Although my dad doesn't do much yoga he did teach me a lot of things that I use to make doing yoga more of a unifying experience.
He is one of the main inspirations for "Driving Lessons for Your Body".
As an example, when he was teaching me to drive he told me to always keep space between myself and other cars on the road. This gave me room to manouver.
How does this apply in yoga?
All the parts of our body could be thought of as equivalent to cars. We don't want them crashing into each other. Instead we want them to have room to move.
In any pose the idea would be to create as much space as possible for all the parts of our body given what we are trying to do.
How do we create space?
Well first it helps if we can feel our body. If we can feel our body we can notice the tight spots, the spots that dont' have any space. We can also notice the places that have space to spare. We can then redistribute openness so that all parts of our body are as open as possible.
And that's the thing with driving, the idea wasn't just to create space only for yourself, but to give room for others too. That way all the traffic keeps on flowing.
An important leading up to creating space is being able to sense other cars on the road. And also looking for areas that we can go into so that we have lots of space.
And that's true with the body too. If we can feel our body then we can look for ways to create space or redistribute it. We can respond to tightness (a lack of space) and open it.
Another lesson he taught was about responding to change, and making changes, with sensitivity and smoothness.
He used to drive in convoys in the army and to keep a steady distance from the truck in front he'd use his toes to vary the pressure on the accelerator. He'd keep the distance constant by constantly varying pedal pressure with gentle variations.
Driving a regular car he'd listen to the engine note and vary pressure on the accelerator to keep the engine note constant. This led to a more smooth ride.
The smoother he increased and decreased accelerator pressure, the smoother the ride. And we as passengers could notice that.
Of course he also used his eyes as well.
As an example, if he saw a hill coming up he knew he'd have to add gas to keep the same speed, so as the car started to climb he was able to add gas at just the right rate to keep the ride smooth.
He didn't have to wait for the engine note to change, he anticipated it.
I call this looking to the horizon, being aware of change as early as possible so that we can deal with it with minimal effort.
He applied similiar principles and ideas while in the fire department working a hydraulic telescoping ladder.
While operating the hydraulics that lifted the boom he'd listen to the change in tone that indicated the working effort of the pump was changing.
That was the signal that the slack had been taken up and the boom was just about ready to leave the cradle. And so he responded by reducing hydraulic pressure so that the boom lifted off of the cradle smoothly instead of "surging" up.
Whether driving a truck or a car, or operating a hydraulic boom, my dad applied sensitivity and responsiveness so that he could do both smoothly.
I try to teach the same thing when teaching yoga. A large part of this is knowing where to direct awareness so that we can detect changes early. Another part is knowing how to respond to those changes.
A simple analogy is learning to drive. We learn where the speedometer is so that we know how to tell how fast we are going. And we also learn how to use use the brakes and accelarator so that we can chagne speed if we are going to fast or too slow.
With driving lessons for your body series of PDFs I show you how to direct your senses and how to respond to what you sense so that you can drive your body more smoothly, so that you can create space, so that you (and all the parts of your body) can enjoy the ride.
Now imagine that your driving lessons occur in specific locations or under certain circumstances so that you learn how to handle those circumstances comfortably and smoothly. Each manual teaches you how to deal with these special cases with the ideal that you can learn to drive your body well in any circumstance.
Balance Basics teach you how to feel and control your body by sensing changes in pressure via your connection with the earth. This can not only lead to improved balance ability, but also better weight awareness for activities like tai ji and dancing. (Also available from Amazon.)
Yoga Basics could be thought of as a driving school for your body 101. While balance basics offers some easy ways to practice feeling your body that aren't limited by flexibility, yoga basics gives you some tools for better operating your body even in difficult postures like wheel pose and chaturanga dandasana. (Also available from Amazon.)
The Hip Control Guide is a specialized set of driving lessons designed to help you feel and activate the single joint muscles that act on the hip. Even if you don't know the related anatomy, the exercises in The Hip Control Guide help you to feel your anatomy so that you can use it more effectively in yoga poses where the hips are a key element. (Also available from Amazon.)
When learning how to drive the idea is not that we follow some specific formula when driving. Instead we use our senses to see whats on the road now so that we can respond to what is happening now.
And that's the idea behind all of the above "driving lessons for your body" pdfs. Rather than mechanically operating your body, feeling it to see how best to exercise it or use it.
Changing the analogy, the intent is to teach you to how to fish as opposed to just feeding you fish.
Learn how to use Friction to improve leg and arm strength.
Simple exercises with easy to follow instructions
Making difficult poses like Chaturanga Dandasana easier to learn.
Learn Your Body with
Frictional Arm and Leg Strength
PDF or Video
The standing forward bend yoga pose can be used to stretch or strengthen the hamstrings and glutes. It can also be used to stretch and strengthen the calves and as a balance exercise.
Yoga forward bends includes forwards bends for the hips and spine. Forward bends for the hips include both bent and straight straight positions.
Your iphone needs power in order to sense your touch. Proprioception needs muscle activity in order to sense your body.
Some simple exercises so that you can work towards the pistol squat gradually.
Arm supported yoga poses can be used to strengthen the arms and shoulders. Includes plank, chaturanga dandasana, downward dog, dolphin pose, side plank, wheel, reverse plank, table top pose.
This sequence of seated yoga poses includes lotus and virasana variations, janu sirsasana and marichyasana variations as well as more basic seated poses like bound angle, pigeon and seated forward bend.
These hip flexor stretches open up the fronts of the hips and can be used as a preparation for front to back splits. Bent knee hip stretches can be used to focus on rectus fermoris.
Strengthen your hands, your arms, glutes and hamstrings with these standing forward bend variations.
The small actions in this standing psoas stretch can be used to stretch both the upper and lower fibers of the psoas muscle.
Variations of the standing psoas stretch that use the same basic actions.
Here's a break down of the steps of Ashtanga Yoga Surya Namaskar A to make this sun salutation easier to learn and remember.
A reclining psoas stretch I learned from a Richard Freeman Workshop. The better you understand your anatomy the easier it is to work on your body effectively.
The hip stretches included on this page can be used to stretch and improve flexibility of the hip flexors, hip extensors, adductors and abductors.
Friction and pressure are two simple techniques that I use to help my students get stronger and more flexible. These simple techniques also offer a roadway into not only learning how to activate your muscles, but getting a feel for them and your body. Three challenging yoga poses that I use these techniques in are chaturanga, front splits and side splits. While they might not help you get all the way down into the splits, they'll help you feel stronger, and more integrated as you work towards them. And because I've got to pay for my daughters schooling this week, I'm offering a discount on the frictional muscle control videos. (First 100 people only can save over 30%).
Active stretching teaches you muscle control to not only improve flexibility but also body awareness. You'll learn how to adjust postures for better feel as well as more control through a broader range of motion.
Standing exercises for low back pain plus anatomy that can affect the low back and how to use that anatomical understanding.
Experience your body (and understand it) with sensational yoga poses.
Is it a bad idea to heel strike while barefoot running? What are the possible benefits of heel striking? When should you not heel strike?
These yoga poses for abs work on the abdominal muscles (and hips) in both standing positions and seated positions.
Here are the Ashtanga Standing Pose Vinyassas, with inhale movements highlighted in red.