Recently, in a yoga teacher training that we participated in with John Salisbury in Arizona, we were introduced to 12 Principles of Action. Most of them we were already instructing our students to do, but there are 5 that we discovered can also be real game-changers for every movement and posture, both on and off the mat – even in non-movement activities, such as sitting in a chair or driving in a car.
These 5 principles of action are so subtle that at first they may trick you into thinking they couldn’t possibly be as effective as they really are. Give them a try, we truly believe you’ll be amazed how quickly these 5 simple moves can improve your balance, take strain out of your low back and neck, improve the quality of each breath you take, and work to strengthen and tone your core/belly muscles.
In order to foster each of the 5 principles you can either begin by sitting in a chair or standing, either big toes, heels slightly apart or feet hip width apart:
- Firm your ankles – meaning your inner arches lift slightly and outer ankles draw in towards each other. Feel how just this simple move engages your inner and outer thighs and begins to also engage Mula Bandha (an energy lock at the base of your pelvis, or perineum muscle)
- Draw your frontal hip points towards your low ribs – feel your belly muscles immediately go to work.
- Iron your low ribs towards your hip points – this may sound like I just repeated myself on step two with slightly different wording but try it as two separate moves and you’ll see that they are indeed distinctly different.
- Lift your sternum/breast bone towards your chin – feel how this lengthens your spine as well as frees up your diaphragm to take deep, delicious inhales into your lungs and full, yet naturally deep exhales.
- Bring the crown of your head towards whatever it’s aimed at. This automatically lengthens your entire neck, thereby releasing neck strain/compression.
The yoga posture we’re demonstrating here is called Utkatasana/Fierce Pose, a pose many of our students initially despise because, when done the way most instructors are teaching it, it can be fiercely uncomfortable, especially in your low back. Once we teach them to apply proper principles of alignment and action they discover they can actually transform this into an easy, if not downright pleasurable, posture!