Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Power of Movement

(Photo: Matthew Sweeney, Ashtanga, Australia)

I had an absolutely fascinating and reaffirming experience this past weekend - but I need to back up a bit to tell the whole story. This Thursday past I led three yoga classes - my usual two Vinyasa sessions and one beginning Hatha. I confess, I overdid it. By Friday my triceps, deltoids and shoulders absolutely ached. No, they downright hurt. Saturday morning I gamely went forth and met up with the “Saturday Regulars” for our Ashtanga session. I had to modify the first 10 sun salutations - my arms protested loudly at any attempt to do otherwise. But I kept moving.

They continued to chatter at me through the first vinyasas, but I kept modifying and moving. It wasn’t until I came to Navasana (boat pose) that I realized, that while still a bit achey, my arms didn’t hurt anymore! There was a tiny background ache, but nothing like when I started.

I have experienced this before in a workshop setting, where I am doing a lot of intensive yoga in a very short period of time - often starting with a Friday night session, two or three Saturday sessions, and two or three Sunday sessions. By the time I get to the Sunday morning or afternoon session, the body just doesn’t want to move anymore. Bits and pieces ache. The mind is full. Physically and mentally I want to be done NOW! But there I am in Samasthti, about to move through another sequence, the mind and body going “oh, not again...”.

And the Sun Salutation begins, and the breath moves, and the body flows... and by the end, I don’t hurt.

This power of movement amazes me. The body’s inclination is toward stillness - the muscles hurt, it’s achy, so avoid movement till everything feels better. I cannot stress enough to counter this tendency - get off the couch and move! A gentle walk. Some basic stretches. Maybe a shortened or modified sequence. I feel the recovery period is quicker and it’s more restorative for the body; the blood starts flushing out the muscles and the toxins that have accumulated.

One final story. I led a mixed level beginning Hatha class as a sub. There was a gentleman in the session who worked construction. I challenged the class a bit more than their regular teacher and heard back through the grapevine the following week that he claimed he had to take off two days from work because he couldn’t move. (In case you think I was a yoga fiend or something horrible, the rest of the class did say they enjoyed the session.) I can’t help but think, he a) should have done the modifications I offered (but that’s another story) and b) if he had only gotten up and moved the next day, he would have felt a whole lot better.

So I say unto thee, get out there and move!

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