Saturday, August 30, 2008

Animals Animals Everywhere

Lately I am realizing how deep my immersion in martial arts and yoga has become. One symptom is the way I talk to my teachers. Here are some typical questions:
  • is that a pigeon pose?
  • should I go to dragon stance?
  • kind of like a one legged dog?
  • should we turn the head of the snake upward?
  • cobra, sphinx or upward dog?
  • a drunken monkey?

I swear these are all legitimate questions which were asked in perfect seriousness and got detailed responses.

In martial arts and yoga many of the poses and postures are modeled after animals, and the animals We spent about ten minutes discussig how to use our hand like a snake after class. We looked at how to bend our hand around poles, and move our hands upward or sideways in a shimmering motion.

As we discussed this I began to wonder:

  • Is it possible to take the anology too far? Obviously we are not pigeons, camels dragons or tigers, so why should we study their motions?
  • Animals are adapted to move certain ways, but the same laws of physics apply to them, so if we move our hands like a snake we can take advantage of the unique coiling motion of a snake. If we think of a tiger we can make our hands into claws that tear. If we think of a dog stretching out, we can get that angle in our upper back that feels soooooo good.

So the next time you are doing Cat/Cow, king pigeon, or a drunken monkey, think about how the animals move. At the very least it will bring some art and fun to your practice.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Off the Mat...Public Speaking

One thing I have brought from yoga is a connection between my mind and my body. Your posture influences your mood, and vice versa.

Consider public speaking. It is one of the most stressfull situations people can have. People rank fear of public speaking above fear of death.

So what is happening as you sit in a chair, waiting to be introduced? Your legs are folded in an unnaturally chair constricted posture that let's your quads shrink, and even atrophy.

These are your fight or flight muscles. When an alligator leaps out of the water these muscles need to fire up and carry you off the field. So your body is telling your mind that you are not ready to move. Your mind, in turn is telling your body that you are about to enter a dangerous situation. It is a feedback loop. You are about to expose yourself with no ability to fight or fly!

The trick I learned at a recent speaking engagement was to loosen these up these tense muscles. You will be cool, calm and relaxed as you speak. Just sit a little forward on your chair, and bend your leg to the floor. The top of your body will be unchanged, so people watching you sit at a table will simply see your upper body and a smile on your face. Meanwhile your quads are loosening allowing you to relax and prepare for a stressful situation.

And...if your speech is not well recieved.
You will be able to fight or fly!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

On and off the mat --- Relaxation Response

Today, I had a demonstration of something truly amazing. If you conquer your fears, and relax your anxiety, problems start to disapear!

Some may say this is mystical, but the explanation could be much more simple.

Case in point. On my way to a meeting today, and already running late.

RED LIGHT! At this point there is nothing to be done. Talk about pressure....I am sitting there, with a BIG ASS MEETING Coming up....SITTING IN THE CAR, WAITING ON A LIGHT!

Then I remembered the NPR show this morning. That if you elicited a relaxation response at a red light you could have a significant effect on your health.

Well, I was still pretty sure this light was going to make me late for the meeting, but at least I could arrive with low blood pressure, no rashes and not a trace of sweat (or other bodily fluids). So I

took a deep breath

The light changed, and I drove one block to anohter red light.

breath, calm

Three red lights later I was calm.

The funny thing. All those lights slowed me down less than ten minutes. I made the meeting, smelling and looking good, and a little early.