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Getting off the Sagittal Plane

I recently led the first of two investigatory, ‘on the drawing board’ workshops that have the tentative working title ‘The Fluid Body’. This first group of participants all had a history of yogasana in their bodies, as well as other interests and professions that cultivate mind/body awareness and connection, such as art, dance, massage therapy, and Eastern healing modalities. I am developing this material in these 2-3 hour workshop formats in my ongoing efforts to broaden how it is that ‘yoga’ is offered up in the course of a typical session. It is also a way of encouraging yoga students and teachers to expand and enrich their vocabulary by getting the words and concepts into their bones and tissue and organs.

Much of the movement we engage in, in our modern lives, is movement within the grooves of the sagittal plane. Once we’re in this groove, it’s hard to get off. We stand up, walk forward, and sit down in cars and in trains to get to and from work. Once there, we are often focused on ‘moving forward’, getting ahead, making it to lunch time. We sit at desks, focused on screens. We’re belted in, zipped up, staying ‘on track’. Not all of us, and certainly not all the time, but this is by far the major movement pattern: eyes, and stride, forward.

What gets us to stop and spiral around, arch back, or round forward and relax into quiet? Love. Food. Stargazing. Yoga classes. Well, most yoga classes. If you’re going from work, to a vinyasa-style class, chances are good you’re still mostly on board that Sagittal Plane. So how do we disembark?

  • Try taking your spine through its six different movements: forward bends, back bends, side bends (left and right) and spinal twists (left and right). You can add these movements to many basic poses, whether you are seated, supine, or standing; at work or in your yoga or exercise sessions.
  • Try listening to your body more closely, asking what it needs as your practice- or class- begins to wind down. Try following those internal suggestions.
  • Get into an end of the day routine that includes all of the above, in a slow, supported way. Let a 20-minute series of quiet, restorative poses be your transition from work, rather than a drink or a monotonous shuffling through websites. (If you have kids, get them to join you, or unroll your mat wherever it is they are, even if they’re battling each other on screens. With four sons, I had to learn that sometimes it was best to just dive in and join the fray as I stretched and rolled around. At the very least, it unwound my tension and entertained them, too).

The mapping of the ‘fluid body’, moving from the gross to the subtle along flexible pathways, assists us in transitioning our awareness to the subtle body practices. So once we’ve gotten off the sagittal plane, and we’ve rolled around on our floors a bit, then what? We listen. We listen, and we visualize, and we wait to see what words and images arise from our own vocabulary-making abilities.

  • Settle your body and begin to notice your breath.
  • Open one thing at a time: a hip or a shoulder joint, into a leg and foot, or arm and hand.
  • Isolate one muscle or place as much as possible, and find ways to activate it. Engage in a focused dialogue with your multifidous, palpate the interior surface of your iliac crest.

There’s more, much more, starting with a greater definition of just what is this ‘Subtle Body’ I seem to be mentioning a lot lately. That is the stuff of which workshops, retreats and deeply detailed classes are made. Which is why it is time to go roust the hubby from his slumber and get him on his daily cappuccino-making detail… woman needs her fuel!


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