Find your way back to step one
After a relationship ends, or a big vacation, or a big fight, how do you come back? Every transition is the end of something. And the end usually means going back to the drawing board again, in some fashion or another.
This week as we explore the qualities of coming back to the front of our mats, perhaps we can also explore the qualities with which we return from all of life’s journeys. May we use this week to do both a little smarter 🙂
One of my favorite things to draw people’s attention to on the mat is the “foot slam”. This week we all get to examine it!
How will you step?
Before you begin to play with hopping forward from the back of the mat, you will step to get there hundreds and hundreds of times. How will you step? That is the question!
You have already either heard or said loads of times “step your foot forward between your hands”. One of the valves we’re considering this week is what happens right after that cue is given: The willing student attempts to do what has been instructed, but about halfway there, realizes that said foot isn’t doing the action so willingly. The result? An unconscious swell of force gets added to the action. The knee swings out to the side and BAM! the foot is slammed down between the hands.
What’s the problem with this? The foot got there, didn’t it? The problem is that this route bypasses an opportunity for strength and growth (and can torque the knee). Let’s look at the musculature.
The muscle story behind stepping forward
What needs to be long: back leg hip flexors; scapula retractors
To lengthen these muscles, add eagle arms and low lunge at the start of class.
- A great preparation for the scapula space (scapula retraction) needed in stepping forward can be found in eagle arms (garudasana; working with folded forward eagle will also help strengthen the hip flexors as needed for the transition).
- To lengthen the hip flexors, use simple low lunges early in class or flow with a lunging Surya A.
What needs to be strong: flexors of the spine, front leg hip + knee; scapula protractors
This isn’t just about putting your foot between your hands. First there has to be room for your foot to be placed down! Making that room is all core, baby. (Well, core and limb length 😉
In order to step forward without the side swipe of the knee, you have to flex the spine enough and then draw the knee into the chest enough that you have space that is equal to the length of your shin bone and flexed foot.
Try these variations on the step forward to build the strength and find the range needed.
- Try it standing!
- Start in tadasana.
- Without the use of your hands, draw the knee into your chest and hold it there.
- While holding, reach your arms out in front of you like you would in plank pose.
- Hold for up to 6 breaths, lower the leg, and switch sides.
- Rest and repeat!
- Try it on your back!
- Again without the use of your hands, draw your knee into your chest, keep the opposite leg long on the ground but flexed and strong.
- Want to kick it up a notch? Lift that leg off the floor to hover an inch or two!
- While holding the knee in to the chest, lift your arms up shoulder height and push your palms up toward the sky.
- Hold for 6 breaths, release and switch sides.
- Rest and repeat!
- Important for the lifted leg in both variations: make sure your foot disappears behind your knee, and that your knee is in line with its hip. This will ensure that you are using the correct muscles and not recruiting external rotation helpers that shouldn’t be helping in this instance!
Put it all together: take a big step
Once you have worked to prepare the muscles, it’s time to try the full step forward transition!
- Place blocks under the hands in down dog.
- From there, draw one knee into your nose and pause.
- Slowly, while keeping the foot disappearing behind its knee the whole time, place the foot down next to its same side hand (i.e., not in between the two hands, but to the side that keeps the foot in line with its hip).
- If this is no problem, try it with the blocks one setting lower (or remove them if you started on the lowest height)!
Play with all the transitions
After you play with this week’s transition, go back to the ideas from weeks one and two and try putting them all together in your Surya A and let us know what you learned!! (Tag your social shares #216infrastructure !)
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