Why smaller, smarter, stronger is my new yoga mantra

Whatever level you're at in yoga, it isn't about how far you can go but how much you can feel in going small. Christine Wushke explains more.

Janu Sirsasana

My yoga mantra at the moment is: Smaller, Smarter, Stronger.

My dear friend Joanne Sarah Avison said recently that “Fascia loves micro-movements.”

It is a timely message. As a yoga therapist I often hear feedback such as, “I can’t do yoga because I’m not that flexible.” When did this practice become associated with such extreme ranges of movement that the average person feels they can’t even walk into a studio?

The purpose of my mantra is to dispel that myth.

Go smaller

If you run a Google image search for ‘yoga poses’, 90% of the pictures shown are positions taken at the end range of movement. No wonder yoga has become synonymous with extreme flexibility! But is that really good for us?

Triangle pose

Triangle pose is often taught with the cue to take your hand to the floor and hinge sideways from the pelvis, lengthening the torso as far as you can to get there. This will involve, for most bodies, forcing your pelvis and hip joints as far as they can go. Not only is this movement unnecessary for hip mobility and functional movement, but it can actually be harmful for some people.

Simply moving your pelvis sideways a few inches can be of great benefit in freeing up your hips. And – if done slowly, in mindfulness, and with control – the movement will balance strength and flexibility at a more even ratio.

Move smarter

Instead of aiming for that full range of motion, go to where you feel a tiny inkling of stretch sensation and then play within that range.

Try doing this mindfully. Do you have control in that small range? Do you feel shaky, or experience little jerks? See if you can do even smaller movements; listen to your body’s cues, focusing on smoothness and control rather than achieving a specific shape.

Backing your poses up and incorporating slow smooth movements in this way will add a new depth to your practice. You will increase your proprioception and interoception by getting mindful and staying mindful as you move. This will increase your functional strength, and also strengthen your brain muscle!

Get stronger

If you usually do Triangle pose with your hand on the floor, bring it to a chair instead. Or — better yet — go smaller still and see if you can hover your hand in the air and feel your core engage in that range. Draw your legs toward each other and go for strong legs rather than wide legs. Instead of aiming for a lengthening action of your torso, practice core engagement.

Be mindful of each little muscular contraction. Strengthening doesn’t have to hurt, and it doesn’t need to be extreme. We can achieve a great deal of functional strength just by getting mindful and moving in small ways with deliberate control.

When it comes to fascia, less is more

Did you know that there may be considerably more sensory nerve endings in the body’s fascial matrix than there are in the eye’s retina?

This makes your connective tissue fascial system the largest sensory organ – and the largest organ overall – of the body. It is much more sensitive, delicate, and responsive than most of us fully realise. It is also ubiquitous, found everywhere in the body.

Therefore, when it comes to moving, from a fascial point of view, less is often more, moving “small and smooth” for the detail. Similar to savouring a taste on your tongue, or closing your eyes to feel the breeze, smaller movements done with mindfulness are like a subtle deep-tissue dance party!

You can do these things regardless of your level of yoga expertise. Whether you’re a beginner, advanced, or even an instructor, remember this: It isn’t about how far you can go… but how much you can feel in going small.

Train with Christine on the EkhartYoga Academy

Tensegrity is a blend of the words ‘tensile’ and ‘integrity’ and refers to the balancing of the forces of tension and compression to create strength and stability. When tension and compression are in integrity, the body is in balance and our energy can be used optimally and efficiently. Ideally, this looks like smooth, controlled, and efficient movement.

The goal is to balance these opposing forces (tension and compression) and take advantage of their different qualities to enable us to enjoy freedom of movement, reduce pain, regulate emotions, and optimize our energy.

Through a combination of lectures and experiential practices you will learn how to apply the concept of biotensegrity to alleviate chronic pain, discomfort and restrictions in movement. We’ll also widen the scope and explore how these principles can support us to trust our own bodies and strengthen our relationship with others. Click here for full details.

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Christine WushkeChristine Wushke is a myofascial release expert, a certified yoga therapist, a registered massage therapist and a Hakomi practitioner with over 20 years of experience. Her teachings will help you build self-awareness, interoception and, most importantly, a loving relationship with your body.