Friday, 2 January 2009

Are my arms too short? Paul Grilley DVD Anatomy for Yoga


I bought Paul Grilley's DVD from Yogamatters via Amazon UK for £16.99 . However, if you buy it direct from their website I think they have it listed at £22.00 . I gave Yogamatters a hard time when I had to wait a couple of weeks for the Lino Miele book but this time the DVD arrived within a couple of days (and over the Christmas period too).



It's good value running at over four hours. The lecture section takes up most of the DVD. The first lecture, The big Picture, is over an hour and outlines his basic premise the other lectures are about half an hour each and illustrate the argument further by focusing on different aspect of our anatomy. It's in a presentation setting and he uses several yoga practitioners to illustrate and
demonstrate.There's also a question and answer session and some special features.



Paul looks at two kinds of Resistance that he labels tension and compression. Tension is concerned with muscles, sinews and tendons and can be stretched/developed through Yoga and exercise. Compression, however, is where bone meets bone and can't go any further.



This is a comparative anatomy presentation, Paul shows how we all have different bone idiosyncrasies and considers how our bone structure may determine our asana.


In the neck example on the left, he shows the limits of neck extension on different models. These are all yoga practitioners who have been practicing Yoga for a long time, their limit is a matter of bone compression rather than their flexibility. He has even more dramatic examples on hip rotation, shoulder extension etc. These skeletal limits are important for teachers of course but especially for the home Yogi. We tend to try and make our poses look like those in a books and videos and, especially in the early days, think that if we don't look like the picture then it's a lack of flexibility. It may be flexibility but it might also be our bone structure and no matter how flexible we may become we might never be able to look like the picture in the book.

However, and this is an important point that Paul stresses throughout the video, although we may not look like the picture in the book it doesn't necessarily mean we're not benefiting from the stretch. It might just be that we're feeling the stretch at a different point than the model or another yogi or our teacher. We might feel the benefit of the stretch at less or more extension than someone else.

It also doesn't mean that we cant necessarily do an asana, although it may. If our bones are built such that they stop us extending our arms back, in wheel say, it might just mean that we need to adjust our arms, shoulders or elbows to enable us to achieve the pose and it's benefits.
Watching the DVD I was constantly jumping up to see how I compared to the models on the screen, and in this sense it's an excellent DVD for gaining insight into your own bone structure.
The presentation is very clear and you don't need an MD to keep up.

Here's a link to Pranamaya with some video samples of the DVD
http://www.pranamaya.com/grilley_afy.html

"So Paul, are my arms to short for the jump back?"

Had I watched this DVD a few months back I might have just switched off and not listened to what Paul is actually saying and given up on ever achieving the Jump back. He looks at "Arm to torso proportion" in section 5. take a look at these two pictures.



The first models hands reach the floor naturally without any stretching or leaning. The second models hands are several inches short.of the ground. He will need to lower his scapula and bend forward just to touch the floor. As the first model is already touching the floor when he engages his scapula and bends forward he's able to press down with full leverage to raise himself from the ground. To get the same height Paul argues the second model would need to use blocks to regain the extra couple of inches, as his leverage has been halved just reaching the floor in the first place.

As with all the other examples I jumped up and checked where I came in comparison with the models. "OH NO!" thinks I, "my hands are a long way from the ground, I'll never be able to Jump back." and I start googling Iyengar and Bikrim to consider changing styles. But hang on a minute, I CAN JUMP BACK, check out my last few jump back videos.



But this fits with what Paul is saying throughout the DVD. Sometimes you'll have to find ways of working around your bone structure, of living with it because it ain't gonna change.

videoI've had to work at my jump back to make up for my bone structure. The design of my bones appears to suggest that I begin with less leverage. However, I've been able to find ways to maximise the leverage I do have and if I look at the seven elements in the series of posts I presented in December that seems to be what I'm doing.

"So Paul are my arms to short for the jump back?"

"No, but you might have to work at it some".

PS. Why is it so so hard to format and reformat a post on Blogger, Grrrrrrr...!

18 comments:

  1. Oh, as soon as I started reading this, I thought, "Grimmly is exactly the person to refute some of this anatomy is (asana) destiny stuff!"

    ReplyDelete
  2. Grim 1, Grilley 0

    Also the first guy is closer to the floor in part because his knees and hips (and maybe traps) are more open.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I strongly believe that the size of one's legs would have an impact on their ability to get their palms on the floor in that position. Does he talk about that in the DVD? I've noticed as much with my own body. I've been doing Ashtanga for 9 months now, and my legs are much smaller(leaner). Just as the size of one's belly has a huge impact on their ability to do forward bends.

