Sunday, May 2, 2010

Underwater Basket Weaving & Yoga

I am always delightfully surprised by the image conjured up with the term "underwater basket weaving." It is actually a technique for softening the reeds used to weave together a basket (soak them in water and they will become more pliable and easier to manipulate); it is not - as so many picture in their minds, someone in full SCUBA gear sitting at the bottom of the ocean and weaving a basket! Although that view brings quite a smile to my face. What does underwater basket weaving have to do with yoga? Well, if we think of the rib cage as a basket - an image brought to me by my teacher, Tias Little, who calls it a "rib basket", then we wish for our basket to be both strong and supple to allow for deep breaths. I see so many students accessing their abdominal and back muscles (yay!) to the point that they harden and only breathe shallowly (boo!). We have to find the balance between these functions of our rib basket. I love the idea of soaking the tissues in prana to create a supple and strong basket. So, the next time you think about the muscles you use to sit or stand erect, think also of that underwater technique and breathe deeply. ~Namaste.

What we are practicing now...
Forearm plank (if there is a Sanskrit name, I don't know it) is a favorite of the Pilates practitioners and the perfect pose to find the above technique of creating a strong but supple rib basket.
  • Begin by coming to all fours and doing a few rounds of cat (back rounds) and cow (back arches) until you find your neutral spine.
  • Lower your elbows to the floor, placing them directly under your shoulders. Slightly round your upper back, like you are doing a subtle cat pose . This will stabilize your shoulders and begin to engage your muscles.
  • Extend your legs back and really firm your thighs, then extend energy through your heels; better yet, rest your heels lightly against a wall surface and push into that wall.
  • Feel how your rib basket grows hard and lean; keep some of that effort for stability, but soften it about 25% and notice your breath.
Keep playing with the balance of stability and flexibility of your rib basket by using your slow, smooth breath. Rest in Child's pose when you are done. Enjoy!

Schedule updates and events... see Schedule for complete class listing...
  • Coming soon: Stay tuned for the next workshop on Cancer, Yoga & Other CAM Therapies, a lecture and yoga practice that will help anyone in treatment and in remission (and their families). Next date TBD.
  • Save the date: on Saturday, July 10th, Lorien will be celebrating her 40th birthday with a free beach yoga class in Santa Cruz. More details to follow!