You’ve seen those Instagram yogis floating forward and back, hovering just for a few moments before gently setting the feet on the ground. Maybe you’ve even seen them seemingly float into handstand or into crow or from crow into handstand then into some amazing circus-like backbend.
I have news for you. You…(yes, you!) can learn to float.
It’s a little secret that yoga teachers don’t talk about.
The reason is because it’s difficult to take the time to actually teach people how to float in a class setting that is geared to a fast-moving vinyasa-style power flow. The musculature to activate and engage while moving through a yoga sequence and each pose, individually, needs to be broken down and practiced over and over again (which is one of the reasons why the Ashtanga Primary Series is beneficial).
The other reason is that many yoga teachers simply don’t know which muscles to engage and strengthen in order to float. One of my big goals is to change that in 2016!
Let’s take a moment to get to know how our bodies work.
You’ve heard yoga teacher (myself included) cue you to lift the pelvic floor and pull navel to spine. You’ve probably heard mention of Mula Bandha and Uddiyana Bandha. But there’s a big gap in HEARING those words and actually KNOWING what they mean.
The bandhas are called locks in yoga. The idea is when you lift in and up it creates a lock (engages & strengthens) a particular set of muscles which happen to be a part of what we call the “core” of the body. Note…we are talking about a PORTION of what we call the core, not the whole core of the body which includes the back and hips.
Mula bandha is felt first via the action of lifting the pelvic floor. Uddiyana Bandha is the slight movement inward of the navel. In my experience you can feel that slight inward movement of the navel when lifting the pelvic floor. These two actions (these two bandhas) are very interrelated.
Now…let’s head into Transverse Abdominis (TvA) land….the lovely place where you learn to float.
Your TvA runs from your Pubic Bone up to the bottom of the ribcage. It also runs between the bottom of your rib cage and your frontal hip bones.
The role of your TvA, is to act as a sort of weight belt or girdle to hold you in place.
The muscles of the pelvic floor run from your pubic bone to your tailbone. They fill the space at the bottom of your pelvis. Hence, the “Pelvic Floor”.
These are the muscles that start everything.
They direct the muscles of the hips and TvA muscles to contract. When these muscles engage and turn on, the other muscles also turn on.
This is important stuff!
When the muscles of your Pelvic Floor turn on, your TvA muscles can engage properly.
THIS is how you float.
When you feel those muscles turn on and you can keep them on, not letting them go when lifting up or lowering down….you will float right up into crow, handstand or from down dog to a gentle landing at the top of your mat.
Let the pelvic floor drive the engagement of the TvA.
Remember Mula Bandha and Uddiyana Bandha? And how they are supremely interrelated? Think of the pelvic floor as Mula Bandha and the TvA as Uddiyana Bandha.
Do not isolate one from the other.
Even if your yoga teacher tells you to only pull navel to spine meaning Uddiyana Bandha or TvA, engage your pelvic floor first.
You won’t float with just the belly sucked in and the pelvic floor muscles soft.
Proper engagement of your Transverse Abdominis feels like an upward *and* inward pulling.
To find the pelvic floor we have to get a little bit graphic. For guys, think stopping the flow of urine, gently squeezing to stop the flow then (this may seem gross but it’s just an analogy) drawing it upward back into your body. For ladies, you can use that same analogy but think of utilizing the vaginal wall muscles to do this.
Go ahead and give it a try.
Yes, do it now. It’s simple and easy to do. Try to hold it for as long as possible.
Do it standing. Do it sitting. Do it lying down.
Now, this is where it gets dicey.
To properly lift off and float in your yoga practice you must be able to do this while moving and even while moving.
So start practicing and learning how to engage those muscles here, in these poses. You can practice in any order you like:
- Plank Pose
- Downward Dog
- Seated Forward Fold
- Bow Pose
- Warrior 1
- Warrior 2
- Warrior 3
Here’s a hot little tip >>> Use a block between the thighs in poses like plank, downdog and even bow pose. I’ve found this to be super useful in activating the pelvic floor and TvA as well as the inner leg line.
This is your short guide to learn to float.
Learning to float forward from downward dog into a forward fold is just the beginning. If you can nail this transition, you’re capable of floating into and out of all other poses and arm balances.
Take it and apply it to your practice, today.
Don’t waste time convincing yourself you can’t or it’s too complicated. Just get started.
And, let me know how it goes.
I love this stuff and want to hear about where you are running into trouble and where you feel successful. You can always reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave your question in a comment below. I WILL get back to you.