“One who shows a high degree of right communication will not fail in his actions.”
(T.K.V. Desikachar’s translation of Yoga Sutra II.36)
Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras have much practical wisdom that can be directly applied to life. In fact, evolution of a civilization (or its destruction) can usually be traced to satya (truthfulness) or asatya (untruthfulness). A similar dynamic exists for an individual’s personal evolution.
Satya and asatya also have practical benefits and consequences for sustainable design of the practice and teaching of yoga, because truth and theory go hand in hand. Base your teaching on sound theory (satya) and the benefits will automatically manifest in your practice. By the same token, if your theory is based on falsehoods (asatya), the benefits won’t manifest. You can see examples of both satya and asatya in our posts on “The Importance of Theory” and “Strong Thigh Muscles Benefit People with Knee Osteoarthritis.”
Satya is also said to be "that which has no distortion." Relating to yoga instruction, this means clarity of expression. Precise cues elicit a predictable response. Vague or distorted cues elicit confusion. And no matter what your personal style of communication, you can always benefit from knowing the biomechanical basis for what you’re teaching.
In my experience, the closer your instructions are to activities that students routinely do or can easily access, the more likely they will understand the techniques and benefit from the session. An example would be a cue for expanding the thorax to deepen the breath. If clearly communicated, this technique will work for most of your students (even if you don’t explain the science behind it). Understanding the anatomy and biomechanics, however, enables you to answer students’ questions about how the body works with direct and credible terminology. Knowing the science behind your instructions builds self-confidence as well as students’ confidence in you as a teacher.
Yoga works with the body and Western science has much wisdom about how the body works. Think of a combination lock in which a sequence of numbers is used to open the lock. The poses and breathing techniques work together in the same way. Combine them properly and the tumblers fall into place; this precipitates a cascade of beneficial physiological and biochemical changes, including an overall sense of well-being.
To quote Nicolai Bachman’s translation of Sutra II.36: “When established in truthfulness, one can be sure of the results of action.”
Now On To a Tip For Using the Wrist Flexors in Dog Pose . . .
Sometimes you hear an instruction to “lift the elbows” or “lift the wrists” in Dog Pose. Normally, lifting the elbow entails lifting the entire arm in front of you—forward flexion of the shoulder. This is done primarily through the action of the anterior (front) third of the deltoids. Engaging these muscles with the hands fixed on the mat lowers the elbows. To lift the wrists and elbows in Dog Pose, contract the wrist flexors. This stabilizes the wrists and, at the same time, strengthens these flexor muscles.
Here’s a Tip for Lifting and Stabilizing the Wrists . . .
Once you have balanced pronation and supination of the forearms, engage the wrist flexors by gently pressing the mounds at the base of the fingers into your mat. Then press the palmar surfaces of the fingers into the floor. Do not actually raise your palms off the mat during this technique. You will feel your wrists lift slightly.
|Gently press the mounds at the base of the fingers into the mat.|
Here’s the Anatomy . . .
Several muscles contribute to flexing the wrist. These include the flexors carpi radialis and ulnaris, the palmaris longus, the flexors digitorum superficialis and profundus, and the flexor pollicis longus. The anatomy is somewhat complex, and it’s not necessary to memorize all of the details to benefit—just remember that these muscles all cross the wrist and thus can flex it.
And For Anatomy Buffs . . .
The flexors carpi radialis and ulnaris and the palmaris longus originate from the medial epicondyle on the inside of the elbow and cross the wrist. The flexor carpi radialis inserts onto the second and third metacarpal bases. The flexor carpi ulnaris inserts onto the pisiform and hamate bones and base of the fifth metacarpal. The palmaris longus inserts onto the flexor retinaculum and palmar aponeurosis.
The flexor digitorum superficialis has three heads: the humeral head originates from the medial epicondyle, the ulnar head originates from the coronoid process, and the radial head originates distal to the radial tuberosity. This muscle then branches out to insert onto the sides of the fingers at the middle phalanx. The flexor digitorum profundus originates from the proximal two thirds of the flexor surface of the ulna and the interosseous membrane. It inserts onto the palmar surface of the distal phalanges.
The flexor pollicis longus originates from the middle part of the anterior surface of the radius and the interosseous membrane and inserts onto the palmar surface of the distal phalanx of the thumb.
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Ray and Chris