Newsletter no. 50 – Wednesday 24 May, 2023
This is the web-based version of Stretch Therapy Newsletter no. 50
How to master end poses
End poses are positions that always involve multiple muscles, joints, fascia, and the connections between them. An individual may have restrictions in more than one muscle or joint which makes executing the full, end pose very difficult. Practising the end pose itself is often the least efficient way to achieve the position; you will become an expert in cheating, instead! And it is always the case that one or more restrictions—unique to you—are stopping you going deeper, and removing these restrictions will increase ROM immediately.
Here’s how Kit put it in the “Background to the approach” in Stretching & Flexibility, in the (ii) Partial poses section:
We have broken down many complex exercises into an elemental vocabulary of what I call ‘functional units of flexibility’. This term denotes the reduction of a multi-joint movement into smaller parts, the classification of which is pragmatically determined— we stop reducing when the effect of a partial pose still can be assessed as being effective in terms of the desired outcome. Functional units are logical elements based around single joints initially and which then include multiple joints and more complex movements.
The article below explores the 'down-facing dog' pose – perfect execution of the full version of 'downward dog' requires mastery of what we call the “Single Leg Dog Pose” (“SLDP”) as the first step, we believe.
Not coincidentally, the Mastery Course approaches all five end poses* the same way: you’ll be taught many partial poses that will show you your own restrictions clearly then, crucially, show you how to remove these restrictions using the same partial poses. Combining these elements allows the full pose to be done.
* Squat, pike, pancake, full backbend, full shoulder flexibility.
Read and watch
Unlocking the Yoga Poses, or what stops you doing a pose perfectly?
By Kit Laughlin
Originally prepared for Australian Yoga Life magazine, 15 April 2017
This note provides a deeper look into how the Stretch Therapy system can help the keen yogi to improve her postures.
In this article I will consider what real, physical limits might stop someone from doing a technically perfect Adho Mukha Svanasana, or down-facing dog pose. Many beginning yogis struggle to do this pose well; most generally and in most schools, the pose is said to be done well when both heels are held on the floor, the inside edges of feet parallel and the knees held straight, the whole spine gently extended from the hip joints and that line continued by the arms and, in the final stage, the face, or top of the head rests on the floor.
Being able to position the body in this way requires multiple capacities: ankle and calf muscle flexibility, the sciatic nerve needs to glide along its full length (more on this later), sufficient hamstring length to allow a significant degree of anterior pelvic tilt while all posterior line muscles and fascia of the hips and lower legs are under strong stretch, and enough strength in the arms, shoulders, and trunk to hold the desired shape against these forces. The beginner’s body has many ways to avoid these requirements: the heels may lift off the floor, the knees may bend, the hamstrings may limit anterior pelvic tilt (with the result that the lower back flexes, instead of extending slightly) and the shoulders may not flex enough to allow the desired line (the shoulder angle will be ‘closed’ rather than open, the position of the arms continuing the visual line of the spine). And there simply may not be enough strength in the trunk to hold the middle and upper back straight against the calf and hamstring forces that are trying to flex the spine, let alone the gentle whole-spine extension that aesthetics require. Let’s look at each of these restrictions in turn.
Read the full article at https://stretchtherapy.net/unlocking-the-yoga-poses-or-what-stops-you-doing-a-pose-perfectly/.
At the end of the article you will find a video tutorial for the Single Leg Dog Pose.
A note from a student
I'd like to thank you (and everyone who contributes to Stretch Therapy) for the information you've provided throughout the years. I can't even begin to explain how much your videos are helping me.
Tamara C. – via email