As a dancer, I spent countless hours at the ballet barre. We’d onto the barre to practice many movements especially our demi plie. A demi plie is a knee bend with the heels firmly rooted to the floor. If you have a flexible Achilles tendon, you can go pretty low (and if not, you don’t.)
The seemingly simple demi plie is the thread for a dancer that connects all movements one to another. It’s like the dancer’s breath. If you have tight calves and a short Achilles tendon, it can prevent the smooth flow of your movements. So we stretch our Achilles and our calves daily to increase our range of motion in a demi plie.
The dancers true secret: it is all in the timing. If you have a limited range of motion in demi plie – or any limitation at all – you use your range of motion with a lot of sensitivity and intelligence. You learn to take a long, long time to get to the end of your range, no matter how far you have to go. Dancer’s milk their range of motion so that it seems, looks, and feels like and endless journey. This is about dynamics and the true artistry of anyone who moves with fluidity and ease.
To apply this to your Yoga practice, consider the beginning, middle and end of each pose. Take a long time to get into each pose, to hold it, and to come out of it. Linger along the way for insights and inner experiences of opening and freedom. Don’t be in a rush. Take special care to use your breath to calm your nervous system so that you aren’t nervous.
Arising: Take time to come into the pose. Set yourself up clearly with the foundational alignment ideas. Feel how this affects your breath and your mind.
Abiding: Continue with establishing all of the ground work of the pose and then continue very slowly into the pose. There will likely be moments when you feel that you are limited (welcome to the human race!) and it is here that you can remember to slow down. While you journey more deeply into the full pose, see what insights or sense of knowing arise. These will only come to you if you are patient and not pushing to get somewhere else.
Dissolving: As you begin to unfold the pose, go slowly and remain focused on coming out of the pose with dignity and grace. When you return to neutral, take time to feel how you were touched by the experience of the pose.