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Fill in the Gap

Crosstraining with Pilates, Feldenkrais, and Body-Mind Centering can help free up those hard-to-reach stuck places your yoga practice may be missing.

By Rhonda Krafchin

There is, however, a logic to BMC's systematic investigations that reminds me of yoga. In yoga, for instance, we're often told to "open our hearts." This is partly metaphorical, yet in another sense it's grounded in physiology. A tight chest cavity constricts blood and oxygen flow, so opening it can have an obvious physical benefit for the heart.

Similarly, there is both a physiological and a more metaphorical, spiritual aspect to BMC. On the one hand, BMC uses the basic language of Western science—anatomy and physiology—but it also encompasses a more Eastern spiritual quality—the experiential nature of the work, the more existential understanding that we can root our awareness deep in our bodies.

"If you think about yoga as a spiritual and a lifelong practice," says Elliot, "then what you want is the sort of stimulation that's going to keep opening the postures for you rather than pinning them down. I think that's something BMC can do. This is the kind of many-layered work that can help you open up a posture or any sort of movement practice. You find so much to work with, so much to pay attention to. It creates a richness that helps you understand why yoga and BMC are lifelong practices."

A New Perspective

As I move through my practice these days, I find clear echoes of my Pilates, Feldenkrais, and Body-Mind Centering experiences, all just waiting to give me guidance.

In forward bends, I can't fall into my habit of focusing completely on my hamstrings. If I do, the memory of Strauch's hands and voice pop into my mind, reminding me that my lower back is involved, too, and that my whole body is an interconnected system.

If I start to clench my buttocks in Downward-Facing Dog—a tendency my yoga teachers have slowly weaned me away from—I suddenly remember my experience of fluidity in my BMC session. And since my Pilates session, I finally understand why teachers often lead us through asanas that awaken the abdominals before we do inversions and arm balances. Now that I'm more aware of my core, poses like Handstand and Crow are much easier.

Of course, Pilates, Feldenkrais, and Body-Mind Centering all tap into essential components of yoga: breath, body awareness, strength, alternatives to bad movement habits. My yoga teachers have been offering me similar tips and pointers for many years. But my experience with Western somatics practices helped me assimilate those lessons, allowing me to return to yoga with newly opened eyes and ears. I discovered that sometimes the easiest way through difficulties in yoga can be stepping outside the traditional practice to view its principles from a new perspective.

Resources

Pilates

STOTT PILATES
800-910-0001
www.stottpilates.com

NELA FRY
(310) 394-2805

SIRI DHARMA
(310) 277-9536

JILLIAN HESSEL
www.jillianhessel.com

MARK STEPHENS
(310) 393-5150

Feldenkrais

FELDENKRAIS GUILD OF NORTH AMERICA
800-775-2118
www.feldenkrais.com

RALPH STRAUCH
(310) 454-8322
e-mail: rstrauch@somatic.com
www.somatic.com

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