Our Practice - To Squeeze or Not to Squeeze? – The Glutes that is!!
In terms of the physicality part of my yoga practice, my primary goal was initially spinal health. Since my early twenties, I suffered from back spasms, herniated disks, nerve damage, dropped foot (twice), had two surgeries, medicated heavily, and generally suffered. Finally, about 10 years ago, a solid focus on core and low back strengthening, yoga, acupuncture, chiropractic care and physical therapy helped me finally be mostly pain free, not medicated and to avoid surgery!
Every class I teach includes these components. One of the low back strengtheners that I particularly like is shalabasana, locust pose. Today in class, a student asked me about engaging the glutes or softening while doing locust and other back bends. To squeeze or not to squeeze comes up often, especially when students who have been practicing a long-time recall an instructor telling them to “soften their glutes” in bridge, locust, and other back bends. Why, I wondered, would we not engage one of the largest muscles in the body, gluteus maximus? I want to turn on those muscles, use their strength, and prevent a flabby butt. The cue is meant to prevent external rotation of the femur and to prevent compression in the lower spine or SI joint. But how much does the femur really rotate, especially in a closed chain (bridge, for example)? Alternatively, turning off the gluteus maximus results in gluteal amnesia (flabby, weak muscles) and we miss out on the benefits that engaging it provides in stabilizing the SI joint. If you are concerned about the rotation, squeezing a block (or imagining one) in bridge can help.
Rather than go on about this (and you will various opinions on this) I attach two things to read. One is an article Glute Amnesia: Yoga Your Forgotten Rear by Nolan Lee, DC, E-RYT and another a blog post by instructor Sara Paige which made me laugh out loud reading it. As she says, “engage you ducking flutes”!
Meditation – Calming the Mind
The calmness of mind that we work for so hard on the mat is often challenged the moment we step off the mat. Our interactions with others can be challenging whether it is those we love, we work with, encounter in a store or other public place or friends we have known our entire lives. Living our yoga off the mat calls us to try to cultivate that calmness, perhaps taking a breath before speaking or reacting, asking ourselves will we remember this in five years and perhaps reaching for that ever important sense of humor. Perhaps we can find inspiration in Patanjali’s words.
“Undisturbed calmness of mind is attained by cultivating friendliness toward the happy, compassion for the unhappy, delight in the virtuous and indifference toward the wicked” – Patanjali
Nurturing with Food – Vegetarian Paella
This week’s recipe is one of Peter’s. He always made a fabulous seafood paella, a real presentation. Recently, he came up with a vegan version which is truly delicious. He modified several recipes to come up with this and I think you will enjoy it.
He says “for years, I have been making traditional paella with seafood. Probably 27 years ago when were first together, I asked Julia Anne if there was one thing that she wanted for dinner that night, what would it be. She said she wanted the paella from Spain Restaurant in Narragansett. I just happened to find a recipe for it and made it that night. I kept adjusting it over the years to my own style and liking until it became a staple here, especially for entertaining.
Over the past few years, we have discussed making a vegetarian version of paella. I found a good recipe in Cook’s Illustrated that I began working with and modifying. It features browned cauliflower, green beans, butter beans, red pepper and traditional spices including saffron and smoked paprika. It really isn’t too complicated although the flavor suggests otherwise.”
Link to recipe:
See you on the mat