Learn to Feel Your Body

Triangle pose with hand on chair, focused on feeling body. Neil Keleher, Sensational Yoga Poses.

Muscle Control not only helps you to better control your body, it helps you to better feel it.

Muscle control is the primary way that you feel your body.

As an example, each time you focus on your breath, the "feeling" of your breath is created by muscles activating and relaxing.

Breathing Is a Type of Muscle Control

When focusing on your breath you are actually focusing on feeling your respiratory muscles activating and relaxing (unless you are concentrating on the feeling of air passing through your nasal passage or your throat or mouth).

Muscle activation and relaxation is what provides the different sensations of inhaling and exhaling.

Exploring Different Ways of Using Your Body

There is no single "right way" of doing a yoga pose. Instead, there are options. And the better you are at "feeling" your body, the better you can get at choosing the right option for your body as it is now.

Taking the Time to Learn

Often in a yoga class you don't have the time or opportunity to actually learn your body. You are too busy moving from pose to pose, or you get so much information in a short period of time that its difficult to remember any of it, let alone all of it. And then in the next class you are learning something different and so it takes a long time (and a lot of classes) to actually learn anything.

A different approach is to focus on learning little bits at a time. You could think of this as a scientific approach, because you are isolating particular parts of your body with exercises that are a lot like experiments. Repeated turning on and off of muscles then gives you experience that you can use to better feel, control and understand your body.

And like learning to ride a bike, these experiences are hard to forget.

The idea is to become good at using each technique to the point that it can be used in any pose, even those it hasn't been practiced in. And of course, the idea is that you actually learn the technique so that you can remember it easily.

Learning to Drive (your body)

This approach is also a little like learning to drive a car, or better yet, a motorcycle. You practice using the brakes so that you know how to use them. Then you learn how to steer. Only once you have learned a skill to the point that you can do it without thinking about how to do it do you move on to the next skill.

Note that the goal here isn't perfection. That comes with practice. Instead the idea is to be able to do a particular skill without having to think about how to do it, so that then you can practice it whenever the opportunity arises.

Going back to the bicycle metaphor, even if you have learned to ride a bike, you can always get better at riding.

Learn to Feel Your Body

The workshops below are all designed to help you better feel and control your body.

All of these books and videos include elements of "feel" and an element of "control". So you'll not just be learning techniques, instead, each technique is a means of helping you to better feel and control your body.

While the context of most of these exercises is "yoga poses", you can use improved awareness and control in any activity, not just yoga.

You Don't Need to Be Flexible

These techniques are not dependent on how flexible you are.

However, given time they can help you improve your flexibility. More importantly, they can help you get a better feel for your body.

Why would "feeling your body" be more important than improving your flexibility?

Because feeling your body is part of how you improve flexibility. In this case, "being able to feel your body" means being able to feel whether particular muscles are active or relaxed.

Depending on what type of stretching you are doing, and depending on the joints that you are working on, you may want parts of your body to be relaxed, or active. And the only way to tell if that's the case is if you can "feel your body."

Plus, once you've gotten more flexible, you can continue to use your ability to feel your body. In any activity! It's a way of becoming present. Or, if you like, a way of enjoying the experience of being in your body.

You could also think of this is as Getting into the Flow.

Getting into the Flow

One of the interesting side effects of practicing muscle control is that you don't have to be constantly flowing from pose to pose in order to get into the flow. The simple act of feeling your muscles activate and relax helps get you there.

As a result, you may find that your yoga practices where you focus on muscle control can leave you feeling refreshed and energized and not worn out.

With muscle control, the focus is on what is going on inside of your body. And the focus is on deliberately creating changes within your body. While there is some movement, the changes are smaller and more regular than simply doing vinyasas from one pose to the next.

Minimizing Effort and Maximizing Effect

An advantage of muscle control, particularly if you practice slow and smooth activations and relaxations (a point that is particularly evident in the videos) is that you can get better at feeling the minimum required effort to do a pose.

You'll still be working in your poses, there will still be muscular activation (since you need it to feel your body) however, the activation, the effort will be the minimum required.

How Do You Learn Muscle Control?

I first learned muscle control as a teenager learning to lift weights. After starting bench pressing I, like many other teenagers, learned to pop my pecs.

When joining the army I had to hide the fact that I had flat feet (actually, I had collapsed arches, but to the army at the time they were one and the same thing). The trick I used to hide my flat feet later became one of my basic exercises for foot awareness and control. These were my initial forays into learning muscle control.

Later I accidentally learned some muscle control techniques while trying to overcome knee pain that was getting in the way of me teaching yoga. That particular technique also helped me get past some sticking points when stretching. Since then my focus has been on systemizing my understanding of muscle control to make it easier to learn.

The ebook and video workshops detailed below are a part of that system.

Muscle Memory

Each book or video teaches you an element of muscle control. That means activating muscle and relaxing it. More importantly, each video helps you work towards being able to activate muscles and feel them activate without having to think about how to do it.

Basically, each program helps you to turn muscle control and proprioception into "Muscle Memory".

