Thursday, February 9, 2012

Yoga And Your Joints

Although Yoga involves slow and non impact postures, don’t kid yourself into thinking that it’s easy on your body, because done in any way against your body’s wishes, it can cause severe injury.

I have worked with millions of bodies over the years and each one has it’s idiosyncracies. Sometimes a hip is tilted so one leg is longer. In this case, a forward bend can nicely stretch one leg, and over stretch the other. Of course, in a room full of other Yogis, the average person is going to hold the imbalanced stretch until the instructor says to back off. Generally, that’s long enough to damage tissue.

Some classes have a questionnaire which makes the teacher aware of individual needs, but ultimately, your short hamstring is your responsibility, not the instructors. Now, to my point.

Yoga involves only a few directional moves which include forward bending, backward bending, side bending, and rotational moves. Each of these moves carry through a myriad of variations. Whether your joints are compromised or not, blood should be in the muscles before you attempt to lengthen them. By stretching a cold muscle, you not only threaten the muscle, but the tendons attached to the joint, and the ligaments within the adjoining joint. This is why all group exercise classes begin with some type of large range moves with deep breaths.

Once there is blood, and hence oxygen in the muscles, you’re ready to begin more aggresive movements which should include forward bending. No matter what the instructor is saying, you need to feel for any imbalance in the length of your legs, or your hips, and only go as far as the weakest part in your beginning moves. No pain, no gain? Whomever coined that phrase was not correct. Of course, in heavy lifting, you need to push yourself to go to the next level, but in flexibility, going beyond your threshold will cause damage. Simple as that.

If your spine has weakness or degeneration, back bending should be done with caution in the beginning as well, then side bends go with the same rules. The last move that should be introduced in the yoga sequencing should be rotational moves. Whether on the floor or standing, rotational moves put a great deal of stress on the knees, hips, and spine if these joints are afflicted with any degeneration. Remember that the muscles attached to degenerative joints need to remain healthy and supple to avoid excess tension on the joint.

Again, no matter what the instructor is saying, your joints are the only ones that you’re going home with. Give yourself permission to modify moves if necessary, or discuss your specific needs with your instructor before class. Instructors are happy to give you personal modifications.

Yoga is an individual sport. Don’t think for a minute that what the instructor and everybody else in the room is doing should dictate what your body should do. Give yourself time, find your own personal imbalances, and set your own goals. This is what life is about.

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