essential yoga anatomy: raise up

people do yoga for a lot of different reasons. i won’t go through all of them, mainly because i want you to figure it out for yourself. for me, yoga is about exploration, a moving meditation in what is possible in the exact moment it’s happening. it’s about recognizing what’s going on in your body and mind, learning how your body works. your own personal anatomy lesson.

it’s about learning to see your body without a mirror. to feel when your muscles slide over each other when you twist. to feel your vertebrae moving away from each other as you inhale. it requires a lot of concentration and the ability to be in the moment totally.

so for this first exercise. check yourself out. don’t use a mirror! look at the proportions of your body. your foot is the same length as your forearm. your hand is about the size of your face – put your hand on your face. go ahead, do it. explore, see what other parts have the same proportions. your body is pretty awesome, play with it, learn how to use it in a new way. maybe you’ll notice things aren’t exactly the same. good. imperfection is beauty.

maybe you’re standing, maybe you’re sitting or laying down, whatever it is stand up. grab a shoe put it on the floor in front of you and get yourself grounded. start at the bottom of your feet and move all the way up your body, until you reach the top of your head. this should take awhile. (see my post on tadasana) it’s cool, you have time. there’s no where you need to be right now. breathe. from the bottom of your feet all the way up through your body and out the top of your head. then exhale down through your head, your body and out of your feet into the ground. settle.

take your shoe. notice that your shoe is about the same length as your collar bones. coincidence? i don’t think so. straighten your arms out in front of you at shoulder height and hold your shoe between your hands so it’s parallel to your chest. keep blood flow in your elbows, don’t hyper extend. slowly raise your arms up, still holding the shoe. tailbone is extending toward the ground, ribs are in, chest is up. now hang out here for a bit. checking in with the rest of your body.

did you forget about your feet? how about your tongue? where is it? are you breathing? hang on to that shoe, don’t drop it on your head! now you’re probably wondering, ‘why the f am i holding a shoe over my head?’ the answer is simple – DIY. you don’t need fancy, matching equipment from some super expensive yoga shop. use what you have. if you are a wood worker then make one, if not use your shoe or a dictionary.

when you decide your arms have had enough, slowly and with control lower them down. be aware of all your movements. take time to reflect on how that felt. release your shoe and feel your arms. look at them from the inside, notice what muscles you used, that you probably didn’t know you had. thank them.

now do it again. this time have one arm out at shoulder height, imagine you’re holding an invisible shoe with one hand, it’s magic! take your other arm and cross it over your chest and place your hand on the shoulder blade of your outstretched arm. feel where your shoulder blade is. slowly raise your outstretched arm up, like you just did a few minutes ago. feel how your shoulder blade slides along your ribs and fits into place.

(assuming you don’t have shoulder injuries – if you do, do this next part slowly and if it hurts, don’t do it!) now take your shoulder back and down. you can feel your shoulder blade stick out and it’s probably not very comfortable. this is what happens when you don’t use your arms in the aforementioned way in downward dog or plank or any other pose where you have weight on your hands and arms – seeee, there is a logic behind this madness!

to avoid dropping your weight into your wrists, think about holding your shoe and all the muscles it takes to do it. try to keep ridiculous mental image i’ve given you in mind when you are in these other positions.

time for some muscle memory training. grab your shoe and do it again. feel how your under arm muscles rotate in and up, keep blood flow in your elbows. use all your muscles here, so when you finally make it to a pose where you put weight on your hands, you’ll be lifting up and out of your wrists, not smashing them into the floor. this arm position happens A LOT so do it right and save your wrists and shoulders.


image wichrzyciel

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