efficient body

* NOTE: I have many many more allies than these few powerhouses…they were all I could manage to fit in my illustration!

Your human body is designed to be supported and powered from below and behind.
Almost all of the largest muscles are on the back body.
We can think of this design as something we can both relax into and be propelled forward by.
I’ve written about this before and you can find more on this here and here.

In addition to our back-supported-and-powered physical bodies, ask yourself, “Who has my back?”
It’s always great to have people who stand with us through difficult times and circumstances but we can’t always have them there. In any situation, you can choose to bring along an ally of your choosing. It could be a person from your past: a beloved family member, a treasured teacher, or a writer or artist who touched your life. Whenever you are stepping into a situation in which you feel you need support, choose an ally to have your back. Two years ago would have been my grandfather’s 100th year and 25th birthday, he is an ally I take with me always.

Feel the physical support of your own amazing, beautifully-designed body.
Feel the mental, emotional and spiritual support of the allies you choose to bring with you.
They all have your back.

don't just sit there woman sitting on bench“Sitting is more dangerous than smoking, kills more people than HIV and is more treacherous than parachuting. We are sitting ourselves to death.” – Dr. James Levine, director of the Mayo Clinic-Arizona State University Obesity Solutions Initiative

As a movement educator, avid yogi, biker and hiker, it’s safe to say that I’m active. Even so, I’m amazed at how much time I spend sitting ~ at my desk, in my car, at the table, watching movies. It’s kind of stunning.

A couple of weeks ago, my yoga teacher posted an article about the muscular ramifications of prolonged sitting. This brilliant article (please read it, it’s full of great information and helpful visuals) outlines how muscles compensate for the sitting for long stretches leaving some muscles tight (and overworked) and some muscles weak (and underworked). It’s called the Upper Crossed Syndrome (UCS) and Lower Crossed Syndrome (LCS) and the criss-crosses of tight and weak muscles result in shoulder, hip/lower back, knee and foot pain. (The article does a brilliant job of explaining the details of the muscles involved and the anatomical consequences, so I won’t recount them all here. Go read it!) Understanding the UCS and the LCS helps me see clearly why I’ve had issues in my shoulder, knee and even gives insights into the plantar fasciitis I occasionally grapple with.

The body is designed to move but our culture is designed to sit. Even fit folks are sitting a lot during the course of an average day. The UCS/LCS piece sparked my curiosity to look into the other consequences of extended sitting. What with the wonder of the World Wide Interwebs, it took me about 30 seconds to come across the phrase “sitting is the new smoking” (the phrase’s coiner, Dr. James Levine, is quoted above) and then to be inundated with articles and research about the health risks of sitting.

Holy first-world health hazards, people. Sitting increases the risk for obesity, muscular issues and joint pain, sure, but it’s not just that. Cancer. Heart disease. Diabetes. Depression. More. It’s a mess, I tell you. Sitting a lot makes a mess. (The phenomenon is fascinating in a frightening kind of way. If you’re interested in reading some more, you can find them here, here, and here but you’ve got the Interwebs, you can find even more, if you’re so inclined.)

So if extended sitting sets up not just structural imbalances but systemic health hazards AND if sitting is an inextricable part of life, what’s a person to do? In tomorrow’s post, I’ll talk about my personal strategy for combatting the tight, the weak, and the sad, sorry ails of sitting.

energy leaks leaky-boat-continue-to-paddle
Like everybody, I have a certain amount of energy: physical, mental, emotional, financial, life-force energy.

Lately, I’ve noticed some energy leaks ~ holes in my boat that swamp me.

Sometimes it’s the way I fret or worry, or the way or with whom I spend my time. Sometimes it’s the way I literally or figuratively wiggle around or hold tension.

When I’m leaking energy, I have less to direct toward the things that matter.

Energy leaks are habits. My practice is to pay attention, set an intention for change, and get curious about what happens.

Where is your boat leaking?

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I can do Wheel Pose (Urdhva Dhanurasana). It’s no Cirque du Soliel or Yoga Journal rendering, but I can do it.

I can do Wheel, but unlike any other pose, I think about it before I get there. I know it comes at the end of class and that there may be one or three or more. Sometimes during the Warrior series, I think about it and wonder if I’ll have enough energy once we get into the floor series. Once we’re on the floor, I may be concentrating on Lizard (Utthan Pristhasana), but then I think, Ho Boy. We’ve still got Wheel to do.

When it actually is time to do Wheel, I set my feet near my hips, flip my hands around by my shoulders and… I reset my feet and tuck my hands in a little closer and… I take a breath and wiggle around a little and… I’m up.

Calm mind. Efficient body

We all have energy ~ physical, mental, emotional, life force energy. When it comes right down to it, life is all about directing that energy where we want it to go. When my mind runs around worrying and obsessing and my body wiggles needlessly, I’m leaking energy. If I’m leaking energy, I have less to focus on the things that matter.

It’s as if I’m paddling to get across a lake in a canoe that has a bunch of holes in it. If I actually make it across that lake, it will be a slow soggy slog. My relationship with Wheel is one leaky boat, let me tell you what.

Plugging the Leaks

The first step, as ever, is awareness. Do I realize I’m in my head fretting about how many Wheels Kelly is going to call? Do I notice that I’m fiddling and diddling around on my mat before I take the pose? Do I know that I’m clenching my jaw or holding tension in my hands or cracking my knuckles or biting my nails? The first step is to pay attention to how I’m draining myself or doing more than I need to. The first step in stopping up an energy leak is to notice that I have one in the first place.

The second step to plugging up energy leaks is to summon up my personal power to create a calm mind and an efficient body. This is where things may get a little tricky. Energy leaks are not only usually unconscious, but they are often long-held habits of body and mind. Even when I notice what I’m doing, I may be hard-pressed to stop doing it.

Intention and Curiosity

Plugging an energy leak is like changing any habit: set my intention to change, do my best and get curious about what happens. I might intend not to obsess about or wiggle into Wheel, and I find myself doing it anyway, or I may notice that I’m able to stay focused when I’m well-hydrated and practicing next to Gina. (Huh, check that out!) I might intend to spend 3 hours a week working on a new project and it might happen the first week but then I go back to my old habits after that. (Hmm, interesting. Maybe I need an accountability buddy.) If I want to eat less sugar, I might experiment with cutting back gently or going cold turkey, then I observe with curiosity and see what happens. (Urgh. Feel the sensation of the urge without acting on it.)

Calm mind. Efficient Body.

Directing my energy to what matters to me is what life is all about, and we all have leaks in our energy canoe. We all have ways that we fritter and wiggle and worry. If I’m squandering my energy on obsessing about things I can’t control or fiddling around with things that don’t matter, I’m wasting my most precious resource.

Calm mind. Efficient Body.

Plugging energy leaks is a life-long practice. Awareness of how I drain myself or do more than I need to, allows me to choose differently. Paying attention to the leaks and making choices around them is not only empowering but damned useful for doing what matters to you most.

Where is your energy leaking? In your mind? Your movement? Your life? Use the comments below to help each other recognize those sneaky places where energy escapes.

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 …annnnnnnd, I’m up.

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