Doctor Jana, CC BY 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
“And, and so having a sense that there's a kind of an onward leading movement slowly over time, but it's not an armored, leaving leading movement that's linear, that you can expect to just kind of steadily make progress. It's more like up and down, back and forth, and our lives are so complicated the states of our mind They're so different from different times. But slowly over time, we're moving in one direction. And that direction is towards freedom. So, there is this process of this path of journey that unfolds over time. And so, we don't get tripped up around that and caught up in striving and comparing yourself and wanting to be further than we are. One of the principles that I love is the principle that to go from A to B, be fully at A. So, for the purpose of mindfulness practice, if you want to go anywhere in your mindfulness practice, don't worry about getting anywhere with the practice, just focus on being fully present for what is and that practice of fully present for what it is, is what is onward leading, it'll unfold the way it's supposed to unfold. If our purpose, our dedication is not just making progress, but rather showing up and being fully present here, the progress takes care of itself.” Gil Fronsdahl, AudioDharma - Dharmette: Satipaṭṭhāna (14) Lucid Awareness and Non-Clinging
Following up on last month’s newsletter, my annual review of what went well and what we are working toward, I had 4 responses. The clear theme of the responses was the awareness that consistency with practice is elusive these past months.
In the same month, the online yoga teacher I practice with, the trainer Tony Gentilcore by whom I am very influenced and the Dharma teacher I listen to every day all emphasized pivoting one’s focus from the end result to just this day, just this week. In other words, transforming a goal of “more flexibility, less pain” into “Today I will do my guided breathing exercises and because it is Thursday, I will do a yoga practice”. (As I write this it is a Thursday. If it were Friday today, I would have written, “Today I will do my guided breathing exercises for 5 minutes and because it is Friday, I will strength and cardio train”.)
I have often talked about the good coach/trainer/teacher principle that someone who is a natural at a skill sucks at teaching others. Michael Jordan never did become a coach. Larry Bird did. Here I am, a person who is very regimented and consistent, trying to coach you who struggles with it.
#1: Let go of “making progress”. Practice is doing the Bunny Hop- Take two hops forward, one hop backward. Honestly, what most of us hate is that it’s in arriving one hop back again, we find the root of issue and get to work to change it. Whatever caused the weakness, the scatterbrained-ness, the pain. Even Glenda the Good Witch of the North didn’t wave her wand and give Dorothy her “Happy Ever After” after she clicked her ruby heels together (big screen version of the story).
“Do something – anything – 3 days per week, 52 weeks out of the year” The Unsexy, No BS Guide to Actually Getting Results Tony Gentilcore
#2: You will enter into conflict- spend time with family, take care of unread/unanswered emails the list of other things that need your time are unexaggeratedly infinite. You will have to make a choice and know that no one else made that choice for you. Family, emails, etc. are all high-pressure sales pitches. It seems like there’s no time, no space, no way to say, not now. Politely answer, I’ll get back to you, and do your practice.
“If you are following your bliss, you are enjoying that refreshment, that life within you, all the time” Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth.
#3: Cultivate passion for what you are doing rather than doing it with the expectation of reaching a goal. Yoga, exercise, breathing are each a “being” we have a relationship with. We can cultivate a passion for the relationship and enjoy the time spent together with that being.
Consistency over intensity.
This is annual review explores three questions:
Last summer I sent out an email to all who had contacted me with interest in restarting Aspiration Community Yoga after a long pandemic induced pause. I was not really interested in returning to teaching, but you asked, and so I asked you what you were willing to ante up on your behalf:
Are you ready? Send me an email!
What am I working toward? (From January 2020 Newsletter, “Experiment and Experience”)
What went well this year?
I also was able to really integrate what I learned in 2020 regarding core, pelvic floor and breathing. As you are well aware, I have spent the past year focusing on this intensively.
When my personal trainer moved out of state, I was able to find a new trainer without missing a week! The new trainer, Steve Trumfio is diametrically different from DeOnté Durden-Jackson and this has brought some interesting new challenges and delights to my workout. Additionally, I continue on with a shoulder, back and chest workout program I started several years ago, as I find that the same program changes as my understanding of movement and strength changes.
