Originally written by Zara M on 04 September 2013
The ‘Downward Dog’ pose in yoga is referred to as one of our ‘resting poses’, but to me it feels like jolly hard work! Our instructor describes his feelings whenever he is asked to go into ‘Downward Dog’ as relieved, happy and ready to ‘let go’. When I prepare to go into the ‘Downward Dog’, I am pretty much focussed on the fact that my body never does what I want it to do. Grrrr!
The ‘Downward Dog’ pose is the one where your hands and feet are flat on the ground and your bum is up in the air so that you look like a nice clean pyramid with your back and legs straight. The reality in my case is an awkward, clumsy and bent kind of hill. After the last class though, I now feel that I know what my problem is. It is all about the transition from tension to organic energy, and as our instructor expresses; “letting go, while remaining strong and grounded.”
The lesson was made up of our usual sequences, prominently punctuated with ‘resting poses’. The idea was for us to get used to creating physical energy within our bodies during each strenuous sequence, and then ‘letting go’ while keeping that energy and awareness intact by transitioning to ‘organic energy’. I must admit that I went through most of the class not really knowing what was meant by ‘organic energy’, and I didn’t want to interrupt the flow of the class by asking my silly question. So I went online afterwards to do a bit of research, and what I discovered was rather interesting. Let me share…
- “Muscular Energy moves from the outside inward, toward the core lines of the body. It hugs the muscles to the bones on all sides and integrates the limbs and joints, creating more stability, (stirum). It is this conscious flow of energy that creates over all physical integration, strength and stability in a pose. It draws the various parts of the outer body closer together. By initiating Muscular Energy, we create more awareness and sensitivity. Muscular Energy initiated by and is reflective of the strength of our intentions, desires and will.”
- “Organic Energy moves outward from our center, through the core lines of the body to the periphery or edges. It is a powerfully expanding, lengthening and widening energy that radiates out in all directions. Organic Energy is expressive and lengthens the limbs and opens the joints, widens the limbs away from each other, and expands the muscles and skin away from the core.
These actions are always done in a balanced way for optimal flow of energy and intention. Muscular Energy is always initiated first, then followed by Organic Energy, both are always maintained in balance throughout a posture or a vinyasa or flow of postures.”Ref: http://sacred-earth.typepad.com/yoga/2006/09/muscular_energy.html (04/09/2013)
These descriptions remind me a bit of when I watch couples dancing Tango Nuevo. They seem to have that springy expressive flow with surges of energy building up and sweeping through them; they look strong and in control, yet simultaneously look as though they are constantly ‘letting go’. It is quite beautiful and mesmerizing to watch, sometimes I even go into a bit of a trance when I watch a couple dancing like that! I wouldn’t be surprised if the experience of the transition from muscular to organic energy in yoga might be well described as meditative too. Perhaps it is?
When we dance Tango there are those disconcerting moments where we lose our balance, and this is because we are experiencing a disconnect, which means that the mind and body is out of sync. Using Yoga to practice our transition to organic energy, and letting the tension in our bodies go can help with this.
It might all sound a bit complicated, but the principles are simple. One of the most important things to remember when dancing Tango or practicing Yoga, is to check the foundation principles; Keep your breathing pattern going in order to maintain the mind/body connection, and remember to spread your weight by opening up your hips and chest, and keeping grounded by pushing your feet into the floor. Once you have mastered that, then your mind and body are in place, and anything is possible!
I realise now that my struggle to feel that the ‘Downward Dog’ is a ‘resting pose’ is due to the fact that I am not ‘letting go’ of my muscle tension and making the transition to organic energy. When I was advised to let my head hang down heavy, it helped and I could feel all of the tension in my neck and shoulder release. That was a great feeling, and I felt I could then focus even more on pushing my hands and feet into the ground and lengthening my back to achieve that streamlined pyramid, or at least my personal version of it, legs rather bent! Apparently it is acceptable at this stage to have bent legs though, and the more flexible my muscles become the better my ‘Downward Dog’ will look.
Anyway, it’s not about what you look like in Yoga or Tango, it is about how you feel. Do you feel grounded and balanced? Do you feel strong and in control of your energy, your body, and your movement? Do you feel good? I repeat – do you feel good? I’ll leave you with that thought, until next week.