For the last several years I have been encouraging students learn and engage some essential yoga practices. These have been around much longer than the last several years. They are the 8 limbs of yoga, ashtanga, that Patanjali codified in the Yoga Sutras.
I have also promised over the past several weeks that I would blog the definitions for a few of these. These definitions are in no way intended to be the end of a conversation, but rather the beginning. It is my intention that students and others will not simply take what I say as gospel, but will dig deeper and come to their own conclusions about the best way to define and practice each of these.
Finally I would like to note that while some of these practices can be construed simply as philosophical concepts or as end points to be acheived, they are intended as processes of exploration and are best engaged actively.
Asana: posture; mindful physical action;
Pranayama: intentional breathing;
Pratyahara: turning the outer senses inward; inner reflection; deepened awareness;
Dharana: concentration; mental focus;
Dhyana: meditation; presence; openess to what is;
So, I know I tend to get on my soap box a little bit in class sometimes. It’s just that I think yoga is fascinating. It’s been a great gift to be teaching again after taking time off to have the little one. Sometimes I get a little carried away!
Speaking of my soap box, I was going on in class a few days ago about “the fuzz”. “The fuzz” are strands of cobweb-like connective tissue that develop between the muscles and between muscle groups when we fail to move our bodies around in all the magnificent ways it can move. These strands of connective tissue multiply and bind together during long periods of inactivity (like when we sleep).
As time passes the fascia thickens and hardens between those once juicy, smooth and slippery surfaces rendering them less and less able to slide and glide past one another. As the individual muscles lose their ability to move freely and independently of other muscles our movements become less multidimensional and refined. We call this ‘stiff’. If you’ve ever had an injury that left you immobilized in a joint for a number of weeks, you’ve noticed this in your process of rehabilitation. Physical therapists include deep tissue massage in their treatments as ways of recovering this loss of mobility and literally breaking up “the fuzz”. A sedentary life, or physical activities that limit motion to simple gross-motor movements can have the same effect. We notice we’re no longer able to stretch as high for the tennis serve. Turning around in the car to parallel park becomes more difficult.
I first saw the video about “the fuzz” a few years ago in a workshop I took from a dear teacher of mine, Paul Grilley. Paul teaches the most practical (and eye-opening) anatomy lessons I’ve ever had. He transformed the way I think of alignment in yoga (and in everything else too).
I had never actually mentioned the ‘fuzz’ concept in any of my classes before. I’m not sure why. Anyway, that very day…the day I (it felt like not so eloquently) introduced “the fuzz” for the first time in one of my classes, my dear friend Brendan Armm posted “the fuzz” video on Facebook. What are the chances? I snapped it right up, and am happy now to pass it onto you.
The video is by a brilliant Ph.D, Gil Hedley. Anyone interested in anatomy can take his workshops and attend a dissection of a human cadaver. For the less adventurous, you can buy a video of a dissection, and see the real world examples of what is going on inside your body. He’s a fascinating narrator, as you will see below. The unique thing about Dr. Hedley, is that he is very spiritual in his approach to understanding the human physical form; he is personal, respectful, and sensitive in his explorations.
A little warning: The following video includes some very palatable for the average person (in my opinion) video of “the fuzz” in the tissues of a real human cadaver. Enjoy!!
Gil Hedley: Fascia and stretching: The Fuzz Speech