Pre-Yoga has become an integral part of Alignment Yoga. On the level of metaphor, Pre-Yoga is an expression of self-acceptance. In the literal realm, Pre-Yoga are those exercises that awaken and strengthen the core muscles of postural support.
The human body is a marvel of engineering. For nearly every possible movement, there’s built-in redundancy. While there’s an optimal and most-efficient means to make a given movement, there are myriad other ways the body can make the same movement. In general, the optimal movement patterns live up to their label – offering optimal efficiency, grace and stamina. The other movement patterns get the job done, but often at the expense of comfort, ease and sustainability.
We all have various compensation patterns in our bodies. Whether from illness, injury or stress, we have learned various ways to move and hold our bodies that are sub-optimal. Much of the fatigue people report as they reach their 40’s isn’t necessarily metabolic nor organic, but rather the sum total of these inefficient movement habits that drain our vitality. One of the benefits of yoga is to uncover these pathologies and move into a more efficient, and thus, more energetic way of being.
Where we run into difficulty is the relative invisibility of these movement patterns. Given that we’ve become used to them (habituated), they can be difficult to access. This is the challenge that generated the Pre-Yoga exercises.
The Pre-Yoga exercises isolate the desired movement patterns to provide a readily available means to access the optimal, most-efficient posture. With regular practice of Pre-Yoga exercises, we gain a somatic understanding of how to optimally practice asana.
I spent years in a school of yoga that emphasized the precise alignment and technique for each asana. While I consistently watched people grow and develop, I also observed that Bob’s shoulders – tight in his first class - often remained tight for years to come. Or Annette’s tight hips – restricted in movement in her first year of yoga - would often elude her best attempts to create greater freedom, even after years of practice.
As I watched closely, I saw that inefficient movement patterns were rarely rewritten, but rather, students became more cunning in avoiding the weak link that caused the sub-optimal movement pattern. More than prompts, instructions or even props, something else was needed. This was and continues to be the inspiration behind the Pre-Yoga exercises.
Over the past fifteen years I’ve developed 30+ Pre-Yoga exercises, each designed to help reach the stickiest, most elusive places. In the accompanying video, I’d like to share one of my favorites, the Psoas Wake-Up. For people with tight hamstrings, rounded shoulders or difficulty sitting or standing upright for any length of time, this is a valuable addition to the asana practice.
(Special thanks to Ramanand Patel for the class nearly 20 years ago that ultimately inspired this exercise.)