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The Unicorn, by Theresa Elliott

Post #2 in The Elliott Lexicon of Satisfactory Yoga Terminology

This is quite contradictory to how I operate, but I found the Unicorn while teaching with a hangover. I don’t think of awareness as a byproduct of alcohol, and for years would not practice, much less teach, if I had had anything to drink the night before. But beggars can’t be choosers when it comes to discovering a mythical concept really does exist, and it was sighting The Unicorn while hungover that made me realize, I had completely under estimated the power of not being able to think clearly.

Keeping the thighs from externally rotating while back bending is a difficult position to maintain. This is easily seen by the turned out feet in urdhva dhanurasana that plagues most practitioners. Keeping the groins “deep” is a common call and a reference to this position, but a command without the “how” is not very useful unless you are already well acquainted with the action. Often a block is squeezed between the knees to keep the femurs in check, and although the block gives a tactile reference point, it actually teaches incorrect action of the adductors by cultivating only the primary function of these inner thigh muscles, which is adduction.

After years of watching my students struggle with assorted techniques, including the block, and feeling unsuccessful in my own attempts, I came to the conclusion parallel thighs in back bends were a figment of the imagination, and not something most people could actually learn to do with any semblance of grace and ease. It was a myth, and like perfect pitch, if you weren’t born with it, it was highly unlikely you could ever develop it.

Then, one fine day, I drank too much.

There I was, minding my own business teaching Setu Bandha on a Saturday morning after a terrific dinner party the night before. I was feeling rather discombobulated as I pressed my feet into the floor to come into the back bend, business as usual. Then something peculiar happened. Instead of business as usual, knees splaying and the ensuing attempt to reel them back in, my femurs stayed centered. Furthermore, it was almost effortless. My psyche just about burst out of my body as I thought:

“OMG, it’s true! It’s true! Unicorns do exist! It’s not a mythical beast after all.
It’s the Adductor Magnus functioning in its secondary action as an extensor of
the femur — like a hamstring. NOT in it’s primary action as an adductor —  like
in squeezing the block!”

Pretty good for suffering the wrath of grapes. I need to see if I can get that wine again.

The Unicorn is not simply named because of its mythical status and my conviction the technique only lived in people’s imagination, but because calling it “the Adductor Magnus functioning in its secondary action as an extensor of the femur — like a hamstring. NOT in it’s primary action as an adductor —  like in squeezing the block”, is a bit cumbersome.

I like to think critically, and although my ego wants to be right like everyone else’s, I appreciate being questioned about my beliefs because I certainly have my biases. What I learned about foggy thinking is that I can catch my critical thinking off guard. In the moment of discombobulation I experienced as a result of alcohol, my body/mind chose another path to come into the back bend, one that happened to be very successful because it got me out of a rut. However, it was the critical mind that recognized, and was then able to articulate what had just taken place.

If you want to learn the way of The Unicorn, come to class, and ask for it by name.

For the record, I feel hungover after a single glass of wine. Chalk one up for sensitivity.


Other entries in The Elliott Lexicon of Satisfactory Yoga Terminology:

The Elephant Grave Yard


Copyright Theresa Elliott, 2014. All rights reserved.





Posted on Sunday, November 2nd, 2014
by Stretch

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Taj Yoga is part of a thriving movement community located within the old Crown Hill Elementary School building. In a joyous "crossover," the yoga teacher is taking class down the hall with the Wassa Dance teacher, the ballet kids want to take yoga, and the custodian is studying Flamenco!.

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