In Yoga 216 INfrastructure, we take gravity seriously.
Gravity brings weight to an action
Take a look at ardha uttanasana (half forward fold), adho mukha svanasna (downward facing dog), and navasana (boat pose); three distinctly different poses, yet when we break them down into joint actions they are essentially the same. All three poses, at a basic level, have hip flexion and varying levels of shoulder flexion. So the question is, why are these anatomically similar poses vastly different in intensity? The difference is our relationship to GRAVITY!
The same muscles will always be responsible for moving bones, however, what muscles keep you in a position will change based on one’s relationship to gravity.
Consider this note on gravity, directly from SYT creator Mukunda Stiles:
ADDITIONAL FACTORS OF ASANA KINESIOLOGY
© Mukunda Stiles
The effects of gravity cannot be under emphasized. The same pose done in different body placements creates an extremely different benefit to the musculo-skeletal system.
An astute student will notice in the Structural Yoga Therapy © series that there are several postures in which the body is at a right angle of hip flexion. These include Downward Facing Dog, Upward Stretched Legs, Inverted Action (Half Shoulderstand), Stick, and the Complete Boat. To this one could add the preliminary motion of the Half Forward bend and the more advanced complete Plow (Halasana).
In all of these poses the hips are in 90° of flexion. In each instance there is a contraction of the hip flexors (rectus femoris, psoas, tensor fascia lata, and sartorius) and a stretch of the hip extensors (hamstrings and gluteus maximus). In each, the relationship of the body to gravity is changed so the kinesiological effects are different. For instance to compare the effects on the hamstrings amongst these poses the pull is mildest in Complete Boat pose and Inverted Action and somewhat more in Stick pose yet most students would not feel these effects unless their hamstrings were extremely short. The effectiveness of stretching the hamstrings is more pronounced in Half Forward bend and a full stretch is usually experienced in Downward Facing Dog pose. Similarly if we compare these poses for their effectiveness in strengthening the hip flexors the effect is mild in Inverted Action yet stronger in Stick pose and most challenging in Downward Facing Dog and Complete Boat.
By taking these factors into consideration we can grade the level of difficulty more precisely when composing our personalized Structural Yoga Therapy © program.
So there you have it –a quick and dirty intro from the founder of our lineage to how gravity adds weight to actions!