Sunday, May 18, 2008

Any idea of what I'm talking about?

I give up. I have been trying to find an article I read in the New York Times a few weeks ago and have google-d just about every combination I can think of, to no avail. Maybe some one saw it--it was about building new neural networks in the brain by training yourself to do new things. The article mentioned a Japanese practice of doing routine tasks differently every time so that you were aware of the process and not just "going thru the motions." Let me know if you recognize either this Japanese term, or the article.

Anyway, I can't post a link, but I still want to discuss the idea of creating awareness just by doing things differently. We do it all the time in yoga in subtle ways; recrossing legs, using different spacing, lifting heels, turning in toes, etc. All these little adjustments shift which muscles are working and draw your attention deeper into the body. My favorite way to "startle" students is to just have them re-cross their fingers in Hastasana (Overhead Arm Stretch), so that the other index finger is on top. It always feels massively wrong, and I always feel like I have an extra finger all of a sudden--and yet I'm simply interlacing fingers differently.

You can start to think of all sorts of ways to shake up a yoga routine...Down Dog with toes turned inward, using different mudras (check out Yoga Dogs and Chocolate for more on these hand positions) in Sukhasana, coming into standing poses differently (jumping instead of stepping the feet apart, or vice versa), doing a Sun Salute veerrryy slooowwwly or quickly, the list goes on and on.

I think the article was about how the brain will be more nimble if you force it to "think" about routine activities instead of just shuffling through them blindly. Developing muscle memory is good, but introducing new ways to stretch is also good for developing strength and flexibility. Especially if you want to keep the gray matter fresh...

Let me know if this rings any bells!


kai said...

I think this may be what you're looking for. It idea of creating new pathways in the brain by doing things in a different way really grabbed me too!

Can You Become a Creature of New Habits?

Kristin said...

My bells are ringing! :)

A while back, I tried brushing my teeth with my left hand (I'm right handed). Very awkward, but it really brought to my attention how automatic certain things become.

More recently, I was introduced to the "Rocket II" series in a workshop. Larry Shultz of It's Yoga in San Fran, CA took the 1-3 series in the Ashtanga Practice and combined "advanced" posed into a new sequence. To work outside the box, so to speak.

I absolutely loved it! Being able to work on a variety of poses outside the Primary Series of the Ashtanga Sequence to stretch and build strength in different ways.

So I took it to my classes, just as a fun night, and it was interesting to see who was paying attention and who's mind was on automatic. Several students commented after class how they liked it because in the Ashtanga sequence you get used to doing the same. thing. every. week.

I love the idea of not only shaking up a yoga routine, but shaking up one's routine at home too (brush with the left hand, try switching hands when washing dishes). I think this helps us be more flexible in our out look on life too.


Lisa V. said...

Hi Brenda!

Maybe it is kaizen? Mentioned in a NYT article on May 4th, "Can You Become a Creature of New Habits?"

Check your email for more details.

I'm enjoying the blog. Helps me take a moment out of my week to sit up straight and breathe. I hope to get back to classes soon! -- Lisa

Anonymous said...

Would this be the article by any chance?

(or Tinyurl if the link breaks- )

Interesting stuff :o)

Jen said...

I seem to remember (from high school biology class) that crossing the left index finger on top is the dominant gene and the right the recessive (or vice versa) so I guess in some respects it is hard wired in us to do it one way or another. Maybe that's why it is such a shock when you ask your students to switch.

Brenda Plakans said...

Yes, yes, yes. Thank you everyone, this is the article. Kaizen...seems like something that calls for a bit more research.

Kristin--I tried to brush my teeth with my left hand once and ended up sticking the brush up my nose, by accident. That cetainly kept me aware!

Jen--interesting about the wiring. I often wonder why we privilege different sides for different things. I always figured it was because of handed-ness, but I guess there's more.

Y'all are the best!

cc said...

Your yoga blog is great and inspiring me to continue with my newbie baby blog just getting started, great places to practice yoga in NYC.Thanks for your insights, especially the article on creating new pathways in the brain-much of "The Secret" stuff and how it vastly changes our chemistry on a cellular level...