When You Think Of Your Body, Do You Think Of It In Pieces Or As A Whole?

By Renee’ Fulkerson

When you think of your body, do you think of it in pieces or as a whole? Imagine a puzzle that always needs putting back together, especially after an injury. Or a pulley system that engages entirely when the body moves or stands upright. 

I used to think of or refer to my own body in pieces. I can think back to exercise, yoga, and fitness classes that almost always separated my body parts during practice. What does that mean exactly? Phrases like today is a leg day or, we are only going to work on these muscle groups today. Does this sound familiar to you? I never realized how disempowering these phrases and movement programs were. 

And, then I was taught to view my body as a whole and not in pieces. I cannot tell you what a game-changer moment that was for me. I went from pulling my body apart to its end range like Stretch Armstrong, a toy of my youth. Who, by the way, does not always go back together so quickly after so many pulls. To putting myself back together in what we refer to in YogAlign as a full-body stretch. The end range can be very misleading for most people, especially those who tend to be hypermobile. Just because you can doesn’t always mean you should.

I have a student who is hyper-mobile in her hip joints but not necessarily strong in this area. Does hyper-mobility affect strength? From what I have read and seen while teaching there, is sufficient evidence that hypermobility may be associated with strength deficiencies. An injury waiting to happen would be for her to continue to pull herself apart just because she can. We need to think about how this affects the body as a whole. Hip strength is necessary for the stability and prevention of injuries. 

My goal is to guide students through full-body movements creating balance, health, mobility and, strength. By reprogramming your movement patterns from piece to, whole we get the benefits of all body support, balance, strength, and mobility. Hanging in joints and ligaments to go a little deeper may feed the ego for a moment but does nothing for the rest of the entire body. Cons outweigh the pros in that movement programming or regular practice. 

A lunge, Ashta Chandrasana, or Crescent High Lunge Pose is a posture when hanging in your joints or ligaments can happen. I cue students to identify this possible hanging by checking in with the pelvic floor during a lunge. Is it hanging down like a hammock? With no support? To go deeper or closer to the floor. Are your shoulders lifted to your ears, making it hard to breathe? Is your ribcage flaring up, creating a backbend? In practicing this, way you are compromising pieces of the body and not benefiting the whole. Now let’s take that same posture and tweak it a bit.

  • Step your right foot forward and wiggle your back foot to get balanced between front and back bodyweight.
  • You will know if you are balanced by checking in with your hip alignment. Is one hip twisting to accommodate the unbalanced spread?
  • Make sure you are high up on the toes of your back foot.
  • Check-in with the pelvic floor. Does it feel unstable (hanging)?
  • If, so engage your inner thighs slightly and get the glutes firing. In doing, so you will feel to the touch your IT band fully engaged.
  • Again check hip alignment and think of your hip bones as two flashlights shining forward.
  • Draw your arms down and out into a V shape on either side of your body. With your palms facing forward and fingers spread.
  • And slightly press your hands forward like you are pushing against a wall firing the back muscles. 
  • Draw the sternum slightly down if the rib cage is starting to flare up.
  • Eye gaze is eye level and straightforward. Look side to side and stick your tongue out, relieving your neck of any extreme tension.
  • Once you are in the high lunge, bring your attention to the space on your sideline. Between the floating ribs and the top of your hip or Iliac Crest. 
  • There is a good amount of body real estate between these two bones. Easier to see on an anatomy skeleton but, you can feel it with your hands. We do not want to lose this space (collapse) on our exhale.
  • Recap – the back foot lifted, inner thighs slightly engaged, firing the glutes, arms in a V, palms facing forward, fingers spread, pushing against a wall, hips aligned, released neck a shoulder tension. 
  • Now SIP in like you are drinking through a straw fill the diaphragm muscle with air (engaging the core muscles). Make fists with your hands and tense your entire body. Pause at the top for a moment (neck and shoulders relaxed). Start your S-hale like a snake with your teeth together, then open your hands and don’t collapse by controlling the exhale. In other, words to the naked eye, from SIP inhale to S-hale there would be no change in your whole body posture. You would maintain your gift of lift, spacious sideline and, not collapse in your S-hale. 
  • Repeat 3, more times, and then change sides and repeat.

In practicing the YogAlign Method Lunge, you begin to move and relate to your body as a whole. Receiving and retrieving all the benefits moving and thinking in this way has to offer. You get to reclaim some of that precious real estate and space back into the whole body without having to pull it apart into pieces. 

I will leave you with this thought you use 200 muscles to take one step (Human Bones, Joints and Muscles Facts).

Aloha

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