A call to yoga teachers: Stop saying drop!

Jennilee Toner makes a plea to yoga teachers everywhere: for the love of your students' bones...Stop saying drop!

don't drop out

In my experience, one of the most common words repeated by a teacher in a yoga class is the word “drop”. Drop your head, drop your shoulders, drop your hips, drop your tailbone and worst of all, drop your knee. Not only is this word abrupt and ‘un-yogic’, it’s a word that encourages injurious activity.

I am continuously amazed when my yoga teacher of the day, whom I have entrusted my body, my mind and my spirit, repeatedly tells me to drop my knees onto the hardwood floor with only an 8mm of organic recycled man-made rubber-like material to cushion the fall. Oh My Patella!

Definition of dropLet or make something fall vertically – as in: “The coffee cup dropped to the floor and shattered.”

Slow down

It’s important to stress to your students that they are performing an eccentric contraction when lowering their body parts. An eccentric contraction is a type of muscle activation that increases tension in a muscle as it lengthens. This occurs in actions where you control or resist movement – for example, when walking down the stairs, running downhill or lowering weights. It acts as a braking force to help keep motions smooth or slow them down to protect joints from damage. 

The muscles activated to move a joint include agonists and antagonists. The main role of the antagonist is to move in contrast to the agonist (primary mover), so while one muscles contracts, the other relaxes. Whenever gravity is a factor we MUST slow down our actions by releasing slowly – eccentrically contracting the antagonist muscle instead of letting the agonist muscle simply take over. 

For example, if you are bringing your chin towards your chest try not to let it drop to your chest with the agonist muscle movement of the sternocleidomastoid – a pair of long muscles that serve to nod and turn the head, which connect the breastbone, collar bones and the temporal bones on the back of the skull.

Instead, it’s safer to eccentrically contract the erector spinae – three columns of muscles, which run up each side of the vertebra – at the back of the neck for a slow lowering of the chin to chest. Allow the muscles of the back of the neck to slowly relax, engaging less and less, instead of allowing the neck muscles to work immediately and abruptly.

Longevity is key!

I love your body too much to ask you to drop it abruptly on the floor.

I know I may be a wee bit obsessed with teaching safe yoga but I really do want to take care of my students’ bodies: longevity is key! I tell my yoga teachers-in-training, “The only thing you are allowed to drop are constructs. Be in the moment and drop your mind into your body. You can drop your ego’s story all day long. And, most definitely, drop your negative attitude at the door!”

The only thing you are allowed to drop are constructs. Be in the moment and drop your mind into your body. You can drop your ego’s story all day long. And, most definitely, drop your negative attitude at the door!
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A call for creativity

A thesaurus is a must for new and seasoned yoga teachers alike. There was one instance when I stopped counting when the teacher got to 50 “drops” in one class. As yoga teachers we are never meant to repeat any one word over and over again – so very boring.

A great homework exercise for the yoga teacher reading this now: how many ways can you describe every action you direct our students to perform on the mat. No more lazy brain…the time has come to be creative!

Alternatives

10 words to use instead of “drop”:

  • Glide 
  • Lay
  • Lower
  • Melt
  • Place 
  • Release 
  • Relax
  • Set
  • Soften
  • Slide

I’d love to hear your thoughts or suggestions – please share them in the comments section below!

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Jennilee Toner
Jennilee TonerJennilee Toner is student and teacher of yoga and human anatomy and the author of "The Perfect Chaturanga: A Comprehensive Guide to the Human Body Through the Practice of Vinyasa Yoga." She has been practicing Hatha and Vinyasa yoga since 1996, teaching since 2003 and teaching experiential anatomy to yoga teachers in training since 2010.