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Sensational Yoga Poses

A first principles approach to learning your body
Published: 2017 07 09
Updated: 2021 02 09

The benefits of learning your body via a first principles approach

Working from first principles is an approach to learning complex systems and dealing with problems. It's also a cornerstone to releasing creative potential.

It amounts to breaking things down into distinguishable, recognizable and reusable components.

With sensational yoga poses, the idea is to break down the body into feelable, controllable and reusable components using a first principles approach.

Learning to feel and control our body using a first principles approach means that we can apply that same awareness and control to any activity where we are using our body.

It also means that we can use it to deal with problems as well as improve qualities like flexibility, strength and body awareness.

When working from first principles it helps to know the change you are trying to create.

Home page, TOC

a first principles approach to learning your body. Neil Keleher, Sensational Yoga Poses.

From why do yoga in the first place, to how to start a yoga practice, and how to modify yoga poses. At the beginning level you could simply focus on getting started, even if it's at home.
Scroll sideways in the list above for beginner related articles.

There are ways to operate your body to make it more "feelable". In addition, you can practice feeling and controlling parts in isolation so that you can better feel and control your whole body as the sum of those parts. Scroll sideways in the list above for more details.

Know the change you are trying to create

When working from first principles it helps to have a clear idea of what you are doing, what you are trying to achieve. One way to put it is "knowing the change that you are trying to create." You then can figure out the fundamental ideas and relationships that make that idea realizable, even in the face of constant change.

While learning "the fundamentals" can be challenging initially, it lays the foundation for greater freedom, greater flexibility, the ability to dance with change while at the same time creating the change you desire.

What are the the fundamentals?

Yoga poses (and other exercises) as a context for learning to feel and control your body

The idea of this website is to help you learn your body by using yoga poses, stretches and other ways of experiencing your body as a context.

The yoga poses themselves are not really fundamental. They are simply a venue or context for learning to feel and control the things that are fundamental with regards to feeling and controlling your body. Those fundamental elements are muscles, bones, joints and the connective tissue strands that connect them all together.

Since this is our own body we are trying to learn to feel and control, the brain (or more generally our consciousness) is also important to consider.

It's important because it is where the knowing and understanding of these fundamentals is stored and accessed.

Brain aside, how do we go about experiencing our own anatomy?

A first principles approach to "yoga" anatomy

A part of taking a first principles approach is understanding that you can break "systems" down in different ways depending on what you are trying to do. As such, when using anatomy as a guide to feeling and controlling our own body, we can approach anatomy differently than a doctor or massage therapist would. Where they tend to work on other bodies, we are working on feeling and controlling our own body.

A distinct advantage of this approach is that we can learn to access the sensors that are built into our own body. We can thus experience our anatomy directly.

A better understanding of our own body can be the result.

So how does one get started?

How to get started

To guide your through the 500 odd pages of this website (or to help you find what you need to know easily) it can be extremely helpful to know why you are here.

What's the change that you are trying to create?

If you aren't sure, why not begin by learning to feel your body with the courses below.

Or scroll down for more possible starting points.

Muscle Control from first principles bundle

Get all 8 courses as a bundle for $360.
Buy now: $360

Learn more

1 Hip flexors

Improve knee and hip stability via your sartorius, tensor fascia latae and rectus femoris.
Buy now: $60

Learn more

2 Hamstrings

Anchor your hamstrings. Learn to control knee rotation, hip flexion, hip extension.
Buy now: $60

Learn more

3 Thigh muscles

Get a feel for quadriceps, adductors and hamstrings. Improve knee and hip stability and control.
Buy now: $60

Learn more

4 Long thigh muscles

Work towards better knee, hip joint and hip bone control via your long thigh muscles.
Buy now: $60

Learn more

5 Deep Hip muscles

Improve hip joint stability. Get a better feel for your hip muscles and hip joint.
Buy now: $60

Learn more

6 SI joints

Get a taste of coordinating SI joint control with control of your spine, arms and legs.
Buy now: $60

Learn more

7 Shoulders

Improve touch control, basic shoulder blade awareness, shoulder stability.
Buy now: $60

Learn more

8 Spine

Improve spine and ribcage mobility. Improve awareness, understanding and control.
Buy now: $60

Learn more

Dealing with pain or other problems

If you are trying to deal with some sort of pain or problem then the place to look is at the muscle or joint that is the approximate location of the pain or problem.

