I just love it when the good word begins to spread. The attached article Balance On The Balls Of Your Feet is an informational read to back up my theory of “move your feet to move your body.” Movement is how we reestablish proprioception and increase kinesthetic awareness. Understanding the science behind the mind body connection is essential to the success of your movement practice. The mind and the body work together for movement to be soft, strong, balanced and beautiful. Each part of the body has an area of the brain dedicated to moving and sensing the body part. We lose the connection of mind to body through injury and/or non-movement. Movement in all directions – up, down, forward, back, around, side-to side – is necessary for proprioception reestablishment and increased kinesthetic awareness. Read this article to know why I am so excited that there is some proof to my teaching on the mat…
I know you’ve heard me say it before but one of my mantras is a variation of the quote said by Maya Angelou –
“Once you know better you are obligated to do better.”
A few years ago I became bored with my yoga practice and teaching. I was bored enough to quit, and I was completely devastated by my lack of love for the practice that I had loved so dearly for so many years. I didn’t want to quit, and to tell you the truth, it’s actually impossible for me to stop trying. With that said, the only option that I had at this time in my life was to figure out how to keep going. Instead of quitting, I chose to make adjustments in my practice and in my teaching. Slow and steady adjustments.
My first adjustment was to stop training and practicing with only yoga teachers. I needed new movement if I was going to feel inspired again; I needed something more than what I was experiencing on the mat and I needed new results. I started my new movement journey with adult gymnastics. My journey away from the yoga practice that I had loved so dearly for 12 years began with Orench Lagman from Awaken Gymnastics, previously at Qi. I loved the feeling of a new challenge and loved the way the movement of gymnastics made me “feel” my body again. I felt my gymnastic workouts. I felt places in my body that I don’t believe I had ever felt before. I was not only bored with yoga, even worse, I wasn’t feeling yoga anymore. My body had acclimated to the movement of yoga, and the practice was no longer working for me – not mentally, emotionally or physically. I started to feel like my yoga practice was an obligation, not a dedication. And, sadly, my inspiration to teach and guide Yogis was slowly slipping away.
Adult Gymnastics revealed to me how limited I was in movement and strength outside of the movements of my yoga practice. I worked with Orench for a year, taking a class or two a week and working privately with him every once in awhile. I started to add the elements of gymnastic training in my yoga practice and teaching, and then I met Alvaro from Canto Do Galo Capoeira studio on 9th and Santa Fe street here in Denver. I started to learn Capoeira, and instantly I fell in love with the new movement. It was difficult, and I felt awkward at first, but it was worth it. My final class with Alvaro happened during a Qi Yoga teacher training session when I invited Alvaro to teach the trainees new movement, outside the lines of the mat. Alvaro came in and taught us how to step outside of the box of our yoga practice. I loved Capoeira, but I didn’t stick with it too long. It was fun and new, but soon after starting classes Al had to leave the country for a Capoeira event. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to start the practice again. But soon, one day soon, I will practice Capoeira again. And, when I do, you will see elements of the Capoeira practice interweaved in my QiFlow choreography.
This is how it happens for me, I get inspired by new movement and go into creation mode. Every time I experience new movement I figure out a way to uniquely incorporate the movement into an asana experience on the mat.
Soon after Capoeira, I got big time into dance classes with Alba Avella at QiFlow…Wow, who knew I would love choreography so much?!? I had never taken a dance class before in all of my 39 years, but, after my first few classes with her, I was hooked. I love dance. I love choreography. I love expressing the words and the feeling of the song with my body, and I love adding choreography and expression of dance to my yoga sequencing – now known as QiFlow – my version of yoga and choreography on the mat.
During my time exploring modes of movement, I started to read the book TAO OF JEET KUNE DO by Bruce Lee, a book that I have returned to time and time again over the past three years. I love reading Bruce Lee’s thoughts on movement and his philosophy on life. I feel a deep connection to Bruce Lee and truly believe that I am meant to carry on his philosophy of formlessness: the idea that allows you to assume all forms, avoiding the pitfalls of identifying with only one path, one form, one style…
…this philosophy is what launched me on to the path of FLOW – a movement revolution that is bound by none, yet uses techniques from all styles to open the pathway to movement freedom.
