Take a load off

yoga classes in inwood

No, this isn't the lazy man's guide to working out. "Lying on the floor" is a technique taught to me by a mentor, a Feldkenrais practitioner, who has changed my body and my entire training philosophy. In Feldkenrais they call this technique the "body scan", however, you may be a bit more familiar with the yoga pose Savasana (corpse pose). While some people find this a good position to doze off, this pose is actually meant to help you gain full conscious awareness of your body.  There is a host of benefits and reasons for them to. 


Before beginning a training session, I like to ask my clients to perform the move to create a better awareness of their bodies in space. Sometimes, we are so used to just physically doing things that our minds aren't really conscious about our physical form. By getting on the floor, we are providing a lot of sensory feedback to our brain. The more surface of our body is in contact with something, the more we can feel. For example, you are probably sitting down while you are reading this (or bent over your phone as you walk or stand). Let's bring your attention to your back. Chances are you either can’t feel your back at all or if you can, what you're feeling is pain and discomfort. Now get down on the floor. "Oh hello vertebrae, nice to meet you, come here often?" You should suddenly be able to feel parts of your back that have been hidding for some time.  

By connecting your body with the floor you enlarging your nervous system's sensory map. The larger the map, the more movement options your nervous system has. Think of yourself as a modern-day explorer, but instead of thrashing your way through the depths of the jungle, you're lying on the floor discovering the lost feeling of your lower back!


Other than body awareness, this exercise allows for tremendous support. The nervous system is like an over-protective mother, it doesn’t allow you do anything it thinks you can’t handle, and is a big reason for immobility. When we lie on our back, it's a signal to the nervous system that it's safe. We don't have to be afraid of falling since we are already on the floor. This sense of stability will automatically increase mobility.


Ok, so you know the 'why', let's look at the 'how'. It’s not just lying on the floor (although that will have positive effects in itself). The key to this, as with all exercise is mindfulness. We can’t just go through the motions when doing any movement, we must connect the body with the movement. 


Before we go further I will add a caveat to this. This is how I like to do the scan and teach the scan, but other people may have a different technique - just do whatever works best for you. 


So here we go, the body scan. 


First, lie on the floor, allowing yourself to fully relax. Take a deep inhale and exhale and release tension. Just let your whole body fall as it is; try not to shift or change anything, just be. 


Start to pay attention to what you feel and where you feel. Do this very briefly. Don’t change anything, just become aware of it. 


Now bring your attention to your ankles. Where do they meet the floor, how heavy are they, how close or far away from the body do they feel? How connected do they feel to the floor? Is one ankle rolled out the side, the other in towards the middle? Remember don’t fix anything just notice it. 


Follow this same approach all the way from the ankles to the head. Ankles, calfs, knees, hamstrings, glutes, pelvis, lower rips, upper rips, shoulders, neck, head. Start to notice anything at all. If you don't really notice anything in a particular spot, take not of that too! At the musclar parts, like the hamstrings, pay extra attention to tension and tightness in the muscle. At the head and neck try to feel which is supporting which - the neck supports the head or head is pulling on the neck? 

After we covered the external body bring your focus to your breathing.  What is happening? Are your breaths deep, so that you can feel your abdomen expand fully or are they shallow and in your chest?  


The more often you do this, the easier it will become and this is especially helpful to do before and after you work out. The reason being, you can better identify issues like one muscle feeling more worked out than the other, or how balanced your left side feels to the right. This will help you make the necessary adjustments during your training sessions.


So there you have it. The body scan, go do it. Grab your machete and start creating your map. As always there is no right or wrong with exercises like these, it’s all an exploration.