Getting Started with Yoga poses
A first principles approach to learning your body so that you can better understand it as well as better experience it.
A first principles approach to learning your body so that you can better understand it as well as better experience it.
When working from first principles it helps to have a clear idea of what you are doing, what you are trying to achieve. One way to put it is "knowing the change that you are trying to create." You then can figure out the fundamental ideas and relationships that make that idea realizable, even in the face of constant change.
While learning "the fundamentals" can be challenging initially, it lays the foundation for greater freedom, greater flexibility, the ability to dance with change while at the same time creating the change you desire.
What are the the fundamentals?
The idea of this website is to help you learn your body by using yoga poses, exercises, stretches and other ways of experiencing your body as a context.
The yoga poses themselves are not really fundamental. They are simply a venue or context for learning to feel and control the things that are fundamental with regards to feeling and controlling your body. Those fundamental elements are muscles, bones, joints and the connective tissue strands that connect them all together.
Since this is our own body we are trying to learn to feel and control, the brain (or more generally our consciousness) is also important to consider.
It's important because it is where the knowing and understanding of these fundamentals is stored and accessed.
Brain aside, how do we go about experiencing our own anatomy?
A part of taking a first principles approach is understanding that you can break "systems" down in different ways depending on what you are trying to do. As such, when using anatomy as a guide to feeling and controlling our own body, we can approach anatomy differently than a doctor or massage therapist would. Where they tend to work on other bodies, we are working on feeling and controlling our own body.
A distinct advantage of this approach is that we can learn to access the sensors that are built into our own body. We can thus experience our anatomy directly.
A better understanding of our own body can be the result.
To guide your through the 500 odd pages of this website (or to help you find what you need to know easily) it can be extremely helpful to know why you are here.
What's the change that you are trying to create?
If you are trying to deal with some sort of pain or problem then the place to look is at the muscle or joint that is the approximate location of the pain or problem.
As with anything internet related, take it with a grain of salt, and use at your own risk. I should point out here that my methods for dealing with pain involve learning to deliberately activate or relax particular muscles both as a way to try to isolate a problem and to fix it.
Muscles are the fundamental units that drive movement and that actively power the ability for us to feel our body.
If you are getting into yoga (or are looking at this website) to find out more about stretching and getting more flexible then it again helps to be specific.
Do you have a particular set of muscles that you want to get more flexible? Here again the central tenet is that of using muscle control to improve flexibility. Check out the flexibility page or edge into the area of interest via the various muscle and joint links on this page.
Another potential area of interest may be in strengthening or working towards poses or actions that require strength. As when dealing with pain or trying to improve flexibility, muscle control is again the central tenet. You can look at body parts that you want to strengthen, or you can head to the strength or yoga pose pages to find the poses that you want to work towards.
If you are getting into yoga as a means of destressing or dealing with stress then one of the prime exercises for doing that is to focus on breathing.
Breathing is a muscle driven action and you can get similiar benefits to breathing if you focus on smoothly activating and contracting muscles, any muscles, not just your respiratory muscles.
So if you are interested just in breathing, then check out the section on breathing, or double the benefits and work on feeling and controlling your body via muscle control.
To that end (of feeling and controlling your body via muscle control), why not pick an area that interests you? If your stress is from doing things that you don't want to do or have to do, why don't focus on something that you do want to do as part of your destressing activities.
Pick one and start.
What if you just want a good routine to follow? One good place to start is with Ashtanga. It's a fixed routine. What I would suggest is that once you've learned the poses, start focusing on feeling your body while doing the poses. Muscle control again. Many of the poses from the ashtanga yoga series are covered on this website.
For an overall schema for sequencing poses or stretches, another possible starting point is the meridians. They can be used to guide how you stretch and strengthen.
For more general tips, some of the pages have mini-routines but for an overview of how to sequence without screwing yourself up in the process check out the post on counterposes first.
If you want a way to practice "thinking from first principles", I'd highly recommend practicing the dance of shiva.
I learned this practice from Andrey Lappa , but I teach it in a different way.
I should point out here that while I've been working from first principles in most areas of my life it was Andrey Lappa who opened the door for me in applying it to a yoga practice.
