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Sensational Yoga Poses

Experience your body, understand it, connect with it

The "sensational" in sensational yoga poses refers to the sensations that are driven by your muscles. They include muscle sensation, connective tissue tension, skin contact and pressure.

These are the sensations that can help you use your body more effectively in anything that you do while at the same time helping you to become present and actually enjoy the experience of your body.

Muscle driven sensation (the making of sensational yoga poses)

Feeling your body (sensing it) is a necessary part of learning to better control your body. You can use this control for dealing with some types of muscle and joint pain. You can use it to improve flexibility. You can also use it for better integration which can mean better. And you can use it to simply enjoy the experience of your body.

To get an overview of the topics covered by sensational yoga poses, scan this page, or use the TOC menu (the button that says: "Page table of contents"). It links to the different sections on this page.

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When practicing "breathing exercises" or working at "controlling your breath" it's your respiratory muscles, such as your respiratory diaphragm, your transverse abdominis and even your spinal erectors that are responsible for changing the volume of your lungs.

They are also responsible for generating the various sensations that are associated with breathing.

So for example, if you are told to breath into your belly, even though your lungs aren't in your belly, there are muscles that work together to cause your belly to expand and contract and in the process change the volume of your lungs.

The Breathing anatomy for yoga teachers page helps you to better understand your respiratory muscles so you can practice breathing intelligently. And it includes links to all pages that are breathing related.

Generally when I teach people how to improve posture, I don't focus on having them hold good posture (at least not initially). Instead I teach them rhythmic exercises that allow them to feel their posture. Good posture then becomes something you learn to feel and adjust, from the inside.

For improving both breath and posture, key elements can include learning to feel and control your spine, your ribcage and even your pelvis. That being said, one of the biggest things you can work on controlling to Improve your posture is the position of your head relative to your ribcage. You can read more about that in fixing forward head posture.

With appropriate body awareness control balance does not have to be specific to any particular activity.

The better you are at feeling your body and controlling it, the easier Learning how to balance becomes.

Proprioception is how our brain figures out how the parts of our body relate. It's driven by muscle activation and connective tissue tension.

If you focus on feeling your muscles activate and relax and if you learn to notice connective tissue tension you can get a better feel for your body. And in addition, you can use this awareness to help pull you into the flow state.

Simply put, the flow state is where we aren't thinking. Instead we are focused on what is happening now. It's another term for being present or being in the zone. How do proprioception and flow relate? Proprioception is one method for making it easier to get into the flow state.

Another key element is knowing. And that's part of what I talk about in the book Know to Flow.

A tensegrity is a system (or network) of tension elements that distributes tension, making the system as a whole both resilient and responsive.

A simple way to think about a tensegrity structure is that it is instantly responsive. So that it can respond instantly it has to "sense" change the moment it happens.

Tensegrity could be thought of as a goal when moving our body or using it to do yoga poses.

Proprioception isn't the only way of getting into the flow. Learn more about why we can flow and the importance of the opposite mind state, thinking, in the page about becoming more conscious and also the page about getting into the flow.

Whether or not exist, meridians and chakras can be a useful tool for exploring your body and even your mind and emotional state. Rather than mystical "woo" they offer useful tools for helping you to understand your body and mind and can even offer nice analogies for guiding how you learn and use your body. Read more about Meridians and Chakras

Sensational yoga anatomy is anatomy from the perspective of the user/operator.

Rather than viewing the anatomy of a body lying on a slab, these anatomy discussions focus learning anatomy in a way that we can directly feel and experience it in our own body.

We can still use traditional anatomy as a roadmap with the understanding that because we are learning our own body, we aren't limited to things like the anatomical position.

And while names of muscles are important, that is secondary to feeling the actual muscles in our own body.

How do joints and muscles work together? When we understand this we can go about learning to use our body more effectively. We can also use this understanding for dealing with some types of pain as well as for helping to improve flexibility as well as applying strength with less effort (but more "coordinated" effort). Learn more about joints and muscles. (Includes links to all joint and muscle related articles on this website).

The adductors (and other inner thigh muscles) can work to adduct or pull the leg inwards relative to the hip bone. They can also work to extend the hip, flex it and even rotate it.

For more on this read adductors and inner thigh muscles.

Running down the back of the thigh thighs, the hamstrings work on both the hip joint and the knee joint. The can bend the hip backwards (extending it) or resist it bending forwards (hip flexion). They can bend the knee, or resisting it being straightened. And they can help control knee rotation.

Knee rotation is where the lower leg bones rotate relative to the femur or vice versa.

There are other muscles that help control knee rotation, and some of these as well as the hamstrings are grouped together in the long hip muscles article.

For more on the hamstrings, read the hamstrings.

