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Yoga with Alex

Alex instructs postural yoga twice a week.

Time: Thursdays 6-7pm
Location: Nuffield Derby Gym, DE21 6DA (members only session)
Level: Beginner to Intermediate

Time: Saturdays 10:45-11.45am
Location: City Balance Mind And Body, 659 London Road, Derby. DE24 8UQ
Level: Beginners & Intermediate

In postural yoga, the act of observing the breath is used as an anchor to encourage the mind to stay in the moment, rather than entertain future or past thoughts.

Throughout the practice, attention is drawn towards the control of the breath and the awareness of the bodies sensations.

 

What do you need to come along to yoga?

Come along to yoga if you are able to comfortably bend both forward and backward, bear weight through you’re wrists and feel well in yourself. Bring a drink and flexible long-sleeved clothing.

About Alex’s approach

Postural Yoga is a western adaption of an ancient Indian physical health and awareness system that focuses on strengthening and balancing the nervous system thereby moderating the excessive activity of the mind using the postures and yoga breathing techniques to re-focus our awareness on our bodies’ sensations, rather than worries and issues that can loop around our mind’s.

Within class participants will be taken through a slow warm-up where the spine and peripheral joints will be mobilized, then the muscles of the inner and outer core will be warmed and stimulated.

The class will then perform two or three rounds of Sun Salutations, a form of vinyasa yoga sequence where the postures are made to fit together in an order that alternately lengthens and contracts the spine and body. After this, the class moves into the phase of standing postures where gravity is used to strengthen and lengthen the body before transitioning down onto the floor for seated postures, twists, balances and inversions.

About Stretching and yoga

 

Often people often say, “I can’t do yoga, I am not flexible”, or “yoga is just stretching”.

 

In one sense postural yoga is about stretching, many of the poses involve the controlled lengthening of tissues under the pull of gravity and body weight, in positions that are challenging to maintain, which means focusing on the sensations rather than ignoring  our bodies sensations. Postural yoga works your balance, rotation, bends and uses more-often-than-not a lot of strengthening.

 

How is postural yoga different?

 

Why would you practice postural yoga? Where the poses are performed slowly, this  allows us to tune more into how you feel as you breath and move. As a society, we can exist too much in our heads.

 

More technically the action of loading muscles and fascia,  whilst they are contracting and supporting us, as we exhale deeply, creates a phenomenon known as a Pandiculation. We see animals pandiculating as they stretch before they move. Research indicates that pandiculations are very good for our posture, flexibility and strength. In theory pandiculations conjoin the seperate parts of the body that once reconnected work better as a whole.

 

Recently a client came in for treatment and said, I read in the Guardian today that stretching doesn’t work. In truth some forms of stretching are almost pointless. This made me buy a book, Yoga Biomechanics 2019 and research the issue. How does stretching help, according to the research:

 

How Stretching Works. From Yoga Biomechanics by  Jules Mitchell 2019

 

1. Passive Resistance Torque, (PRT) reduces in the joint when a limb is placed under a lengthening load. The joint being lengthened resists deformation.

 

2. As we deepen a stretch we feel discomfort, in theory this pain protects us from damaging our tissues further. This is the role of muscle spindles. Over time a held deep stretch will reduce the firing of muscle spindles and allow further lengthening. This ability to bear the discomfort of stretching is called Stretch Tolerance.

 

3. Research indicates that when we stretch using anaesthetics or nerve blocks increases our range of motion increases by 13.4%, suggesting the brain regulates the length of our muscles.

 

4. Our muscles, tendons, ligaments and fascia are made up of Elastin and Collagen both tissues that allow a degree of elastic deformation if placed under a load, research suggests that stretching can occur in the connective tissues where the tissues will deform up to and a point of failure where the original structure is lost, much like a plastic ruler being bend past the point where it is permanently damaged.

 

5. As we age, accumulate injuries and stress our connective tissues can lose a degree of their pliability, forming scar tissue cross bridges (knots or adhesions,) in the muscles and connective tissues. Theoretically if you have knots stretching could loosen some of the collagen cross-bridges and allow further healthy lengthening.

