Life would be easier if we called things what they are. We tell people to ‘call a spade a spade’ but most of us continue to call it a shovel. We call it ‘stop and go,’ but the activity requires us to go before we can stop. Before we go, we are a body at rest and will continue to stay at rest until some kind of energy is applied and we go. (Newton was not discussing human bodies, but we can all understand physics better as adults, because we have experience with how much we need energy to get a body from the resting to the moving state.)
Children probably do not go through the mental agony of wondering why we play Red Light/Green Light instead of Green Light/Red Light. The first command always has to be ‘Green Light!’ They are fairly used to adults having strange rules.
When exercising, it can be problematic to have backward terms. In anglicized yoga we do cat-cow. It can take quite a long time to clarify in one’s mind when to breathe in and out. We breathe in first, then breathe out. However, the positions are not in sync with the name.
We can understand them by getting on our feet. When standing, we expand our chest as we inhale, and contract our abdominal muscles as we exhale. In the quadriped position we do the same. On our hands and knees as we breathe in our chest lifts and our belly sinks as our back caves. The cow position. Then, we exhale by contracting our stomach muscles pulling our chest down and rounding our back upwards. Cat. We do not raise our back; it rises because we are contracting our abdominal muscles. Likewise, we do not push our midsection down in cow, we expand our chest.
Possibly, it is labeled correctly, and we are supposed to breathe in when we are in table position, then breathe out on the cat. However, watching most yoga classes, people begin with an inhale on the cow…or cat. Muddling through for weeks or months, even years, getting our brains and bodies coordinated around the correct breathing simply wastes time, it does no overt harm.
However, if you are unclear of the correct sequence when performing more strenuous movements, the consequences can be disastrous. If you are lucky, you may simply not perform well. If not lucky, you can damage muscles and joints.
I had never done a jump squat until a few years ago when I attended S/D Exercise Club for my first bootcamp. I jumped, I landed, I squatted. It was awkward, but I did not seek guidance, because I am family and a visitor, not a paying participant and both instructors were busy with their real clients. Now, I am older, possibly a bit wiser, definitely more cautious, dealing with a damaged knee and hip, so after one or two attempts, I reverted to doing simple squats through those portions of the workouts.
Last week I read the description of a jump squat in Gray Cook’s Functional Movement. It is quite simple. One squats, then jumps by straightening the legs. Because it is called a jump squat, I had been attempting to jump from a standing position, land in a squat, then stand. I had also watched some of my really talented campmates as they retracted their legs towards thier chests in very high jumps, then extended them towards the ground as they landed.
Thinking about the description, I could picture Josh Fogg compressing his legs as he landed on the snow, then straightening his legs to leap upward and forward. Currently a member of the Professional Ski Instructors of America National Team, years ago Josh was co-Training Director for Perfect Turn at Sunday River. The day I remembered he was leading a pre-mogul clinic on flat ground. He was doing a dynamic squat jump.
The transfer of physical knowledge from one activity to another, requires us to identify exactly what we are doing. Once I visualized it in the memory of Josh’s clinic, I recognized the squat jump as a move I had done before. It is the move we make in moguls. As we go up the bump, we let our legs be bent into a squat. Then, we straighten our legs and propel ourselves forward. We jump. Understanding what it was and how I had used it in the past, allowed me to accomplish the task set by my coaches.
The squat is not the end of the sequence. It is the beginning. The bending of the legs stores potential energy. The jump is the release of that energy. My jump is not high, but there is daylight beneath my feet. Most importantly, after 30 correct repetitions my knee and hip felt fine.