The hip flexors are muscles that work to bend the hips forwards. There are hip flexors that work only on the hip joint. There are also hip flexors like the sartorius, rectus femoris and tensor fascia latae that work on the hip and the knee. Two of these long hip flexor muscles also help to control knee rotation.

For more on the hip flexors and related links, read the hip flexors article.

The psoas is also a hip flexor muscle, though unlike the hip flexors mentioned so far, it attaches to the lumbar vertebrae. A lot of people seem to have problems with a tight psoas. However, one thing you might want to do before you do a psoas release is figure out why your psoas is tight in the first place. Likewise with doing psoas stretches. Figure out what is causing your psoas to be tight in the first place.

For more about the psoas, visit the psoas page.

One muscle that seems to offer a lot of bang for your buck if you learn to feel and control it is the transverse abdominis.

Because it attaches to the ASICs (the front points of the hip crest) as well as the inguinal ligaments, it works with either the pelvic floor muscles and or the lumbar multifidus to help to stabilize the sacroiliac joints.

Because it also attaches to the two sides of the bottom half of the ribcage it can also work with the serratus posterior inferior to stabilize the thoracolumbar junction.

If you want better breath control, working on your transverse abdominis, particularly for active exhales can help.

And as an added bonus, if you activate your transverse abdominis, you'll often get oblique and rectus abdominis activation for free.

Fixing collapsed arches so that I could pass the army medical was perhaps my first taste of muscle control. I've written about the exercises I used to fix collapsed arches and improve foot control in foot exercises.

The feet (as well as the ankles and shins) can also be important for dealing with some knee problems. As an example, for dealing with IT band knee pain I found that stabilizing the heel helped.

Foot problems can also have an affect on the hips (or maybe it's the other way around). To understand why this is so it helps to understand that the knee can rotate and that knee rotation is controlled from above in part by the long hip muscles. These muscles attach from the hip bone to the lower leg bones and for them to work effectively they need either for the hip bone to be stabilized or the lower leg bones to be stabilized. That's were the muscles of the foot can come into play.

When dealing with knee pain, or simply working to strengthen the knees, a key element of understanding is that the knees can rotate.

Muscles that can help control knee rotation include the long hip muscles.

For dealing with some types of knee pain, learning to control the long hip flexor muscles can be especially helpful. These same muscles can also be helpful for improving hamstring flexibility when doing active stretching.

Visit the knees page for more on the knees.


The hip bone is one of the largest bones in the body. And it's located quite close to the general position of the bodys center of gravity.

I say "general" position because our center of gravity shifts relative to our body depending on the relative position of our limbs and whether or not the connections between them are relaxed or engaged.

And so an important element of learning how to balance is feeling your center of gravity.

Another important element of balance can be controlling our hip bones which together with the sacrum form the pelvis.

In terms of balancing, controlling the hip bones generally means controlling how they relate to our feet or whatever it is that we are trying to balance on (say the knees for example.)

But hip bone control can also be used to alleviate pain because it gives the muscles that attach to it a stable foundation from which to work. And that includes muscles like the long hip muscles. These are muscles that attach from the corner points of the hip bone to the inside and outside of the lower leg bones. It also includes muscles that work on or affect the lower back including the intrinsic back muscles like the spinal erectors and the multifidus.

So if you suffer from lower back pain, one place to look is the hip joint and in particular the hip bone.

One landmark that can be very helpful for feeling and controlling the hip joint is the hip crease. The hip crease is the line that separates the inner thigh from the lower belly. The Chinese call it "the kua".

It's formed by the underlying inguinal ligament which in turn is formed by the tendon like extension of the external oblique muscle (the aponeurosis of the external oblique). The inguinal ligament runs from the ASIC (the point of the hip crest) to the pubic synthesis or pubic bone.

Two distinct sensations can be felt at the hip crease. One of those is opening the hip crease, which you can experience by externally and strongly rotating the thigh outwards. The other is closing the hip crease which you can experience from the opposite action, rotating the thigh inwards. Both of these sensations can be used as references for feeling and controlling the hip crease as well as the hip joint.

The SI joints are where the hip bones connect to the sacrum. The SI joints allows some slight movement between the hip bones and the sacrum. SI joint movements can be used to lead spinal back bending and forward bending. For example, if bending backwards at the spine and the hips, you could start with a spinal back bend beginning at the SI joints, and then from there increase the back bend of the hips.

The SI joints can be stabilized together (both sides at once) via the pelvic floor muscles, lower transverse abdominis and lumbar multifidus.

Single sided SI joint stability can be created by stabilizing the hip bone. Read more about the sacroiliac joints.

Perhaps one of the most important elements of the body that you can learn to feel and control is the spine. An important point about the spine is that it includes the sacrum and tailbone, both of which are easy to think of as part of the pelvis.

