核心運動和關聯性的關節運動:一些習練筆記

瑜伽是一個從阻塞到暢通的習練過程

嘗試從核心來引導身體動作可以視為一個化解阻塞的過程,比如透過核心啟動來使肩膀外展(展開肩胛骨),這意味動作必須從核心開始,經過整條脊柱才能到達肩部,而且必需透過關聯性的關節運動(AJM)來實現:核心先向後然後向上移動,脊柱從腰椎開始向胸椎區域前屈。導致肩胛骨展開,肩膀外展並內旋…… 理想情況下,動作伴隨著意識如同漣漪一般不間斷的從核心向周圍擴散。 

視頻 1: 肩膀外展:孤立的和由核心啟動的肩部動作

當我們自己練習這樣的動作時,只能依靠感覺和意識來追踪這條路徑的每一個小動作。剛開始可以將整個過程分成五個部分:核心部分,下部脊柱,中部脊柱,上部脊柱和肩部,並使動作按此順序向上。可以觀察的到的是感覺和動作似乎“跳過”某些部分,特別是中背部(腰椎和胸椎交會之處):那裏既沒有運動也沒有什麼感覺,這不僅表示該區域的僵硬,而且意味著該地區的阻塞,如果既沒有意識也沒有運動,我們大概可以肯定地說,那裡的能量流動和血液循環也很少。 

Simon Borg-Olivier提到增強某個區域的能量流動(血液循環)有三種方法:擴張該區域,將呼吸帶到該區域或將意念集中在該區域,因此如果前兩種方法不起作用,我們總是可以靠意志和內觀來“想像”這條路徑。隨著習練和時間,感覺將開始出現,隨後動作終將出現。

:席瓦和沙克蒂 印度 12世紀

在印度教神話中,希瓦和他永恆的伴侶沙克提(帕瓦提)象徵著意識和能量,本質和現象,這兩者之間伴侶(夫妻)關係是是沙克蒂總是跟隨希瓦。當我們把意識灌注在身體的某個區域時,我們將吸引能量(prana)向該區域集中,在此情況下,這個生命能量的特點是療癒和活力的恢復。

動作的自由

核心運動在不對稱的單側動作裡,形成更多的變化。以上述的肩部運動為例,單側的肩胛骨外展將導致另一側的肩胛內收,也使得脊柱屈曲並向另一側扭轉,當動作繼續延伸時可產生肘部(屈曲和內旋),手腕(屈曲和外展)和手指(屈曲)等動作。

當我開始交替的單側練習這種動作時,我注意到兩側的不均等,我右側的動作明顯更平滑,也能清晰感受意識和能量的路徑,但左側就感覺相當阻塞和沒有生氣,這顯然與過去的肩膀損傷有關,因此我開始將核心運動作為一種自我的理療,“人工的”促使AJM來疏通這個堵塞,讓能量得以流動。

視頻 2:右肩外展

一開始對肌肉 – 骨骼系統功能的一些理解有助於“規劃”相關的關節活動,但通過練習,我們會發現AJM只是很自然地發生,因為運動變得越來越平滑,能量運動也是如此。

視頻 3: 核心運動即興

Core initiated movements and associative joint movements: some practice notes – Asana (posture) and Vinyasa (Movement)

In the last post, I discuss the functional use of core initiated movements(CIM) and by freeing the associative joint movements we allow the movement to smoothly travel from the core to another body part.
In this post, I would like to focus on the interplay between CIM and AJM in yoga asana (posture) practice.


Asana  

Ideally, the practice of Asana is aiming to generate a certain flow of energy rather than simply creating a body shape. Each asana represents a specific energy pattern in a posture: a specific way of how and where energy flows(or not) in the body, it involves bandha’s (the energy locks or the co-activation of opposing muscle groups ) that are either opened (expansive bandha) to allow the energy to flow in certain areas or(and) closed (compressive bandha) in other areas and creating an expansion and squeezing (low and high pressure) effect, therefore the practice of asana combined with vinyasa involves core initiated movements with associated joint movement encouraged in some areas but inhibited in other areas.


For modern bodies practicing asana, the AJM is something to watch out for: a simple urdvahastasana can result in AJM such as shoulders retraction and spinal extension but with a stiff shoulders and spine, much of the AJM will likely occur at the lumbar region, the only place where the spine knows how to bend backward, and such compression or squashing often causes discomfort and pain in the lower back.
With controlled AJM, in Urdvahastasana, underarm muscles are engaged to create expansive shoulder bandha to keep the shoulder blades protracted, compressive Uddyana bandha is maintained to keep the lower ribs in, expansive mulabandha is maintained by engaging rectus abdominis and lower back lengthened, as natural breathing is also maintained throughout.