I began to uniquely apply the movement philosophy of Jeet Kune Do to my yoga teaching. It was the Jeet Kune Do footwork philosophy that I added to my yoga teaching that started my mantra of “move your feet to move your body.” When I changed the way I moved my feet on the mat, my whole practice changed. My life off the mat changed as well, and it all began after reading this passage in his book…
The quality of a man’s technique depends on his footwork, for one cannot use his hands or kicks efficiently until his feet have put him in the desired position. If a man is slow on his feet, he will be slow with his punches and kicks. Mobility and speed of footwork precede speed of kicks and punches.
Move your feet to move your body. The good word is spreading…
I know better these days, so I am obligated to do better. With knowledge comes power, but with power comes responsibility. The responsibility is to teach what you know. Now that I know, I have to teach. Even through resistance…move your feet to move your body. New movement, new results. Don’t be stuck in your movement practice because you know it and you feel comfortable. Get uncomfortable. Get unstuck. Try something new.
Color out of the lines…if you practice Downward Facing Dog pose with the energy of the heels pressing down, or any variation of lunge pose with your back heel pressing back and down, or Warrior 2 pose with fallen arches, or Utkatasana with dormant feet then your poses are flat and your practice is limited.
You have to move your feet to create connection from the brain to the body. Movement, especially movement in the feet, increases your body sense – both internal (proprioception) and external (kinesthetic). Moving your feet, awakening the energy of your arches, and increasing the stability in your ankles increases your brain’s ability to sense movements of the different body parts. Because of proprioception and kinesthetic awareness, you know exactly where your body is in space/time and you know exactly how each body part is moving, even if your eyes are closed. The same is true when standing on your hands, but I’m going to save that lesson for another blog post.
Try the movement of vertical heel lift to balance on the balls of your feet to Pada Bandha (foot lock) to awaken your feet and turn on the mind body connection. Training your mind to move your feet can help change your habitual movement patterns, reestablish motor control and, overall, make you a better, more beautiful mover. Believe me when I say it, you have to move your feet to move your body. Wake up your feet!
1. Vertical Heel Lift: Balance on the balls of your feet in lunge poses and downward facing dog postures. To stand on the ball of each foot, lift heels vertical while pressing down through the big toe mound and small toe mound equally. Standing strong on the balls of your feet increase the connection of brain to body, while helping to increase the muscular strength needed for ankle stability and leg tone. The same vertical lift can be applied to the postures of Reverse Warrior, Glide and Strike FLOW and Warrior 2. By lifting the front heel in each of these poses, you will experience increased front hip external rotation. The increased external rotation of the front hip creates a stronger, more stable and deeper lunge, allowing you to experience a new doorway to the pose and your practice. Once a new door opens for you, you go deeper.
2. When heels are down, feet rooting, lift all ten toes to create a strong, spring-like, lifting action of the arch of your foot. This action is known as Pada Bandha – foot lock. Activating Pada bandha creates tone, strength and length in the muscles of the legs, including the initiation of Mula Bandha, your pelvic floor lock and Transverse Abdominis (TVA) activation. Pada Bandha also promotes stabilization and support in the ankles, outer calf muscles, inner thighs and outer hips.
Moving from vertical lift to Pada Bandha, like we do in FLOWDog in our QiFlow classes, will completely change the way you move on and off the mat. The powerful change you can make to your everyday walking and movement life is to connect to your feet. The only way you create connection – when the brain and the body work together – is to MOVE.
Move your feet to move your body…move your body to change your mind; change your mind to change your body; change your body to change your behavior; change your behavior to change your outcome; change your outcome to change your life. New movement creates new results.
I will leave you with another mantra…
…”Absorb what is useful, discard what is not, add what is uniquely your own.” – Bruce Lee.
Don’t be stuck in the mainstream. Step into the FLOW. New movement. New Results. Here’s a video of my new choreography. Every pose/shape that I take begins in the feet. The more you move your feet the better you will get at moving.
Watch, practice, repeat.
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