I recently saw a pelvic floor physical therapist and am so excited by what I am learning about my body. I have found that I have been "muscling" through things/postures/movements and more often than not, fail to properly engage my glutes. I of course brought this into my yoga practice and sure enough was all quad dominant when I hold chair pose. Inspired by this, I want to take a deep dive into the foundation of chair pose.
Let's first establish mountain pose. As you land in this standing posture. Feel your feet connect to the ground below you. Lift all ten toes, spread them wide and place them back down on your mat. Bring the weight into your heels and toes, find a fairly even weight distribution with a slight favoritism to the heels. (For my analytical folks 40% toes, 60% heels). I will take a deeper dive into tadasana but for the purpose of this post, lets move on.
From tadasana or mountain pose, bring your hands to heart center, split your feet about *hip-width distance, and take a seat, like you would be sitting down into a chair. *Another option would be bring big toes to touch heels about an inch apart. But I find I feel more stable with feet at hip width.
From the ground up, first bring awareness back to your feet. Lift those toes once again to ensure the feet aren't gripping at the mat. Lower the toes back down to the earth.
Then let's check in with the knees. Ideally, the knees are stacked right over the ankles. If you cannot see your toes, the bend in your knees is too deep.
Bring your awareness (and your hands) to your thighs. First, bring your hands to the outside of your legs and gently, without moving the leg inward, press the legs into your hand/ pressing away from the midline. Notice that engagement. Then, bring your hands to the inside of your legs and gently, without moving the leg outward, press the legs toward one another. Focus here on not only that gentle pull toward the midline but also a subtle pressing out. This will ensure the quads are "turned on".
Bring your hands to your glutes and notice if they are engaged. If you can't tell, generally speaking, if you are able to giggle the body part there is no engagement. Muscles fired up will be harder. If you are having a hard time turning that muscle on, take a breath in through the nose and then exhale out of the mouth like you were blowing out your birthday candles. This will also help to engage the pelvic floor.
Next, bring your hand to your low back. Focus on taking out any sway. We aren't looking for that poppin' Beyonce booty or that curved under-old man booty. Play around with the tuck of the pelvis here or even look in a mirror. We are looking for a neutral spine.
Continuing up the body, bring your focus to your navel center. The belly button should be drawn in and up. This should also help to keep the spine long and encourage a slight tuck of the pelvis.
Option to reach the arms up and overhead. As you do so, relax the shoulders down the back, creating space between the shoulders and the ears. Allow the neck to be long.
From here let's add in a slight tuck of the chin and focus on an energetic pull from the crown of the head up towards the sky. Continue this sensation by reaching through the fingertips, but again relaxing the shoulders, the muscles of the face, and any unnecessary tension.
After all of that, take a deep breath and let it go! I don't want to discount the importance of proper alignment - improper techniques or pushing too far can result in injury. And, it's important to note that yoga is more than alignment. In fact, traditional yoga is less about the physical posture and more about breath, meditation, focus, discipline, and ultimately samadhi or inner peace.
It is a practice my friends. Take what lands for now and leave the rest behind!