Fitness Lying Down-ward Dog?

I’m amazed that we still get asked if Fitness Lying Down is just another name for yoga.  I’ve never experienced yoga, so I cannot explain why Fitness Lying Down is not yoga; even though I am aware that there are similarities.  So, I enlisted a client of ours, Erin O’Brien, to guest blog about the differences and similarities of these two methods.  Erin  has been practicing yoga since 1999 and teaching since 2003. She has her 200 hr and 500 hr trainings through Alignment Yoga of Madison and her Aerial Yoga Training through Unnata Aerial Yoga of New York.  She is the former owner of The Elements Yoga Studio in Onalaska, where she still teaches when her son Lennon allows her to.  Now, Erin, answer this question for us:

Isn’t Fitness Lying Down Basically Yoga?

NOT a yoga posture!

Not exactly. In the standard view of yoga as exercise, not at all. But when looking at some of the similarities in what yoga and functional movement have to offer, there is a lot of crossover. Yoga as we are familiar with it in the West is usually describing the limb of Yoga known as Asana, or the postures. And Fitness Lying Down (FLD) does not incorporate yoga postures into its methods. So in these terms, no, FLD is indeed not Yoga.

I came to begin my journey with FLD about 8 months after having my first baby. Lets just say things in my body were not speaking, or listening, the way they used to. I did, and taught, prenatal yoga all through my pregnancy, did restorative breathing, and exercise post natal. However, things were functioning in isolation, not as a whole. I had been searching for a natural movement practice casually, but didn’t figure that La Crosse would have anyone that offered it. Then one day, a well-respected PT that operates out of the same building as me brought Cory in, with his 2×4, and I spied on their session; I couldn’t wait to try it out myself. I must say I’m very particular when it comes to the modalities I’ll involve myself in. They always need to tick these three boxes:

1) Is it efficient?
2) Is it intelligent?
3) Is it embodied?

While I’m sure everyone focuses on point number one, I’m going to explain why I think numbers 2 and 3 are equally essential and important, and why yoga and Fitness Lying Down offer all three.

In regards to efficiency, both FLD and yoga reacquaints us with our long-lost pal, the ground. Just simply moving from sitting to standing, standing to sitting, or lying and rolling off the ground allows us the opportunity to increase our strength and our mobility. As we age, we often resort to using our arms to propel ourselves out of our chairs and couches and that soft cushiness allows us to land in them not so softly or controlled with no problem. Or so we think. Both these actions of getting up and sitting down create poor habits and lost opportunities to use valuable strength and mobility in our core, hips, legs, ankles and feet. Better yet, ditch the chair and the couch whenever you can and sit on the floor. It’s these movements we perform, or don’t perform, multiple times everyday that lead to either strength and mobility or weakness and atrophy. If our habits of movement were more efficient, if we sat on the floor more, walked more places, if we simply took more opportunities to incorporate more movement into our days, we’d need to “exercise” much less.

To help correct Erin's deep squat, you gotta give her props!
To help correct Erin’s deep squat, you gotta give her props!

With that said, not all movement is created equal. And when we do move, is it movement that is helping to correct our poor habits, or is it actually further enforcing those poor habits, or worse yet, creating new ones? Like it or not, if you sit at a desk the majority of your days, and then sitting at home for the majority of your nights, chances are your body is not at a place where it would be an intelligent choice to do high impact, super intense workouts. In paraphrasing biomachinist Katy Bowman (check her out btw!!!) it’s the equivalent of starving yourself all day, then having a 2500 calorie binge once a day.

You need a stable base to start from, especially for the health of your joints. Which is another commonality both the movements in FLD and yoga employ, they not only address the muscles but the ligaments and tendons. We need equal parts of mobility and stability to move well, to carry loads correctly, and to not develop compensatory movement patterns and tensions. This includes the tendons and ligaments; they are attached to your muscles and/or bones. All of our tissues need to have the ability to contract and be strong but also need to be able to lengthen and release, as well. This, in addition to attention to the details of form and alignment, round out the intelligent aspects of movement. Think about this: our cars can’t function well without proper alignment, why don’t we apply this knowledge to our own bodies? Our structure, our foundation is imperative to the way all of the systems of the body operate; musculoskeletal, cardiovascular, digestive, respiratory, lymphatic, endocrine, immune, nervous system….ALL OF THEM!!! They all depend on optimal alignment. ALL OF THEM (steps of soapbox).

The 3rd and final component is what I refer to as embodiment, full presence, or everybody’s favorite new age phrase – mindfulness. ( Yes I know that’s not the definition of embodiment, but I like it much more than mindfulness) The requirement of your mind and your body to be connected, talking in an equal exchange, both fully on board and immersed in the present activity. WE don’t recognize the value in spending time being fully “embodied” anymore. We spend so much of our time with our bodies sedentary and our minds in rapid movement. Then when we do exercise, we ask our bodies to move, often poorly, because we invite our minds to check out completely, into watching TV, or listening to music, or reading; Basically any other activity or distraction to keep us from connecting to our bodies. And that my friends is where most of our problems arise; from our state of disconnect. Disconnection from our own bodies, from our own actions, from our relationships with the people around us, from our food, and from the ground, the Earth. Reconnecting is the essential ingredient that’s missing in our paths to wellness, and reconnection is what both Yoga and Fitness Lying down offer to you, disguised as exercise =)

I want to also make sure to give credit to
Kim Anthony Just.Be.You Photography
for the featured image.