This week at the regular weekend yoga classes my husband and I attend, the instructor mentioned injuries that occur during yoga or any other form of exercise one may take up in a class or group setting.
It is intriguing and thought provoking that he mentions injuries could occur while doing any form of exercise and not only yoga, when done incorrectly. I would like to share some of my thoughts on the matter.
Human body is an amazing instrument or machine as some call it. When we make or read such a statement, it implies, the inhabitant in the body is other than the body itself. When we are able to look at ourselves from this perspective, things become so much clearer, and we become more diligent and caring when working with the body. Usually we take the body for granted, though let us step back for a moment and look at it from a new perspective. What if we are the caretakers of this instrument? Precisely like a skillful musical artist tunes the instrument and plays it to produce the most melodious music entering our ears, we too must treat the body with utmost care and diligence and hence learn to master it and tune it so it would “listen”. Fancy as the words sound, all it means is to consider all work as worship and to do our undertaking with utmost diligence- that includes exercises or yoga asanas. When done with this perspective, we embark on a journey with a clear goal in mind and work our way through any difficulty that may arise with open mind.
To illustrate this point, I will consider an example. Let us say we are doing Surya Namaskar, and during the process we are becoming aware of our abilities. However, we wish to be : 1)more flexible in order to deepen our poses or 2) increase endurance (activity tolerance) to stay in certain pose for longer period or 3) improve control to execute the transition smoothly and slowly. Whatever the goal, going about it diligently day after day is important, in other words persistence. Once the goal is set, “I will and I can” is of prime importance in our journey to “I am”. The way is always through and never around or over.
Going back to the example let us take up the hasta padasana or forward bend pose:-
• Deepening the posture requires flexibility in the hamstrings. How to achieve this? Say to begin with the fingers tips barely touch the floor. One good way is to start by bending the hip and knee joints in order to reach the floor with the pads of fingers or palm. Then slowly straighten knees till stretch is felt in hamstrings and hold for 5- 10 seconds. Repeat 3-5 times/ session and at least 2-3 sessions/week. You can ensure engaging of the quadriceps and rectus abdominus, which allows the reciprocal inhibition of the hamstrings and back extensors and deepens the pose even if by a millimeter or a fraction thereof. Done steadily and slowly, it impacts the flexibility and you will notice that centimeter of increased bending over a few weeks or months.
• In order to increase endurance or holding the pose longer, breathing techniques are of prime importance. As always, forward bending is deepened when breathing out and holding complete exhaled phase.
• In order to make the transition smooth and slow, again breathing technique is important. In this case, the focus is on prolonging the inhalation, hold and exhalation phases. This gives greater opportunity to execute smooth movements within the existing range. Also pattern deviations are identified and worked upon easier with slow movements.
The body communicates with us and if a pose is done incorrectly and you are “tuned” with the body or possess heightened awareness of it, it can be identified as a discomfort. Conversely if a pose is executed well, there is flexibility and a sense of well-being through release of endogenous hormones like endorphin and enkephalin.
This awareness and observation translates into all that you do during the day and you will find yourself paying greater attention to details in any task you undertake. So does the diligence you bring in with an open mind. Then as it is said, “Sky is the limit”. Not only does this simple practice keep injuries away, once mastered, it enables you to be the best of yourself in any undertaking.
Through skilled physical therapy techniques, increase your awareness and tune in to the body. Contact Stablemovement Physical Therapy through facebook page or visit us at www.stablemovement.com
Ami Gandhi is a licensed physical therapist in the state of California. She is the owner of StableMovement Physical Therapy, a small boutique practice in San Jose that offers patient centered, one-on-one, hands-on physical therapy.