tap into your root

Despite fighting off a hacking cough and raspy voice, I gathered my strength and took part in a workshop this weekend at Trinity Yoga put on by the lovely Jay Fields.

Jay Fields, graceandgrityoga.com

Jay has been one of my most inspiring teachers, and really admire her honest approach to practice and teaching… and geaky love of anatomy and the human body, like me! Jay’s new endeavour, Grace and Grit Yoga, was launched this summer and aims to create space for rawness and realness in the art of teaching yoga so as to create more growth, integrity and humanity in the yoga community. Check it out at HERE!

This weekend we focused on the pelvic floor, or mula bandha (moo-lah bahn-dah), which is the engagement of the energy of the first chackra, muladhara.

mula bandha is a lock, meaning it helps to contain the flow of energy that leaves and enters our body. This area of the body drives our basic needs, creativity, sex and is our  source of power. At its most basic, mula bandha is a muscular lifting-up of the pelvic floormula bandha is engaged using the perineum muscle, at the base of the cervix in women and prostate in men, the movement of the pelvic diaphragm. Tapping into this engagement helps us integrate power and energy, both in our yoga postures and life, between our lower limbs and torso.

Here are a great hip openers to start working into this area of the body:

thread-the-needle or figure-4

Next, engagement of the abdominal muscles is very important to creating a stable pelvic floor… firstly transverse abdominus which is a big thin sheath that lies deep in your abdomen and wraps horizontally around your torso (and is used in coughing, which I’m good at now!).

Also, pyramidalis, which is a small anterior pyramid-shaped muscle that lies between the top ridge of the pubic bone to the navel. engaging it helps flatten the sacrum and gets rid of sway back.

… and what better way to engage these muscles, than plank!

Press your outer arms inward and firm the bases of your index fingers into the floor. Firm your shoulder blades against your back, then spread them away from the spine. Also spread your collarbones away from the sternum.

Press your front thighs up toward the ceiling, but resist your tailbone toward the floor as you draw your pubic bone to your navel (using pyramidalis!). Lift the base of the skull away from the back of the neck and look straight down at the floor, keeping the throat and eyes soft.

So, on a physical level, practicing mula bandha draws your attention to the support provided by the musculature of the pelvis. This increases the stability of the pelvis, and, thus a safe environment for spinal movement. mula bandha strengthens the solid foundation of the pelvis and the yoga posture, but it also lifts and compresses the  lower abdominal region and helps facilitate movement. ultimately, mula bandha creates a power, strength lightness and fluidity.

If you’re interested in more, there is a great article written by Jivamukti founder David Life on mula bandha in your yoga practice (see here). much love.

love your shoulders

i had another amazing workshop with the lovely Jay Fields (see earlier post on standing stronger & softer) at Trinity Yoga Centre.

Jay Fields (revelationaryliving.com)

This session focused on Downward Dog… a pose commonly used to visualize hatha yoga. It was an opportunity to explore the shoulder girdle, psoas, muscle of the lower legs and feet – and generally feel the interconnectedness of the body. It’s amazing to stretch the bottom of your feet and see it translate to spaciousness in your downward dog!

One aspect that resonated with me was the feeling of “intimacy with your posture”… the more you are intimate with someone, the more you love ALL their parts. This translates to your yoga practice as well, the more you “get to know” your posture, the more you begin to love the softness and openness, as well as the struggles.

a nice big yoga hug

the shoulder girdle is amazing in that the clavicle, scapula and humerus are only connected to the axial skeleton (spine) at the sternum! and what do you think happens when we have a stress-response… we hunch forward to find/protect that stable spot.

the shoulder girdle

we explored “putting our girdle on” or creating a stable shoulder, as well as stretching the wrist and forearms (which Jay so warmly referred to as “throwup series” because of the intense stretch and nerves) and lower legs (which, surprisingly, impact your downward dog more than you would think).

so, i put my “girdle on”, firmly planted my hands/fingers, softened my hip flexors, engaged core, moved inner thighs back, and released my heels towards floor… what do you think?

after 3 hours of working my TIGHT shoulders...

now, working towards strong stable shoulders

thank you Jay for, again, bringing more openness to my yoga practice. can’t wait to see you again in the fall! much love.

p.s. all this new knowledge about how to stretch and strengthen the shoulder girdle will really come in handy for paddling the Bowron Lakes next weekend 🙂