Movement Monk recently did a series entitled “3 Reasons Why Your Muscles Feel Tight, Even Though You Do Yoga”. The ideas he presents are deceptively simple, eluding the best of us frequently in our daily movement disciplines. They are not new ideas, but rather, supported by adepts of movement in various cultures throughout time.
Most people learn movement practices- be they sports, yoga, or otherwise, with a mindset that focuses exclusively on physical form, while ignoring its integration with breath and intent (mind). They set physical goals for techniques and/or poses and attempt to accomplish these goals by applying high levels of mental and physical pressure. With force being their primary tool, they ignore mental and physical relaxation, which inevitably disables joints and causes other form failures such as breath-holding. (Something could probably be said here about our culture’s underpinning philosophical investments in gnosticism, as well as our fragmented post-Enlightenment vision of reality.)
A well-rooted physical practice must involve an emphasis of correct, complete, and integrated technique, so that force is applied only within the limits of one’s ability to physically, mentally, and respiratorily relax. So you have not maxed out in your bench press only if your muscles cannot lift the weight any longer, but if you cannot lift the weight with force in a relaxed way. Furthermore, if your breath does not stay relaxed and free, and your mind does not stay relaxed and focused, then you need to view your bench press as “maxed out” until these two things also can be unified with a relaxed and strong body. Drop to a lower level of difficulty and be patient with your progress. Likewise, you’ve not reached the maximum of a yoga hold simply when you can reach no further, but when you reach to the limits of your body’s ability to hold with relaxation. And here too, if you cannot accomplish the pose without a relaxed and focused mind, and a relaxed and free breath, it doesn’t matter that your body is or is not accomplishing the hold with relaxation- reduce the the level of difficulty of the pose until you can accomplish the relaxed unity of breath, body, and mind in correct form.
Relaxed, correct, and integrated embodiment sounds simple, but it is deceptively hard. Most of us are probably failing at it right now, while we sit and read these notes…
Movement Failures Broken Down By Movement Monk
1)Moving before developing tissue control. (Using the muscles to force the bones, while ignoring fascia, tendons, etc.) We must learn to balance contraction with relaxation in order to condition tendon, fascia, etc.
2) Moving too deep, too quickly, into a given movement/pose. (The body must become conditioned over time, as well as warmed up for the immediate time.) Establish physical and mental relaxation and connection BEFORE progressing.
3) Focusing on external body poses, while ignoring its internal unity with breath and mind. (Isolating at the cost of the integration of mind, body, and breath.)