I learned about my Hamstrings in NYC!

This past weekend I finished my 4th and final round of the Forrest Yoga Mentorship Program in New York City. Every three months since November 2010 I bravely trotted off to the Big Apple to study with Erica Mather on the Upper West Side. I was the country mouse in the city and I enjoyed my immersion into a totally different world than mine. Cedar trees and community gatherings were replaced with lots of compliments from black men and live music in the subway system.

Now, I could have done this same program, the FYMP, with my current yoga teacher in Washington, Kelley Rush. And while she is an incredible teacher I was feeling the need to spread my wings a bit and get some new input. And Erica has been great in that regard. Every time I take one of her intensives I learn something new about my body and how it works in yoga.

Take my hamstrings for instance. Recently, in low cobra and cobra, I’ve been feeling a disconnect between my upper and lower body that manifests as pain in my mid-back or tailbone. Well, Erica did it again,she blew my mind. I’ve probably had other teachers say this in the past and I just wasn’t ready to hear it. But in cobra she said, “Squeeze your sit bones towards each other until you feel your hamstrings engage and then tuck your tailbone.” Well, I did it, and it felt sooooo good! “That is the same move you need to balance in your inversions.” BAM, right again. She got me in touch with my hamstrings all weekend long.

I also realized why, in Forrest Yoga, we teach boat holding our sit bones. I always thought it was a down-level of regular boat where you clasp your hands behind your back and squeeze shoulder blades together lifting legs and chest off the mat. Now I realize that, booty boat as well call it, educates you on how to use your hamstrings so you can get more muscle engagement in the legs and run more energy through the body.

Sol (foreground) is in regular boat. Imagine a similar thing, but instead she is grabbing her sit bones.

I am also beginning to realize just how much I need to use my muscles in yoga in order to support my joints. It’s not a straining of the muscles, it’s an active engagement. This unfolding of knowledge and wisdom in my own body makes me feel proud and much more connected than I’ve ever been. And the cool thing is, there is no end point of discovery. It is a process that will go one forever and ever.

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One Response to I learned about my Hamstrings in NYC!

  1. Christina says:

    Thanks for sharing Kat! I’m looking forward to trying the ‘squeeze sit(z) bones and tuck’ maneuver, especially in inversions. Coincidentally, I had a student ask me after a class this week what ‘squeeze sit bones together’ means (not to mention, ‘what are sit bones’). The question gave me pause. It was almost as if he had asked, what’s an apple? Obviously, an apple is an apple. How do you eat it? Well, you just eat it. I hadn’t unwrapped the cue to consider how I might further describe it to a student who didn’t understand the concept, even though I do remember that the cue was foreign to me when I first learned yoga. The best answer I had was to squeeze the gluts together and in toward center (‘engage’ might have inspired more subtlety, but that term is often difficult for beginners). His question also invoked tidbits of knowledge from a prenatal yoga training, where we learned how the pelvis opens or closes when moved in certain directions (cat/cow tilt, squat, etc). It made me curious how much movement there is in non-birthing situations. Inspired by this, I asked the student to tilt his pelvis forward and back while seated, feeling his sit bones on the ground and noticing any movement. I tried it too, and it sure felt like the sit bones moved closer together when the pelvis tilted posteriorly (the cat of cat/cow) and father apart when the pelvis tilted anteriorly (the cow of cat/cow). I’ll definitely be revisiting the anatomy books, and grabbing my sit bones, to confirm! Thanks again for the timely post!

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