Starting From the Heart

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I’ve been procrastinating for ages about writing a blog post, even right up to last week I went to a blog writing workshop with the intention of writing a blog post soon after though it wasn’t to be.

Saturday 27th January marked International Holocaust Day and this is a subject that as morbid as it is, is close to my heart.  I thought about how I could share this with my students without going into a full-blown historical speech which might have ended up taking up the whole of the class.

Well, the beauty of yoga is that we express how we’re feeling or what we’re thinking through the asanas (positions) that we practice.  We might go through a heart opening practice in which various positions are practiced, which in turn although there is a whole range of positions that can be practiced it’s not as straightforward as that.

What I find interesting in my continuing learnings as a yoga teacher is that not everyone can practice even some of the traditional heart openers because they are in turn backbends.  A number of my students come to class to relieve back pain, which Yoga can help alleviate but only if certain positions are practiced.

A student with lower back pain needs to keep their spine as stable as possible, which means not going into any of the twists, nor backbends, the latter probably being the more obvious recommendation.

So, as I’m writing and thinking about this I’m thinking about what a heart opening practice would mean for a student with back problems.

Let’s take a basic gorgeous position “The Crocodile”, in my first version of this write up there will not be photos accompanying this piece so you’ll need to imagine lying on your front with your forearms resting on each other similar to as if you were resting.

To layer another position on in this sequence moving your hands to your side you will find your forearms pressing into the ground to form the Sphinx, at the moment you will be still lying on the ground.

The potential trickiness for a student with back issues is when they go into cobra, hands pressing to the side of the chest, body starting to lift, whilst pelvis is pressing to the floor, they would need to stop there.

Once the student has the strength in their arms to press up fully, the strength will carry through down their spine, past their hips possibly to their knees which are still resting on the ground.  The full Updog position is an intermediate pose which will have the student pressing down directly through their arms to their hands, whilst their flexibility and strength allow the front of their feet to rest on the ground.

Admittedly I’m seeing various opinions about whether the Updog is good or bad for the back though it’s crucial to consider at what point you experience pain, remembering that the motto “No pain, no gain” doesn’t exist in yoga, except perhaps for the Crow pose, though we’ll leave that for another blog post. 😊

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