- MOVING PRINCIPLES -
Moving Principle #1: BREATH… MOVES YOU
Whether in vinyasa or statically held asanas, your focus is on the breath, at all times, with an intention to make the breath fluid, smooth, even and elongated. The reversal of perspective, if you are not doing it already, is to cultivate a state where the breath moves you: first focus is on the breath, the posture follows. The backbone of the practice is the expanding/contracting rhythm naturally arising from your breathing. In a group class, there is of course a degree of coercing the breath to the common pattern and rhythm of the class. Yet, once flowing, it is most important to keep the flow going and work the postures from there…
Reversal Of Perspective: you are not adjusting your breathing to how strenuous the exercise is, you are letting the breath move you.
Moving Principle #2: YIELD… TO GRAVITY [Linked to Exhalation]
Look at your yoga practice like a surfer: you can harness and count on the power of one force at all times: gravity. Whenever you have a chance to surf on the gravity wave and recruit a force of Nature rather than your own exertion, experience that feeling of letting go on the exhalation and let gravity do the work. Your job is to focus and tone all the body parts needed to ensure integrity of alignment and safety.
Reversal Of Perspective: Less is More, work as little as possible, relax, employ Gravity, let it do the work and take the credit.
Moving Principle #3: RADIATE… FROM THE INSIDE OUT [Linked to Inhalation]
Move from your core, more specifically, from this point 2 inches below your navel (Hara, Manipura chakra). Establish the breathing core there, especially on the inhale, connecting the periphery to the core as if you were an inflatable doll gradually achieving the posture from the inside out through naval radiation, allowing yourself TO BE moved and expanding and creating space to prepare for the exhalation. This core is also where your center of gravity resides when you are standing in Tadasana.
Reversal Of Perspective: Getting in the asana is built from the inside out being moved by the breath on the inhalation, rather than trying to achieve an outward form pictured in the intellect and thinking about how to fit the body in the shape.
Moving Principle #4: CENTER… BY MAINTAINING THE INTEGRITY OF THE SPINE
At all times keep your awareness on cultivating the following qualities: the spine remains straight and aligned at all times (unless the asana is specifically designed to bend the spine), dynamic breathing keeps your spine elastic and elongated while gravity tones and fortifies the deep postural muscles.
Reversal Of Perspective: Your spine, supporting and aligned with your center of gravity, is like a tube in which the breath travels: you want this tube wide, open and alive. Look at it more like a tree than a cement pillar.
Moving Principle #5: SUPPORT… BY DYNAMIC AND BALANCED GROUNDING
Each Asana has a number of body parts touching the floor: keep your awareness on weight distribution across points to solidify your rooting. A general principle is to evenly and dynamically distribute your whole weight across the anchors rooting you in the floor.
Reversal Of Perspective: you are not resting on the floor statically, you are actively, dynamically pushing against the floor, reacting from your base against gravity, especially on the inhale.
Moving Principle #6: ALIGN… WITHOUT COMPROMISE
It is possible to display a higher level of achievement in an asana by compromising the inner mechanics of your body: un-squaring the hips, rotating a limb from the socket to reach further, bending in the middle of the spine for a forward bend… Not only are those practices solely ego driven and useless, they hold the extra risk of being dangerous and potentially hurting you.
Reversal Of Perspective: A perfect asana has nothing to do with outward form (the destination), and everything to do with how you work towards it (engaging all the principles listed – the journey)
Moving Principle #7: ENGAGE… ALL THE BODY SYSTEMS
Look at your body like a collection of democratic units working together in a cooperative fashion to build your experience of yoga practice: the musculo-skeletal system, the nervous system, the cardiovascular system, the respiratory system, the digestive system, the endocrine system, the immune system… Actively engage this whole community when you practice.
Reversal Of Perspective: Your body is an alive collection that needs to be tended to with intent, focus and awareness. It needs to be domesticated rather than coerced, befriended rather than fought against.
How to work with the principles (which, to give credit where credit is due, have first been suggested by Donna Farhi):
- Choose one and keep your whole session focus on just this one, bringing yourself back to it when you lose the thread. Example: you could decide to keep your awareness on how you anchor all your asanas with principle 5.
- You can cycle between one or more principles sequentially.
- You can focus on 2 or 3 simultaneously.
In the end, you can focus and feel all of them in action concomitantly.