On Your Mark, Get Set, STABILIZE! By Stephanie Tencer #movementmonday

(This post is the third in a series of posts discussing Yoga & Summer Sports)

Take a moment and imagine yourself engaged in your favourite summertime sport. In the course of play, are you required to stop suddenly or change positions quickly? If yes, enhancing your stability can help to improve your game. Whether you are catching a ball, swinging a racket, or riding a skateboard, stability is a key attribute and contrary to what many think, it encompasses more than simply ‘balance’.  Maintaining equilibrium is certainly part of the equation, but stability is more than that – I think of it as balance in the face of adversity. Stability involves the ability to balance but to do so while also, for example, catching a 90 mph pitch, or getting side-swiped by a player much larger than you.

Fortunately, yoga can help with both balance and stability. Yoga asanas that extend the back of the legs are particularly helpful in this regard. Extending the back of the legs brings stability to the legs and pliability to the hamstrings, both of which can aid players who need to suddenly stop, balance on one leg, or redirect their movements quickly.

By definition, yoga is about balance – union. While it’s common nowadays for people to turn to yoga to aid them in finding a work-life balance, a thoughtful yoga practice can shed light on all sorts of imbalances. In preparing this article, one of the imbalances that quickly came to light is how much we tend to over-use some body parts and under-use others. With respect to balance and stability, as mentioned above, very often the backs of our legs are dull, contracted, and/or unaware. From a yogic perspective, if we can direct our awareness, our intelligence, our sensitivity, equally to all body parts, stability will inherently follow.

BKS Iyengar is quoted as saying; “a yogi’s brain extends from the bottom of the foot to the top of the head”. I love this quote because it encapsulates the notion that there is intelligence in every cell of our body and through the practice of Yoga, we can awaken and channel that intelligence. Whether it’s for the sake of improving your game or for the simple goal of living more healthfully(!), there is immense power in actualizing this principle. Next time you are standing around, I encourage you to spend a moment and ‘be’ in your body. Notice your habits. Are you standing with more weight on one leg than the other? Is your weight forward on your feet or back? Can you feel the back of your thighs? Train yourself to develop and enhance your awareness. What do you think…could developing a refined level of sensitivity translate into a homerun?!?!

Here are a few poses for you to practice at home that can help foster stability. Happy practicing!!!

Ardha Chandrasana

Ardha Chandrasana
•    Jump your legs apart and turn your right leg out.
•    Bend your right knee and place your right palm on the floor about a foot in front of your right foot.
•    As you transfer your weight towards your right foot and palm, raise your left leg up.
•    Press firmly into your right foot and lift your kneecap and thigh up as you straighten your right leg.
•    At your right outer hip, suck in, and from the base of your abdomen, turn your torso from right to left.
•    Reach into the heel of your left leg and straighten it completely. Lift your left leg slightly higher than you think you should.
•    Extend your left arm up to the ceiling.
•    Gaze softly but intently and balance yourself.
•    Hold for a few breaths and then repeat to the other side.
•    NOTE: If balance is an issue, practice at first with the help of a wall. Work with your back body against a wall OR with the sole of your lifted foot touching a wall.
•    NOTE: If placing your hand on the floor prevents you from opening up across the front body as you turn, take some height under the palm, as shown in the photograph.

Virabhadrasana III

Virabhadrasana III
•    Step your right foot forward and bend your knee into a right angle.
•    Hinge forward and lay your abdomen along your thigh; extend your straight arms forward.
•    Transfer your weight to your right leg & maintaining the relationship of your abdomen to your thigh, raise your back leg up.
•    Press firmly into your right foot and lift your kneecap and thigh up as you straighten your right leg.
•    Flare the back of your left thigh open and lift it higher.
•    Raise your wrists and absorb your shoulder blades in towards your chest.
•    Steady your gaze.
•    Hold for a few breaths and then repeat to the other side.
•    NOTE: If balance is an issue, practice first with support. Place your hands on a wall, a counter, or even the floor directly under your shoulders. Focus on the actions of the legs and pelvis.

Urdhva Prasarita Padasana

Urdhva Prasarita Padasana
•    Lie on your back and raise your legs up to 90 degrees.
•    Spread your toes and broaden across the soles of your feet.
•    Anchor down through the corner of your hips and extend up through the back of your legs.
•    Broaden the backs of your thighs and press your knees and thighs away from you.
•    Reach your arms over your head; turn your palms to face the ceiling.
•    From the corners of your hips to your middle fingers reach in one direction; from your back waist to your buttock bones, reach in the other direction.
•    NOTE: This asana is about extension, not contraction. If your legs are bending, work first with your legs up against a wall. With the centre of your heels glued to the wall, press your knees and thighs towards the wall. If you anchor your hips and then scrub your heels very high up the wall, in time, you will be able to lift your straight legs off the wall without contracting.

steph2Stephanie Tencer is an Iyengar-certified Yoga teacher and co-founder of Studio Po. Through Yoga, Stephanie has overcome chronic and debilitating back pain. Today, she continues to be inspired by the sense of playfulness and self-discovery that Iyengar Yoga affords. studiopoyoga.com

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