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Chapter 6

Ground your self

When energy levels are low, it is easier to stay in soft poses. As you bring your body closer to the ground, poses are less physically demanding. But be aware, your mind will try to wonder. 

While advancing on seated poses, your heartbeat slows down. The parasympathetic nervous system, responsible for involuntary resting and digesting functions, takes over. Prolactin, oxytocin, and vasopressin start to be released into the bloodstream. You begin to find space to relax. And you can promote this feeling by extending your breath length even more. Higher levels of oxygen will deepen the relaxing state.

Your mind will be calm, but you must stay focus. During this period, the Default Mode Network (DMN) will become active. It comprehends highly interactive regions of your brain that are responsible for activity related to self-reflection, social evaluation, past remembering and future imagining. If the mind starts wondering, anchor to your breath.

Under acute mental concentration, you will be able to sense subtle muscle and skin stimulus. Take the opportunity to stay deeper in the following poses. Ground poses allow you to stay for a more extended period, and with your body resting on the mat, instability is removed from the equation. There is a minimum contraction of muscles, and most of the stretching is passive.

The Supine and Prone Poses

Ground poses include Prone poses (lying on your belly), but mostly supine poses (lying on your back). The general idea is to immobilize your spine, allowing back muscles to relax. Because your spine is in such a stable position, you can exert prolonged-mild stress to hips and shoulders without bringing tension to your neck and back. This stimulus increases the plasticity of tendons and ligaments.

 

Similarly to seated poses, you can categorize ground poses into the following:

 

  • Forward Bends: The most common ones are Happy Baby, Pavanamuktasana, Uttanpadasana, Supta Baddha Konasana, Supine Pigeon, Supta Padangusthasana, Plow

  • Back Bends: In this category, you will find Bridge, Fish, and half Supine Hero or full Supine Hero, Locust, Sphinx, and Bow.

  • Twists: Typical twists are Supta Matsyendrasana and Jathara Parivartanasana A


Flexibility and Mobility

Now in practice, we have moved from active stretching to passive stretching, which has a different implication on our muscle health. When actively stretching, the muscle is contracted, encouraging the later relaxation and elongation of the belly muscles. On Passive stretching, the muscle is relaxed or, if over-toned, it is encouraged to relax. Because under this type of stretching the muscle cannot stretch any longer, and the stress happens to the tendons and ligaments. These types of tissues, unlike the muscles, are not elastic. They are plastic, deforming over time and not returning to its previous shape. When done right, increases your mobility.

Let's see an example to understand the differences between flexibility and mobility. If you avoid forward bends over a long period, your hamstrings will lose tissues and will become smaller and tighter. You will have to make the muscle of the belly flexible again by relaxation conditioning of the tissue. You would gain range of motion (ROM) only to a certain point. However, to recover most of the ROM, that is, full mobility, plastic deformation needs to occur to enlarge tendons and ligaments near the hip socket or the knee. Plastic deformation is the principle behind posture, feet, and dental correction devices.

Moving ahead
After ground poses, you are in a deep state of relaxation. The parasympathetic system is now active, stimulating activity on internal organs and glands. Your blood pressure will reduce facilitating transportation of nutrients, oxygen, carbon dioxide, and metabolic waste to and from vessels. Now, you are close to the end of your practice. You can jump straight into Savasana, or you can take advantage of the conditions to do some restorative poses.