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10 Reasons to Do Yoga on a Gurugrid Mat


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Why do you practice yoga? For most people, it’s for the following reasons:

Update - March 16, 2020: The ability to maintain or begin a yoga practice at home is more important than ever - for both our mental and physical health.

Please click here for more on doing yoga from home. 

 To reduce/manage anxiety and calm "monkey brain"

 To increase flexibility 

 To build strength

 To improve balance & stability

In a nutshell, to improve physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing.

For thousands of years, yoga has been one of the best activities we can do for our minds and bodies. But we sometimes forget that it's kind of a complex practice – even the beginner classes.  And, without proper alignment, you could be doing more harm than good. 

Everything about the Gurugrid is designed to help correct common mistakes and contribute to the goal of improved strength, flexibility, stability, balance, confidence, focus, and most importantly, safety.

Please read on to discover 10 ways to avoid, eliminate, and reduce common mistakes, using your Gurugrid, and approach yoga with more knowledge and confidence than you did yesterday.

1 - Proper "shoulder-width" position

Relevant poses: Chaturanga, Plank, Up Dog, Down Dog, Crow (Firefly, Pendulum, etc.), Headstand, Handstand, Pincha (Forearm Stand, etc.), Wheel, Cat/Cow, Candle, Cobra

              

Common Mistakes: Hands are placed too wide apart or too close together on the mat. 

    

* Hand placement is the position that requires the most accuracy in yoga and is the one that is done incorrectly most often. You can see in the photos above, how much of an impact misplaced hands has on the alignment of the entire body.  

Short Term Problems

  • Misplaced hands cause misaligned arms and shoulders
  • Weight-bearing on misaligned shoulder joints strains the wrong ligaments and muscles
  • Increased risk of acute injury
  • The entire torso becomes displaced
  • Stability of the pose is threatened
  • The pose becomes less effective and efficient
  • Increased uncertainty, confusion, stress, and insecurity 
  • Becomes difficult to achieve mental focus

Long term problems

  • Increased risk of repeated strain shoulder injury - most commonly, tendonitis
  • Develop or exacerbate thoracic imbalance
  • Reduced general stability
  • Incorrect muscle memory and movement patterns need to be unlearned and recreated

Click here to read more on shoulder injuries and safety.

The Fix:  Determine the proper shoulder-width for your body, find the points on your Gurugrid, and use this exact positioning for all poses that require shoulder-width placement. Now, when your teacher asks you to place your hands "shoulder-with apart", you know exactly where to put them.

Click here to learn how to find your proper shoulder width.  

2 - The midline helps to correctly align feet 

Relevant poses: Warrior, Triangle, Revolved Triangle, Pyramid, (Extended Angle), Side Plank, (Bound Extended Triangle)

    

A different perspective: 

  

Common Mistakes: Feet are placed in a too-wide or in a criss-cross stance. 

Short term problems:

  • Placing the feet too wide creates too much stability and the challenge and benefits of the pose are lost
  • Placing the feet in a criss-cross position creates too much instability and the risk of falling is increased
  • The criss-cross position puts strain on the hip and knee joints
  • The pose becomes less effective and efficient
  • Increased uncertainty, confusion, stress, and insecurity 
  • Mental focus becomes difficult

Long term problems:

  • Develop or worsen hip and knee joint injury
  • Develop or exacerbate pelvic imbalance
  • Reduced general stability
  • Incorrect muscle memory and movement patterns need to be unlearned and recreated

The Fix: This one is easy breezy. The midline exists on the Gurugrid so you can always place your feet in a straight line with each other.

3 - Midline numbers help to find the right distance between feet

Relevant poses: Warrior, Triangle, (Revolved Triangle), Pyramid, (Extended Angle), Side Plank, (Bound Extended Triangle)

    

Common Mistakes: Feet (or hands and feet in the case of poses like Side Plank) are placed too close together or too far apart along the midline. 

Short term problems:  

  • Feet to close creates strain on the knee joint (you want a 90-degree angle)
  • Feet too far apart creates instability
  • Hands and feet placed either too far apart or too close together puts pressure on the shoulder joint
  • The pose becomes less effective and efficient
  • Increased uncertainty, confusion, stress, and insecurity 
  • Mental focus becomes difficult

Long term problems:

  • Risk of injury (repeated strain and/or acute)
  • Develop or worsen thoracic & pelvic imbalance
  • Reduce general stability
  • Incorrect muscle memory and movement patterns need to be unlearned and recreated

The fix: The Gurugrid's numbers are really helpful here. For example: placing the feet on the 4s on either end of the mat is a good placement for a woman of average height. (Did you know that the 4s are 4 feet apart, 3s are 3 feet apart, etc.? This is useful when directed to find "4 feet" or "3 feet" on your mat.) Knowing your foot placement reduces transition, set up, and readjustment time & energy and helps you find that happy medium between just enough and not too much stability. Video.

