establishing base and dynamic tension
Found in most yoga poses, dynamic tension is the conscious creation of isometric contraction in the muscles of the body.
In YogaFit, all poses begin with establishing a strong base and creating dynamic tension through the placement of hands, feet or both. In standing poses, activate the muscles of your legs and hips and press all four corners of your feet evenly into the mat or floor. Keep feet hip-width apart, in poses such as Mountain Pose or Chair Pose, to allow you to move while still providing stability. The width of stance should be determined in part through the ability to retain the stability in your feet. A stance that is too wide or too narrow will compromise mobility and stability.
When using hands to create a foundation, spread your fingers wide and press them firmly into the floor to distribute the stress evenly. If there is a wrist injury, you can use ‘fists for wrists’, but the wrists must be stacked directly under the shoulders. It is unsafe to use ‘fists for wrists’ in poses such as Downward Facing Dog, because you can lose traction and injure yourself.
Dynamic tension is the conscious creation of isometric contraction in the muscles of the body, giving us the perception of being stretched in two directions. Found in almost all yoga poses, it serves several purposes. First, it draws attention back to the body. Second, it strengthens the contracted muscles. Third, it maximises the range of motion of the joints. Fourth, it creates greater stability and safety in the pose. Those new to yoga or fitness may have difficulty creating dynamic tension and display limp arms or legs, but practice will increase both understanding and ability.
Please note: poses should only be performed after a sufficient warm up.
Stepping into a wide stance, keep your heels in alignment and front knee bent. Turn your hips and shoulders to point towards the long edge of the mat. Adjust your back heel to accommodate the movement if needed, and ensure it is the point furthest away from the front of your mat. Feel all four corners of both feet pressing into your mat for stability and strength. Bring your arms out to shoulder height, reaching from fingertip to fingertip. Relax your shoulders, and align your ribs directly over your hips. As you sink your hips, maintain spinal alignment (photo 1).
Holding the pose: Hug your muscles to your bones as you move outward and focus inward.
Modifications: For less sensation, step the feet closer together. To reduce shoulder discomfort, bring the hands together at heart’s centre while holding the pose.
From Warrior II, place your forward forearm on your forward thigh as you extend your top arm toward the sky for Side Angle. Relax your shoulders away from your ears (photo 2). To increase sensation, extend the bottom arm towards the floor, pressing the back of your arm against your thigh and your thigh against your arm to revolve your chest open towards the sky. Sink your hips down while pressing them forward.
Holding the pose: With strong base and dynamic tension, hold the pose with stability and grace.
Modifications: For more ease through the shoulder joint, allow the top arm to come down and wrap around your back.
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The YogaFit Fundamentals training, powered by Australian Fitness Network, is a 6-day, 15 CEC course that teaches over 75 poses, class set up and cues, yoga philosophy, and a strong anatomy base behind the safety principles of yoga. Upcoming dates: 14 to 19 November, Perth; and 3 to 8 December, Brisbane. fitnessnetwork.com.au/yogafit
Beth Shaw is the president and founder of YogaFit Training Systems Worldwide Inc, which has trained more than 200,000 fitness professionals across six continents. She has also authored Beth Shaw’s YogaFit (Human Kinetics, 2009) from which this feature is adapted.