eyes, with the fingertips resting on the forehead, the palms over the eyes, and the heels of the hands resting on the cheeks. Don’t touch the eyeballs directly, but hollow the hands slightly and allow them to form a curtain of darkness in front of the eyes. Close your eyes, breathe deeply, and relax. Envision the eyes absorbing the darkness like a sponge, while also welcoming healing warmth and energy from the hands. Invite the eyes to grow soft and spacious, and enjoy this break from visual stimulation. Continue this palming action as long as it feels soothing—for just a few seconds or up to five minutes. When you are ready to emerge, gently remove the hands from the face and slowly open the eyes.
This palming technique can also be done after the eye exercises that follow to further rest the eyes.
2. Eye Rolling
Sit upright with a long spine and relaxed breath. Soften your gaze by relaxing the muscles in your eyes and face. Without moving your head, direct your gaze up toward the ceiling. Then slowly circle your eyes in a clockwise direction, tracing as large a circle as possible. Gently focus on the objects in your periphery as you do this, and invite the movement to feel smooth and fluid. Repeat three times, then close the eyes and relax. When you’re ready, perform the same eye-rolling movement three times in a counterclockwise direction.
As with all movements in the body, variation is key- try to vary your focus by spending some time looking at the furthest thing you can see in the distance, watch sunsets, sunrises, the horizon. Give your eyes a real break and test your proprioception by practicing a sun salutation with your eyes closed, try a balance with your eyes closed and notice the difference.
THERE IS NO RIGHT WAY TO MEDITATE: AND OTHER LESSONS (Adams Media, Nov 2015).
Images from here