I am very happy that I decided to not worry if a monthly email is late and that I decided to days off from teaching, guilt-free.
What didn’t go so well this year?
Well, I STILL haven’t finished the “Complete Hip And Shoulder Pelvis And Shoulders” course, the Anatomy Trains’ “Freeing the Shoulders and Arms” or the last hour and test for “Deeper Ground: Restoration and Vitality for the Female Pelvis”.
I must admit that hiking has become consuming these days, and I have segued to taking courses with The Mountaineers on Navigation, Snow Routes, Scrambling and First Aid.
I could give a lot of rationalizations for the incompleteness of anatomy courses and completeness of hiking courses, but why? Just let the bright shiny object speak for themselves.
I still have not found an in-person community to practice yoga or workout with- I continue to wonder how much this will “bite me in the ass” one of these days…..
I have not yet completely released my thinking that students will put forth the time commitment and effort to learn and understand outside class. I put more time investment in these monthly emails as a way to save class for practice rather than long, clarifying lectures on how the body moves. I admit it sucks that less than half the students read them.
Even more, I am not sure that those who do read them figure out how put into action the muscular engagement I write about. I am not sure there is the understanding that no matter the yoga pose, no matter the particular exercise, 99% of the muscular engagement will be the same. Am I communicating, "Don't worry about where your leg is so much as pay attention to the sensation in your torso. Do you feel the traps working? Do you feel the obliques working"?
Should I be reducing the full form of the exercise or the yoga pose until the muscle activation is felt in every position? If I did that, would we be able to get the other benefits of moving in class, too? I don't know.
What am I Working Toward?
Well, I am going to put:
I will add to this:
Why I am I sharing this as “Something I am Working Toward”? It is something I have to deal with- sooner or later. It is an underlying cause and condition that unconsciously and subconsciously drives me and affects all my relationships. It’s the boogie man in the closet- the monster under the bed. The tempter Mara, coming in for tea, his daughters and his army waiting outside. Welcome Mara, may I offer you my friendship and ask what it is you need.
This is your “Shoulder Girdle” (men's doesn't look much different in the bony and muscular shape) - the bones in aqua blue green. As I have said many times, This is the bony structure that raising your arms relies upon, the bony structure that pushing or pulling rely upon. As I have said many times, the only “mechanical” connection of the shoulder girdle is the collar bone to the sternum- and it’s really small.
The shoulder girdle pretty much floats on the torso! Mostly what holds the shoulders onto the body, in addition to what moves the shoulders are the powerful muscles of the chest and back - the theme of my teaching these many months. (See November and October's posts)
I want to illustrate for you how you lift your collar bones, how to “lift your chest” without kinking your lower back, without popping out your lower front ribs, without lifting your chin up.
Let's go back to that first image- here it is below so that you won't have to scroll back up.
If you go back to last month's post, you can watch the video on Scapular Force Coupling, animating how the shoulder muscles work together. Let's add onto this "Force Coupling" by looking at what can happen to the collar bones and the pectoralis minor muscle when the scapular muscles work together. Using a basic "see-saw" or coupling of force, the serratus anterior tightening and getting shorter will tilt the blade side of the shoulder blade into the back, down and to the side of the body. That in turn, will pull the upper tip (and it is really kind of just a tip, called the coracoid process) up and back, in turn pulling on the pec minor. These 3 slips of the muscle get stretched long, and if pulled sufficiently will pull open the upper ribs the muscle grows out from. Voila- lifting the upper chest.
Now, let's say you are doing what you read about in November- in concert with engaging your serratus anterior, you are also engaging the obliques, internal and external, which are growing out of your lower ribs, anchoring them down to the crest of your hips (pelvis). Go ahead- take a peek back to refresh your visual memory this is all a lot to take in at once. Voila- anchoring the lower ribs, lifting the upper ribs. Look Ma- no thrusting ribs, no kinking back, no chin lift!
Yes, it might take a long time, much trial and error, different queues and lots of visualization to get this to happen. But, your body NEVER looses it's ability to develop muscle or find neurological pathways.
I love the visuals, as they help me imagine in my brain and body what the pathway is as I move, and I personally have found this extremely effective. I hope you do, too.