...And They Come From The Practice of Yoga
Everyone should practice yoga. Yup, I said it. I don't care what the rest of your training looks like because it can be modified and worked into any program for great health benefits. Everyone in the whole world should make it to yoga once a week.
Show up. Leave your expectations at the door. Get on the mat. And practice moving better.
Sure, yoga has it's shortcomings just like every other system. I don't think anyone should be practicing with their feet smashed together with respect to hip anatomy. There's definitely a skewed ration of push to pull actions in regards to muscular balance. Couple of other small rocks. But that's besides the point. All seemingly complete systems have their flaws.
The big rocks are what matters. What’s important here is that the culture of yoga demands grace unlike any other fitness experience.
It's not the smell of the incense wafting through the air, or the wise Buddha staring at you as you take your space. It’s not the dim lighting or the hushed whispers.
No matter the environment -- you could be in a community center all-purpose room or the spare office at the end of the hallway -- As soon as we step foot into the designated yoga space, we are immediately reminded that there is a higher purpose to our practice than fitness.
We lay down on our mats silently and begin to attune to our bodies with an elevated level of attention. We come to place our hands at heart center, knowing full well that our movements must be executed with the highest measure of integrity.
We hit our first sun salutation with the inherent knowledge of these implied expectations.
So why do we forget them as we step in front of the iron?
What is really different between the two training sessions? We are simply practicing moving well again, only this time there is added load to the challenge in the form of weight and speed.
Isn’t that more reason to “turn inward?” To remember precision? To remember grace?
And so I offer to you the two best cues I’ve ever received -- from my yoga instructors. The two cues that will protect your joints from that wear and tear we seem to incur as we lift heavier in the gym. The two cues that will remind onlookers of a yoga flow chair pose as you drop into a barbell squat. The two cues that will push you past plateaus.
The two cues that can and SHOULD be applied to any exercise.
Because your lifting sessions demand the same level of respect to the body that your yoga sessions ask for. It’s your responsibility to answer.
The First Cue - Root To Rise
In yoga, we assimilate good posture with the way a tree grows. As the branches grow taller, the roots dig down deeper into the ground to anchor the trunk.
You want to root down through the feet. This will ensure you always use the floor as the unspoken piece of equipment it is.
And you also want to rise up tall through the crown of your head. This will ensure your spinal alignment is perfect for your body.
Together, rooting through the feet and rising up tall creates length in the joints. And when we lift, the entire purpose of our training is to overcome whatever resistance is being applied. To maintain the space we already own.
If we give up that space, we are not honoring the purpose of the exercise. We are losing the battle and we are not really getting stronger.
This is how we maintain good posture.
Internal Commands: Root to rise. Get tall through the crown of your head. Ground down through your feet.
The Second Cue - Play Tug of War
This one is not too far from the first cue. They are in the same family tree, if you will. But we’ll concern ourselves less with the body as a whole, and focus on the appendages independently.
As you reach, you play tug of war with your whole arm. The fingers and palm push into the floor or the weight. And the upper arm pulls into the shoulders joint. This action creates internal opposition.
As you step, the foot pushes into the floor while the top of the leg pulls into the hip. This internal opposition creates tension.
This is how we find stability through our appendages.
Internal Commands: Play tug of war. Pull shoulders down and back but reach the hands away. Pull the hips together but push the floor away.
Everything Is The Same
Applying these two cues to your next lifting session will change everything! You will find more ease in your lifts. You’ll get stronger. Your body will feel more resilient. And you will own your lifts. Plus, you’ll look real good doin’ em. Less aches and pains. More gains.
There are a TON of other traditional yoga cues that can serve you in the gym.
Remember, most systems that have survived for years and years are still around because they have some real good rocks. And lots of those rocks, tend to look oddly familiar. We just call them by another name. So there is tons of carryover across different schools of practice if you choose to see it.
High Crescent is just a lunge. Warrior III is just a single-leg deadlift.
Close your eyes and turn your mind back to your last class in reflection. Start to draw the similarities between your lifts and your poses. If it helps, you can totally burn some sage and dim the lights for your next heavy squat session. It’s actually quite the spiritual experience.
Root to rise. Play tug-of-war. Use these intentions to focus your direct gaze(yogic gaze) and train like the graceful warrior.