The back is such an important part of the body, it usually has some presence in what I’m teaching at any given time. Lately, I’ve been exploring the idea of the “fabric” of the back: skin, connective tissue, muscle, bone, and everything else that makes up the back body. This is a completely made up idea, but it has helped me think of the back as a complex structure of interconnected parts working together, rather than just a collection of bones or of muscles working mechanically. In classes I’ve been thinking about ways to widen the fabric of the back as we’re using it to organize a movement or power a pose.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve also been exploring finding pathways of strength into the back through the arms that allow you to work without narrowing or constricting the fabric of the back. This week I shifted to the legs, especially when standing on one leg or extending the spine, with attention to a few special cues to create stability in the pelvis and sacrum so that the spine can extend safely and the inner body can find length.
Behind The Scenes
Here’s a little peek behind the curtain of the virtual yoga studio we all practice in! In addition, I thought I’d give you a look behind the scenes at my process. My teaching is fueled by three sources: my own practice, the Alexander Technique, and the practice of my students.
I used to practice for a couple of hours three or four times a week but these days, now that I’m older and busier, I limit that time to twenty-to-thirty minutes, six days a week. In four or five of those practices I do whatever I find interesting in that moment. I have a few things I’m working on to challenge myself, mostly involving strength and balance. At this stage of my life I’m as flexible as I care to be. I have certain weaknesses in my spine that years of yoga and the Alexander Technique have done wonders to help me with, but now that I’m in my mid-fifties, I don’t have the resilience of youth to help me bounce back when something goes awry, so I don’t push for more and more challenging poses. Instead, I explore different ways of doing all the same things I’ve been working on since I started practicing yoga over 25 years ago, challenging myself by exploring approaches from other movement disciplines. Here’s a transition I’ve been working on for the past few months. And here’s the transition I was working on before that.
Once or twice a week, usually on Wednesday and/or Friday, I devote a practice to the kinds of things I’ve been teaching in class, working intuitively to explore different applications of the ideas we’ve been working with to come up with new sequences to teach. This is a different kind of practice, driven by the ongoing ‘conversation’ between me and my students. I really enjoy having the balance between just doing what I feel like in some practices, and working within a framework in others, and both approaches feed my process.
And, of course, I do a Constructive Rest lie-down every day. For me, it’s the Swiss Army Knife of practices, great for so many things: to ease up before a practice or teaching, to wind down at the end of the day, to focus and find inspiration, or to transition from one type of work to another. I recommend it thoroughly. But, if you’ve been reading this newsletter for any length of time, you already know that!
A Practice Challenge: Chart Your Process
I have another ‘practice challenge’ for you this week: chart out the things you do that fuel you and sustain you, that help you feel centered, happy, and healthy.
To chart them out, first consider what period of time your process of self-care covers. Are there things you need to do every day to feel centered and balanced, or does your essential unit of time spread out over a week or a month?
Second, make a list of all the things you do that keep centered and balanced. They could be physical (taking a walk, going for a run, working out), mental (having a discussion with a friend, learning something new), or recreational (practicing a craft or other hobby, reading a book, watching a movie).
Then, chart out your average day, week, or month marking down when you actually do these things that are essential to your wellbeing. You could take the last month or two as research.
Look at your chart and see if you are, in fact, doing those things as much as you would like. Sometimes important things take over like work or taking care of loved ones, things that can’t be changed, but there might be wasted time in your day spent doing things that are counterproductive or that are just marking time. Rework your chart for an ideal day, week, or month, perhaps allocating more time for the self-nurturing things you could be doing, or rearranging when you do them so that they come around more frequently.
I you try the practice, let me know how it went, either via email or before/after one of my classes this week!