The old adage that everything is connected is often overlooked in our own bodies. When something hurts in our back for instance, we don’t often think about our thigh or our toe. Our bodies are kinetic chains of bones, fascia, muscles, tendons, and ligaments. When we feel discomfort, tightness or pain, we have a habit of only focusing on the area of sensation, which has grabbed our attention.
As a teacher of yoga, I believe in striving for equanimity in our breath, in our minds as well as our bodies. I often ask my students to pay attention to the sensations in their bodies, the quality of their breath and the quality of their mood or thoughts. It is important to “check in” mentally and physically because we can often gather all the information we need to help our bodies achieve better balance. So it is especially important to notice which poses we resist in our bodies and minds, because that is where our “work” is if we choose to listen.
Muscles come in opposing pairs, for example, the hamstrings and quadriceps. When the quadriceps contract or shorten, the hamstring lengthens. Much of the time, when we are actively working our legs in a yoga class, we are feeling this very distinctly.
It may be more challenging however, to feel the more subtle sensations of when our muscles are doing the job intended for other muscles. For example, if we have tight quadriceps, we may in turn have weak hamstrings. This can cause our quads to over-recruit and even tilt the pelvis anteriorly. If the glutes and the hamstring are not working to their ideal capacity, we can keep reinforcing the imbalance. Another common example is an underutilized or weak psoas muscle. This may contribute to the overuse of the low back extensors such as the quadratus lumborum or QL’s causing lordosis or tightness in the low back. It is our task to unlock the puzzles that our bodies become due to our physical activity, inactivity or both. Understanding which muscles are weaker, which are stronger and where our bodies are out of balance is a very powerful tool in working toward better balance.
Make a list or body map of aches and pains, tight or weak muscles and previous injuries. Note which postures or activities give you trouble. This may help you see patterns and identify a plan of action for balancing out your body.
For an example of how these kinetic chain imbalances may show up in a body, check out my next scheduled blog. . .