By Leena Miller Cressman, QSY Director. You can find Leena teaching Slow Flow on Monday nights at 5:30pm. Her classes include exploration of balance and joint proprioception, aspects of the Tensegrity Repair Series, and space for deep breathing and relaxation.
LEARNING NEW WORDS
As a kid, I always loved learning new words. I loved the sounding out the unfamiliar configuration of letters, and discovering a new way to describe or convey the meaning of something. I still love new words, and this is one of the many reasons I love studying and exploring anatomy and physiology, it gives me the chance to learn all sorts of new (and sometimes strange) words and ways of describing the human body. Like gastrocnemius! Listen to it pronounced it here. It is just so much more fun to say than “calves”.
Two words that I think should be on every yogi’s vocabulary list are interoception and proprioception. Interoception and proprioception are two distinct types of perception. Here’s how I’d define them:
- Interoception: Our perception and sensing of internal sensations, feelings, movements, and responses of the body. If you sense a pang of hunger in your belly, or notice pounding of your heart when you’re nervous that is introception. It is the opposite of exteroception, which is an external sensation on the body, like feeling wind in your hair, or the warmth of your hand in your pocket.
- Proprioception: Comes from the latin “one’s own”. It’s our sense of where our body is in space. It’s our ability to sense the relative positioning of our joints, joint angles, and muscle length, and to feel our movement and what will bring greater equilibrium. Proprioception is what allows you to feel how deeply bent your knee is in Warrior 2 without looking at your leg, or allows you to navigate a dark, unfamiliar room at night.
YOGA, INTEROCEPTION AND EXTEROCEPTION
To me, one of the aims of yoga practice is to help us hone interoception and proprioception to able to move most efficiently, improve balance, prevent injuries and pain, and overall be able to better know and better care for our bodies. If you feel disconnected from your body, and have a poor sense of where you are in space, then it’s hard to notice what the body needs, and practice preventative care. Poor proprioception can be one factor in poor balance, and make someone doing any type of exercise or movement more likely to strain or injury themselves. Additionally, becoming more mindfully aware of the body and our subtle movements can be a form of meditation. It helps us to improve concentration, lessen reactivity in the mind, and calm the nervous system.
I find that yoga practice that includes slow, fluid movements that repeat and slowly build in complexity are ideal for deepening our abilities of interoception and proprioception.
These are some of the reasons we began offering Hour Slow Flow Classes at QSY. These classes are chance for yogis of all levels and abilities to slow down a little and move with greater care, to take time to sense the body on a deeper level, and to re-calibrate movement and proprioception.
In Slow Flow classes we move at a gentle by steady pace through sequences of floor, balancing and some standing postures. Rather than emphasizing advanced or complex postures, in Slow Flow we focus on moving mindfully, being aware of transitions between movements and postures, and cultivating core awareness and deeper breathing. In some Slow Flow classes we utilize on movements from the Tensegrity Repair Series, which is a series of movements that I’ve found really helpful at improving my joint proprioception.
In addition to our popular Monday evening Slow Flow with Leena (which can be followed directly with Rest & Renew for a real treat!), we’ve added two new Slow Flow Classes to our November-December Schedule!
You can now check out Slow Flow on our drop-in schedule:
- Mondays 5:30-6:30pm with Leena
- Wednesdays 4:30-5:30pm with Lisa
- Fridays 12:00-1:00pm with Amanada S.
TRY IT AT HOME
I’ve created this sequence that you can try at home, which includes lots of gentle, repeated movements, that help to encourage better awareness of the hip, shoulder and spinal joints.
Leena Miller Cressman is the director of Queen Street Yoga. Right now she’s in love with practicing the Tensegrity Repair Series, handstands and doing gentle twists over her bolster. You’ll also find her cruising around on her rusty but trusty bike, and tending to her community garden plot full of arugula, kale, and basil.