Challenges of the Bowspring Practice
Contrary to standard model -> Confusing
Not easy -> Feelings of incompetency
Emotionally open -> Feelings of vulnerability
Key Challenges to Practicing the Bowspring
Although the Bowspring system is a simple set of the most basic human movements, it is not easy to practice at first without experiencing some challenge and discomfort. All beginning students go through the same challenges in the first few minutes or even the first seconds of first learning the Bowspring. In the beginning of the Bowspring practice, it is common for the new student to feel emotional, confused, nervous, uncertain, and physically incompetent.
The 3 main challenges to expect in the first practice of the Bowspring are:
1. Emotional Opening
The Bowspring is a somatically open form in which old, held psycho-emotional energies are released. As an open posture, the Bowspring is counter to the closed posture of the C-curve spine. The Bowspring form opens us emotionally and energetically, which in the beginning of practice can feel uncomfortable. In this open posture, the psycho-emotional flow of energy increases throughout the body, which can be experienced as emotional discomfort, protective reactivity, or nervousness.
The first few times that these areas are opened through the Bowspring alignment, vibratory patterns subconsciously stored in the cells of connective tissue arise to the surface, and are “played back” through the nervous system. General feelings can arise into our waking consciousness, which are not associated with any specific memory of an emotional event in the past. Since most of these feelings or psycho-emotional energies were unconsciously stored in the past because of their painful intensity, moving or releasing them in the present through the opening of the myofascia can be very uncomfortable and disconcerting.
The dynamic postural forms target the opening of emotionally sensitive areas of the body, including the pelvic floor, belly, chest, and throat. The unconscious postural pattern of protection, pain-reduction, and sensory withdrawal is a closed C-curve position, which shortens the front of the body and rounds the back. Shortening the front of the body through myofascial contraction is part of our normal biological programming to help reduce the pulsing flow of psycho-emotional energies in the body so feeling is restricted. A C-curve postural shape causes an emotional quieting and an energetic in-drawing of consciousness within the body-mind. Fear is the intelligent default program, which contracts the front and rounds the back. The Bowspring is the counter-tendency position to the protective C-curve form.
When practicing the Bowspring for the first times it is common to feel uncertainty, trepidation, and nervousness as areas of somatic contractions and holdings are opened and revealed into self-awareness. When the student is feeling lack of self-worth and low self-esteem, an inner weakness is felt. The inside of the chest and ribcage diminishes and shrinks in its full radiance as the student holds any idea of self-worthlessness. Furthermore, the head bows as the chin tucks in submissive weakness, and the tail tucks under with fear of smallness. To own our weaknesses, to own our truth, is often unpleasant and scary.
The first month is often the hardest period in this re-training of self due to the uncomfortable process of releasing old patterns of the mind-body. Practice of the Bowspring helps to create a somatic cleanse by unlocking old psycho-emotional patterns held in the cellular memory. The Bowspring is like taking a medicine at first. It tastes bad, but it is curative. The orientation period is considered an uncomfortable time of cleansing, which will be later seen as very beneficial and necessary for positive transformation to a higher, more expanded state of self-awareness and body-mind health.
2. Feelings of Beginner Incompetency
A few days of regular practice of the fundamental postural exercises of the Bowspring is necessary in order for the student to be able to start to consistently make the minimal mind-body connection in the Bowspring.
The Bowspring reveals the weak and closed areas of our body-mind. The Bowspring system requires conscious toning of all muscles on the back of the body, which are typically weaker than the muscles on the front of the body. Most people are weak and unconscious in the pads of their big toes, hamstrings, glutes, upper back and neck. In fact, the Bowspring necessitates the upward mounding of the glutes, which few beginning students can do at all. Gluteal amnesia is not uncommon among the general student base. This required action of the Bowspring can make even experienced yoga teachers feel incompetent at first.
The first class of the Bowspring is usually perceived to be challenging because the posture is so different than the student’s default posture. Therefore, the mind-body connection for the Bowspring is weak in the beginning, so the student will feel incompetent and uncoordinated when performing the initial exercises. After 3 – 5 practices of the Bowspring over a few days, the nervous system develops enough to more consistently make the mind-body connection to the fingers, toes, and the back of the body.
Until the beginning student learns how to consciously engage all 10 parts of the Bowspring simultaneously, old default patterns will dominate and the weak areas will be revealed. Some areas of the body will then overwork as some under-work. A sore lower back after the first classes of the Bowspring is not uncommon and indicates misalignment as the student is learning a completely new postural method. Most commonly, a beginning Bowspring student will unconsciously tip their pelvis forward by contracting lower back muscles and disengaging the glutes, which can cause acute lower back pain.
Most beginning students have very tight lower back muscles and weak glutes when starting the practice of the Bowspring. Consequently, when beginning students tip their pelvis forward in their attempt to establish the Bowspring shape, they will often inadvertently use their dominant lower back muscles (quadratus laborum) instead of primarily using the legs and glutes. The lower back muscles can overwork and feel sore and painfully tight if the glutes, legs and feet are not primarily used to tip the pelvis.
The lower back muscles should not be sore or painful during or after practice when the Bowspring is properly established and the pelvis is tipped from the pushing of the base glutes.
Here are the main reasons why the lower back may be sore after a Bowspring practice:
Radiant Heart was not fully expanding the thoracic.
The tip of the pelvis was primarily performed by the lower back muscles.
The lower back muscles were rounding backward instead of laying down into the Bowspring curve.
The glutes were not engaging upward in toward the sacrum and the top of the pelvis.
There was no rooting or rising action from the pelvis down through the legs and up through the spine and torso.
In addition, shoulder pain in the first classes can be caused by lifting the shoulderblades by using only the trapezius and not using Radiant Heart. Learning the Bowspring is neurologically challenging because its key actions are so new for beginning students.
3. Alignment Paradigm Shift
The Bowspring system is very different than the alignment taught in other schools of thought. Most yoga students have been consistently taught regarding optimal alignment. In many cases, new students to the Bowspring have been previously taught the opposite in their local yoga, pilates and dance classes, so they are often confused and mentally challenged by the new alignment.
The Bowspring arises out of yoga, yet the Bowspring dynamic exercises are very different in their forms and alignment than the asanas in modern postural yoga.
It is often easier for the new students to consider the Bowspring as a new paradigm of alignment, or even a new sport. By clearly distinguishing and separating the Bowspring from other alignment modalities then the student is more apt to open his/her mind to new ideas. Teachers with years of extensive training in other postural methods often have deep unconscious patterns of alignment in their myofascia and in their minds about the technology of postural alignment. Consequently, a new student to the Bowspring who has not had prior experience in these postural methods will often have a faster learning curve in the beginning of the path than a professional teacher from a distinctive methodology.
The greater the student’s attachment to the past, then the more challenging the student will find the Bowspring. An experienced student in an antithetical alignment method must be open-minded and humble to start the Bowspring as a beginner. Many times a beginner’s rigid belief in an old paradigm prevents open-mindedness to learn a new and different way. It is mentally easier to stay with the old way of thinking instead of shifting to radical new ideas.
It requires both an intellectual and neurological recalibration to learn the Bowspring. The mind must open to new alignment ideas, and the body must develop new neurological pathways to be able to perform some of the most basic alignments in this method. This new level of body-mind coordination takes time to cultivate. So, patience and compassion for the unfolding process of one’s own learning curve must be emphasized in the beginning.