Starting positions are a reference for change. In yoga a starting position may be a position where it is fairly easy to relax and feel the body. They may also be a position from which it is easy or obvious in how to move towards the end position. If the goal is a complex posture then good starting positions offer the possibility of moving towards the complex posture step by step so that complexity is built towards one component at a time.
They also offer the opportunity for setting up the foundation of the posture. With a stable or solid or good foundation it is then easy to focus on what we are trying to do within the pose. Moving from the start position to the goal position we don’t have to worry about stability, with a good foundation we can simply focus on what we are trying to do within the pose.
With a starting posture and an ending or goal posture we have a goal to work towards. We have something that we can do while we are “doing” the posture, we can move from the starting position to the end position, and if we get to the end position that can be a new starting position for where we want to go to next. We can then figure out what we need to do to get there.
Starting positions are not set in stone. However, we do need a starting position so that we can move on from there. Ideally, starting positions make it as easy as possible to move towards our ending position. With experience, we can modify our starting position so that it is easier or as easy as possible to get to our ending position. We may also find that with experience, we can use different starting positions and we can find the way to get from where we are (no matter what starting position we use) to where we want to get to.
Also, so that we can improve the way we move from the start to the end, we can practice, feeling ourselves while we do the movement. If we do the movements smoothly, and slowly, we can develop our ability to control our body within that particular range of motion as well as our ability to sense or feel our body. We can then correct mistakes in our movements, or make our movements better even as we do the movements, we can correct ourselves or fine tune ourselves in real time.
As well as making our movements smooth, (controlled) we can also focus on creating space in our body and relaxing (extraneous contraction) as much as possible.
In using our body, flexibility can mean having muscles that can relax through a wide range of motion. In other words, we can do postures like the splits with ease. Better yet, we have control so that we can move into the splits easily and come out of them with as much control as we had when going in.
But flexibility could also be in the different ways we can think of doing the splits.
Do we always do it with both legs on the ground? How about while laying on our back, or standing on one leg, or even while balanced on our hands or on the top of our head?
With respect to our muscles, flexibility is a measure of how freely we can move within a certain set of limits. Doing the splits, we can change the relationship between our legs to such an extent that we can move one leg forwards and the other backwards so that the legs are at 180 degrees to each other or more. However, if we can also conceive of doing the splits while balanced on one foot or while balanced on our hands, then the relationship that we change is that between ourselves and the earth.
While thinking about the possibilities (balancing on the hands) and doing them are two different things, at least having thought of the possibility, we can work towards making it real.
We then have more than one way of doing the same thing. We can then choose whichever way is best depending on how we are feeling or based on the circumstances we are in at the time.
Anatomical position is a reference used by surgeons (or people who study dead bodies) to describe the position a body is currently in.
With the body prone, knees pointing straight up and palms facing upwards, we have a reference for describing any other disposition of the body while it is laying on the table.
For those of use that are living and doing things with our body while we are in them it may be useful to have more than just one reference for change.
What is important is that we state clearly the starting position of the body.
Then from there we can go on to describe movements relative to that starting position.
As an example we could start in a standing position with the legs wide and the knees pointing straight ahead. this is our reference. From there we tilt the pelvis forwards while keeping the spine straight.
If we used the anatomical position as our reference we would first have to abduct the legs and then tilt the pelvis forwards.
Having to always use the anatomical position as our reference for movements or positions of the body it is like
having to travel from London to New York in order to get a flight to Paris.
Being able to use other reference positions we can go straight from London to Paris and back again if we choose.
The purpose of being able to choose our reference position is to make it easier to describe what we are doing to get the body from our reference position to our finishing position.
It’s to make the movement description simple, less wordy.
It’s for convenience, efficiency and ease of communicating what we are trying to get the body to do or communicating what a body has done.
Limits are a way of defining both what we can do and what we can’t do. The better we are at sensing the limits we have to move within the more freedom we have to move within those limits.
The beauty of learning to move within one set of limits is that we can apply what we’ve learned to moving within another set of limits.
We can then begin choosing the limits we move within.
We can call the space within the limits of what we are trying to do an “idea,”
the idea of what we are trying to learn or do.
Choosing different ideas to do, we can select different limits to move within. Ideas then become a means of choosing the limits we move within.
Learning an idea we learn the limits that define it. If we learn an idea well enough-so that it becomes a part of ourselves-we learn not only to move within the limits but also without them.
The limits of an idea aren’t so much a prison as they are guidelines for moving within.