4 - Proper hip-width for "parallel leg" poses

Relevant poses: Utkatasana, Camel, Up Dog, Down Dog, Cat/Cow, Tabletop, Reverse Table Top, Squat, Wheel (for some people), (Bridge)

         

A different perspective: 

  

Common Mistakes: Feet and/or knees are placed too far apart or too close together. 

Short term problems: 

  • Feet/knees placed too far apart creates too much stability and you lose out on the challenge and benefits of the pose
  • Feet/knees placed too close together creates too much instability and threatens balance
  • The pose becomes less effective and efficient
  • Increased uncertainty, confusion, stress, and insecurity 
  • Mental focus becomes difficult

Long term problems:

  • There is less danger here than the threat of shoulder strain from improperly placed hands, but there is a risk of strain and injury to the knee and hip joints.
  • Incorrect muscle memory and movement patterns need to be unlearned and recreated

The fix: Finding your proper hip-width is important, but doesn't require quite as much precision as with shoulder-width. It’s more about avoiding improper positioning. Once found and established, you can just pop back to that position on your Gurugrid, without much thought or re-positioning. Now, when directed to place your feet or knees hip-width apart, you will know exactly what to do.

Click here to find out how to find your hip width.

5 - Proper hip-width for "extended leg" poses

Relevant poses: Hanumanasana (split), Lunge, Rotated Awkward, Pigeon, Lizard, Mermaid

     

A different perspective:   

   

* You can see how the pattern is used sort of like a train track to keep the legs properly positioned and aligned.

Common Mistakes: Legs/feet are positioned either in a straight line or too wide apart, rather than aligned with their respective hips.

* I really did my research on Pigeon. With the help of over 20 yoga teachers and physiotherapists, the consensus is that the front knee should be in line with the hip. The reasons are: 1) You get a much better stretch in the glutes and Piriformis. 2) You eliminate stress on the front knee.

* An important point: These poses are designed to stretch certain muscles which are essential for maintaining pelvic stability and balance. (Hip flexors, glutes, Piriformis, Hamstrings)

Short term problems:  

  • Creates a lot of strain on the knee joint
  • The key benefits of the poses are reduced or eliminated
  • Risk of overstretching (especially the hamstring) if not done with the proper amount of stability and correct alignment
  • The pose becomes less effective and efficient
  • Increased uncertainty, confusion, stress, and insecurity 
  • Mental focus becomes difficult

Long term problems:

  • Develop or exacerbate knee joint injury
  • Develop or exacerbate hip joint injury
  • Develop or exacerbate pelvic imbalance
  • Reduced general stability
  • Incorrect muscle memory and movement patterns need to be unlearned and recreated

The fix: Look a the Gurugrid's design as a railroad track. Once you know your "hip-width" placing your feet & knees on the "track" becomes automatic. Video.

Click here to find out how to find your hip width.

6 - Avoid thoracic and pelvic shift

Relevant poses: Standing & Seated Forward Fold, Half Tortoise, Child’s Pose, Garland, Hero, Reclining Hero, Butterfly, Goddess, Revolved Standing Forward Fold

         

A different perspective:

  

 

* If you look at the above image of Forward Fold (red pants), you can see my pelvic shift. I took these photos before I discovered how to use the centre point on my Gurugrid to re-align my torso and pelvis. 

Common mistakes: Favouring one side over the other and shifting weight to one side due to pelvic, thoracic or leg muscle imbalances.

Short term problems:

  • The strong and/or flexible side gets worked more than the weak and/or tight side
  • The pose becomes less effective and efficient
  • Increased uncertainty, confusion, stress, and insecurity 
  • Mental focus becomes difficult

Long term problems:

  • Develop and/or exacerbate pelvic and/or thoracic imbalance
  • Reduced general stability 
  • Incorrect muscle memory and movement patterns need to be unlearned and recreated

The fix:  Use the Gurugrid's symmetrical grid to set up your "contact points" in perfect symmetry. Use the centre lotus aim the head directly at the centre of the mat. This will help to align the shoulders, torso, and pelvis properly.

7 - The symmetrical grid helps to perform poses in "mirror image"

Relevant poses: Warrior, Triangle, Pyramid, Lunge, Pigeon, Mermaid, Half Moon, Spinal Twist, Gate, (Wild Thing), Thread the Needle, Side Squat, Side Plank, Seated Head to Knee, (Revolved Head) to Knee, Lizard, (Fire Log), (Bound Extended Triangle), Hanumanasana

              

A different perspective: 

  

* If you compare the right and left (or top and bottom), you will see how my entire body is aligned differently between the right and left - especially the neck. The goal is to find and work to reduce these imbalances, aiming for as much symmetry as possible.

