Why We fall out of Standing Bow Pulling

This posture probably more than any other, divides us Bikram yogis! Some love it – “my favourite pos
ture!”  – while others find it a constant struggle simply to balance.

And there’s the word. Balance.The first thing I’d say about standing bow is to forget about the balance. The balance is the result of form, balance does not enable form.

So some magic tips about form to get the most out of this posture:

The first thing you do in this posture is grab your foot at the ankle. If you are newer to Bikram this can be tricky, be patient and keep trying. As your shoulder flexibility improves and your hips open through the 26 postures, you’ll get there.

Make sure you GRAB, don’t just hold the ankle. Grip on for dear life. Because when you work out the kick, you’ll need to hold on or you’ll lose the foot!

Now bring your arm up in front of you, chin close to the shoulder to stretch the arm up. This energises your entire spine ready for the posture.

So now you are ready. One more thing – knees together for alignment and balance. And don’t forget always the locked knee is your foundation.

Bow is really very simple. You have to kick back and stretch forward. Mastering these two aspects will transform this posture. Everything else comes from your honest attention to these 2 actions.

But I hear you say, kicking is HARD. Yes it is! Probably 90%of the people in the room are not kicking, they are holding their foot and hoping they don’t fall out. When you get the hang of the kick, everything else truly starts to fall into place.

Second Problem: Falling out. Don’t be scared to fall out trying. Again, the goal is not to balance, the goal is to kick so your foot comes over the top of your head and your body is parallel to the floor, stretching your fingers forward as much as possible . When you fall out, you learn. If you are scared to fall out, you’ll stay in the same position for EVER.

Check that your weight stays evenly over your standing foot. Bring your body down so that your abdomen and chest are parallel to the floor, to encourage the kick and raise the heart rate. Getting your body down also encourages the weight to be evenly distributed rather than back in the heel.

Don’t just point at the mirror, charge your body forward towards it like you want to touch it. If you are charging enough and kicking enough, you won’t fall out. In fact, you could balance there forever! How?

You have to try very hard to concentrate on kicking and stretching. Look at your standing knee to keep it locked and forget about balance. Building concentration is just as hard as building balance, and probably much more valuable in life, but we very rarely hear somebody say, “I need to learn to concentrate more.”  All balancing postures are about your concentration.

Think of this posture as a backbend/spine twist combo, that gives you a sense of what you are trying to achieve.

And always remember, as long as you are trying your best, you are getting your maximum benefit from the posture!standing bow for real people

Some Benefits of Standing Bow Pulling

  • A very comprehensive Posture improves the strength of all major muscles
  • Stimulates the cardiovascular system
  • Increases your spine flexibility
  • Increases blood circulation to heart and lungs
  • Stretches your hip flexors
  • Opens shoulder joints
  • Reduces abdominal fat

Now head in the hot room and give it a go!8

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Why Locking the Knee is so important in Bikram Yoga

How many times in class do you hear the teacher shouting  “Lock the Knee, lock the knee, lock the kStanding-Head-to-Knee-2.jpgnee!!”?

Locking the Knee is possibly one of the most misunderstood principles in Bikram Yoga.  In this blog, we’ll unlock (no pun intended) some of the myths by explaining why locking the knee is so important.

First let’s clear one thing up.  What it is NOT. Locking the knee is NOT jamming your knee back as far as you can and trying to balance on it.

Physically, when you “lock your knee” in a balancing posture in Bikram Yoga, you are contracting your quadriceps muscles in the front of your leg, and therefore releasing the hamstring sending the message via the nervous system for it to stretch.

In the beginning this may feel uncomfortable, even painful because the nerves are not used to the stretch and will send pain messages to the brain.  Our first impulse is to pull back, to avoid pain at all costs. However, if you want to improve stretch tolerance i.e. get more flexible, you may need to take the stretch to a point of pain. “Pain kills the pain”.  This is not to say that you should be in tears, gritting your teeth and holding your breath but if you don’t take a stretch to a point of pain, you are not likely overloading your nervous system well enough to improve stretch tolerance, to get more flexible!

A key principle in Bikram Yoga is that you are trying to overload the nervous system to increase your stretch tolerance. That is how you become more flexible, decrease the risk of injury and relax your nervous system so that it is less sensitive and therefore your body will stretch.

Put simply, the only way to improve your flexibility is to improve the function of your nervous system.  You’ll notice that when you are concentrating on locking the knee, you are less likely to fall out of the pose.  Why, because you ARE concentrating!

What does Locking the knee look like?

You know you are locking your knee when you see your kneecap raise and muscles bunched above the knee, this indicates that the qkneeuadriceps muscles are being contracted.

There are 4 muscles in the quadricep femoris muscle group in the front of your leg. The one that is hardest to “turn on” is the vastus medialis obliquus (VMO) on the inside of the leg just above the knee.  Its job is to extend the length of the thigh and to stabilize the patella (knee cap) so your knee tracks correctly.

The VMO muscle is a common centre of weakness in many people because it will not become fully strengthened unless the leg is regularly extended fully.  It becomes more fully activated when the knee is at a greater angle, especially when the leg is completely extended.

As we age, the VMO muscle is the first muscle that we will start to lose.  As it weakens this can bring problems with the knee, surrounding structure and cause chronic aching pain.

The good news…

Locking the knee is a highly effective way of building your VMO strength while also building density as you are standing and weight loading at the same time. And, you are completely normal if you find locking the knee very hard.  It is hard.  That is why you must CONCENTRATE to try to do it.  This is how concentration improves your physical health!

The struggle in your mind as you try to keep the knee locked instills discipline. Learning discipline in the room helps us apply discipline in our lives.  Ultimately, how we apply ourselves to the job of locking the knee is a metaphor to how we apply ourselves to the job of living.

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