Warm up is very essential in yoga, since here the focus is on smooth movement through the range of motion and holds for stability and stretching to further free up movement. Once soft tissue is warmed up, it is easier to take it effortlessly through the available range of movement and actually even further to gently and surely gain improved range and general ease of movement. In an earlier post I have mentioned not only are yoga postures executed “with accuracy, but also the performance must exude tremendous grace throughout, including a smooth transition from one posture to next. Mindfulness to cadence can impart a rhythmic quality. The body stretches and as you progress into a few cycles, you will notice ability to bend further into the postures.”
In this context, it is important to consider the differences in soft tissue and their ability to stretch, lengthen, or adapt, to tension applied, by mechanisms like sliding to take shortest path and gliding. While stretching feels good, when overdone, it may lead to micro-tears in the soft tissue and be replaced by more fibrous connective tissue, actually decreasing the range of motion. So be aware of your ranges and if you notice decrease in range or more obvious sign like discomfort or pain, slow down and increase the stretch in small increments. Tendons are not as flexible as muscles and may tear at their insertion point at the bone they connect the muscle with. However, it is not that easy to tear a tendon, specially, after a warm-up routine. Moreover, we have protective mechanisms within the body that sense an over-stretch, and inhibit movement. So it is essential for safety and integrity of the body to listen to these signs since the motor drive from higher centers may override this protective mechanism. Injuries result from ignoring these signs hence it is necessary to tune into the body during yoga. That is why, the software, i.e. perception, processing, and action is so important to be in tune with yourself.
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.