Whether you are a time-starved athlete trying to optimize performance, a dedicated yoga practitioner, or somewhere in between, the following tips are GREAT reminders how to improve EVERY yoga/mobility move.
1. LIFT + LENGTHEN THE SPINE.
This is one of the things I repeat MOST often in my classes and coaching athletes. When you invite space in the spine, draw the crown of the head to the ceiling and get as much length as you can, you will feel simultaneously strong, confident, light, buoyant and engaged. It is also promoting great health in the spine and other systems of the body.
2. LENGTHENING THE TAILBONE + ENGAGING THE RIBCAGE.
Most of us stick our butt out and ribcage forward, increasing the arch/curve in the low back. This can exaccerbate deep back ache and be caused by core weakness in the back and belly muscles. This is not a backbend that you are trying to do on purpose, so stop it…! Instead, draw the front ribs back toward the back ribs, pull the belly button in toward the spine, and lengthen the tailbone toward the heels. We don’t want to completely obliterate the lumbar/low back curve, but reduce it and effectively lengthen and strengthen the core – front, side and back.
3. FIND YOUR ROOTS.
In standing poses, press your feet into floor for grounding and stability. The feet are the forgotten body part – crammed in “leather coffins” all day. Sooo, give them freedom, space and health by spreading them wide and planting them firmly. In seated positions, feel your sitting bones equally root into the floor. In poses using the hands, spread the fingers w-i-d-e and root into the mat making for a stronger, even safer, practice.
4. HOLD THE POSE BUT NEVER THE BREATH.
Inhale deeply > exhale completely > repeat. This is the core element of the practice to focus the mind and calm / release the body. It is critical to derive the benefits of the postures no matter your level, or your objectives. And, take that off the mat for better [everything].
5. ENERGIZE + RELAX SIMULTANEOUSLY.
While the postures require awakening and engagement of the area involved, try to find a sense of ease and letting go. Take the pose to the point of resistance, then take a deep breath and back it off a bit. (Sometimes more than other times depending on if you are recovering from a tough workout or simply want a more gentle move.) You are engaging, yet not struggling or pushing.