 

6. Muscles are made up of Sarcomeres, the minute units that shorten to create force or contraction. Research has debunked the idea that passive stretching builds extra Sarcomeres. {Orishimo and McHugh 2015.) Most stretching simply does not provide sufficient load. Rather it is weighted eccentric muscular contractions (where the muscle contracts as it is forced to lengthen), that promotes the building of new Sarcomeres.

 

When we do a standing forward bend our Hamstrings don’t switch off, rather they contract but are forced to lengthen, in a forward bend the hamstrings help decelerate the upper body. For greater strength gains or hypertrophy we need to add extra load to force the body to adapt. E.g. slowly lowering a barbell down to the floor while back squatting  will activate your glutes, hamstrings and  spinal erectors eccentrically causing increased muscular tension and a degree of damage, that the body will try to repair using protein synthesis. 

 

 

 

Tom Meyers the Anatomy Trains author links yoga postures to his connective tissues lines or meridians. The suggestion here is that postural yoga could help unwind our injured and fatigued bodies. See an article by Tom Myers

 

Some postures in yoga require a combination of balance, strength and flexibility. Here in 8 angle pose the challenge is to get the legs over the arms, balance on my knucles and push off the floor. 

 

Human anatomy drawing, old, canvas

This old canvas illustrates well the connective tissues that actually hold the muscles, organs and joints together. Yoga can place these connective tissues under a tensile load that could affect the connective tissues pliability. Slow yoga styles have a  greater emphasise on tensioning the connective matrix whereas the faster approaches aim to work the body and capture the busy mind using the intricate and challenging postures. 

Book a class online with Alex

Alex teaches yoga Saturday mornings at City Balance on London Road. 10.45 – 11.45.

Details and online Booking via Stripe.

Back squatting under a massive load. As the weight is lowered the Quadricepts and Glutes contract while lengthening, an eccentric contraction. As the weight is lifted  up these muscle groups shorten in the concentric phase. Research illustrates that the eccentric movement creates the most muscular growth. 

Yoga Stretching or Strengthening

Crow is an arm balance where all the weight is bourne into the hands and shoulders. This poses is all strength and balance.

Some beginners can get both feet off the floor first time whereas others have to build up their strength and overcome a fear of falling forwards.

This pose leads to a Tripod headstand and then handstand.

Out of High Crow into Tripod Headstand. The movement of the knees onto the elbows requires stabilizing the abdominal cylinder.

Transitioning to early or quickly onto the elbows can place excessive load into the top of the skull. The glutes in this position will have a limited stabilising role, rather move on an exhale with a gentle engagement of the waist muscles, (to fire the Trans Abs), while maintaining a straight spine. Moving with a flexed spine emphasizes the Rectus Abdominus rather than the spinal extensors and stabilizers like the Erector Spinae and Multifidus.

Down dog is the combined lengthening of the whole back of the body, particularly into the calves and thighs. 

Where the upper back is over rounded than this pose can work towards a flatter longer spine.

Hand stands work so many areas that we need to stimulate.

 

Going up-side-down challenges our vestibular apparatus. Bearing weight through our hands reverses the pull of gravity on our bones, joints and connective tissues. Launching up is like a inverted Good Morning exercise. Balances the Latissimus muscles and the shoulder flexors. To stay up we work our Obligues, upper Psoas, Adductors and of course the Glutes. Finally hand stands are initially quite scarey and really playful.

Recent handstand workshop at Flowmotion yoga studio with Mark Freeth.

 

Handstands are great fun, but obviously physically and mentally demanding.

 

We do not regularly practice handstands in class.

 

We do use a traditional class format:

 

1. Mobilise joints

 

2. Warm-up using sun salutations

 

3. Standing postures to build strength

 

4. Balancing postures 

 

5. Seated postures and ground work

 

6. Inversions

 

7. Relaxation

Yoga uses a variety of difficult body positions to challenge the nervous system, aiming to make it grow in complexity. The body and in particular the nervous system responds to greater and greater demands placed upon it. 

Placing yourself into difficult positions and calmly maintaining this posture requires focus, breath control, strength and of course a degree of flexibility. 

The more advanced movements begin to train mobility which is flexibility within the joins across a wide range of movement. For example the handstand left works in particular shoulder mobility.