Before graduating, Axis Yoga Teacher Training students submit a paper describing the experience of completing a personal experiment. In this experiment students have an opportunity to put any of the yogic principles they have been studying to the test. This student found a big lesson by making a small change.
Tag Archive for: Midline
My personal experiment consisted of exercises and explorations crossing the midline. There is a balancing pose in asana practice from the table position that extends the opposing arm and leg outward then draws the extended elbow and knee together under the chest. It sounds very simple at face value, but upon attempted practice I found it very difficult from a coordination standpoint. I was told years ago that it was because I was crossing the midline and engaging the non-dominant side of my body and brain that caused the difficulty. So the experiment was to do other actions with the non-dominant side (left hand) and see how that affected my practice, both in asana and in other experiences like, playing guitar where use of both hands are required and typing as well.
I began to do things in my daily routine left-handed. I reprogrammed my computer mouse to the left hand. I ate meals using the left hand. I washed and shaved using the left hand. And during asana practice where it called for interlacing the fingers or sitting cross-legged I did the action in the non-dominant orientation first.
Eating left handed is something I’ve tried before just for fun and if you have not done this yourself, the first thing I recommend is to wear a bib or something you are not worried about spilling on. Oatmeal is a good breakfast meal to do this with because it is less likely to cause a mess than cereal with milk or eggs for example. There is also the risk of sticking a fork in your lip accidentally when trying this. There has been no blood drawn in this exercise, but one thing I did notice is that it made me much more mindful during the meal. There is always a tendency to mindlessly inhale your food as fast as you can, while the television or computer is on. Well you just cannot do that when you are activating the non-dominant hand. You have to concentrate on getting that utensil to your mouth as the muscles are moving and the neurons are firing in a different way in your brain.
The computer mouse was another interesting experience. As I started this, there was the feeling of being the Tin Man from Wizard Of Oz just because my brain, so it seemed, could not tell my left hand where to go on the mouse pad. My left elbow started to flair out in some weird contorted way and I almost had to reach my right hand over to guide it. There was some pressure too because I didn’t want to accidentally click on some spam advertisement for home mortgage refinancing while my brain was trying to figure out how to get my left hand to do what it was asking. After a couple of days, something kicked in and I’ve been able to function pretty well on the computer mouse. Regarding my typing ability, I have not seen any tangible difference in my typing speed and/or accuracy.
Washing has not been eventful because I’ve always been pretty ambidextrous in that department. Shaving was another matter. As opposed to eating with the left hand, I’ve never tried shaving with the left hand. At first I was having a similar experience as I had with the computer mouse, where the arm did not quite comprehend what I was telling it to do. It took some effort and creative visualization to actually bring the razor to my cheek. Eventually I was able to train my left hand to get going and was able to shave without missing spots. As with eating it was not something that I could do while my mind wandered somewhere else, I had to focus on the task at hand and it made me more mindful of how the blade felt on my skin, the thickness of the shaving gel on my face and what parts of my skin were sensitive and irritated from the strokes of the razor. Then I had a little mishap under my nose. I had been shaving left handed for a week without incident. I have chronic dry skin and the occasional scratches here and there are common when I shave. But this one was a doosy because I totally misinterpreted the pressure and angle I was putting on the handle and the blade dug into the skin. It took 20 minutes to stop the bleeding and now I have two lines of scratches in exact proportions to the two blades of the razor as a temporary reminder to pay attention and be in the moment.
I have made significant improvement in asana practice both in poses that require interlacing my fingers and in the alternating arm and leg extension exercises that require the coordination to bring the opposing elbow to the knee. I had noticed a significant difference in my grip and flexibility previously on the non-dominant grip and now the grips are basically the same. On the extension exercises, both my coordination and my overall balance have improved dramatically.
The last major facet of the experiment was playing the guitar. I consider myself a very amateur strummer. A few years ago I bought a “Teach Yourself Guitar” book and companion CD Rom and proceeded to learn some basic chords. I found various web sites where I could get the chords for favorite songs. It was much more motivating to me to do that than to work on songs like “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” from the book. However, the emphasis on the left hand to play chords was mentally exhausting. I also have had issues with transitioning from one chord to the next. With a lot of practice, I could play well enough to be endearing to my wife if I learned a new song for her birthday or our anniversary. My play would certainly not be good enough to play for anyone else. So I was very interested in what affect if any the crossing the midline exercise would have. I am happy to say that I have noticed an improvement in transitions from chord to chord, the ability to learn new chord combinations, and also to experiment with alternates that sound better than the ones listed. I noticed this affect trying new music with many chords I had never attempted to play before plus revisiting old songs that I had not looked at for a long time.
The common theme in all of my experiences during this experiment was focus. I had to focus my mind on the task and be in the moment. It reminds me of a favorite quote from Charles Dickens; “ He did each single thing, as if he did nothing else.” In the future, I’ll call again upon this simple exercise to remind me to be present in the moment whether it is while eating, during asana practice, hiking in the mountains, everywhere.
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