Indian chiefs and wheels on the yoga mat

Photo: arms across lower chestI took at morning vinyasa flow class with Susan Bowen at Thrive Yoga. It was my first physically demanding class in a week (if not more), and I really felt the lack of conditioning and ease. It seemed that I was fighting against myself the whole session, and I had to remind myself constantly to let the yoga do the work. I could tell that I was physically fatigued having done a lot of aerobic exercises the day before: 30 minutes of stationary bike and then another 30 minutes of jogging/walking, on top of Saturday’s workout. After class, I could tell that I need recovery time so I did not go on to the gym for more aerobic work.

Yesterday, I took in Marylou McNamara’s Hatha yoga class, which is strong on alignment, but does not make me break into a sweat, also at Thrive Yoga. That’s not to say that the class did not have its challenges. I winced while holding Warrior II for what seemed like an eternity. Marylou focused a lot on opening up the shoulders, and I ended up doing a couple of strong wheel (upward facing bow or Urdhva Dhanurasana ) pose, which she complimented.

Photo: arms across lower chestAfter class, I chatted with Marylou because she likes to put funny names to yoga poses adapted to other environments (“church yoga, bed yoga”) and I had a pseudo-posture that helped me locate the muscles between my shoulder blades. I call it “Proud Indian Chieftain.” I have this image in my head, probably from some drawing I saw in my childhood because I can’t find anything like it on the Web, of an Indian warrior standing with his arms crossed over his chest, his head raised high. What’s striking is how high the arms are positioned over his chest, almost as if he’s posing by puffing up his rib cage. But really, his arms are pulled back fully into the shoulder joints, and the the rhomboids fully engaged so that the shoulders are broad and pulled back. What would be the Western antithesis in this pose? the folded arms would be resting on the lower rib cage because the shoulders are slumping forward. This is a posture acquired from slumping over keyboards.

2 thoughts on “Indian chiefs and wheels on the yoga mat

  1. Yeah, and to think that I did not even know where the rhomboids were, I could not see them and I could not feel them. That's why something as quirky as "Proud Indian Chieftain" can help get a sense of that part of the body.

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