You might have noticed some gradual changes in classes at QSY. Leena and I and many of our teachers have been incorporating movements like squats and push-ups into our yoga flows. “Where did the Chatturungas go?” you might be wondering. “Why are we doing squats in a yoga class?” You’re not alone in wondering this! This post will let you in on how and why our yoga teaching is changing and evolving …
You might have heard this term, as it has been getting a lot of buzz in the last few years. Functional Movement refers to movements or exercises that prepare the body to do the things that you do in everyday life – like get in and out of your car or bed, stoop down to pick up your toddler, carry groceries or keep yourself from slipping and falling on the ice. A lot of yoga poses can help you feel stronger and more able to do these movements, but many yoga poses are not that functional – they don’t help you become stronger or more flexible in “useful” ways. There can be different kinds of benefits to some of these poses – maybe they invoke a quality of reflection or introspection, even if they don’t help you move better in your daily life. We think there is room for all different kinds of movements in a yoga practice, whether they are immediately useful to you, or useful in a less tangible way.
We have been churning the ideas and importance of functional movement for the last few years, and here is where we are at with it: we would like our classes to offer opportunities for people to learn about their bodies, gain knowledge and information to make informed choices about how they move, and enjoy and explore practices of self-care, self-reflection, mindfulness and presence. Some of the movements that we teach at QSY contribute to functional movement in daily life, and some of the movements might just be fun, exploratory or even slightly gymnastic!
How and Why We are Changing Things Up
We’ve had a lot of students share that they are feeling stronger from our classes. And we’ve heard from a few students who feel there has been too much emphasis on functional movement. We are listening carefully to this feedback, and are also wanting to maintain our stance as movement educators…we want to empower students with knowledge and information so their movement practice can be sustainable for their bodies in the long term. So here is some knowledge and information on why we have been teaching more push-ups than Chatturungas lately…
Chatturunga Dandasana is a profoundly difficult pose that requires a lot of strength in particular muscle groups to perform efficiently and without strain. It is a pose that in some yoga traditions is done 20-40 times a class, as part of vinyasas or sun salutations.
We have been encouraging QSY teachers to offer the option to their students of doing push-ups instead of doing Chatturunga – not because Chatturunga is a “bad” or “injurious” pose, but for the simple reasons that:
- For most people the strength required for this pose would take a lot of time and dedication to build (We’re talking months to years of specific drills and strength building). And without that strength the possibility of straining your shoulders in attempting this pose on a consistent basis is high.
- The shape of the shoulders and arms in this pose is not really that useful of a shape (i.e. if you were going to push something heavy away from you (like if a bookshelf was falling on you) would you hug your elbows in close to you and push it away from you with your arms in the shape of Chatturunga? Or would you take your arms out wide more like a push-up to push it away?*)
- Push-ups are a much more do-able movement for most people, and the shape can be adapted for lots of different levels of strength, and different variations can be offered to build strength progressively over time
If you really *want* to do Chatturunga for Chatturunga’s shape, because it makes you feel like a yoga badass, that is also cool! And if you can’t immediately do it without strain, push-ups are a great way to build up your strength on the way to doing that pose.
And why have we been doing so many squats? I will let Leena answer that question, maybe next week, because I know she loooooves squats.
We Want to Hear From You!
We appreciate hearing feedback from you, our students and community members, so we can hear how our classes are landing with you. We are trying to find an appropriate balance between sharing knowledge and information with you and facilitating the feel-good, connecting-with-yourself-in-the-flow-of-yoga aspect of class. It is a balancing act, even harder than Tree pose with your eyes closed. (Have you tried that? Try it, right now.)
*Thanks to Kathryn Bruni-Young for this example of functional pushing movement in relation to Chatturunga!
Emma Dines is the creative director of Queen Street Yoga. She loves writing, visiting thrift stores and going for walks in the woods. She also loves cartwheeling, sewing and making her own kimchi.