There seems to be a love/hate relationship with this movement and I often slip it into a class so as not to antagonize the “haters” too much (!).
I have written about how this pose helps to organize the feet, ankles and knees, to “educate us in good bio mechanics..” It might be useful to break the pose down into stages, just in the way that a “racing start” is divided into the “On your Marks …Get Set…..Go..” phases.
The start position is described by Pete Blackaby”…like a sprinter on the blocks” (Intelligent Yoga p.112). The first stage is very passive – the body resting on the front thigh – the difficulty for most people is lining up the front foot and the knee of the back foot. It can help to use blocks on each side of the body in order to support and to lift yourself a little. Also, to adjust the lining up of the front foot and knee so that you feel that you have space. You can also rest the back knee – this can reduce discomfort in the back toes. The key is to keep the front foot very stable and maintain good ankle/knee alignment rather than worry about lengthening the back leg. By grounding well through the front foot and resting a passive spine as close to the front thigh as possible, the back leg will gradually straighten as the hamstrings lengthen – and it is gradual!
The hard work comes with the “Get Set” stage. The front leg is at a 90 degree angle and the back leg is still bent but the back knee is lifting from the ground. Most of the work is in the quadriceps but it is very easy to take tension into the hips. This is the stage when going in/out of the pose may help.
In the 3rd stage of Sprinters (Go) there is a stark contrast to a runner’s start, when the athlete powers from the blocks. This final stage is the “relaxed”phase, when the body is supported over the front thigh and the back leg is lengthening. If you feel supported, you can breathe and that’s probably the key to relaxing into the pose. Once again, you can go in and out of the pose, investigating how the foot meets the floor, how we gain support from floor. Recognising that you are holding the pose with tension creeping in, usually interferes with grounding.
An important feature of exploring a pose, moving slowly in/out is that we work with our body schema in an intelligent and useful way. Our body schema – how we feel in our body – is informed by our senses The feel of Balance. The idea of body schema was first highlighted by two British neurologists – Head and Holmes in 1911. They observed that sensory signals, carried to the brain, help us to build up internal postural models of our bodies. These signals are mapped in the “primary touch map” then branch and filter upwards through other, higher order maps stored in our cortex. This information is then fed back down our sensory network. This feedback system helps our brain to confirm the reality of our felt sense of self.
Thus the “agony” of Sprinters pose might be offset by its usefulness in ‘mapping’ functional movement in the cortex. In this way, we help the body to better predict movement when walking, standing and balancing. Is this enough to convince reluctant practitioners? Let me know.
Let me know also, via the blog or in class, which phase of Sprinters you find the most challenging.
On your marks…..!