Last month we focused on supporting the metal element by creating space between the joints encouraging the body to move like a well oiled machine. We'll aspire to maintain this sense of space inside the body and between the joints as well as being aware of the space outside and around the body.
As we know the qualities of metal include strength, endurance, substance and structure. I think we all need these qualities now more than ever as we face further restrictions and lock downs due to Covid-19. When faced with a lot of restrictions, you might notice a lot of resistance towards them and unhealthy thought patterns might include things like:
"When will this be over?"
"Can't things go back to the way that they were?"
"I should have being doing this (or been somewhere else) today instead of being stuck at home"
"It's not supposed to be this way.. it should be...."
"I wish this wasn't happening"
All of these type of thoughts are taking us away from living in the present moment which create stress and dis-ease in the body and mind. How can we be balanced and healthy when we allow our own thoughts to run around willy nilly without questioning them. It's ok to have these thought's and feelings, they're natural as long as we don't let them pull us out of the present moment, out of reality and into the spiraling head space of what if's and if only's. Physically these thought patterns can create feelings of stress and anxiety causing us to develop a shallow breathing pattern which can result in all kinds of tightness and problems in the body. With a shallow breathing pattern we primarily recruit our secondary respiration muscles, the upper traps, scalenes, sternocliedomastoid, levator scapulae and pec minor.
What happens when we primarily use these secondary muscles?
Firstly it tightens up all of these muscles so we are left with feeling stiff and achy in the upper back, neck and shoulders.
Secondly our lungs aren't getting the full expansion and contraction that they need to remain elastic and responsive. We don't receive as much oxygen as we could and we don't empty the lungs completely so stale old air remains in the bottom of the lungs.
Thirdly our abdominal organs can become more stagnant because they're not getting moved around and massaged by the diaphragm moving up and down.
Lastly when the diaphragm doesn't move up and down neither does the pelvic floor muscles and as a result can lead to a dysfunctional pelvic floor which can have a whole host of other problems.
As you can see a good deep breathing pattern provides a great deal of substance and structure, which may be one of the reasons why the lungs are closely related to the metal element. As we move through our practice this month we will pay close attention to our breath as we move with awareness, being present.
"When someone is moving slowly, smoothly and with maximum attention they are by definition really in the moment. When you are in the moment you're not worrying, you're not stressing, you are taking it second by second living in your body."
Seth Oberst | Physical Therapist
A full deep breathing pattern naturally helps to creates a clear flow of energy through the lung and large intestine meridian lines because the secondary breathing muscles will be more relaxed and responsive. The lung Qi's purpose is to harmonize how you live as a spiritual being in an animal body, we can only do this when we slow down and become more present.
The large intestine Qi's purpose is to help us to learn how to let go. If we live with the idea that things should be different and if we are waiting for the circumstances to change or for Covid-19 to go away, how can we let go? So lets live and breath and enjoy the journey the roller coaster of life.
November Pose Focus
Ustrasana - Camel Pose
Ustra - Camel
Asana - Pose
Level - Beginner
Camel pose is a great pose for opening up the chest and upper back which is great for posture, therefore helping us to breath better. In this variation of the pose we'll externally rotate our arms so our palms face out to maximize the opening in the chest, stimulating the lung meridian line. By placing our hands to the inside of the inner heels, the hands and inner heels will gently resist each other to create even more lift and opening in the chest.
MENTAL AND EMOTIONAL BENEFITS
Can boost energy and fight fatigue.
Helps to build confidence and empowerment.
Stimulates the lung and large intestine meridian lines
Strengthens the back body - muscles along the spine, hamstrings and glutes.
Improves mobility in shoulders and upper back.
Stretches the abdomen, chest, shoulders.
Opens up the front of your hips (hip flexors) and front of thighs (quads).
Can ease mild back pain
CAUTIONS AND CONTRAINDICATIONS
Avoid or modify if you feel any pinching in your lower back. Place hands on your hips, if the pinching still persists come out of the pose and rest. Bridge pose is an alternative pose that you can do instead.
Shoulder pain or injuries - avoid reaching back to the feet instead place hands and hips.
Avoid if you have recent back injury or surgery.
Be mindful of the neck especially of you have a back injury, keep chin to the chest.
High or low blood pressure, keep chin to chest. If you experience dizziness come out of the pose, come into child's pose and place your head on a block or your hands.
HINTS AND TIPS
Breathe into the back and side ribs to create lift and space in the back as you exhale feel the lower belly draw in and up as you move into the back-bend. Stay where you are on the inhale, still breathing into the back to maintain space.
Tucking toes under lifts your heels up therefore requires less of a back bend.
Place a folded blanket under your knees for comfort
You can use blocks on either side of your feet to lift the floor up if there's discomfort in the lower back.
Hands on hips