There is an assumption that yoga is 'safe' and it is often touted as such. However, yoga is no longer inherently safe when it is separated from the principles that formed it foundations; ahimsa, the practice of non-violence, and samtosha, contentment.
When yoga is carried out in the environment of the modern fitness industry it can easily slide into that same mentality of pushing harder, aiming for an aesthetic endpoint or a discharge of tension or emotion rather than working from a place that honours our core. When we work each posture in a way that expands from our core, and simultaneously can always be drawn back into that place we honour ourselves, and furthermore we honour the principles that form the bedrock of yoga.
When we draw into our core, physiologically, we are engaging and balancing the action through our myofascial spiral lines, such that we are able to operate from our deep core line. The deep core (or deep front) line, is the home of the bandha and is the physiological action of the uplift we feel, from the arches of our feet, right out through the back of the neck and crown of the skull. Furthermore it encapsulates many of the key muscles of respiration. In this place we are functioning from our deepest, and our most relaxed axis. We are able to experience neutrality with our whole system as we utilise our spiral mechanics to balance the tensions that act upon our core.
In a literal sense, the myofascial spiral lines hold our daily compensation patterns. They show our handedness and other postural tendencies, and are the arena in which our deeper spinal compensations play out.
In a subtle energetic sense, the action of the myofascial spiral, and deep core lines map onto the three major nadi's (or energy rivers) described in yoga anatomy: the ida, pingala and sushumna.
The ida nadi represents our lunar, feminine and cooling aspects. It is represented by the colour white, or a pale pale yellow and begins on the left side of the sushumna, wrapping its way around through the varying chakras, through the left nostril to join at the third eye centre.The pingala nadi represents our solar, masculine and firey aspects. It is represented by the colour red.
The interaction between the two represent the balance between the varying aspects of our personality and our pre-dispositions, even our health. When the two are balanced, we are able to direct our pranic flow fully into the sushumna, which allows energy to rise right from our root to our crown and allows us the experience of stepping into the middle, of becoming the eye in the middle of the storm. We enter a state of neutrality, unaffected by the tensions that whirl around us, able to observe them all and act from our most connected sense.
So.... we've moved from wrapping the shoulder, to a system of working with the body that facilitates the balancing, and integration of our entire system, through honouring the humblest of principles. Non-violence, and contentment.
BUT// How do we know when we really get it right?
Well... thats the tricky part. As we said right the way back in part one, the essence of drawing in to the core becomes a constant that we can experience throughout a practice. A sense of neutrality, and of resting in the middle, that is the central axis to each posture regardless of the differing layers of more superficial action above.
Although we began with the shoulder, in truth, the order of engagement is arbitrary, and could be considered interchangeable with the activation of the three bandha.
When the shoulder is 'wrapped' we experience a hollowing, and a neutrality in the shoulder, when the trunk is engaged, that hollowing and spreading sensation fill the torso and right up through the crown of the head, and finally, when we engage the muscles of the pelvic floor, right through to the arches of the feet we experience that essence through the entire body. We are drawn into the core. Each inhale is fed by this action, and each exhale deepens it.
When we use the expansion of the inhale as the director of our practice we are also given the means to gradually extend the boundaries of this core, whilst always honouring it. At any point when we are unable to join these three elements then we have moved beyond our core
In order to understand this action, we must practice it... And not just on the mat.