Article by: Colette Barry
When teaching in my yoga or reformer classes I make it an utmost priority, especially for new students, to experience a sense of empowerment. Empowerment, not only in their mental state but also physically – during workouts.
When I’m teaching my student a new asana, my greatest concern is to help them maintain a state of excitement – to maintain an ambition to learn and master their workout session.
Because muscles work this way. Muscles are ’emotional’. As a teacher, I know I have a very small window of ‘winning’ a muscle over and achieve success.
The Story of Rob
Let’s take a student I taught at the LeCharles Football Academy. ‘Rob’ is an offensive lineman. He’s over 6 feet tall. He weighs around 250lbs.
Rob cannot carry his weight. He is huge. Pretty much all he does on the football field is stand his ground to block a play. He’s good but could be much better. In our session my main focus is to keep his mind and muscles in a state of ‘I can’.
First, I only teach specific asanas to Rob that I know he is capable of handling. When Rob practices the poses I use all my accessories. I use the wall, blocks or floor to allow him to go into the most accurate alignment he is capable of obtaining.
I then tell Rob to hold the asana for 1/2 second. Just enough time for his muscle and mind to communicate. To imprint the image.
My main focus for Rob is to always, always, always maintain a mentality of empowerment It’s to approach every asana with a positive emotion – never with fear and anxiety.
If I were to put Rob in an asana where he was forced to maintain a pose beyond what his body is capable of doing, the muscle would become ‘traumatized’. Once this happens, we’ve lost the battle. And each time Rob approached that asana his muscles would begin to shut down. We’ve lost.
I want Rob to maintain a clear mental focus. He needs to be aware of what his muscles and mind are capable of imprinting.
Once Rob is in alignment he holds the asana for 30 sec or less. That’s it. That sends the message of the alignment to the brain.
Then Rob’s muscles become satisfied. After we wait 30 seconds and the blood returns to the muscles, we approach the asana again. We do this two to three times. We repeat it the next day and the next.
By the second day, Rob’s muscles have the picture.
When I challenge Rob to go into the asana, he approaches it with confidence because it’s always been a positive experience. Familiar with the image Rob’s muscles and mind can easily apply the pose accurately for 30 seconds.
If we were to have Rob, before he is able, hold the pose longer, fear would set in. That would defeat the whole process.
This concept is not only mental but chemical. When muscles are traumatized they release a chemical that is toxic to the muscles. Therefore , every time we approach the pose, the muscle ‘remembers’ the trauma. And the toxic chemicals wait – ready to be released.
If we continue this cycle (which is the majority of how people work out) we set ourselves up for constant failure, which leads to pain and injuries.
This concept is applied to my Muscular Dystrophy patient, MS and people with injuries and post surgeries conditions.
My goal, no pain. Never allow my client to have pain, if they have pain, we’ve lost the battle. The muscles become traumatized.
We approach each session gently and with a sense of eagerness. I encourage my clients to have an “I Can” state of mind.
I know muscles. They are smart and deserve to be treated that way.