Muscle Memory

by Sarah

We’ve recently started a new brewing regiment at Starbucks. Now; I’ve been brewing coffee for about 4 years at Starbucks, so I have some hard set muscle memory on how to do it. I always scoop the ground coffee directly into the brew basket and press brew. Simple.

The new method is something like this:
1. Scoop coffee beans into grinder.
2. Grind coffee.
3. Empty urn of old coffee
4. Put ground coffee into brew basket.
5. Press brew.

Not terribly difficult. However. After the 4th time of scooping coffee BEANS into a filter without grinding, I realized that I needed to develop some new muscle memory to make brewing coffee as mindless as it was before.

In our yoga practice we do the same thing. Once we’ve practiced downward dog one way for an entire practice, we’ve already built up a routine on how to get into it. When we come back to our mat the next day, our brain shortcuts our set up of downward dog to the way that we did it yesterday. The next day: same thing. And the pattern is cemented.

If you are practicing the pose correctly, this muscle memory is a great thing! It gets you safely into and out of each posture. It’s how we are able to advance in our practice, because we no longer have to worry about the placement of our feet, and can instead dedicate that memory capacity to a lift of the sit bones, or some other aspect of the asana.

However, if you are doing the posture incorrectly, that muscle memory is a bitch. It tricks you into thinking you are doing the posture correctly, every time. And it’s IMPOSSIBLE to fix. Well, not impossible. But your body is going to scream at you “This is wrong! This is HARD! That is not supposed to bend that way!” You need to hit the reset button, to get to a new normal.

This muscle memory is a great reason to start practicing with integrity. Who cares if you can get your forehead to the knees in forward fold if your spine is rounded and compressing every single vertebrae on the way down there? Start with a flat back, an empowered core and your hamstring will open eventually. Build a foundation to your practice so that you start strong and build stronger. I promise it’s worth it.

What postures do you turn on autopilot for? Are there adjustments that you’ve been working on for a while? I’m currently in a battle with some hyper-mobile shoulders in downward dog. Engage, engage, engage.