For a really good foundation in sequencing yoga poses and working on the body I'd highly recommend one of his universal freestyle yoga teacher trainings.
If you are interested in learning to feel and control your body so that you better understand it and can better use it, then check out the ebooks and videos below.
All ebooks are in pdf, epub and mobi formats (you get all three formats with a single purchase) unless otherwise specified.
The ebook Balance Basics explains balance in easy to digest chapters with simple yoga poses used as examples. Rather than accepting balance as something that you just practice while your body takes care of the details, balance is explained as something that you can understand and feel and consciously work towards.
Balance Basics ebook
Yoga Basics 1 focuses on simple pushing exercises to help you get a feel for how parts of your body react when not stabilized.
You'll learn how to work with minimal effort based on the above idea.
One reason for these exercises is that they help you to learn how to feel changes in the relationship between parts of your body. But they also help you to learn to feel the muscular actions that cause those changes in relationship.
Another benefit to these exercises is instead of thinking about whether or not you are doing the exercises correctly, you can focus on feeling your body as you do the exercises.
Yoga Basics 1 ebook
Building up from the material in Yoga Basics 1, this ebook yoga course includes a simple yoga training routine to help you learn to stabilize your body while doing simple pushing actions. It not only teaches you how to stabilize your body but also helps you to become more body aware and gives you simple mental cues for better control of your body.
Yoga Basics 2 ebook
Rather than just learning how to stretch and strengthen your shoulders, yoga for your shoulders includes simple instructions (and exercises) for learning to feel your shoulder blades (as well as your neck and ribcage). This then makes it easier to stretch and strengthen said body parts.
Yoga for shoulders ebook
The hip control guide is designed to help you feel and control the deeper "single joint" muscles of the hip joint. Rather than teaching you rules, it helps you to improve awareness and control of your hip muscles so that you can decide for yourself how to use them.
Repeating each of the muscle activations in a set sequence of poses you'll see how some muscle activations are effective in some poses and not in others. You'll then have a better idea of not only how to control your hip joints but also how you can explore other parts of your body.
Hip control Guide ebook
Even if you have no desire to do wheel pose, (It is a pose that people love to hate, or, they simply hate it!) Working Towards Wheel Pose (Basic Body Awareness Exercises to Make Difficult Poses Easier) is useful because it demonstrates a basic methodology for approaching difficult or challenging poses.
In the process, it teaches you some basic body awareness and muscle control for the spine, pelvis, hips and shoulder blades and it shows you how you can use the ground to create a reaction within your body.
The sum total of all of these actions and exercises are to help make it easier to work towards wheel poses (you also learn some ideas on how to counterpose) and they also, in the process, help you get a better feel for your body.
Working towards wheel pose ebook
The Dance of Shiva Ebook provides tools for learning all possible movement combinations of the Dance of Shiva.
Improve mind-body coordination.
Practicing knowing what you are doing before you do it.
Learn to think with greater flexibility and creativity, (and without prejudice).
Practice spotting mistakes without worrying about making mistakes.
Learn to practice so that you can execute with minimal errors.
The dance of shiva ebook includes movement maps that show arm positions for each set of movements.
It also includes movement tables, for quick referencing all possible movements.
Optional extra, beginner series videos, plus follow along videos for selected movements, plus single arm position and movement reference videos.
Dance of Shiva ebook
Dance of Shiva ebook (with optional videos)
Just being in the flow isn't a guarantee of good performance. Know to Flow shows you how to get into the flow, but also how to improve your performance while flowing. It shows you why the opposite state of mind is also important and how you can switch between both states to make learning an enjoyable (as well as an effective) practice.
know to flow ebook
This is a beginners course. It is made up of five one hour long routines.
Each routine builds up on the previous one.
You'll learn how to feel (and control) your spine, your shoulders, your hips.
And you'll also learn how to feel and control your feet and shins.
You'll also learn how to improve your balance on one foot (and how to compensate)
Believe it or not, but good foot control can affect both your knees and your hips and it can also affect your ability to balance while standing.