    Also, I just want to say you are an inspiration. I started doing Ashtanga at 37. When i have those days where I feel like I'm too old for this, I check out your blog and realize I'm just being whiny..lol.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thanks Jason. feeling like the ashtanga old timer now, but thanks. Actually found it encouraging myself when i heard that Lino Miele supposedly started Ashtanga in his 40's.
    Grilley only really talks about bones but i guess the effect is the same. If you have trouble getting your hands to the floor your going to have to lean in a bit thus losing some leverage. You'll have to get everything else working well to make up for the loss of leverage same as with shorter bones. I found losing some weight really helped me a lot.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I have the DVD. Of course I agree that we can be at an anatomical disadvantage for a posture - it may even be impossible for us. What we shouldn't forget is that the impossible becomes possible in practice. Over time space can be created in a joint. We are repositioning our bones, as Iyengar teachers are fond of saying. Changing our body structure (yes, of course there are limits). The DVD bugs me because students come to class and tell me this or that is impossible for them because of their bones (having seen the DVD). Half the time it clearly isn't true, the rest it's questionable.. who knows? Do we need to know? Beginners giving up already, never going to work at that posture now, and it may be one they really need. You illustrate perfectly saying you might have seen the DVD earlier and given up on the jumpback. I dislike the way Grilley has placed limits on students' imaginations.

    Of course we shouldn't force ourselves into postures either, we need to learn to strike the balance and go just to the edge with an open mind and non-attachment to the fruits of our actions (bla bla bla, you know all this, I'm just ranting).

    I do like yin yoga though :)

    ReplyDelete
  6. First, I love your website and videos! Thank you so much!

    I was looking at your jump back videos, and your arms are way long proportionally than people with "short" arms. I say this because in Dandasana, even when your hands are reached out in front of your hips, you can still bend the elbows.

    For short armed people like me, where the heels of my palms are above ground at least one inch to be able to sit up back straight, jumping back feels like an impossible feat. Of course, proportionally, this means I have long torso and short limbs.

    I have been practicing for over 20 years. But, I'd love it if you can share videos or advice from Ashtangis whose arms are truly short and can do a jump back. I would love to be able to finally do it some day if there's a way.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Hi Anon, thank you for your comment, amusing for me to look back on a post from a couple of years back, the other comments too, his guys.

    I would be happy to post videos from short armed people, feel free to send one yourself, you can post it to youtube and send me the link. If I posted it others might have useful comments/suggestions.

    More and more over the last couple of years I've come to feel that the jump back is about technique (bandhas just add the finesse/control), but the right technique for the right person. For a long time I was trying to lift up and jump back like Lino Miele, thought that was how it was done....still can't jump back like Lino.

    You have to find the way that best workes for you, trying out all the different approaches you can but really trying them, and there are lots on youtube now, work at all of them and perhaps if your lucky bits and pieces from the different techniques will come together in some strange way that will work for you, that will make the difference. Later you can refine it.

    Try and attend a workshop if you haven't done so already with those who focus on it, Kino , David Swenson, David Garrigues ( who has a good video on it this week in his Asnana kitchen.
    http://davidgarrigues.com/blog/?p=2134

    This video might be useful for you lots of curling of the torso
    They should at least be able to tell you if it's going to be realistic for you or if your going to need to settle for a half jump back variation ( Which can still be smooth and elegant).

    Everyone used to tell me in the beginning that it's not important and it's true but if you've stuck with the practice for twenty years you know that, still it's elegant and adds lightness to the practice and gives the practice that nice rhythm so I get why you want to keep working at it.

    I'm guessing you have issues with jumping through too or is that Ok for some reason. I've switched around, a high Kino style for a while, then a clumsy straight leg version that was always ...clunky. These days I'm back with a simple, delicate little Sharath Jump through, such economy of effort, worth taking a look at again.

    http://grimmly2007.blogspot.co.uk/2012/05/sharaths-jump-through.html

    ReplyDelete
  8. :-)

    My arms are far shorter than my torso, and my posterior is far larger than most any other advanced practitioner. I'm a female, and I can clear many inches from the floor to pick up.

    I would suggest to you that short arms do not exist. The people who have the most difficulty learning this technique use that term. Only very, very poor teachers tell students that this is a limitation.

    Two suggestions for starters:

    Make the torso shorter. Ut pluthi. Don't do it from the shoulders. Do it by shortening the torso. :)

    Make the arms longer. Most people can get 1-2 inches of length by releasing the delts and any mounded-up stuff around the lower insertion of the traps (where at times they get all bunched up with the scaliness). Self massage, castor oil and deliberate stretching outside of practice will do this. Maybe some myofascial release with a skilled therapist, too, but bodywork shouldn't really be necessary.

    Hope this helps. It pulls on my heart-strings a bit each time I encounter the idea of short arms. You can do this.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Thanks (0v0) for chiming in here had hoped you or somebody else from these old comments might. As you know I don't have much experience of other bodies/arm lengths...though I seem to remember Mark Darby saying he was lucky in that he had long arms and short legs.

