According to my experience, “drop” is one of the most frequently used words in yoga classes. Drop your head, your shoulders, your hips, your hips, your tailbone, and your knees. This word is not only abrupt and un-yogic, but it encourages harmful activities.
My yoga teacher today, to whom I have entrusted both my body and mind, keeps telling me repeatedly to lower my knees on the hardwood floor, leaving only 8mm of organic, recycled artificial rubber-like material between my feet to cushion the fall. Oh, My Patella!
Your students should know that they are performing an eccentric contract when lowering their body parts. An eccentric contraction is a type of muscle activation where tension increases as the muscle lengthen. This happens when you try to control or resist movement, such as running downhill, walking downstairs, or lifting weights. It acts as a brake force to keep movements smooth and slow them down to protect joints.
Antagonists and agonists are the muscles that move a joint. The antagonist’s primary role is to oppose the agonist (primary movers) so that one muscle contracts and the other relaxes. When gravity is an issue, we must slow down and eccentrically contract the antagonist muscle to counter it.
If you bring your chin to your chest, try not to let it drop with the agonist movement of the sternocleidomastoid. These long muscles nod and turn your head and connect the collar bones, breastbone and temporal bones at the back of your skull.
It’s better to eccentrically contract the Erector Spinae, three columns of muscles that run along each side of the vertebra, at the back end of your neck, for a slow lowering down of the chest to the chin. Instead of forcing the neck muscles to work quickly and abruptly, let the muscles at the back of your neck relax slowly and allow them to engage less.
It is important to live long!
Although I am obsessed with teaching safe yoga, I also want to care for my students’ bodies. Longevity is key! I tell my yoga teachers-in-training, “The only thing you are allowed to drop are constructs. Allow yourself to be present and let your mind drift into your body. It is possible to let go of your ego all day. You can also drop your negative attitude.
Creativity is a call.
Both new and experienced yoga teachers need a thesaurus. One instance where I lost count was when 50 “drops” were made in one class by a teacher. Yoga teachers are not supposed to repeat the same word repeatedly. It is boring.
This is a great homework assignment for yoga teachers reading this: How many ways can you describe each action that you instruct your students to do on the mat? You don’t have to be lazy anymore!