Common mistakes: Favouring one side over the other and repeatedly strengthening and stretching one side more than the other. Click here for more on "Mirror Imaging". 

Short term problems:

  • The strong and/or flexible side gets worked more than the weak and/or tight side
  • The pose becomes less effective and efficient
  • Increased uncertainty, confusion, stress, and insecurity 
  • Mental focus becomes difficult

Long term problems:

  • Develop and/or exacerbate pelvic and/or thoracic imbalance
  • Reduced general stability
  • Incorrect muscle memory and movement patterns need to be unlearned and recreated

The fix: By using the symmetrical pattern on the Gurugrid, you can place your hands, feet, knees, and elbows in the exact same place for the right and left portion of the pose. This creates the opportunity to detect the weaker / tighter side of the body. Eventually, you will be able to put more work and focus on the side that needs attention which will eventually help to even out imbalances and improve stability. Video.

8 - Reference points help with placement for complex poses

Relevant poses: Spinal Twist, Half Moon, Thread the Needle, Gate, (Wild Thing), Seated Head to Knee, (Revolved Head to Knee)

    

Common mistakes: Some poses have several contact points on the mat which can be confusing. Often, we end up just going through the motions and not fully understanding the pose or why we should be doing it.

Short term problems:

  • Finding the right placement on the mat AND to repeat it on the other side of the pose is hard to do
  • The strong and/or flexible side gets worked more than the weak and/or tight side
  • The pose becomes less effective and efficient
  • Increased uncertainty, confusion, stress, and insecurity 
  • Mental focus becomes difficult

Long term mistakes:

  • Develop and/or exacerbate pelvic and/or thoracic imbalance
  • Reduced general stability
  • Incorrect muscle memory and movement patterns need to be unlearned and recreated

The fix: Once you learn the proper contact points (with the help of your teacher) and establish them on the Gurugrid, it’s easy to repeat them correctly and perform them in mirror image for each pose and each yoga class. Soon, it becomes second nature. Video.

9 - Use the numbers for consistency & to measure progress

Relevant poses: Hanumanasana, Seated Forward Fold, Standing Forward Fold, Head to Knee, Pigeon

    

A different perspective:

   

Common mistakes: This point is less about showing how to avoid mistakes and more about having the opportunity to boost your confidence in your pose and measure your progress.

Short term problems:

  • Without objective reference points, it's hard to know if poses are improving 
  • The pose becomes less effective and efficient
  • Increased uncertainty, confusion, stress, and insecurity 
  • Mental focus becomes difficult

Long term problems:

  • End up just going through the motions of yoga and we don’t advance as fast as we can and miss out on all the unique and shared benefits each pose has to offer
  • Develop and/or exacerbate pelvic and/or thoracic imbalance

The fix: Once you know where to place yourself on your Gurugrid, you create a consistent practice that allows you to detect how your body changes and advances.

10 - The lotuses can be used for Drishtis or focal points

Relevant poses: All poses that require a low focal point (Seated Head to Knee, Wheel, Pigeon, Lizard, Pyramid, Standing & Seated Forward Fold, Garland, Goddess, and Half Tortoise) and transitioning between poses

        

Common mistakes: The eyes can wander during static poses and transitions between poses which causes our energy to disperse all over the room. 

Short term problems:

  • Creates instability in static and flowing poses
  • Creates instability in transitions. (Jumping or stepping forward from Plank can be especially tricky.)
  • Increased risk of injury
  • The pose becomes less effective and efficient
  • Increased uncertainty, confusion, stress, and insecurity 
  • Mental focus becomes difficult

Long term problems:

  • We never achieve the mental focus that is such a key component of yoga
  • We miss out on all the great benefits each pose has to offer (physical, mental, and energetic)
  • Of course, if you ever take a tumble, you might be out of commission for quite some time.

The fix: This simple action has a big impact on your focus and stability. Where the eyes go, the body follows. The lotus flowers on the Gurugrid can be used to focus your gaze, or Drishti, when the eyes are lifted, or as a point to zero in on when the eyes are looking directly at the mat.

 

As always, I am completely open to comments, questions, and critiques. Everything I write has been researched and verified by a trusted group of yoga teachers, physiotherapists, and osteopaths, Googled, and double-checked in several yoga books. But, as I have learned, nobody knows everything and there is always room for improvement and deeper understanding.

 

Heather :)xo

 

 

© Yoga Gurugrid Inc. and www.thegurugrid.com, 22020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Yoga Gurugrid Inc. and www.thegurugrid.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 


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