Urdvahastasana without and with controlled AJM


Therefore depending on the nature of asana/vinyasa,  CIM and AJM are combined and applied to mobilize a specific body part while inhibit(stabilize) other parts.  The above example of various bandha’s prevent certain AJM in order to maintain the integrity of the shoulders and spine, allow the core to be active yet remain calm so the natural breathing is not inhibited.

Vinyasa

For modern bodies with our peculiar chair culture and high level of stress, our movements are quite disconnected from the core, the movements are done on the parts of the body thus separated from their source.

Vitruvian Man – Leonardo Da Vince

One analogy to look at the core (kanda, dantian) and other body parts is to see their relationship as the sun and planets in our solar system: the sun is the source of energy, it exercises its influence upon the planets and results in the perpetuate planetary movements: the celestial dance of the heavenly bodies. To imagine these planets without their sun is indeed unimaginable, for there will be no life if the source of life is severed

The solar system

As Simon Borg-Olivier often talks about natural body versus modern body, a natural body naturally moves from the core and maintains natural abdominal breathing, whereon a modern body often misses both. The reasons that we no longer know how to initiate movements from the core is not only due to the stiffness and blockages in the joints but also the stiffness, and immobility of the core caused by over-tensing the abdomen through stress and bad habits.


Of the various Yoga Synergy movements taught by Simon Borg-Olivier, I found two particularly good to serve as a foundation, because they are both repetitive by forming a figure 8 or infinity shape. Between these two, we are able to initiate all possible spinal, shoulder and hip movements from the core. 

This is a symmetrical movements in four parts: back lengthening (dorsal spinal lengthening) and front lengthening (frontal spinal lengthening), back shortening (spinal extension) and front shortening (spinal flexion). Notice the core is tracing a vertical figure 8.
This is an asymmetrical movement includes spinal rotation to the left, lateral lengthening on the right side, spinal rotation to the right side, while maintaining the lateral lengthening to the right side, lateral lengthening on the left side, spinal rotation to the left… Notice the core is tracing a horizontal figure 8.

These two movements combined provide ample possibilities for the spine, shoulders, and the hips to move in various directions. Depending on the posture, certain AJMs are encouraged to allow specific movements and others are inhibited to create bandha to stabilize a joint complex and enhance the circulation of energy(blood flow) and information (awareness).

Pasvakona vinyasa with core initiated movement

This is a vinyasa sequence involves Pasvakonasana (extended side angle pose) and parivrta pasvakonasana (revolved side angle pose).
I started by using CIM 1 to ensure core activation (engagement) and mobility (freedom), with the focus on lateral spinal extension and rotation.


At 8”: I abduct the right hip as the core moves to the right (excessive spinal rotation is inhibited here) and upward to allow the lateral extension on the right side thus actively enters pasvakonasana while the right leg is still in the air.


10″-16”: the core continues to the right and the weight is shifted to the right foot, and then the weight is shifted to the left leg as the core moves to the left and then to the right and upward to extend the right trunk and elevate the right shoulder to complete the pasvakonasana as we know.


From 17- 30”: with a few CIM 1, I use back lengthening to ground the right foot and internally rotate the right hip to create a hip bandha to stabilize the right hip and lengthen the lower back and release any pressure in the lumbar region, and then I use front lengthening to locate the natural breathing and create an expansive mulabandha and further lengthening the trunk , then I use back shortening to engage gluteus and attempt to externally rotate the left hip and create a bandha on the left hip, squeeze the left heel inwards to create an “ankle bandha”, and bring the right sitting bone towards the left while maintaining the lengthening of the right trunk, then I use frontal spine shortening to protract the shoulders, un-squash the lower back and rotate the spine further towards the ceiling.


At 34”: The core moves to the left and bring the weight to the left foot and internally rotate the right hip


34″-1’05”: With a few CIM B to increase the mobility of the core and shift the focus to rotating the spine to the left and then I use several CIM A to deepen the rotate actively towards the left while to lengthen the left side of the trunk and complete the parivrtta pasvakonasana


Core initiated movements and associative joint movements: some practice notes (part one)


In the previous post about core initiated movements, I mentioned that it is possible to initiate any bodily movement from the core. In this post, I will elaborate my point a little.

