Tuesday, January 1, 2013
Deep Comprehensive Stretching: Soft Power Yoga
3rd of 6 Variations, In A Sequence of Supta Virasana Variations
IN THE MOST POPULAR yoga classes where the room can be expected to be mat-to-mat, the appeal tends to be for amped up vinyasa flow, likely requiring jumps to poses to keep up. Whether just fast or “power” or “hot” classes, slowing down may be relegated to poses requiring intense endurance “to squeeze out frustration” as well as to increase strength [for “gain,” of course]. There is a sort of kettle bell class or boot camp feel—yoga fitness—that leaves one with a good sense of having clearly done some work by the session’s end. And participants are likely rewarded with a gift of endorphins that “flowers” after completing practice, and that feels almost, somehow, “spiritual” or, minimally, “better.”
Near the end of such classes, there may be a return to seated and supine work: twists and folds to begin to cool down and to reintegrate or bring to balance body aspects that may be, perhaps, a little out of synch, and then ended with the “capstone” of some time spent in the stillness of savasana.
QUITE DIFFERENT, soft power yoga begins where such classes start to end.
The underlying approaches to health are perhaps the core differences that shape the practice. Amped up vinyasa flow approaches health as fitness as measured by strength and flexibility with a nod to cardio work [as perceived from sweating and fatigue, but not really aerobic].
Soft power approaches health as core suppleness and thriving/optimizing. Soft Power Yoga becomes deep concentrated stretching. There is no jumping or fast movement from one pose to another, little up and down and little standing balance. And yet, flexibility maybe rapidly increased as well as strength.
Soft power’s deep stretching is done to optimize the physiological process of releasing spindles in the muscles and Golgi organs in the ligaments. [See post: holding Yoga Poses & Spindle Release, 2/18/2012.] This release takes time that is not present in amped up vinyasa flow. With a nod to the contributions of Yin Yoga, time is perceived to be essential to stretch connective tissue that is quite different from muscle tissue (and it optimizes stretching muscle tissue as well).
Soft power concentrates on opening the shoulders/chest, pelvis and lower back—areas that are typically very tight rather than supple and pliant and soft. There is a strong intention to increase the flexibility of the “interior” body. This suppleness opens and optimizes the rich variety of physiological channels of the body.
The practice of soft power yoga also feels good—like cats and dogs stretching in the morning. This allows for consistent practice that can be daily and even multiple times in the day for selected poses if so desired.
Rather than being thought of as an easier form of yoga, Restorative-Yin Yoga might be viewed as a deeper step into calmness and quietness that continues to emphasize the approach of soft power yoga to health. And Soft Power Yoga might be thought of as an extension of restorative-yin yoga into a broader variety of poses, with variations of one pose explored and then subsequent poses and their variations being explored in the session. As in restorative-yin practice, all poses are held longer.