What is Biomechanics? If we go back to the origins of the word, we get:
Bios = Life
Mēchanikē = Mechanics
That is closer, but what exactly is Mechanics? Mechanics refers to the study of the mechanical principles of living organisms, particularly their movement and structure. The origin of this word distills down to:
Mēkhanikos = Machine, relating to manual labor.
If we pull this all together we get something poetic like….Life Work. Or even more simply stated, how life works. By life, I mean you. I can’t think of a more direct way to describe what we are all doing here.
Your body is a complex living organism. It is a layered system of self-organizing cells, organs and organ systems. Your body is responsive to the external environment and the many pressures the world exerts on us, all the time. To do Life Work, the study of this vehicle is no less than absolutely necessary. Yet, nowhere in our educational system is studying biology in context to our ACTUAL body. Think about it, the condom on the banana happened in 7th grade. I was more nervous for my teacher, as she awkwardly rolled the thing out. Then 10th grade biology. I was more interested in what my lab partner thought about my “biology” more than any of the material. In college, as a dancer, I spent 8 hours a day cultivating kinesthetic awareness for the goal of fulfilling a choreographer’s vision. I learned to use my body as an object. It wasn’t until I found Yoga, that the concept of having relationship with MY body was actually valuable.
The body is our medium to experience and participate in the world. Not just the good stuff, but everything. It would help to have some understanding of how it works, right? Like Human School. If we did, where do we begin and what is the basis of this education? We can only start with what we know and then traverse into what we don’t. Like anatomy, anatomy is pretty satisfying. Generally speaking we all end up with 206 bones, give or take. A femur bone is a femur bone. A knee joint has specific range of motion based on how it is organized. There are finite limits, rules and principles we can learn and practice. Mechanics invites us to study these fundamental laws and then utilize them for leverage in our world. To feel empowered is to feel supported by our inherent nature (by nature, I mean our anatomy and physiology). Structure (anatomy) and function (physiology) go hand in hand, they are inseparable.
Yoga class is a space to cultivate mindfulness WITH your body through movement. Mechanics are the principles/rules/foundations we use to explore our experience. For instance, when you are in Warrior 2 and you feel the heat build in your front thigh, what do you do? Do you just unbend your knee? Can you find a way to dissipate the intensity and still hold the pose? Or are you just willful enough that you suffer through it out of pride? If we use mechanics and the principles of anatomy, we can find a way to engage with the sensation of heat. For instance, if we move more weight into the back leg, the load in the front leg lessens. If we bend the front knee to actually 90 degrees, the whole circumference of the thigh, all the muscles wake up to help hold the form. Instead of feeling like a victim in the poses, mechanics offers us a way to engage with the sensation. Understanding the knee invites us into a conversation of our actual capacity versus wishing and hoping. Reality works and biomechanics is the work in that reality. Life Work.
No matter who we are, we all have a body and life requires effort. Time, and even guidance, to decode all the sensation that comes up is essential. We don’t have to cultivate meaningful and thoughtful relationship in our body to be alive…but we certainly can. The learning space for this study is Yoga class.