Yoga as a process of unblocking the blockage
Attempting to initiate a movement from the core can be seen as a process of unblocking the blockages, say if one tries to roll the shoulders forward(shoulder protraction) by moving the core first, it will mean the movement has to start from the core and pass through the entire spine for it to reach the shoulders and this is possible through allowing or freeing the associated joint movements (AJM): the core will first move backward and then upwards, resulting in the spine flexes from the lumbar region and then thoracic region which causes the shoulders to protract and internally rotate… ideally, the whole process ripples out and form an uninterrupted line of movement and awareness.

Shoulders protraction: Movements isolated and movements initiated from the ore


When practicing such movements on our own, we must rely on the sensation as we trace our awareness of each tiny movement along this path. To begin, it might be easier to break it into, say five parts: the core, the lower spine, the middle spine, the upper spine, and the shoulders and try to allow the movement to occur in this order. At the beginning the movement seems to “skip” especially the middle back, the junction of lumbar and thoracic region: there is no movement and no sensation, this not only indicates stiffness but also a blockage in that region, where neither awareness nor movements occur and it’s probably safe to say that there is also very little energy and blood-flow happening there.

Shiva and Shakti
Simon Borg-Olivier has mentioned three ways to enhance the circulation of energy(blood flow) in an area: to expand that area, to breathe into that area or to think of that area, therefore if the first two ways don’t work, one can always use one’s will and visualization to “map out” the path. With time, the sensation will start to appear and eventually movements as well.

Shiva and Pavarti, India 12th century


In Hindu mythology, Shiva and his eternal consort Shakti(Pavarti) symbolize consciousness and energy, perusha and pakriti, and one dimension of this relationship of the two is that Shakti always follows Shiva, and as we bring our consciousness and awareness to an area, we will attract prana there, and the prana in this case, is characterized by healing and revitalizing power.

Freedom of movement

The CIM becomes increasingly interesting when it is done asymmetrically, take the above example of shoulder movement, a unilateral shoulder protraction will result in the opposite shoulder retraction, spinal flexion and axial rotation towards its opposite side, as the AJM extends to elbow (flexion and pronation), wrist(flexion and eversion) and fingers( flexion), etc.. When I first practice this movement on alternate sides, I notice the two sides are not equal, there is a smoother movement, clarity in awareness and line of energy on my right side but left side felt rather blocked and lifeless, which is obviously connected to the chronic injury and at times excruciating pain on my left shoulder and I started to use CIM as a form of therapy, to unblock the blockages, allow the energy to flow and the self-healing to take place.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FYyhUaKE-VA

Right shoulder protraction

Initially some knowledge and understanding of the function of the muscular-skeletal system help to map out a path of how movements “suppose” to go, but with practice, one can experience all the AJM simply happen quite naturally, as the movement becomes increasing smooth, so is the movement of energy.

Asana Practice: A psychologica and physiological approach

This moment is the best the world can give: The tranquil blossom on the tortured stem. – Edna St. Vincent Millay
Physical exercise ranging from gym workout to sports and yoga practice, all place the body under a physical condition where the sympathetic nervous system is switched on to fight-and- flight mode. 
Patanjali, the author of Yoga Sutra describes the attainment of asana practice in sutra 2-48 “From this(the asana practice), one is not afflicted by the dualities of the opposites”. In physical yoga practice, such opposites can be understood as tension and relaxation, or firmness and calmness. Simon Borg-Olivier, one of the founders of Yoga Synergy often speaks about too much tension prevents the circulation of energy and information. And tension is a sign of mental attachment, and with persistent tension one eventually breaks, either mentally or physically. On the other hand, when one is too relaxed, one loses sight of one’s purpose, drifting in the stream of external occasions and accidents, and internally one is at the mercy of the fluctuation of the mind. To put it simply, too much relaxation makes the mind dull, and such stagnancy also hinders circulation. Yoga, from one point of view, is a process of balancing and rebalancing, as Patanjali defines asana as a posture that is firm but calm “sthiram sukham asanam”. It indicates a coexistence of two opposites, or Yin and Yang. Yin Yoga, although has many shortcoming to be considered a complete practice, is valuable in our modern age where things are simply rushed through. During Yin yoga practice one is given much more time to bring the body to a posture, and the amount of stress and relaxation is closely monitored and adjusted through out in order to maintain a relative balance. In addition, in Yin yoga one not only learns to bring relaxation while experiencing stress, one also learns to accept and live with this stress. Just like a grain of sand that was caught in the oyster eventually forms a pearl, with right amount of stress(provided one is not consumed by it), the moment is deepened and one’s state of consciousness is transformed.