This option also includes the *Frictional Muscle Control and *Extreme Stability video routines.
5 Sensational yoga routines for beginners
Frictional muscle control makes it easy for beginners to learn how to activate their muscles and feel them activate.
It is also a useful technique for strengthening muscles and also fine tuning muscle control.
With frictional muscle control you'll also get a sense of how your muscles need an opposing force to work against in order to activate. You'll also learn a technique for activating muscle that doesn't require two points of contact.
And you'll learn how to use these techniques for chaturanga dandasana as well as the front-splits and side splits.
Frictional muscle control
Extreme stability teaches you how to work from the hands or feet when creating stability, whether you are doing poses on your hands or your feet (or some combination of both).
Become more present by focusing on feeling and controlling your muscles. Learn to use your body more efficiently and effectively and work towards better flexibility.
Mindful muscle control and proprioception includes these 6 courses designed to help you better feel and control your body: Action vectors, Foot Exercises, Frictional Resistance, Focused floor pressing, Muscle control part 1, Muscle control part 2.
Mindful muscle control and proprioception
If you have weak shoulders and arms, or they are inflexible, or they are imbalanced, learning basic ribcage mobility and control can help.
By learning to feel and control your ribcage, you can work towards stronger shoulders and arms simply because you are giving them a stronger (and more flexible) foundation.
Ribcage mobility video course
With lessons in muscle control for your spine, learn basic neck, ribcage, and hip bone control. You'll also learn control of your transverse abdominis muscle which can affect your lumbar spine as well as your SI joints and lower half of your ribcage in addition to different breathing methods that affect the spine (and in turn can be affected by spinal posture).
Muscle control for your Spine video course
The long hip flexors include the sartorius, gracilis, the tensor fascia latae and the rectus femoris. With lessons in muscle control for your hip flexors, you'll learn how to activate your long hip flexors and how to anchor them for easier activation.
Hip flexor control video course
The hamstrings work on both the knee and the hip.
With lessons in muscle control for your hamstrings, you'll learn various ways to anchor the hamstrings. You'll also learn how to activate them and control them.
Hamstring control video course
With muscle control for the thighs you'll learn how to control all four corners of the thighs (front, back, outside and inside) as well as deepen knee and hip control. And you'll see how you can use this to help work towards the front-to-back splits.
Thigh muscle control video course
With long thigh muscle control you can improve control and stabilization of knee rotation as well as control and stability of your hip bone (and to an extent, your SI joints.)
The long thigh muscle program takes you through a series of exercises designed to help you activate and control the long thigh muscles.
Long thigh muscle control video course
With this course you can improve awareness of your hip joint. You'll also learn how to stabilize it. You may find that with better hip stability you have better knee function and/or better lower back function.
Deep hip muscle control video course
With lessons in muscle control for your SI joints, hips and spine, you'll go through some simple actions and exercises for learning to feel and control how these elements can affect each other.
The lessons in muscle control for your shoulders course takes you through a series of exercises designed to improve shoulder awareness and shoulder control. You'll also learn pressure sensitivity, noticing when your hands are lightly touching the floor, or any other object of person, versus when they are pressing with pressure. You'll thus learn how to use your muscles as "sensors".
Shoulder control video course
With arm strength for push ups, you'll learn how to use your arm muscles more effectively. and if you are starting from zero effectiveness, you'll learn how to use your arm muscles, period.
Arm strength for push ups video course
A collection of four workshop style routines that help you to improve hip intelligence via sequenced control of: your hip crease, inner/outer thighs, heels, lateral glutes and via resisted pressing
Better hip joint control
The leg anatomy workshop teaches you to feel and control your leg muscles from your hip bones down to your toes. You'll learn to directly experience and control the anatomy of your own body.
Leg anatomy video course
Hi, I'm Neil Keleher
I have a bachelor's degree in Systems Design Engineering from the University of Waterloo.
I've taught yoga for over 20 years with a focus on force perception and using it to improve body awareness, stability, strength and flexibility.
My main interest is in basic principles that can be applied in any endeavor to make learning and doing easier and to make problem solving easier.
You can find more by me on my other website zeroparallax