How does yoga ease pain and reduce injury?
The short answer is, by stretching, strengthening, aligning, stabilising, twisting and improved breathing.
If you're happy with the short answer then go and roll out your yoga mat and get stuck in :-) But if, like me, you always want to know more, then read on...
Bone is the dynamic living tissue that forms the body's framework. Regular practise of yoga is beneficial for your bones because healthy stresses are applied in unusual directions. This strengthens the bones, as they respond to stress by depositing layers of calcium into the bone matrix. Ergo lack of healthy stress on bones = weak bones.
Bone mass decreases in Osteoporosis. Studies have demonstrated that resistance exercises maintain bone mass, thus helping to reduce the likelihood of developing Osteoporosis.
"Lengthening the spine" is something you hear a lot during a yoga class.
Creating space between the bones of the spine, the vertebrae, is vital because nerves connected to the organs and structures of the body branch out from the spinal cord between the vertebrae.
If the curves of the spine become distorted, the spaces between the vertebrae are compressed. This can cause disk problems and other parts of the body may decline as they are stimulated by the nerves.
The individual vertebrae are separated and cushioned by disks of cartilage and water. These disks act as shock absorbers, allowing for weight and stress to pass through each vertebrae.
Rather depressingly, by the age of 30, the blood supply to the disks lessens. In an adult spine, all nourishment comes from movement. Fluids are drawn in and flushed out by moving forwards, backwards, sideways and twisting. If the disks are not nourished, they shrink and loose their elasticity, becoming more prone to injury such as herniation and pressure on the sciatic nerve root. Damaged or ruptured disks result in severe pain, as the bones of the vertebrae press on the spinal nerve roots.
Muscles, tendons and ligaments
Muscles, tendons and ligaments are necessary for movement. Muscles make up half a person's body weight. In addition to gross body movements, such as standing or raising an arm, muscles also make digestion possible and so much more.
We need our muscles to be strong enough and also flexible enough to enable us to carry out a basic range of movements to lead a 'normal' life.
Many athletes or sports enthusiasts get injured through overuse or muscular imbalances. Over-developing one muscle group leaves another under-developed. Yoga shines a light on these areas of over- and under-use. Holding poses has a soothing, healing effect on sore, tight and inflamed muscles, fascia, tendons and joints.
Yoga postures such as arm balances and inversions strengthen shoulder muscles, balancing stability and mobility in the joint.
During yoga, the wide variety in a range of movements and directions contracts and stretches the muscles of the back. Yoga improves Scoliosis by stretching the muscles which have been shortened and strengthening muscles on the opposite side. This aids balance in limb length and can also improve nerve conduction.
To attempt to describe just how yoga helps each muscle group would take forever...Google Light on Yoga poses and look at the numerous images to get an inkling of an idea of how yoga reaches every tiny corner of the body!
An emotional response
Many people will experience an emotional response at some stage during their yoga practise. The scientific explanation for this is down to the fascia. Fascial planes are a matrix of thin connective tissues that cover the organs and muscles. Sensory nerves are found throughout these fascial planes and are stimulated by stretching the fascia in yoga postures. This nerve stimulation can evoke emotional and energetic releases during yoga.
Additional explanations for an emotional response during the practise of yoga is a whole other blog post!
I am no doctor and make no claims of brilliance whatsoever. I am simply a humble yoga practitioner, sharing what I have learned. The science behind this blog is all down to some amazing writers and yogis:
This blog post deals with the bones and muscles of the body. More posts will follow concerned with how yoga improves our breathing, improves our mental state and unblocks the flow of energy through our body.
I wish you all love, light and happiness this christmas and beyond