Activation within your yoga practice…what does it mean?
Activation within your yoga practice…what does it mean?
Do you know the difference between being active and passive in your body? The difference between engaging and just hanging out in a yoga pose? The affect it has on your body between forcing or activating your way through your yoga practice?
Activation in the body is about being aware of how you are moving and placing your body on the mat, into AND out of yoga poses. Engaging muscles to build strength to hold yoga poses and protect the joints. Being gentle and mindful of your body and listening to how your body reacts rather than pushing for the pose or going to your edge every single time!
Before we dive deeper into activation I want to mention endurance and longevity. Hopefully you associate one or both of these words with your yoga practice or any movement practice. Did you say yes, no, maybe, no idea?
We may be lucky to be in our bodies for 70, 80, 90, 100 or more years and we want to be able to use our bodies as best as we are able. I know I want my body and mind to be as happy and healthy as possible so I can get as much out of my life as possible and I’m guessing if you are reading this blog then you do too.
As a practice, yoga should be about longevity, to look after your mind and body but is this possible if we push, pull, force or manipulate ourselves into poses. I don’t mean forcing yourself onto the mat when you just can’t be bothered to practice (this is usually when we NEED to get on the mat!), but pushing yourself deeper into poses that may not be serving your body in the long run. Even in a yoga practice it is still possible to injury yourself - but then are you truly practicing yoga?
Taurus is all about endurance, they start something to get the end result and that may be why ended up on the mat. Maybe it was for stress relief, to assist with recovery from an injury or to get to ‘THAT’ pose - we all have to start somewhere. But looking after our bodies is something we should all be doing however you do it - yoga, running, eating good food, drinking plenty of water, fresh air, laughing whatever it is that helps keep you going = longevity.
Activation within our Yoga practice is to bring presence to your body, your mind, your practice. Rather than relying on flexibility or being forceful, you are activating/engaging the muscles to build strength deep into your body which can help you create a yoga practice that will sustain you throughout your lifetime.
This subject may seem mainly focused on those with hyper mobility/flexibility or that come into a Yoga practice having practiced dance or gymnastics for years. But that isn’t to say that if you don’t related to these then you should stop reading or stop activating your body. If you are used to a practice be it dance, gymnastics or even yoga that you could just manipulate your body into super deep and flexible yoga poses did you ever ask yourself why? Why are you pushing to the edge of your practice, the pose, the limits of your own body?
Hyper mobility is a hot topic right now and there is LOADS of information out there if you want to dive in deeper to this subject. I am also slightly hyper mobile and know how to recognise it in my students. This is where we bring in activation. To activate the muscles around the joint rather than dropping into it and forcing the body to your edge for a pose. Our bodies need a 50/50 split of strength and flexibility. Too much of one decreases the other, I’ve noticed this within my own practice. I’ve never considered myself super flexible as I as a naive yogi thought flexibility was going deep into folds and the hips - think pigeon and splits pose! It took me a long time to honour that my deep backbending practice WAS my flexibility practice! When I started my inversion practice I started to lose my flexibility in my back as I was building strength into my arms, shoulders and core (a deeper dive topic for another blog!).
Now I’m not a Physio but have a lot of respect for them. having worked with many amazing Physios over the past 7 years and having gone to Physio myself for treatment for a non yoga related injury (which I might discuss in another blog post!). If you are concerned about an injury or how your body feels when placed in a yoga pose then it can be worth seeing a Physio and is something I will ALWAYS recommend to my students or even booking in a 1 to 1 private class with your yoga teacher to go deeper into modifying your practice and looking after your body.
Activation is about gentle, focused control and movement and can be very subtle. For some of us we can this more of a challenge then finding the deep and super flexible yoga poses. We have to be super present and mindfully aware of exactly how we are using our bodies. Stay with it though and start to notice the difference in your practice.
The phrase ‘No Pain No Gain’ isn’t allowed in my classes! I really don’t like it and it serves us no good on the mat. YES we may be doing something that will benefit us in the long run BUT is pain really going to bring any gain? This is what I mean by your edge, the place where you feel like you are about to fall off. That point where the stretch catches you by surprise and you gasp for breath or the point many of us have gone to - pushed too much and got a cramp! We shouldn’t be pushing ourselves to this point in a yoga practice especially if our goal is endurance and longevity. You might approach the edge slowly so you are aware of where it is for you, but pull back to where your body feels comfortably challenged. Where your breath is relaxed and not forced, where you aren’t creating more tension just from being in the yoga pose - check your jaw, shoulders, hands are they clenched or relaxed?
I always say in my classes that an ‘advanced’ yogi is someone who moves into childs pose (or their resting pose of choice) BEFORE I guide them to. Knowing they are listening to and honouring their body has had enough and its time to let go and pause.
Have a go with finding activation in your practice with my free 15 minute practice.
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The Astro Yogi )0(