Yoga in a broad sense can help with posture, but it can also be a posture killer and a pain generator. Yoga poses are therapeutic only if you do them with attention to foundational posture and with the consciousness that each individual is a unique living ecosystem. Many yoga trainings pay little attention to the importance of anatomy and physiology as they relate to poses, movement, and each individual’s structure at that point in time.
In Part 1 of my “Stretching Is In Your Brain” series, we looked at some updated information on what happens physiologically inside of us when we stretch. To re-cap, new science is revealing that the widely-held belief that we physically grow our muscles longer during a stretch is inaccurate. Instead, flexibility is controlled by our nervous system, which determines how far it will allow us to move into a stretch based on how safe it perceives our body to be in that range of motion.
In yoga, we tend to place a lot of emphasis on stretching as a means toward more flexibility. But what actually happens in our body when we stretch? Most of us envision our bodies as consisting of play-doh like tissues that we pull on and make longer through stretching, but new science is revealing to us a model of stretching that is much more complex, dynamic, and fascinating than what has previously been imagined. And it turns out that thinking of our bodies in this older “play-doh” like version may be counterproductive and can lead to a number of injuries and structural problems resulting from our yoga practice.
A Yoga Journal article entitled “Alignment Cues Decoded: ‘Soften Your Front Ribs’” by YogaWorks teacher Alexandria Crow came through my Facebook feed yesterday and I decided to write a response to it. As you might know, I am very interested in seeing our wonderful yoga world update its traditional alignment cuing with the intelligence of biomechanics and modern movement science.
Yoga is a wonderful tool, but “it hasn’t all been roses” as author, yoga teacher and prominent yoga blogger Matthew Remski points out in his promo video for the forthcoming book, What Are We Actually Doing in Asana?. Modern Postural Yoga (or MPY as Remski refers to it) is what we know as our contemporary and [...]
Once you’ve spent enough time studying the body and movement, you begin to develop refined anatomical eyes that can see patterns in the way people move that they can’t sense in themselves. One of these patterns that I see is that yogis tend to move where it’s already easy for their bodies to move while avoiding the work required where true positive change is needed.
When most people think of flexibility, they picture someone like a dancer, a gymnast, or a yogi – someone who can easily move their body into deep-looking shapes like full forward splits (hanumanasana) or yoga’s king pigeon pose (eka pada rajakapotasana). But most people are operating under an incomplete definition of what
As a yoga teacher, I get lots of questions about the alignment of poses. Should I throw my head back in upward facing dog? Should I reach for my feet in a seated forward fold? Should I squeeze my quads and lift my kneecaps in tadasana? My best answer to questions like these is usually it depends on your approach to your practice. From my perspective, there are two versions of nearly every yoga pose: the traditional version and the biomechanically-updated one.
How many of us have been told to engage our bandhas, or internal locks, for our entire yoga practice? First of all, it doesn’t seem like anyone is able to truly sustain these illusive muscular contractions the whole time they’re on the mat, but second of all, is this even a biomechanically wise feat to ask us to do?