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  • Beginning a Yoga Practice

    2018 10 01
    Beginning a yoga practice. Neil Keleher. Sensational Yoga Poses.

    Someone sent me a note about this website. "It's got lots of information, but there is so much information that as a beginner they found it overwhelming."

    That made sense as Sensational Yoga Poses was designed to make it easier for people to find the information that they are looking for.

    I've redesigned the layout several times over with that end in mind. However that doesn't really help you if you are a beginner. As a beginner you don't necessarily know what you are looking for. So as a beginner, where do you start?

    If You Have a Problem, Start There

    A first step to beginning a yoga practice may be to decide what it is that you are trying to do. With problems, i.e. knee pain, deciding can be easy. Do yoga poses and exercises and routines that help you resolve knee pain.

    If You Have a Goal Pose, Work Towards That

    If you want to be able to do the splits then do a routine that helps you work towards that.

    Start with a Set Sequence of Poses

    If your goal, your reasons for doing yoga is a little less refined (you just want to do it) then you can start of with a set sequence of yoga poses, like Ashtanga. At least there you don't need a teacher to tell you what poses to do. You just get on with doing the practice (assuming you've memorized it first!!!)

    Or Start by Using Yoga to Learn Your Body

    Another approach is to use yoga to help you learn your body, to develop body awareness.

    Here the idea is not just to do yoga poses, but to focus on feeling your body and controlling it within the context of various yoga poses. The benefit of this method is that you learn some basic yoga poses, but you also learn how to better feel your body and control it at the same time. With this sort of focus, the muscle control and proprioception that you develop can then be used in anything that you do, including other yoga poses.

    And that's the rationale behind the set of Yoga Workshop Videos below.

    But first, what is muscle control and how does it relate to proprioception?

    Learning Muscle Control and Proprioception

    Muscle control is more than just turning muscles on and off. It also involves feeling your muscles turn on and off.

    Muscle activation creates two types of sensation.

    • One is the sensation of the muscle working. This is a "strong" sensation, the sensation of work being done.
    • Another sensation results from the tension muscle activation creates in connective tissue like ligaments and tendons. Tension can also occur in the connective tissue within the belly of a muscle.

    Both types of sensation help to give you a sense of where your body is in space. Connective tissue tension in particular helps you to feel how your bones relate to each other.

    So that you can feel how you relate to the earth, another important sensation is pressure. Generally you can notice differences in pressure where ever parts of your body presses into the earth. You can also notice changes in pressure where parts of your body come in contact with each other.

    Break it Down

    How do you go about learning all of this?

    My suggestion is by focusing on little bits at a time. By practicing a single type of action in a variety of different yoga poses or exercises you can get comfortable enough with that action enough that you don't have to think about how to do it in order to do it.

    You can then work on refining the action.

    The goal isn't to learn just one single type of action, but to learn a variety of actions individually so that you can then experiment with combinations of these actions.

    The goal of these actions is to help you feel your body and control it as fully as possible. The better you can feel your body and control it the better you can use it. But rather than having to think about how to use your body, a well thought out training program teaches you to feel and control the parts of your body without having to think about how to do it.

    And that's the mindset behind all the set of Yoga Workshop Videos below.

    Together they help you to improve muscle control and proprioception.

    Each one focuses on a particular action, the essence of which I've tried to capture in its title.

    The programs are listed in a recommended learning order.

    Yoga Workshop Videos For Muscle Control and Proprioception

    1 Action Vectors

    Action Vectors is a fancy name for using your connection with the ground to push parts of your body in a clearly defined direction, hence the word vector.

    While you are using muscle control, here the focus is on learning to feel parts of your body, particularly your pelvis, moving with respect to your foundation.

    This is a very basic sort of awareness that alot of people don't have. But it's easy to learn and that's part of the purpose of this workshop.

    Some people, may find that these actions help improve to improve flexibility. That's not the case with everybody and I wouldn't suggest the technique taught in this workshop solely for trying to get more flexible. However, one very large benefit of this technique is that you can learn to use it to move your body with minimal effort.

    As an example, you can use it to lift your body with greater ease into chaturunga dandasana (yoga push), and some versions of side plank. You can also use it in various versions of downward dog.