As with anything internet related, take it with a grain of salt, and use at your own risk. I should point out here that my methods for dealing with pain involve learning to deliberately activate or relax particular muscles both as a way to try to isolate a problem and to fix it.

Muscles are the fundamental units that drive movement and that actively power the ability for us to feel our body.

Improving flexibility

If you are getting into yoga (or are looking at this website) to find out more about stretching and getting more flexible then it again helps to be specific.

Do you have a particular set of muscles that you want to get more flexible? Here again the central tenet is that of using muscle control to improve flexibility. Check out the flexibilty page or edge into the area of interest via the various muscle and joint links on this page.

Building strength

Another potential area of interest may be in strengthening or working towards poses or actions that require strength. As when dealing with pain or trying to improve flexibility, muscle control is again the central tenet. You can look at body parts that you want to strengthen, or you can head to the strength or yoga pose pages to find the poses that you want to work towards.

Dealing with stress

If you are getting into yoga as a means of destressing or dealing with stress then one of the prime exercises for doing that is to focus on breathing.

Breathing is a muscle driven action and you can get similiar benefits to breathing if you focus on smoothly activating and contracting muscles, any muscles, not just your respiratory msucles.

So if you are interested just in breathing, then check out the section on breathing, or double the benefits and work on feeling and controlling your body via muscle control.

To that end (of feeling and controlling your body via muscle control), why not pick an area that interests you? If your stress is from doing things that you don't want to do or have to do, why don't focus on something that you do want to do as part of your destressing activities.

Pick one and start.

I just want a routine to follow

What if you just want a good routine to follow? One good place to start is with Ashtanga. It's a fixed routine. What I would suggest is that once you've learned the poses, start focusing on feeling your body while doing the poses. Muscle control again. Many of the poses from the ashtanga yoga series are covered on this website.

Hmm, how do I learn to sequence poses?

For an overall schema for sequencing poses or stretches, another possible starting point is the meridians. They can be used to guide how you stretch and strengthen.

For more general tips, some of the pages have mini-routines but for an overview of how to sequence without screwing yourself up in the process check out the post on counterposes first.

Micro-doses of muscle control

If you want micro-doses of muscle control, you can also join my patreon page for bi-monthly videos on muscle control.

I should say that learning muscle control, or learning anything through first principles is all about micro-dosing.

How Andrey Lappa influenced me

I should point out here that while I've been working from first principles in most areas of my life it was Andrey Lappa who opened the door for me in applying it to a yoga practice.

For a really good foundation in sequencing yoga poses and working on the body I'd highly recommend one of his universal freestyle yoga teacher trainings. Or check out his books or videos.

If however you are interested in learning to feel and control your body, so that you can use that ability in anything you do, then check out the suite of muscle control courses below.

Courses for Learning your body from a First Principles approach

Muscle Control from first principles bundle

Get all 8 courses as a bundle for $360.
Buy now: $360

Learn more

1 Hip flexors

Improve knee and hip stability via your sartorius, tensor fascia latae and rectus femoris.
Buy now: $60

Learn more

2 Hamstrings

Anchor your hamstrings. Learn to control knee rotation, hip flexion, hip extension.
Buy now: $60

Learn more

3 Thigh muscles

Get a feel for quadriceps, adductors and hamstrings. Improve knee and hip stability and control.
Buy now: $60

Learn more

4 Long thigh muscles

Work towards better knee, hip joint and hip bone control via your long thigh muscles.
Buy now: $60

Learn more

5 Deep Hip muscles

Improve hip joint stability. Get a better feel for your hip muscles and hip joint.
Buy now: $60

Learn more

6 SI joints

Get a taste of coordinating SI joint control with control of your spine, arms and legs.
Buy now: $60

Learn more

7 Shoulders

Improve touch control, basic shoulder blade awareness, shoulder stability.
Buy now: $60

Learn more

8 Spine

Improve spine and ribcage mobility. Improve awareness, understanding and control.
Buy now: $60

Learn more

Is there a way to practice first principles thinking?

If you want a way to practice "thinking from first principles", I'd highly recommend practicing the dance of shiva.

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