The Art of Slowing Down
For the past few weeks I have been very concentrated on slowing down; not only in breath and mind, but also in movement…but maybe not in the manner that you initially think of.
There are a few ways that muscles contract isometrically, concentrically, and eccentrically. An isometric contraction is that which the muscle is working, however no movement is being performed, for example holding plank pose. Your abdominals, as well as deltoids and quadriceps, are engaged, and possibly shaking by the end, but the goal is to be as still as possible. A concentric contraction occurs when the origin and insertion of the muscle (where it began and where it ends) come closer together, such as the movement when you are in down dog split and draw your knee in towards your nose, your abdominals (mostly your rectus abdominus) are working concentrically. Think of it as your power move. The eccentric motion is actually going to produce the greater amount of force, it occurs when the origin and the insertion, grow further apart, as the movement that occurs to slow a motion down. We spend so much of our practice getting into the pose, foot goes there, engage this, draw this here…then we hold it, and breathe, and become at peace with the heat building inside said muscles, then what happens? That huge sigh of release and the instinctual let’s get out of this as quickly as possible (yup, remember that last chaturanga dandasana of your practice, was it as slow & controlled as your first?)
So if we take the time to get into the pose, I have been concentrating, if not more, on the slow, controlled exit from the poses; the mostly eccentric contractions of your lengthening muscles. In actuality a majority of a muscle’s normal activity in executed during this lengthening phase of work. Eccentric contractions are more effective at producing a higher amount of force, and therefore it is more effective at increasing the strength of the muscle.
photo source: http://muscle.ucsd.edu/musintro/contractions.shtml (not sure if you wanted APA citation, so figured that I would just provide the source for you to cite how you wish).
Let’s put the practice into the preaching…The sequence:
Plank --> Adho Mukha Svanasana --> Down Dog Split--> Knee-to-nose--> Down Dog Split --> Knee-to-opposite elbow --> Fallen Triangle --> Rock Star --> Mini-Vinyasa --> repeat on opposite side