We’ve all been there: when a task feels just beyond our grasp and we shy away rather than dig deep. But the philosophy of Yoga Tune Up offers a different choice – break it down into achievable stages in order to do right by our individual bodies. Body Surfing demanding this of me and, as I learned, not only did I improve but also became eager to share my approach with my students.
This list is not exhaustive. Class began with rolling and there were steps along this path that furthered the understanding of these engagements but these were some key changes that supported my own integration of Body Surfing.
With the works of James Earls and Tom Myers in mind, the sequence targeted activating the Deep Back Arm Line (DBAL) in order to draw action away from the upper trapezius and levator scapula, as well as to reeducate students on where strength can originate in the work of body surfing. Mary Bond, in one of my favorite resources, The New Rules of Posture, advises attending to the connection of these fingers every time one picks something up and that this sensing can assist in integrating the engagement of the shoulder girdle, particularly the three-dimensional support of serratus anterior (p.120).
Step 1: We applied this information to many tasks: picking up a block, flying table and linking active-arms simple child’s pose with a tabletop position. All very easy tasks, but with heightened awareness, the light up of that DBAL became palpable, along with a sense of support from the back and side ribcage from serratus getting on board.
“Shoulder blade pulses” are another tool Mary Bond puts forth as a means to wake and activate the lower trapezius muscle. In shorthand, it is palpating the medial inferior angle of the scapula with your opposite fingertips and then creating a small pulse down and in toward the spine (p.118). It works and allows one to sense the gentle pull on the humerus bone toward external rotation. I wanted to take it up a notch by increasing the load on the muscle through gravity.
Step 2: Lay on your stomach. Place a Coregeous ball at your low front ribs, put forearms on the floor and practice pulsing the inferior angle of the scapula down and in toward the spine, as you keep your head in line with the rest of your spine. Take one shoulder blade at a time to note differing strength and play with pace, observing how that affects the action. This will help to coax tension away from the upper back as it teaches a new engagement for stability in the shoulder girdle (Bond, p. 119).
Step 3: Next, we toggled between shoulder extension and flexion with cervical spine stability. In a modification of Long Head of the Triceps, students held a block between their hands behind them, then lifted the block into extension without allowing for change in the spine (tubular core). Attention to the press of the ring and pinky finger further illustrated the DBAL.
Repeat Extension with block.
Next, Raise the Chalice (attending to ring and pinky finger connection).
Repeat Shoulder Extension with block.
The DBAL was fired up and tiring out!
Step 4: Low cobra on the breath, layered with engagement of the lower traps, serratus anterior and abdominals to mimic the end stage of our target action.
Finally, we knit these actions together and body surfed across the floor. The engaged DBAL instigated the initial pull forward, lower trapezius and serratus stabilized the shoulder girdle and pulled strain out of the upper back, tubular core supported the extension at the final position, all while length in the neck spine remained imprinted from blockhead, raise the chalice and low cobra. Students were surprised and pleased with varying, yet gratifying, levels of execution and were able to sense the places needed for strength as well as sensing exactly the right spot for their individual bodies. Yoga Tune Up® at its best!