Picture yourself in your yoga class—your yoga class of your choice–-trying to do an extension pose, one that involves a swan dive look.
But—you can’t. What is not working? The likely stopper: a stuck chest/back, a “barrel chest” that does not function. (Of course, a stuck torso, the thoracic torso barrel chest that won’t go into extension, could happen to people who don’t do yoga. The dowager’s hump is one of the signs.)
One of the causes: that stuck torso can arise from a supposed virtue that you would think is totally right: yogic breathing. I mean, isn’t it really good to breathe in your belly, get more air in, reduce anxiety, show off a little capacity, and take that form into the world, into everything?
Certainly not, yogic breathing is not good all the time. It is breathing for the “at rest” times, possibly in sleep, and an unconcious function for most of us in sleep, a belly breathing of relaxation.
We also need: Normal breathing. Normal breathing is also in the chest as well as in the belly. Normal breathing features the belly and the chest rising and falling together. Looked at as a whole, the whole of the rib cage rises and falls together with the front and back of the belly. We mostly don’t think like that, but it is normal breathing. Hopefully, you and I are doing it, right now.
We also need: Action Conscious Breathing which rises and becomes more breathing in the chest. Action Conscious Breathing rises with body chemistry help and helps us do our sport, get the kids to school on time, get out of bed and go to work–and does those action styles of yoga like ashtanga, etc., that flow from pose to pose.
In all the yoga styles that I know, flowing, stationary, semi-demi, here is how the injuries arise through excessive yogic breathing—and a couple of other related bad practices: 1) doing what the teacher says we should and “open” that chest even more, force those shoulders back, thusly freezing the rib cage, and lower back. 2)making sure that no one can see our torso go up and down with breath, keeping the breath in the belly and—keeping that chest “open” injunction again) 3) filling up as much as we can all the time and breathing on top of that: No apparent exhale.
This is not a good thing! If the torso is frozen and the movement for the pose is coming from the neck and lower back, that neck and lower back are going to do what is quaintly called “going out” when you get into an extension pose. Basically the torso can’t go into extension or swan dive, it is frozen in a pose, and all around it, the neck and lower back have to work harder. Loosely called, bad back, bad neck.
I have even seen crush fractures which come from the pounds and pounds of pressure that comes onto the thoracic spine when it is asked to go into extension or swan dive—but is stuck bending forward.
The torso in a fight with itself will let the pressure off into the neck or the lower back, and that will often create injury, or—it will take off pressure by fracturing.
One answer to this: Come in and get the standard basic 10 series of Rolfing and have your yoga practice and your thoracics custom tailored for your body. Individual looks are taken at poses that are in your repertoire and the structure and movement of them is addressed in the context of your own 10 series.
Currently in Philadelphia I am charging $150.00 per session for this tailoring of the standard basic 10 series of sessions. Normally people come in from one to 3 weeks apart for the sessions, and do the whole 10 series.
So how about it? Iyengar said God is in the extension poses, and you could have that. (Just kidding about the God part, I’m not making that promise!)
Here, a video of Iyengar talking, age 90. In Part 2, about halfway through, is Yehudi Menuhin practicing yoga. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SQMv7nb4HLU&feature=related