by Nancy Bellantoni
Have you ever thought about the distinct movements that each of your joints make? Perhaps after you’ve rolled an ankle or tweaked your knee in Trikonasana? Or maybe you wonder what your hip joint is doing in your favorite Pigeon variation? Each joint serves a different function, and the term for discussing the movement a joint makes is the direction of movement (DOM).
Approaching your yoga practice with an eye toward change and discovery, can the movement of our joints inspire a practice?
Set up a DOM grid as a helpful tool.
Across the top, itemize joint actions such as:
- Internal and external rotation
- Abduction and adduction
- Flexion and extension
- Elevation and depression
- Protraction and retraction
Below each action on your grid, insert poses or movements that articulate these actions. You might find exercises hitting on multiple DOMs (ah ha!). You will certainly find yoga poses that show up in more than one column. As a visual learner, this map is useful to present a well-balanced class.
Now that you have categorized your movements by joint action, create a flow class. Decide which joint(s) you want to emphasize: shoulders, hips, spine. Select your poses and weave them together. One key to flow is aligning similar movements. Try it out on yourself. Does it flow? Are your transitions natural? Can you connect your breath to your movement? Don’t forget to insert your check-in pose anywhere and everywhere.
A hips class might have child’s pose as a check-in. Begin with a breath assessment in child’s pose, and evolve into a flowing vinyasa. Standing sequences can transition through warrior I, warrior III, Yoga Tune Up moon rises, revolved half moon. Or wide leg forward fold variations with lunges. Back bends might flow from warrior III, to half camel and full camel. Include a hip roll out on the quadratus lumborum (QL) with therapy balls. Wind down with a half happy baby mini-vini, apanasana variations and twists.
A shoulders class might have a simple flexion (raising arms overhead) as a check-in. Roll with therapy balls at the beginning and progress into your vinyasa. Or, begin with your breath and check-in in pose, then move into DJ arms, or shoulder flossing before you flow. Standing sequences could include arm and shoulder movement while in a warrior I or crescent lunge. Strength and stability poses such as dolphin supinate or plank create a natural segue into your wind down. Perhaps your backbends are bridge and bridge lifts. If practicing locust, try adding open sesame. The choices are endless.
For yoga teachers, practicing around DOMs is an easy way to educate students without a lecture. Your movement vocabulary along with your language create self-awareness and embodiment for your students. Be creative!
Nancy Bellantoni is a certified Level 1 Yoga Tune Up instructor, has her 200 hour RYT from Pure Yoga, holds an MA in modern dance, and a USCG 100-ton near coastal Masters license. Nancy’s classes build strength and flexibility through playful, physical challenges. She believes the yoga mat provides an opportunity to experiment outside the realm of everyday life. From her years in yoga and dance studios, she has acquired a keen ability to analyze and thus refine her students’ movement. Her careful and thoughtful alignment cues help her students learn to go deeper into each pose in order to find his/her edge.