Sunday, January 8, 2017

YOGA - Building a Strong Core


Without a strong core, every yoga pose you do is potential source of injury. Building strong back and ab strength is crucial in ashtanga yoga. Yes, yoga poses must be taught and performed in a way that eliminates the risk for injury. And, yes, the poses should be visually recognizable. If your Warrior 2 looks more like a bogey man, great chances are you’re doing it wrong!

Yoga consists of poses, which you hold for a certain period of time and you move to the next pose. The yoga poses are not the goal of yoga, it is simply a tool. It is important to breathe while being comfortable, steady, and relaxed in each pose.

Today's teachers focus exclusively on visual appearance of poses and the physical body. They study anatomy and physiology. They are obsessed with correct alignment and in visual look, they keep all the emphasis on that. They emphasizes so much of detail for the poses and they eventually make you injury prone.

I have personally seen teachers spend 45 minutes of a class stressing the importance of perfect alignment in downward dog, which does not make a class safer, nor does it make a class more interesting. This was only a waste of 45 minutes of your time.

But beyond a way to waste time, I feel emphasizing alignment over any other principle of yoga, is misguided. Focusing exclusively on alignment sets you up for failure. If teacher is looking for a perfection of the pose, your are doomed. In some cases this can create anxiety and insecurity.

Yoga Journal photos and yoga selfies are done with lot of try-and-error attempts if a professional photographer which snapped the photo. Perhaps this makes sense if you are competing for beauty pageant not yoga. Yoga is neither a performance, nor is it graded and judged. The best way to learn how to do yoga, is by doing yoga, even if that means performing a simplified variation.

Doing the poses perfectly should not be seen as having a big achievement. Perfection in pose occurs when you are performing it to the best of your ability, maintaining the steadiness of breath and relaxation of body.

A good teacher wants you to learn the poses, not keep you dependent. The only reason to go to a yoga class is to work on your practice. Your yoga teacher is not enlightened. So focus on learning the poses so you can do it at home on your own space and time. Do not focus on the teacher, they are the guide, not the goal.

The most powerful part of yoga practice is not in the appearance but in building the core strength of your body. Forget too many details about the alignment of a pose, that takes you out of your body and into your mind. Instead of feeling you are thinking, and you are usually thinking “Am I doing this right?

Any muscle working  in yoga pose that involves maintaining neutral spine is strength of your core. So imagine you are in Warrior 2. Naturally your body will want to dip down, stomach tends to go out as the weight pulls you down. Opposing that force will be the muscle of your legs, as well as hips, and even those in lower legs and feet. There is no such thing as an exercise that works only one muscle group – in this case your entire body will work together to hold your spine neutral. And that’s core stability.

In any pose you should be stable and relaxed, breathing freely. In this way you quiet your mind and prepare yourself for meditation. The ideal yoga practice is a moving meditation where breath, stability and look work in perfect balance.

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About Zee Mark

I am an Ashtanga yoga practitioner from Toronto, Canada. I am writing a blog about awakening, yoga and everyday life. My entire life journey has led me to this very moment in time. I finally arrived to a place where I am okay with the truth that there is no truth.