Since Yoga I.S. ® Studios have opened in January of 2013, there has been a lot of feedback from the members that the classes just “feel” different here. The feedback is that people feel stronger and more flexible after they attend one of our classes. However at Yoga I.S.®, we have a different definition of stretching.
Hatha Yoga translates to mean “FORCE-ful Yoga”. It is the branch of yoga composed of thousands of isometric strength positions called “asanas”, designed to, when properly progressed, prepare the body for meditation. The question remains, what is the body responding to in yoga? How does a person become more “flexible” from a regular yoga practice? Yoga is still a form of resistance application, just as body building. Muscles do not get stronger or longer by “stretching” them. It is the Central Nervous System that decides whether muscles will have more or less tension, as it responds to the many aspects of force. Force does not have to mean a lot to cause a response in the body. Some activities require a great amount of force, due to the requirements of the activity. The forces a yoga practitioner use are based on the intention and the goal of the Hatha practice. These can vary from light somewhat intense, depending on the intensity of a practice. The idea is that there is ALWAYS resistance in any activity
Our classes are designed to offer a balanced regimen that creates strategic forces over many joint ranges in efforts to achieve muscular evenness of pull across a given joint. Many yoga practices are taught by conforming an individual’s structure into a pre-determined position in short amount of time. Given the realities of muscle inhibition, motor learning, poor instruction, and poor program design, it is a fact that a yoga practice can cause just as much tightness and weakness as any other activity. Our instructors are taught that in order to increase range of motion for a particular goal, it is important first to have the right structure, second to understand that it takes time for the body to become stronger and stable in these new ranges of motion, and third a clear understanding of force, how to apply it, how to build up one’s tolerance of it, and how to use the tools that affect it. This requires a solid understanding an on-going study of anatomy and exercise mechanics, which our instructors are a part of.
Currently, Yoga is described as a stretching class. One problem with this is that many people do not fully understand the usage of the word “stretch” when talking about the body. Nothing in the body stretches the way we think it does. Even skin, when stretched too fast over a period of time that was not long enough to allow for change, will develop what we call “stretch marks” that are permanent. Ligaments are not designed to stretch, since their role is to maintain contact surfaces in the joint and limit/prevent motion. Tendons are said to have only a 7-10% give and have a role of accurately transmitting force from muscle to bone. Stretching this would greatly hinder joint stability. Fascia, although is a huge topic in today’s fitness community, is described to have the tensile strength of steel. Fascia is multi-layered and multi-directional. It covers the body front to back, top to bottom, inside and out. It wraps around tissues and cells all the way to the microscopic level. It is said to be a major site for muscle attachment in force production that can be interrupted by as much as a pin-hole. To say this is the primary cause of tightness displays a huge lack of understanding. One cannot roll or massage this dense, complicated matrix called fascia, and doing so will likely weaken the muscles that adhere into it.
Why do we get tight? Muscle has many roles in the body, from controlling the joint, communicating directly with the central nervous system, responding to force, and creating tension. Muscles do not have memory nor do they get confused. It is simply tissue that responds with the nervous system’s direction. If there is tension in an area, there can be anatomical issues such as joint disruption, genetic factors, chronic adaptation, nerve or blood vessel excursion, bone spurs, tissue bulk, and age factors. One major factor is inhibition, where the muscle loses its ability to respond to force as a result from stress, trauma, and overuse. Tension is often times strategic, as the CNS is shutting down motor responses to specific tissues as the joint is moved further into the extreme ranges of motion. Tension is therefore a protective mechanism to ensure that the body can remain as stable as possible. To force oneself into a posture or advance a student too quickly without proper tissue adaptation or necessary modification is malpractice.
At Yoga is, our students will learn about their body’s structure, capabilities, barriers to range of motion, and the overall intention they have going into their activity. Come see how Yoga can be applied to YOU!