    Anon, re what (0v0) is saying about 'lengthening' the arms, i wonder if those arm movements of Ramaswami help with that, see this video
    http://vinyasakramayoga.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/2.%20OYF%20P.4%20Hasta%20vinyasa

    but of course you don't have to look to Vinyasa Krama, just make a feature perhaps of stretching the arms more in your Ashtanga practice, really emphasising it in the Sury's and throughout standing but in the Janu's and Marichi's too, make arms your thing. Sorry, thinking out loud here.

    Just checked did a short post on lengthening the arms back in 2008
    http://grimmly2007.blogspot.co.uk/2008/11/jump-back-how-to-make-your-arms-2.html

    ReplyDelete
  10. Grim, You know my schtick about how the internet is not your teacher and ashtanga is an oral transmission. But I'm teaching a workshop in Toronto this weekend and they have insisted on filming some of it. I'm secretly really passionate/obsessed with this element of the physical practice, and half thinking of making a vid on this topic of short armed pick up. I have not watched any of the other vids you mention, as you know, though. So I don't know exactly how much is missing.

    But if there is some sort of hole in the internet literature, maybe my weird proportions could be helpful here.

    Totally agree that the technique is personal. People always ask me where the hands should plant for this. There is no one answer! For me, it's that the hands should plant very close to the hips, which teachers who could not consistently DO the technique told me was totally wrong...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If you do make a video on it I'd love to post it here, about time I did another jump back post ( my very first post was on jumping back and it was the reason I started the blog in the first place). And yes very much a hole in the internet literature

      And of course everyone thinks their arms are too short in the beginning ( I certainly did). And we all have different proportions but that just means we have to compensate, come up with work arounds, especially at first.
      My own arms were quite far forward in the beginning I think, really used to launch myself, now I notice they are much closer to my hips but no idea when that happened.

      Over time, i guess, we develop so much subtle control over our muscles and timing, synching everything just right that it can look effortless and unless we teach or blog about it incessantly it's hard to figure out what's going on, we think up and back and up and back we go.

      Hope your workshop goes well.

      Delete
  11. Thank you Anthony and all!

    Would love to see 0v0 post a video showing the jump back. I'd love to see the proportions of arms to torso and how the jump back is executed. I'm a petite woman. I measured the distance between the heels of my palms to the floor--it's two inches.

    Again, I've been practicing for a looong time and very limber and strong; however, jump back is not one that I'm able to do despite the effort and various techniques. Having practiced as much as I have and taught for 14 years, body proportions do matter greatly and can often dictate the relative ease (or lack of) in a pose. Sure, limbs can be lengthened, but they can't grow longer, just like I can't make my body taller than my height.

    By the way, Anthony, I can jump through with straight legs, no problem :-). The leverages of jumping through is different, hence, my short arms are not an issue as much since I don't land with the heels of my palms down.

    Thanks again for the tips!

    ReplyDelete
  12. Yes, Taiko, hope (0v0) manages to film it.
    Interesting what you say about straight leg jump through not being a problem.....sounds a bit dodgy though not having your palms down....sitting here playing with my hands on the table, lifting my palm up and pushing down on my fingers....seems to me that it would put strain on your finger joints no?

    ReplyDelete
  13. Happy New Year Anthony!

    When I jump thru', I don't press with my finger tips, I lift the heels of my palms, but press down at the very top of my palm at the base of the fingers. I need that extra height, and it's a very natural body response for me :-).

    Hope you can find someone with "truly" short arms to demo in the video. Good luck ;-). No worries otherwise. I appreciate what you already shared in your blog. So much rich info.

    Peace my brother!

    ReplyDelete
  14. Sorry Yiwen, everyone, I thought I had posted a link here to my new/recent short arms post with (0v0)'s video.
    Here's the link, hope it's useful
    http://grimmly2007.blogspot.co.uk/2012/12/jumping-back-in-ashtanga-with-short.html

    ReplyDelete
  15. Thanks for the link Anthony.

    Not sure what (0v0)'s video demonstrates about short arms jump backs. The teacher in the video certainly does not have short arms. Think I'm missing something...

    ReplyDelete

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A Reminder

from Kalama sutra, translation from the Pali by Bhikkhu Bodhi This blog included.

"So, as I said, Kalamas: 'Don't go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, "This contemplative is our teacher." When you know for yourselves that, "These qualities are unskillful; these qualities are blameworthy; these qualities are criticized by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to harm & to suffering" — then you should abandon them.' Thus was it said. And in reference to this was it said.

"Now, Kalamas, don't go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, 'This contemplative is our teacher.' When you know for yourselves that, 'These qualities are skillful; these qualities are blameless; these qualities are praised by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to welfare & to happiness' — then you should enter & remain in them. Buddha - Kalama Sutta
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