The Centred Central Base with Libbie
Twenty years ago and more many of us were working in a way that destroyed our central base. This may sound harsh but ask us what happening to our backs and hips now after doing yoga poses too strongly and forcing ourselves into spaces predetermined by our teachers and holding there interminably while we were all adjusted into those spaces.
The Centred Central? Base
By Libbie Nelson
As we teachers and students have grown wiser and also learned by our and others experiences this is now less of a problem now but unfortunately it still exists. I still see yoga students regularly with back pain, hip and sacro iliac issues with a similar cause to my early experiences and realize that there is still a need to put out awareness re healthy alignment into the community.
Strong yoga is akin to high athletic and sporting prowess which unless skillfully done accelerates joint degeneration. There is a high incidence of this in middle aged sporting figures as well as gymnasts and dancers. The good news is this generation is fortunate that it is the age of replacement surgery in lieu of the crippling aches of the past and that there is an understanding of cause and effect.
Although modern Yoga may have borrowed the love of a work out and overcoming fear and reluctance by moving further physically than previously experienced in the general populace and with women as now a greater sector than previously. It is not truly yoga if there is not a melding of certain structural awareness and constraint shown by a capacity to breath fully through a pose.
Recently I stayed with my first Iyengar teacher, Michael Hollingworth. 35 years on we did a session together where we moved minimally and were as mindful of every part of our being as was possible for us. It was a breakthrough for me as I realized that that was what we had been trying to do all along and that the form was secondary in the effort to achieve that union within and without, to quieten the mind and to just be. This is not to say that there doesn’t need to be exquisite care in the formation of the form either, just that it has its place in the mix of balancing prana using awareness, breath and the other yogic tools given. In this way we can easily place asana in the context of Patanjali’s eight limbs of yoga.
The pelvis is a bony but not solid container with two outlets or rims one above and one below. It is made up of three bones joined by strong ligaments. Strong as they are they can be overstretched making the container less solid and not so resilient. As well as physical overstretching, hormones particularly in pregnancy and menopause as well as trauma will result in this too.
The pelvis is like a suspension bridge. The wires are the muscles holding it moving up to the spine and ribs. The actual bridge area is the boney pelvis its strength being due to bone and ligaments. Its strength relies on the integrity of its components and its flexibility are far greater of course and much more complex than the bridge. They both are supported by legs, again attached by wires or muscles. As well, they both rely for their alignment on the balance of their attachments in both strength and length, but the increased complexity of the pelvis is due to the complex interactive dynamic quality of the human body.
Within and on the pelvic container lie structures far more complex than within or on the bridge The organs, vessels tissues and their interactions make the bridge and the finest vehicle look like kindergarten toys. Treat them with love and care in anything you do including yoga, and if you are practicing yoga also use awareness and the energy of prana for the effects you wish.
Always work within the limits of your breath and use it to guide internal balance and health.
Be body aware and balance strength and length in asana
For instance know whether you have deep hip sockets or just tight tissues before making a decision as to how much and how to stretch. Imbalance in muscle tone can lead to damage of the cartilage around and in the hip, be knowledgeable not harmful. It may be that it strength of a certain part you need instead.
Knowledge of correct alignment and personal structure is necessary in placement of the pelvis. In almost every case the spine needs to maintain its natural curve in asana and pranayama to maintain safe stability and maximise energy. Some of the practices now also out of favour which were so harmful in the past were flexing the spine (tucking the tailbone under) and attempting to flatten the pelvis, often against a wall, in standing poses. This was particularly dangerous as the foot was pressed to the ground (closed chain exercises) so any give occurred in the joints above most commonly but not exclusively the sacro iliac joint resulting in a potential for leg groin and back pain.