Saturday, August 13, 2005

Explode Recoil Blossom

I was working with my yoga students on downward facing dog pose today (adho mukha svanasana). And I was doing it for a particular purpose. I wanted them to eventually do a full arm balance (handstands, adho mukha vrksasana).

Before you do handstands, it's a pretty good idea to be sure you're fairly adept at really pushing with your arms,
i.e., extending them long, from shoulders to hands. You can learn and improve this action practicing it in dog pose.

It's also a pretty good idea to make sure you're fairly adept at using your legs. Here's the big secret: If you use your legs a lot in dog pose, your arms aren't required to do as much work. It's true of handstand, too.

You see, you can sort of 'hang out' in dog pose, if you want to. No big deal, really. But you
can't just 'hang out' in handstand. You've got to be doing something. And that doing something is extending your arms straight, pushing your hands into the floor. If you don't do it...collapse.

I noticed when I asked my students to push hard into the floor while doing dog poses, what they did was a very
mechanical explosion of effort. It accomplished what I wanted. Their arms were straight. They got longer from hands to sit bones. And they transferred more of their weight backwards, to be borne by the legs. All good.

But this explosion was
immediately followed by a recoil that left my students in exactly the situation in which they began. Not so good.

Exploding and recoiling. These are not commonly seen in nature. But they are very common in machines. Think of your car. The sparkplug fires. The piston slams in one direction and immediately rebounds. Or think of a rifle. Pull the trigger and the bullet shoots out one end. But the butt of the rifles kicks back into your shoulder.

A more natural movement is called for.

Change your imagery from a machine to something more organic and you'll see slow steady expansion. I like to think of the image of a flower opening up in a blossom. Just when you think it won't open any more, it goes a little bit further.

I also like the image of bread dough rising. Slowly and steadily it expands.

In my experience, breath is
key. When I steady my breath and focus on the smooth flow of air into and out of my lungs, I can slowly and steadily expand my torso and lengthen my spine shifting more and more weight back into my legs. Just when I think I can't go more, I refocus on my breath and I keep expanding and lengthening.

I become steadier and stronger when I act like a flower, not like a shot-gun.

Look for explosions in your poses today. See if you can blossom instead.

By the way, if you see neither and explosion nor a blossom, maybe you're just 'hanging out.' Hangin' out is okay, but probably won't serve you if you secretly, or not so secretly, desire to move on to more challenging poses.

Don't just read about it. Get up. Experience it. Experience yoga!

Kevin Perry

p.s., Adho mukha svanasana. Adho mukha vrksasana. What's the difference? I'm sure there's an urdhva mukha svanasana. Is there an urdhva mukha vrksasana? Have fun playing with our virtual Sanskrit refrigerator magnet at Drag your mouse over any word root on the virtual magnet, like adho, and you'll see the pose names that contain that word root.

p.p.s, I am excited to annouance that Sallie Keeney and I will be conducting the Experience Sanskrit workshop on Saturday, November 5th at Surya Center for Yoga in Coppell, TX, near the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport. This is the workshop that makes learning the Sanskrit names of yoga poses fun and unforgettable. More details will follow. Tuition is $50 for the 4-hour workshop. And you get a 100+ page course manual to use and take home. It's included free with your enrollment. Want to know more about the Experience Sanskrit workshop? Want to bring the Experience Sanskrit to your yoga studio? See . Then email me at We'll set a date and we'll be at your place before you know it.


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