Whist I was tightening up all my bits preparing for Part I Utkatasana today I suddenly became excessively aware of my THUMBS!
I feel them, any movement, they feel strong, the skin, the pressure of the side of it against the index finger, I perceive it as something really important and powerful, more than my hand, my arm or any other part of my body I suddenly want to take charge of it and follow it at the same time! (no I havn’t finally fallen off the rails, although some may fear I did that a long time ago ;)). It is not a Sarte type existentialist experience like he wrote about in his novel ‘Nausea’; it is neither a pleasant or unpleasant sensation. It is just unusually heightened awareness and I know this is a totally distorted view of my thumbs and, just like my recent bout of vertigo after a flight in which I felt for two days that I had just stepped off a fairground ride, I was finding this new and interesting whilst knowing it would not carry on for long and that it may never happen again. I have experienced a couple of funny proprioception moments in Yoga before but this was not the same; TODAY I know EXACTLY where my thumbs are in every posture.
And so it got me thinking about bits that get left hanging in Yoga, especially when you are new and have so much to think about. The idea of accessing weirdly named muscles and using them when you are new could be off-putting, you may not know what or where they are, so how can you access them? When you are new, you use your larger muscles to create your movements, you do what you need to do in the beginning of your asana practice and the more you do it you start discovering the deeper smaller muscles to refine your asana. If I said to a new Yogi ‘activate your perineum’, they may never come again! It’s too much. Thankfully in Yoga you don’t need to know this stuff in order to practice it as a beginner (although it helps to try to understand it if you are in this for the long haul).
Maybe you have been doing it long enough now that you can start experimenting a little. Yes there is room for experimenting in the 26/2 and still be doing it to the right way. The experiment may just be a change of focus to improve one aspect of an asana e.g. the set up, the grip, maybe plugging a big toe down a bit more, or slight change of distribution of weight, getting a stronger grip, continually resetting your heels in better alignment, deepening your breathing in a pose to see its effect or perfecting your resting positions. Be prepared to fall out or back track a few times.
This post is called ‘THUMBS UP’ but is not going to elucidate on thumbs, or Mudras nor grips. You hear many instructions to cross your thumbs or keep your thumbs with your index finger in class. These ARE important but I am not going to give you any great tips or insight into an asana or your Yoga practice here. You will get them all in class anyway, but sometimes the written word can give more food for thought.
I am just going to request that in your next class try focusing on what might appear to be unimportant details to you now. I know some might be thinking ‘why would I want to think about my thumb or wrist position when it is taking everything I have right now to stay on my toes in Awkward Part II?‘ I TOTALLY get that. But go on TRY. THINK about your thumb or your wrist and what it is doing, how does it feel, have you been leaving it out or including it where you should/shouldn’t. Has it taken on a life of its own or are you in charge of it?
Make it a rule of thumb to be the boss of your thumb 🙂