Had a great class last night themed around “Being Centered”. I asked the class to think about this in the physically (focusing on strengthening your core muscles, the center of support for your entire body) as well as conceptually (when life distracts us, how do we find our way back to center, how do we find that balanced way to give out energy evenly, still keeping some to ourselves?) I shared a quote from Lao Tzu, founder of Taoism:
“At the center of your being you have the answer.”
We also talked about engaging the middle body lock or “uddiyana bandha”. In yoga, there are three locks in the body you can hold (root, middle and neck) to support yourself in any poses but especially something really requiring focused integration, like headstand. That was a fun exercise to demonstrate for class while talking! Check out the yogi in the photo to the left. It’s easier to do while standing, and you definitely want to have an empty stomach. Begin standing, take the feet about 3 feet apart, feet turned out and bend the knees into a wide plié or “horse stance”. Place hands palms down on the upper thighs and press downward. Exhale all your breath out through the mouth, lift the rib cage and suck your stomach muscles in and up, creating a hollow bowl in your midsection. I can only hold it for a few seconds before I have to release. Repeat 3 times. I can sometimes do a really exaggerated version of this while lying on my back, creating a very distinct “column” down the center, like you see in the photo. It’s a little bizarre, but it does wonders! It pretty much cured the last of my menstrual cramps and lower back pain.
Anyway, the class I designed seemed to flow very nicely. I know the students enjoyed it a lot and I came home free of back pain and definitely ready to sleep. Sometimes I think some good core work in a yoga sequence is a great way to burn off energy and settle down the nervous system. I’m still taking note of how I feel after other classes focused on the back or legs, not quite as relaxed later…and often rather sore.
You can download the class sequence here. Just for fun, I marked the exercises in red that I either 1) forgot to teach 2) we just realistically couldn’t do, based on time and level of students present. Ask any yoga teacher: we can never get through 100% of what we had hoped to teach! Also, the “core sequence on back” is described in abbreviated terms for my own purposes, so let me explain a bit more here…
1) knee-elbow oblique crunches: lie on back, knees bent, feet raised, interlace hands behind head and lift up the upper back/shoulders off the floor in a abdominal crunch (lower back stays rooted into the floor!) inhale, twist right, bringing outside of left elbow to outside of right knee, exhale, twist left, bringing outside of right elbow to outside of left knee. Repeat as many times as you can in 1 minute.
2) block pulses: still lying on the back, place a cork block between your knees and straighten the legs. The legs will need to be engaged to hold the block in place. Interlace hands behind head and lift up the upper back/shoulders off the floor in a abdominal crunch. Do 15 crunches.
3) frog pulses:still lying on the back, bend the knees to the chest and take the legs as far apart as they will comfortably go. Interlace hands behind head and lift up the upper back/shoulders off the floor in a abdominal crunch. Do 15 crunches.
4) twisted root, still lying on the back, start with left leg on bottom and wrap the right leg around it in eagle pose fashion (see photo at right). Interlace hands behind head and lift up the upper back/shoulders off the floor in a abdominal crunch. Do 15 crunches. Repeat with legs twisted the other way.