Who would have thought Newton’s 3rd Law has anything to do with yoga, Bikram Yoga? And, yet, it does. You can count on every posture relying on this law of motion: for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Once you begin to understand it, you’ll have fun exploring where equal and opposite force is throughout your practice (hint; think hundreds) and use it to help you strengthen and deepen your physical and mental expression of each pose.
We held a clinic in late 2022 on this concept and will do it again in December 2023. It’s a game-changer, for real. So, take advantage of these notes, whether you were there or not, and see if you can plant seeds for you to apply today.
Bikram has two books: Bikram’s Beginning Yoga Class, often called the “blue book,” and his second book, Bikram Yoga, The guru behind hot yoga, shows the way to radiant health and personal fulfillment – it’s often called the “orange book.” I suggest you head to Amazon after reading this blog and pick up both. If you are a regular practitioner, these books will be resources for life. They’re fun, enlightening (like really enlightening), and it’s knowledge for you to improve on the one subject that matters most, “YOU!”
In the orange book, he says, “Creating this tension is what keeps you balanced in the posture. It’s Newton’s 3rd Law of Motion. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.”
For example, the Standing Head to Knee pose is considered one of the more challenging postures. The diagram below depicts, with the arrows, the equal and opposite forces at play. You’ll see there are several, and as you progress in the pose (from phase one to phase four), the intensity of the force increases. More intensity means more concentration. Bikram Yoga is all about using the body as a medium to train the mind, so this is an excellent representation of putting the body at work to focus!
Let’s practice Standing Head to Knee pose
From Bikram’s orange book:
ONE: Pick up your foot: standing leg pushing down and lifting up; stomach in and back.
TWO: Kicking out, pull the ball of your foot and the toes towards you with all your power.
THREE: Thrust your heel, elbows hugging your leg – not chicken wings, help your balance; can pull your toes better.
FOUR: Balance in the final stages of the Standing Head to Knee pose is accomplished by bowing everything farther and farther and pulling more firmly upward, toward, and “into” yourself – equal and opposite.
Sounds easy, right? LOL. It takes years to master, if ever, which is the point. The journey of getting there is what we are after. The more you try the right way, the stronger your mind becomes. So go for it, fall out, and get back in. Here are some common issues we experience when practicing this posture:
- No use of abdominal or leg strength, resulting in a feeling of collapse.
- No stamina (you stopped breathing normally); lacking endurance in the pose.
- No smiling, happy face; tension, not relaxing.
- Sadly, we give up; we’re frustrated.
No struggle, no change. A respected leader once said that to get what you want, you’ll have to do what you don’t want. So true, right? The only way out is through, so don’t give up and use the instructions wisely to include equal and opposite force. Study the diagram and see how the arrows go. When you do the posture next, create that same ray of energy in the direction it shows. You’ll ignite a light switch in you that doesn’t only improve your Standing Head to Knee pose but your mind skills as well!
Okay, let’s do another one: Standing Bow Pulling pose
In Bikram’s orange book, he says, “Standing Bow; feel yourself starting to fall out of the pose, kick back even more while stretching your arm forward more – maintain breathing. These actions seem counterintuitive, but increased, equal pressure in those two places makes your bow more taut, which will restore your balance. Creating this tension is what keeps you balanced in the posture – it’s Newton’s third law of motion.”
Whoa! You can hear the teacher saying the dialog, “if you lose your balance, you’re not kicking hard enough.” That’s a tip for you: You are likely NOT doing 50/50, equal and simultaneous.
Are you inspired? What the heck? Drop what you are doing right now, and give it a go! Use the arrows to help you navigate what goes forward and what goes back, what goes up and what goes down!
Here’s a dynamic duo: Camel and Rabbit poses
Yep, these two are also huge examples of using Newton’s third law. Bikram says, “Take a deep inhale, then exhale strongly as you push your thighs, hips, and stomach forward as much as possible. This will arch your torso backward – Newton’s 3rd law.”
Suggestion: in the posture clinic, we did the Camel pose against the wall to get the feeling stated above. Carefully, you might try, too. Before you begin, check out the diagram below, and go slow. Again, navigate your energy where it goes forward and see if you can notice where it goes back – cool, right?
In addition, Bikram tells us, “Concentrate on the area from the top of your thighs to your waistline. Push it up and forward with everything you’ve got.”
It’s common to have difficulty getting the grip right and tight or have some trepidation and anxiety, but don’t let that stop you! YOUR yoga is your path to more of YOU, especially this pose, intended to open up your front side, which is likely congested. I once heard that our chest’s front area is our armor – ouch. Let’s see if we can soften that up a little – you will be better off for it.
Finally, Rabbit pose!
Bikram’s orange book says, “The secret here is in the arms. You must pull with all your strength on the heels of both feet to perform the posture fully and to keep your weight where it belongs. 25% weight is on your head; throat choked massages thyroid and lymph glands. You only have to tuck that chin down into your chest and curl inward with a passion, as though you’re reaching with the top of your head for the interior of a nautilus shell.”
This one is a little tricky to get, but study the diagram and see if you can visualize it. In the posture clinic, we had me, Matt, or Sarah holding down your heels as you entered, got in, and exited. I prefer that you don’t do this at home, but you’ll get an idea of how much you need to anchor the heels/feet. Set it up right, and from there, guess what has to stretch: YOUR SPINE – it can open as much as 14 inches!
Okay, here’s one more: balancing stick pose!
There are no arrows this time; I want YOU to figure out where they go. Email me or let me know when I see you next where you think the equal and opposite is! Hint: standing leg is a lamppost, which means it does not move! So, what does move? I’ll let you tell me.
Use all these diagrams to help you, and I’ll see you in December for the next workshop – it’s on Saturday, December 16, so save the date!
To conclude, Equal and Opposite carries a deeper message. Carl Jung said, “the psyche seeks balance, much like the concept of entropy from the field of physics. Entropy, in simple terms, is a thermodynamic principle that all energy within a system (including the universe) will eventually even out. So, getting to know different or opposing parts of ourselves and the world was the way our personality grew “whole.” Dynamic psychic energy includes the idea that we should listen to differing points of view, inside and outside ourselves, because opposing views usually have some truth and are trying to form a “whole,” a whole person. The person who can listen to various viewpoints, such as love and hate within themselves, and balance them out, is a well-developed individual. Yes!