    Read more on Action Vectors.

    2 Foot Exercises

    In the Foot Exercises workshop the focus is on on activating your feet and ankles, making them feel stiff, or better yet, strong.

    Foot activation can often be one of the simplest things you can do to alleviate knee pain, particularly in the types of poses where you grab a foot.

    Foot activation is also one way to help anchor the muscles of your legs. By making your feet and ankles stiff you help to stabilize the foot and lower leg and that gives an anchor point for muscles that attach between the lower leg and the hip bone, as well as the muscles that attach from the lower leg bones to the femur.

    But in addition to that, foot activation makes it easier for you to feel your feet and ankles. (And as a side note, you'll also practice activating your hands).

    One of my students told me that these exercises reminded her of Chinese Medicine techniques.

    3 Frictional Resistance

    Frictional Resistance could be thought of as opposite to the action used in vectored yoga poses. Instead of, for example, allowing your hips to move in response to the action of your foot, the focus here is on resisting the push. This is an especially helpful method for turning muscles on. And so you could think of this action as a strengthening action.

    If you have trouble feeling your body, particularly if you are flexible but not strong (i.e. you can drop into the splits easily but you can't control your descent into the splits using only the muscles of your legs) then the actions in this yoga workshop video will not only help you turn muscles on, they will also help you learn to feel your body.

    Be prepared to work a little bit harder doing the actions in this yoga workshop video. But also be prepared to gradually activate your muscles and gradually relax them. Part of the pracitce here is learning to smoothly ramp up the application of strength and smoothly ramping it back down.

    Note, the more you resist when doing these actions, the stronger you can get.

    In this case, "Resistance is not futile".

    Further note: since friction is a requirement for the action in this video, make sure that you have a non-slip surface to work on.

    Read more on Frictional Resistance.

    4 Focused Floor Pressing

    Where in the previous workshop the focus was on resisted pushing, which relies on friction, here the focus is on pushing down into the floor.

    Here too the idea is to resist with the idea that whatever you are pressing into the floor makes an impression. You could think of this as "Piercing the Floor".

    One of the advantages of this practice is that you only require one point of contact with the floor. But it can be used with multiple points of contact.

    5 Muscle Control

    This is a tricky program to teach, in part because it involves the ability to switch your references for movement. And it may mimic more closely the way that your brain controls your body, without reference to external references, but instead, solely based on muscle activation and the feel of that muscle activation and the feel of the tension it generates in related connected tissue.

    One advantage of this technique is that it tends to focus your attention on body parts that you might normally forget about in particular poses. Generally, we tend to focus on the part of the body that can do the moving in a particular pose or position. Here the focus is more on the part that can't move.

    In addition, you'll also learn direct muscle control. That's the ability to turn particular muscles on without a conscious movement intent. The advantage of being able to do this is that you'll be able to experiment with muscle control a lot easier in different poses.

    Read more on Muscle Control.

    Packages

    Beginners MCP Package 1

    Action Vectors and
    Frictional Resistance (MCP1 and 3):

    These two programs can be a great way to begin learning your body.

    • Action Vectors teaches you how to feel your body moving in response to pushing against the floor.
    • Frictional Resistance gives you a feel for how your muscles work when pushing the floor in different directions.

    Beginners MCP Package 2

    Action Vectors, Foot Exercises and
    Frictional Resistance (MCP1, 2 and 3):

    With the addition of Foot Exercises, you'll learn how to stiffen or stabilize your foot and ankle. This can be useful in combination with other techniques like Frictional Resistance. But it also helps you to become more aware of your feet, and your legs in general.

    Beginners MCP Package 3

    Action Vectors, Foot Exercises
    Frictional Resistance Focused Floor Pressing
    Muscle Control (MCP1, 2, 3, 4, 5):

    Focused floor pressing offers a different way of interacting with the floor. Where frictional resistance requires two points of contact, this technique requires only one.

    Muscle control offers the advantage of not needing to use the floor at all. Instead you'll learn to control your muscles directly. And you'll learn how to combine muscle control with a movemet intent.

    Buy Package $48/$58/$120

    For more package options, and for more on why muscle control is important, you can also read the Mindful Muscle Control page. More Muscle Control Package Options are located near the bottom of the page.