Muscle Control Workshop Ebooks

Yoga Basics 1 and Yoga Basics 2 help you become more aware of how your parts of your body move, and in particular whether a part of your body is moving or still. This is important in muscle control because a big part of muscle control is deliberately moving parts of your body or deliberately keeping parts of your body still.

Yoga Basics 1 focuses more on feeling feeling parts of your body move relative to your contact with the floor.
Note, even when focusing on relative bone movement, muscles are in a large part, how we feel our body.

Yoga Basics 2 focuses more on resisting movement.
Sometimes the simple act of just keeping parts of your body still can be a good exercise in body awareness (and muscle control).

Working Towards Wheel pose teaches you some basic principles that you can apply in any yoga pose, but in particular when working towards a challenging pose like wheel pose.

Even if you have no interest in wheel pose, this ebook is a valuable learning resource since it shows you how you can approach difficult poses in general to make learning them (and doing them) a little bit easier.

The Hip Control Guide teaches you some simple actions for learning to feel and control your deeper hip muscles. Plus it shows you how to practice feeling and controlling these muscles in a few basic positions so that you can get an idea of when using these muscles can be helpful and when not.

If you are working on improving your forward bend, this ebook also includes one technique in particular that may be helpful.

These four ebooks are included in Muscle Control Package Options 1, 2 and 3 listed below.

Muscle Control Video Routines

These next two video routines are included in Options 2 and 3.

Frictional Arm And Leg Strength is a routine that teaches you how to use the floor to activate muscles in your arms and/or legs.

This is one of the most basic techniques that I use to introduce students to the idea of muscle control. Even with advanced students it's still a handy technique since it can be used to strengthen muscles without the use of extra weight.

This technique in particular can give you a sense of how muscle activation not only creates a change in force, but also a change in sensation leading to the idea that muscle control is what gives us the ability to feel our body.

Extreme Stability is a video routine that focuses on activating the hands and feet for better muscle control.

In terms of aircraft flying, stability and control are two closely related terms. Part of control can be in creating stability. Stability in turn can make control easier. The same applies to muscle control. The better you are at creating stability within your body, the easier it is to control your muscles.

The feet and hands are two examples of where we can create stability for better muscle control. Foot stability (using the muscles of the feet, ankles and lower legs) can make it easier to control the knees and hips. Hand stability can make it easier for the muscles that work on the elbows and shoulders to work more effectively.

The idea of Extreme Stability is to help you practice foot and hand stabilization so that you can use it without having to think about it.

Muscle Control Workshop Videos

These next three video workshops focus on muscle control for the legs.

The Action Vectors workshop roughly corresponds to the material presented in Yoga Basics 1. Here the focus is on pressing the floor and allowing the hips or ribcage to move in response.

Frictional Resistance corresponds to the material presented in Yoga Basics 2. Here the focus is on pressing the floor and resisting by not allowing your hips (or ribcage) to move.

Foot Exercises for Proprioception focuses on foot activation in a variety of yoga poses.

Foot control is something that is rarely focused on in isolation and is often added as an afterthought. However, the muscles that you use in these exercises to control the feet originate in the lower legs, and so foot control is actually a way of stabilizing the feet, ankles and lower legs.

Foot control can then have an affect on the hip bones and hip joints via the long hip muscles, the muscles that connect the lower leg bones to the hip bone.

In each of these three videos the focus is less on a "routine". Instead you'll practice particular muscle control techniques that you then practice in a selection of yoga poses. Each workshop focuses on a single technique (or set of related techniques) to help you better understand the technique itself.

All of these video workshops include a quick reference PDF which includes a summary of all of the exercises and the explanations.

These three video workshops are included only in Option 3 below.

Options 1 includes the following ebooks:

  • Yoga Basics 1,
  • Yoga Basics 2,
  • The Hip Control Guide and
  • Working Towards Wheel Pose.

These are all ebooks and all can be downloaded as PDF, mobi (for kindle) or epub. You have the access to all three options!

$48.00

Option 2 includes all material from option 1 plus these two video routines:

  • Frictional Arm And Leg Strength and
  • Extreme Stability.

$72.00

Option 3 includes all of the material from options 1 and 2 plus the first three videos from the "Muscle Control and Proprioception" workshop series:

  • Action Vectors,
  • Foot Exercises and Proprioception and
  • Frictional Resistance.

Each of these videos includes a quick reference PDF.

$84.00

Buy the Muscle Control Package (option 1/option 2/option 3): $48.00/$72.00/$84.00

You can also go directly to the gumroad website to order this product using this URL:

https://gum.co/vZtd

30 Day Guarantee

These programs are all based on my "in class" experience as a teacher. That being said, the exercises may not work for you. If for that reason or any other reason you aren't satisfied, contact me for a full refund within 30 days of purchase.

My email address is also included in the PDF's included in each workshop.

Videos and ebooks can be downloaded to any device. To download the videos, go to the Gumroad Library

Here's the URL for the Gumroad library in plain text:

https://gumroad.com/library

I'd recommend the VLC Media Player for viewing download videos, whether using windows or mac.

If you are viewing these on a smart phone, then you can also stream the videos using the gumroad app.