by Kate Krumsiek
Movement frames much of our experience on Earth. We are constantly resisting the pull of gravity and making our way around the world to accomplish our tasks, whether that be taking a shower in the morning, training for a marathon or picking up a tired child to tuck them into bed. Our yoga practice challenges us to untangle the complicated strands of unconscious movement and then re-create a new normal, one that is informed by a fresh understanding of how we perceive our own bodies in space. Big change occurs with this focus and I find many of my students are focused on the actions that create these new connections and perceptions.
As student and teacher, I am often engrossed in certain sequences and routines that change range of motion and get super excited when feeling that targeted alteration as a result of a physical action. These sensed changes are a major contributor to the development and building of proprioception in practitioners. As I toy with my own practice and watch my students, I’ve become more attentive to the power of the pause, the moments in the practice for reflection and guided observation of quieter changes across the interior terrain.
These short moments of stillness embedded in the practice allow for the stimulated nerve endings within our fascia to imprint the messages of movement onto our bodies. This provides an opportunity for that “new normal” to coalesce in our systems and become natural. If you are a student with hypermobile shoulders and you practice a stabilizing pose, such as “Hitchhiking Pizzas”, the muscles of your shoulder that engage when externally rotating (primarily teres minor and infraspinatus) are given fresh feedback on the sensations of stability. In the following pause, if practiced consistently, your mind and body notice the sensation to reteach the shoulders stability in the face of hypermobility.
To me, this is one of the most personal aspects of this work—allowing each student to use similar actions to re-educate their individual patterns of movement, often only accessed though the pause.
Therapy ball rolling also gets us to the power of the pause through the stimulation of the many nerve endings that live in our fascia. This stimulation translates directly into improved proprioception through the Ruffini endings, one type of sensory neuron. As stated in Jill Miller’s The Roll Model, when aroused, these Ruffini endings “send two messages to the central nervous system:
- They increase body awareness or proprioception in the stimulated area.
- They tamp down sympathetic outflow, sedating your entire nervous system and reducing global tension in your body.”
This tamping down of the nervous system is the pause that educates the activated area toward a new normal and provides a moment to develop the internal gaze to compare your “before” condition to your “after” condition. This creates the environment for you to be both a participant and an observer in the practice. This is a skill that needs repetition, but it will certainly enable you to work with increased astuteness and connect all the parts of yourself into a whole that is known to you.
This is the power of the pause—after differentiating the parts of your body through self-massage and corrective actions, you then meld back together with your unfelt areas, felt. It’s time to shake hands with your blind spots as you pause in the echoes of your movement, reaching into the shaded areas of your proprioception for the light of understanding yourself.
But, what can you DO in the pause?
We are immersed in a “doing” culture and that can make a down-regulating practice downright frustrating. The frantic mind can run in circles and inhibit the connection and impact of your pause. We all know the old saying, “Practice makes perfect” and that certainly plays an important role in training the mind to soften its hold on the experience within your body, but having a simple task can help, too. I’ve recently learned a technique that, for me, works wonders as it differentiates the placement of my breath in my body, leaving the door open to feeling my physical experience.
My suggestion is to begin with a well-known pose or self-care practice that you can perform with a measure of ease. Something both familiar and effective for your body. Then come into ardha savasana (laying on your back with your knees gently bent and your feet on the floor) or another mode of reclining that best suits you. Pause. Pause. Pause.
Begin to direct your inhale toward the lowest of your back ribs, allow the breath to descend along the back plane of your interior and feel the full sense all the way to the back of your pelvic funnel. As you begin your exhale feel the breath move to the front of your pelvic funnel and allow the breath to travel along the front of your abdomen, ribcage, chest and out your nose until the exhale is extinguished. Follow this looping breath for 5-8 cycles for a long deep pause as you notice the ripple effects of the initial action you chose. See the video below for a deep breathing technique that is perfectly suited for the pause.
Just a few moments in the Power of the Pause can help reintegrate your many separate parts into a fully felt whole that moves with ease, awareness and grace!
From the start, Kate Krumsiek couldn’t resist her drive to pass the gems of yoga—fitness, awareness, breath, alignment and clarity of mind—along to others from the teacher’s mat. Her 200hr training provided a foundation of yogic knowledge from which to learn, teach and cast a wide net for continued study. Yoga Tune Up refined her lens of understanding to shine upon the anatomical and corrective aspects for practice—helping students, alongside herself, identify and address postural habits that impair efficient, effective movement in the body. Find more about Kate at www.katekrumsiekyoga.com