I'm home and processing a wonderful weekend of participation in the Bowspring Method workshop hosted by Springs Yoga in Atlanta, GA.
Coming from a rehabilitation background as an Occupational Therapist, I saw some very valuable alignment principles in the method. Think smart functional training patterns, wise attendance to back body strength and power, and a lightness and lift in the body structure. The physical postures are unique, demanding, and in the beginning intense, but the mind/body message is clear and strong.
This is movement medicine.
The Bowspring practice informs our daily living skills. You retrain the postural template to "work wise." Our teacher Desi Springer, talked about the difference in work hard vs work wise. Work hard has a posture. Think about it, when we are over-efforting the jaw clenches, the shoulders tighten back, the sympathetic nervous system revs up. We want to learn to work wise and develop "sensitivity before strength." Which is why in this method, the teaching is to put our hands down fingernails first then flat hands. Sensitivity then strength. Weight bear on paws of the feet (toe pads and mounds) and keep the foot soft on top, expand the ribcage circumferentially. The practice forces us to slow down and feel first.
Other postural principles we learned throughout the weekend was to let the shoulders float on the ribcage. Easier said than done for someone whose upper traps are so tight her ears rest on her shoulders ! As we worked through this it got easier, you just have to get lighter and fuller from the inside out. The posture is empowering. No more closing, rounding, flexing, and folding. Think up, broad, and bright, "a posture of worthiness." The way we hold ourselves becomes a message, a message to ourselves and a message to the world.
“This is where the inner body meets the outer body"
— Desi Springer
On day two, Desi described the three parts of the postures which are HEART, HIPS, and HEAD. We start with the heart which represents accountability. Be full, broad, and light. Float more. Expand more up and out. Be accountable. The hips broaden back and wide (sit bones apart, hips back from rib cage) so the belly can be long and strong. The belly is shaped like a bow. This is compassion. We see our human-ness without shame. Then the HEAD becomes broad, the throat is open and the gaze is on the horizon. Don't tighten the mind !
“The inner shape stays the same regardless of the external shape"
— Desi Springer
The Bowspring practice is "power posturing." Trust me, by the end of a full weekend training you will feel EMPOWERED.
We talked about some of the more therapeutic aspects of the method including working with knee pain and low back pain. The Level 1 syllabus is mostly if not all composed of bent knee postures. With the knees bent, the postures can dynamically pulse so the knees are pumping quite a bit. If there is any knee stress, the instruction was to open the pelvic floor more ( butt back and wide) and work the feet with higher integrity. I might also add that possibly engaging the back body more especially hamstrings and glutes might lighten the load a bit on the knee joint. Same goes for low back. If there is any low back pain in the postures, the instruction was more leg action more gluteal action! When the muscles are asleep the sensation will dump in the low back. I am prone to low back pain below my fusion level and I will testify that if I kept my legs and glutes firing I felt no discomfort.
“The back body muscles are the muscles of choice and power"
— Desi Springer
Bowspring engagement is exactly that ... ENGAGED. If you want to come hang out, stack your bones, and dump yourself in a pose than this is not for you. It is mindful and it is work. It is also incredibly soothing for the nervous system which is counterintuitive when you look at the Bowspring system from the outside. But Desi compared it to a how you calm a baby .. you swaddle and bounce. We swaddled ourselves in our own muscular strength and intentional energy, and then we bounced with the pulse of the dynamic postures. Nervous energy be gone!
Being that we ended our training on Mother's Day, the practice can be compared to the "tough love mother." Like the mother, the Bowspring Method pushes its students up and out in the world with compassion, courage, and a graceful power that comes from the heart.
I am looking forward to continuing my studies in this system and am incredibly grateful to meet and study under these wise teachers. Let the journey continue !