Yoga Fundamentals: Muscle Memory

My daughter is 3.5 and we are slowly introducing her to the subtle and probably soon to be dying off art of handwriting….Our very own Denise introduced me to a fun game, “touch and bump” which we’ve been working on a few times a week.  In essence, before my daughter actually learns letters for real, we are teaching her muscles how to perform the basic movements of writing.  We are essentially strength training her hands to perform larger tasks–ie writing, at some point in the future.

This, you may ask, has WHAT to do with yoga?!?!?  I’m getting there.  

Did you know that when you practice your yoga, that you are strengthening your muscles? You’re building muscle strength with each pose you hold.  When you are strength training, your muscles slightly tear and actually build upon the cellular level. Each subtle movement is tearing and strengthening. Did you know, though, that these poses all help to build up over time?

Now, I’m not saying your goal should be some crazy hard yoga pose.  By no means. Your yoga practice is exactly that–it’s YOU. What your goals are are intimately aligned with your personality, your agenda–what YOU want.  What I am saying is, IF you want to work towards some complex poses, training your muscles in some basic concepts may be JUST the ticket.

For instance, in “touch and bump” we have my daughter drawing a line from the top line and bumping the bottom line.  Over, and over, we draw sorta straight (ish) lines from the top line to the bottom. This is teaching her the basics of letters like D, B, T, E, etc.  Once she can draw a “straightish” line, she’ll add the curves or cross lines. Until then, we work on the straight lines up and down.

Same goes for you.  When you’re in your Warrior 1, you’re building strength in the front leg (and maybe even some flexibility in that hamstring), and you’re opening up the hip flexor of the back leg.  You’re also learning how to center your body weight between your two legs that are in not exactly “normal” positions. (normal in terms of daily walking around positions.) This is super important to build stamina, and balance, and openness, and, of course, strength.

You’re probably like, ya, so it’s a warrior 1 pose, I do that like every day, I’ve probably done it at least 1000 times.  Well…

Did you know that a strong Warrior 1 can help you do an Eka Pada Koundinyasana?  

WHAT?!?!?!  A standing pose can help me with an arm balance?!?!  

Yup, that’s right.

Check it out, if you have a super strong Warrior 1, that front leg can hold you up at a good 90 degree angle in perpetuity (well, maybe not THAT long), the back leg has such an open hip that you can have a really long base, and your abs are strong enough to hold you upright, not dumping into your back.

In Eka Pada Koundinyasana, you have to have really open hips (gained during warrior 1) and a strong front let (also gained during Warrior 1), because you have to lift that front leg up off the floor.  Yes, you have to have some upper body strength, but that can be gained when you work on chaturanga. (that’s another blog post and actually a part of our online video series).

Let’s suppose you have a strong chaturanga.  The next time you want to work on the EPK, warm yourself up with several Sun Salutations, maybe throw in some dragon (or Lizard) poses–it’s a very deep lunge pose.  Then, when you’re in your dragon pose, shimmy that shoulder up and underneath the knee of the front leg, push yourself forward like you would a chaturanga, and then engage your front quad like you would in Warrior 1, helping to lift the front leg off the mat.  Keep your belly super strong and lean into the hands while continuing to engage the quad, and then BAM….you have yourself an Eka Pada Koundinyasana… Ok, ok ok, it may not be like RIGHT away, but then, my daughter isn’t going to be writing 3 page papers right away either–it’s the baby steps, the muscle memory gained with each straight line for her, and with each warrior pose for you, and then suddenly, it’ll happen.  

Let me know what pose you’d like to work on and maybe I will be able to come up with some muscle memory poses that you’d need to get to them.  

Did you know I already have a pretty cool tutorial on the Chaturanga, or the Yoga Pushup.  Once you master this super strong pose, you’ll be well on your way to all the super awesome arm balances that you love to see.  If you like that tutorial, we also have a great, Cardio Inspired, HIIT Yoga Program dedicated especially for all those Mamas out there that can’t get the time to get into the studio, called Thriving Mamas.  You can purchase all the content, or just separate full length sequences or quick tutorials.  I hope you like the videos and that you’ll see how consistent practice truly pays off!



Remember, practicing the fundamentals over and over isn’t boring–it’s imperative to your growth. It may not be sexy, like a backbend grasping your knees, but that person with that backbend got there by doing a TON of other less intense backbends, so keep it up!  Your practice should be fun, to inspire your curiosity…”Not so serious that it makes you furious.” (something my teacher, Manju just said in my most recent training. ) So, keep it fun, keep it light, and just keep on keeping it! Practice, and all is coming.