Day two started with me being positioned between two Hawaiian Certified teachers- Samantha Fox and Kathryn Wiese. Samantha is on Kauai and Kathryn is on the Big Island. It was so nice to be sandwiched between such sweet energy- like getting hugged by the Shakti. Check out their sites- Samantha has an amazing retreat coming up in November if you are thinking Yoga holiday.
Today was a focus on the shoulders. John started by saying that everything in nature has curve. When you take the curve out of something it loses it’s juiciness and becomes drier.To bring good health to the body it has to just recreate these curves so the vibration can flow in alignment and things that are ” stuck” so to speak get cleared. All experience and memory carries a wave formation. The idea of the therapy is to create a new wave form that is stronger than the old one. The new experience has to be stronger than the old memory. By holding the alignment in place and just breathing we start to create new patterning.
The shoulder is one of the most articulate bones in the body. It does not fit into a cup like the hip and basically is held in place by the rotator cuff muscles and the small ledge of the clavicle and the border of the scapula. This freedom allows for a huge range of motion but also for high chance of injury. I see a lot of clients with shoulder issues- even I have shoulder issues once in a while!
No matter where you are in motion, the head of the arm bone has to go back. The more forward it is the more strain there is on the rotator cuff muscles and more shortening and hardening on the front of the deltoid. One of the places to start is to get the clavicle- you know that part on skinny models that is always sticking out around the collar- well actually that bone should not be highly visible. For me that was my first big “aha!” years ago when I started Anusara. I had a very defined clavicle- my father called it stooped shoulders- and my neck was highly developed at the back ( trapezius and levator ). No wonder I was hurting my shoulder doing chataranga- my shoulders were always rolling forward! As soon as I learned to make my inner body bright the clavicle would disappear and I could more naturally draw my shoulders back with tightening the the back of my neck. It is a great landmark to always look at the clavicle of your client if they are coming to you with a shoulder injury- it will tell you a lot right away.
When we reach for something the front of the shoulder ( deltoid) tightens and becomes dominant and the back of the shoulder over stretches and weakens. Think of driving, working on the computer etc- we are always reaching. When we reach we often round our back in the process and take the shoulder blades ( scapula) off the back. All the weight and focus happens in the front of the body and we do not co-opt the back muscles that should be firing. Why is that?
John explained that the face muscles get the most brain space and our hands- guess which gets the least? Yup- your mid back. It is the most primal or unevolved part of our bodies- we barely know it is there! Good news is we can work to increase the kinesthetic understanding in our backs and start to increase the pathways to get it to work more efficiently. When the mid back fires effectively than the front of the shoulders get softer and there is a lessening of the tension in the upper back and neck ( levator and traps).
The back of the body is less evolved but it is the source and you have to go to the source to access power. I think it might have been Martin Kirk who talked about fetus development starting from the back and then moving forward. It may be less evolved but that doesn’t lesson it’s importance.
An interesting side note here is that when we move from the front body it activates the sympathetic nervous system. When we move our awareness to our back body it activates the parasympathetic nervous system. Often just by taking your awareness there you will notice a distinct calming of the mind and body.
One of exercises we used to get some kinesthetic understanding back there was to go to cobra position very low and then squeeze a pen in between the side of the body and the armpit. I had done something similar with Des but with hands of a partner there…pens are much harder! John said to even try index cards…. yipes! Try to see if you can move from plank to cobra and not lose the pens. It is very difficult.
The rotation of the arms also affects access to certain parts of your back. For example if you are in Down Dog and your inner edges of your upper arms are rolling down that will cause the head of the shoulders to drop. If you roll the inner edges skyward but the lower arm does that as well that is also not good. The upper arm must rotate up and there must be an equalizing pulsation by the lower arm bone rolling down. Make your arms straight and strong and then look for three points: outer elbow, inner deltoid, and outer shoulder blade- all three of these should be lifting in an equal rate away from the floor. Keep that and then work the spirals of the arms by get the upper arm bone to rotate up and the lower arm bone to rotate towards the midline. You know when you are activating your shoulders and mid back correctly because there is a softening of the upper back and a lengthening of the neck that happens right from the thoracic spine. You feel freedom in the head and neck yet steady and stable in the mid back.
The hands in Down Dog should also be working effectively and you can check this by palpating the lower arms. The underside should be strong and hugging up and in ( especially at the underside of the wrist- the retinaculum) and the top side of the lower arm should be softer. When students do not effectively claw the hands you will see the opposite and this can be very hard on the wrists and can translate up into the shoulders.
It is really important to take small rests in between working the new pathways to give the body time to assimilate. John described it as letting the ripples of the pond settle. Give the wave formations a chance to permeate and steep in the body.
The afternoon started with John talking about radio frequencies. For instance with a digital radio if you put in 99.8 you get music but if you put in 99.7 you get static. We want to always be seeking the home frequency where the universe plays- the optimal blueprint. We find that by using diversity to find balance. There is an order to finding the frequency.
When you hit that frequency two things happen- 1)you get an internal illumination- you get a direct experience of connection to spirit organized in form 2) you get a freedom- a quality of the heart. You cannot have joy with freedom- they are all connected. All you need to do is have one moment of hitting that frequency and then you never forget- it shifts you inside. You might get frustrated because it is short lived and difficult to find again but you cannot give up- it will happen again.
We spent the rest of the afternoon working on keeping the scapula on the back in all positions of the arm. It actually is possible- though really hard! By getting the arm stabilized we could freely move the scapula. and then we would stabilize the scapula and move the arm. They can move independently of each other but most of us are unaware that is possible or even that it is better for us.
We had a lot of partner work in the afternoon but, since I can’t draw on my computer, me telling you without showing you the exercise would be difficult. Maybe after all this is done i can do a little photo or video blog with some of the exercises. No photography is allowed in class so may just have to wait on this.
One of the last things to leave you with today is the importance of touch. When you are adjusting someone or doing therapy on a client the steps are the same. 1) Be sensitive. Give yourself a little time to feel the other persons energy and to ground yours. They will pick up on you and you will pick up on them- listen to that. 2) Stability. Stabilize the periphery and make the person feel secure so they can relax. Once you can feel that then you 3) Adjust
After an adjustment you should ask questions. Be aware of the type of questions you ask. For example if you say” So- how was that?” They may say ” Good” but does that really tell you something? Open ended questions are not going to serve you or the client. I always use what Christina Sell taught me years ago- “Better, Same, Worse” . It gives the student the ability to tell you it is worse or the same without feeling they have disappointed you and gives you clear lines of when something is effective or not.
OK- off to day three……..