July 31, 2010

Yoga Dogs that Don’t Bark. ~ Lucas Rockwood

Why Yoga Teachers don’t Share…

If you’ve ever felt like your whole body was going to explode while practicing back bends in yoga class, then I’m going to share with you a very strange tip that might help you fall in love with back bending for the first time.

But first, a story.

In a classic Sherlock Holmes mystery, our clever protagonist solves the murder by noticing a key clue overlooked by everyone else. There was a dog present on the night of the crime, and yet, he didn’t bark.

A good guard dog would always bark, and yet he didn’t.

Why? Because the dog knew the perpetrator so well that he didn’t bother. When we look at yoga and health transformation, success always leaves clues behind, and yet sometimes, the dog (the teacher) doesn’t bark.

Maybe she forgot, maybe she got bored of teaching it or maybe she just knows it so well she didn’t even think to mention it. What I’m talking about here are unorthodox practices and things that that yoga people do that help them achieve greater benefits and transformation—yet quite ironically, they never tell anyone about it.

I’m talking about the yoga instructor who practices Ashtanga primary series every day, but teaches an aerobics-like flow sequence to a group of frustrated students who wonder why they’re not getting the same results as their teacher.

I’m talking about the teacher who does a 15 minute full lotus prep sequence herself every time before she does a meditation practice—and yet in class, she skips the prep and just throws her students into the deep end.

And I’m talking about dietary choices, extracurricular strength and flexibility training and all sorts of other weird discoveries that teachers make—but for whatever reason don’t share with their students.

These are the yoga dogs that don’t bark, and of the many quirky mysteries I’ve solved in recent years, I’d like to share just one of them with you today.

When you’re practicing a deep backbend like urdhva danurasana or kapotasana, and you literally feel like your can’t mentally or physically handle even one more breath in the pose, just open your mouth.

In almost any led class (mine included) the teacher will tell you that you have more control of your body and mind with nose-only breathing. This is 100% true, and ultimately, it’s the best way to practice a dynamic (flowing) yoga sequence.

But of the teachers I know who had very deep, very open back bends, at least half of them open their mouth to get deep into the pose.  Emotionally, back bends are really intense and if you couple that with restricted breathing, it can sometimes be too much (ever seen someone cry in yoga?).

So next time you’re working with a backbend sequence and feel like you’re going to burst, allow your mouth to hang open until you get your head screwed back on straight. Once you feel stable—mentally and physically—close your mouth and get back into the practice. Bow-wow. There you go.

LUCAS ROCKWOOD is a yoga teacher trainer, an author, and the founder of YOGABODY Naturals, an education and food supplement company that creates powerful yoga tools for real people.

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