To get a feel for your spinal column a good place to start is with the intrinsic back muscles. This includes the spinal erectors but it also includes the smaller spinal muscles like the multifidus.

You can use these spinal back bending exercises to get a feel for your spinal erectors and other intrinsic back muscles.

For more on the spinal column itself visit the spinal anatomy page.

The lower back page includes links to articles on the SI Joints as well as the lower part of the ribcage. If you want to strengthen your lower back, improve flexibility, or deal with low back pain, it helps to have a thorough understanding of all of these and how they relate.

If you are working with low back pain, then something you might want to look at is improving your hip control while standing on one leg. For more on that read standing hip exercises.

The Thoracolumbar fascia is a structure that more or less unifies the lower back. It includes the low back, SI joints and thoracolumbar junction (where the lumbar spine meets the ribcage).

The primary purpose of the ribcage may not be for protection but to serve as a foundation so that we can use our arms (and legs) effectively. The flexibility of the ribcage can allow us to apply the strength of our arms in a variety of positions. If you want stronger (or more flexible) shoulders and arms, one place to start is with better awareness and control of your ribcage.

Since the ribcage is influenced by (and has an influence on) head and neck posture, part of learning to feel and control your ribcage can include learning to feel and control how your head and neck relate to your ribcage. To get a taste of that read fixing forward head posture.

When working on your shoulders and arms, whether to increase flexibility or strength, one of the first places you can start is with the aforementioned ribcage and neck.

When you have a stable ribcage and neck, muscles that work from these can work to effectively control and stabilize the shoulder blades. From there your shoulder and arm muscles have a foundation from which to apply the hands.

For more on this visit and links to related articles the shoulders and arms page.

We tend to think of muscles as things that move our body and stabilize it. But muscles also allow us to feel our body. Without muscles we wouldn't be able to move our body, and thus being able to feel your body, or proprioceive it, would useless.

And so it makes sense that the same things that move our body also allow us to feel it. And to that end yoga for strength is as much about learning to feel your body so that you can use it effectively, as it is about strengthening muscles.

Want some general tips for improving flexibility? Check out flexibility basics to learn about different types of stretching techniques and the basics of stretching effectively to increase flexibility.

Note that you can also stretch just to feel good. In either case it can help to have an understanding of how to stretch.

If you want to stretch to improve flexibility then check out yoga for flexibility for links to stretches by body part. Most of the stretching exercises include some element of muscle control to make the stretch more effective.

Note that relaxing a muscle is just as much a part of muscle control as activating a muscle. In either case an important factor is giving the muscle you are trying to stretch a fixed or stable end point.

For one possible routine for working on general flexibility check out stretching for flexibility.

And don't forget to visit yoga for flexibility.

What are some basic principles you can apply to doing any yoga pose? One is to create a stable foundation. Another is to work on creating length. And yet another is to know what you are trying to do in the pose. For more on these check out the yoga poses basics section.

One of the original ideas behind sensational yoga poses was that of using yoga poses to help you learn to better feel and control your body so that you can use it well in anything that you do. By learning to feel your body as you use it you can enjoy the journey as you work towards whatever it is that you are trying to do. And that means that you are more likely to enjoy reaching your goal once you get there.

Note that one of the main drivers for me learning to feel and control my own body was the various problems I've had, from flat feet, knee pain and lower back pain. But one thing that keeps me at feeling and controlling my body is that it feels good.

Rather that talking about one way to do a particular pose, the instructions for yoga poses on this website aim to show you ways of experiencing your body in each yoga pose. So rather than "the correct way" to do yoga poses, what this site aims for is to teach you how to feel your body while doing yoga poses so that on any given day you can find the best way to do a pose that works for you.

For more on yoga poses read: yoga poses.

For the sequence of yoga poses that got me into yoga read ashtanga yoga poses.

And for more detailed instructions on feeling, controlling and enjoying your body, visit the learn2understand page to find out more about the various muscle control courses I've created.

These online courses can make it easier for you to get into the flow while at the same time helping you to learn your body.

For a general practice for learning to think with greater flexibility (while also practice getting into the flow state), check out learning the basics of the dance of shiva. When I first started teaching this practice I called it "conscious movement" simply because people tended to think it was going to be a dance class. I called it conscious movement because it is actually about being conscious of movement.

This is made easy with the dance of shiva because the arm movements and positions are simple and clearly defined. And because of that, they are easy to memorize. And that's a key step towards getting into the flow when doing the dance of shiva. Read more about this practice in learning the basics of the dance of shiva.

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courses in muscle control so that you can better feel, control and understand your joints, muscles and connectivet tissue structures.
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