10am: Alignment-Based Yoga with Susan
Tomorrow Susan will be leading this class and employing the use of chairs. Some people view props as almost a way of cheating, but it really is just a way to allow yourself to dig deeper into a pose than you could without the prop. Chairs help us to maintain balance so that we can better focus on aligning the body properly. The aim of any asana is to align the body, and strengthen that alignment so that we can sustain it within our every day lives. The chair’s role in all of this is to serve as a support to deepen your stretch, strengthen your body, and relax your muscles, to improve the overall alignment of your body. The chair has been a vital part of Iyengar yoga for decades for a good reason. Chairs are a good aid for achieving more height, balance and stability, and can sometimes help you stay longer and relax into the more difficult asanas, delving deeper into them to get that maximum benefit. Minimal joint friction and increased circulation within the body also provides a foundation for a whole-bodied health. These are just a couple of aspects that Susan really emphasizes.
Unfortunately in this day and age we are sitting much more than we should be- from desk jobs, to constantly staring at a device- our glutes and hamstrings (the parts of the body that we sit on) receive the message to shut down, we’re going to be sitting for a while. This causes the back body muscles to weaken, forcing our quads and hip flexors to pick up the slack, becoming the dominant muscle group in all of our movements. Chronic aches, injury susceptibility and potential disease development all result from this imbalance between our muscle groups. Reinforcing our structural balance and alignment through classes such as this one, is an integral pre-cursor to any kind of health practice- one that we want to gain the optimal benefits from, at least.
11:30am: Opening Hips & Hamstrings with Susan
When you drop something on the ground, you bend at the waist and lift from the lower back, right? Wrong. I know. I was pretty shocked when I learned I’d been using my hips wrong essentially my entire life. What you actually should do in the above scenario is sit back with your hips to pick something up and follow it with a hip extension, or forward thrust. Picking up a pen, you can probably get away with poor hip mobility- at least for a while. These types of mindless, almost automatic processes of how we move, are the types of movements that Susan confronts and brings awareness to. Moreover, she guides you through the exercise and is all about listening to your body’s feedback and knowing how far to push it. And once you begin doing the sequence of poses, you’ll quickly realize how improper you are in your day-to-day movements. And let me tell you, afterward you will feel such an incredible difference in the overall alignment of your body.
The lower back, or lumbar spine isn’t made to sustain a lot of activity. In fact, it’s mainly there to support your body and allow for stability. But with poor hip mobility-which the majority of us do indeed have-the hip extension becomes inefficient, and then things begin to fall onto the backup plan: the lower back. And following that, the knees. Both of Susan’s classes work to eliminate pain within the lower back and knees, and other areas of the body that experience pain, typically stemming from overcompensation. Being guided on how to fully engage your posterior chain in several different poses also informs us on how to achieve other physical activity safely, and with less chance of injury.
Personally, I love Susan’s application of Supta Virasana (reclining variation of Virasana) in this class. And she doesn’t just throw you into it either, but rather eases you into the pose after going through some preparatory poses, such as Baddha Konasana. It’s important to have an instructor who knows how far you should deepen your stretch, and who can also tell you how you’re improving your body while you’re doing it. Among many therapeutic benefits, the proper application of this pose can relieve the following ailments:
- Digestive problems
- Flat feet
- Head cold
- High blood pressure
- Intestinal gas and acidity
- Menstrual discomfort
- Respiratory ailments
- Varicose veins
Within both of these specialized classes, come incredible benefits- from stretching the abdomen, the thighs, deep hip flexors, knees, ankles, strengthening the arches of the feet, relieving tired legs, improving indigestion, and successfully laying down the ground work for proper posture and bodily alignment, so that our bodies can get the most benefit out of the energy that we exert through them.
There is something to be said for both the relief and benefit you gain from releasing these tight soft tissues, and retraining and activating your inhibited muscles. I hope you can all reap the benefits of this practice and join us in working toward a long-term health and centering of the mind.
See you tomorrow morning yogis. Namaste.
*For more knowledge on the benefits of prop use and chairs specifically, here is some great material on the founder of the techinique, Yogacharia B.K.S. Iyengar: