Sunday, September 13, 2009

174/255 pr 2 -- Posture Clinic Part 2

I left off in the middle of the balancing series, keeping everyone on one leg. In this post, I will try to get to the end of the first session.

Standing Bow Pulling -- We spend lots of time discussing the details of this pose in class. For several of my teachers, this pose seems to be a big favorite. It's pretty. And it definitely appeals to ex-dancers. I've seen two people in class doing this to near full expression, with the legs in a standing split, and it is an amazing thing to see.

Given all the class attention this pose gets, we didn't spend much time on it in the posture clinic. The main point emphasized was getting the shoulders right and feeling a good pull/stretch in the shoulders. The error most people make is to keep the shoulders too square. Instead the extended hands shoulder is really reaching out and forward, and the other one is back, creating something like a twist in the torso. Other than that, the best advice I got on this pose is that it really is 50/50 between stretching forward from the arm and kicking back on the leg.

Balancing Stick -- By contrast, I don't usually hear much about this pose in class, and there was much to say in the clinic. First, its another pose where so much depends on the arm extension. Ideally, the arms should stay behind the ears, like in Half Moon. That's aspirational, but thats also how to set the intent.

Then, to avoid "broken umbrella" syndrome, the key is not to look down. Looking down causes the back to round. The trouble I have with looking forward, however, is that I lose any fixed point and it makes the balance really hard. That's something I need to work on.

Finally, once you have got a really nice traction going between your arms and your raised leg, is getting the hip square and parallel to the floor. It's really a ton to think about in a ten second pose. Fortunately, the pose hurts like hell, so the ten seconds seems like its alot longer...

Standing Separate Leg Stretching -- I've had the priorities wrong in this pose. Here's how it should go: 1) Feet parallel; 2) Legs straight with thighs engaged (Rohit hates the word "locked"); 3) Legs spread so wide that the head can touch the floor; and 4) Grab the heels and pull. I've been putting too much emphasis on the grip, and haven't been close to touching my head to the floor. Even spreading my legs as far as I can, I still can't get my head to the floor, but its within a couple of inches now, instead of being close to a foot or so.

About the feet being parallel. The dialogue says to pigeon toe your feet. Rohit believes this crept in the dialogue because most people tend to splay their feet when they take the big step, and also because most people feel like they are pigeon toed when their feet actually are parallel.

There are two problems with going pigeon toes in this pose. First, as I found out, it can cause sciatica. That's bad enough. Worse, one of the main benefits of the pose is to open up the hips. Pigeon toed feet will tend to close up the hips. They work against the benefit of the pose.

There is a good reason not to splay the feet outward. It protects against injury. But the right orientation of the feet is the same as Awkward, with the outsides of the feet parallel to each other. The dialogue gives a literally wrong instruction, probably because it is a shorthand that works well for most people. (I see people who, after hearing the instruction, will turn their feet in some but still have them slightly splayed.)

Triangle -- It's all in the set-up, and the set-up is painful. I already knew that. The other point that's worth mentioning is that, if you are doing the pose correctly, the only way that you will touch your foot is if you have an abnormally long forearm. Otherwise, if you have the elbow connected to the knee, and the thigh parallel to the floor, your hand just will never get there.

Standing Separate Leg Head to Knee -- Here, the tips were pretty much the same as I've heard in class. Make sure you roll down, no flat back. Empty your lungs on the way down to help with the rounding bend. Use the hands on the floor for leverage to get a better head/knee connection. This is preferable to putting the hands in prayer.

He had us do an interesting experiment. Stand straight with the arms up and in prayer position. Now start moving the arms forward some and back some. Find the place where the throat is most choked. For most people, the maximum choking comes with the arms forward a few degrees -- like 15 to 25 degrees forward. That choking is the main benefit of the pose. But the pretty pose has the arms reaching forward in prayer. This last step gives an incidental shoulder stretch, but actually takes away from the main benefit of the pose. So why do it? You are supposed to be choking your thyroid, and you can do that by bringing your hands by your feet and pushing on them to get an even better compression.

That was it for the first day. We covered alot of material. And I felt some strong opening up in my hips and upper back. After class, I had the pleasant aches that I associate with the first few weeks of class.


bikramyogachick said...

Duffy~ I LOVE posture clinics. Thank you for sharing! I'm going to focus on my feet in standing separate leg stretching now, because I'm one of those people who don't splay their feet to begin with so takes the dialog literally and ends up a bit pigeon toed. I'm going to straighten them out and see what happens!
Thanks so much for sharing!

thedancingj said...

Ok, MOST of this stuff sounds good, but couple of things!!

They are right, standing bow is not such a big deal. Haha. Even in the original blue book, Bikram says how people get so excited about this one because it is PRETTY.

Uhm - what's your guy got against "pigeon toed"?! That didn't "creep into" the dialogue, it IS dialogue. Feet slightly pigeon toed, (UNLESS you have active sciatica). Bikram knows what pigeon toed means. To hear his description of straight feet, see awkward pose: "Heels invisible behind the toes." Not the saaaaaame....sorry....

This is interesting - for separate leg head to knee, somebody recently told me that the "old school" version had the hands in prayer, but touching between the big and second toe. Which is HARD. Ultimately Emmy says the hands don't matter in this pose - you should be able to get the compression just using your stomach. (I am pretty far away from doing that.)

I don't understand what you are saying about the bottom hand in triangle. Touching the foot? The tips of the fingers should always be just in between the big and second toe, very lightly touching.

Balancing stick. Dialogue says to look at your standing foot in the mirror. Try THAT. :) (Yes, even if you're not in the front row.)

Oh, illegal posture clinics..... good times....

Duffy Pratt said...

Here is a little more detail and some background. First, Rohit was one of the thirty at the first organized teacher training. When he took teacher training, there was no dialogue. So when he says that something crept into the dialogue, I think he means what he says.

As for pigeon toed, here's the story he told us. At training, each of the students would demo each pose in front of the class, and Bikram would give his comments. There was a very flexible dancer in the training, and she went into the pose with pigeon toes. Bikram said "What are you doing with your feet?" She said that's what the blue book said, and they showed him in the book. Bikram said "Stupid editor." And he said that the feet should be parallel, etc...

In Triangle, the key things are to have the thigh parallel to the floor, and the elbow on the knee. When that happens, it's unlikely that you will be able to touch your big and second toe. If you can, then that's where it should be. But he also mentioned that most people who do that are flexy types who are relying on their flexibility rather than their strenght, and are actually a bit low in the pose. On this, I think your mileage may vary. Everyone's anatomy is a bit different. The main point is that people get so concerned about where the lower hand is, when that is just a final finishing touch on the pose and has little to nothing to do with what's really going on.

Finally, I'm not sure about this but I think that the certificates for the people in the first teacher training gives them more autonomy than recent graduates. So I'm not sure that this posture clinic was "illegal". Also, there were several points in the class where the other teachers were a bit surprised about what Rohit had to say.

thedancingj said...

Figured he was old school. :) And yeah, I know the dialogue is a totally recent invention. However... it IS the most up-to-date info that exists. I know that there have been PLENTY of little changes to the series over the years, and definitely in the last 15 years. There are changes from book to book, and from book to dialogue. The way I was taught is that, when in doubt, always go with dialogue. It's the most recent, and I really don't believe it has any WRONG information in it.

I'll bet that some of the teachers were surprised at some of the stuff he said, since I am surprised at some of it too!! (Though I would have loved to hang out and hear his take on the postures.) Like I said, for the most part the info sounds really good, but there are these inconsistencies... oh well. It happens over time, I guess.

For what it's worth, he party line is:
Of course there are plenty of politics involved, but.... I don't think it's not a bad list. (Tho I know a couple of the people on it and I think they rock, so I'm totally biased!)

Duffy Pratt said...

I pretty much agree with you about going to the dialogue, because for most of us the dialogue is the source. But suppose you were in a class with Bikram himself, and he corrected you on some point. You protested that you were doing what the dialogue said. In that case, you are going to follow Bikram, and not the dialogue. (Same might be true with Emmy, and perhaps a handful of others.)

Some things in the dialogue are there as short hand, and not literally true. (Pulling as hard as you can in some poses is a shorthand to encourage most people, who are simply lazy. For some people, however, the same instruction is an invitation to injury.) Some things are just wrong: In Standing Separate Leg Head to Knee, the dialogue says "Turn to the right, 180 degree angle" Of course, he means 90 degrees, 180 would have you facing the back wall. And some are shorthands that people understand even though they make no sense: "Both heels in one line." I defy anyone to put their feet on the floor so that their heels to not come in one line. So it's impossible to do this instruction wrong, if you take it literally.

thedancingj said...

Yeah, I agree. And obviously you will tie yourself into knots if you try to take everything super literally! (Tho I always thought the 180 degree angle bit was supposed to be said when you were still facing the side wall... in any case, it's the difference between facing one side wall and the other...)

And of course you are right, you ALWAYS do what the teacher tells you to do. (Even if you think it's weird or wrong!) However... I have yet to be given a helpful instruction that really "overrides" something in the dialogue. And I have yet to hear anything said by Bikram or Emmy that contradicts the dialogue. Maybe someday it'll happen... but I haven't heard it yet!!

waylon said...

Thanks for all these posture reviews Duffy. They have helped my practice!!

Hope you come to Dallas a week from Sat to see Bikram speak.

Duffy Pratt said...

UNfortunately, its looking less and less likely that I will be able to get up to Dallas...