Yoga is known for promoting efficient posture, flexibility, reduced anxiety and stress, and enhancing strength with minimal increases in the size of the muscle (some people refer to this as muscle tone). Yoga is also gaining in popularity as a method for restoring strength to areas of the body that have been affected by an injury. How does yoga work? What are the characteristics of Yoga poses that stimulate the desired affects? Do the poses have special influences on the body? Is it the cueing? To answer these questions and to develop enhancements to this beneficial practice, I invite you to join me in an exploration of the physics and neuroscience of Yoga. In class, we will work together to make this beneficial practice even better.
In this one day course we will use leading edge technology1to observe how the nervous system responds to Pilates exercises. Then we’ll dig into the changes that occur in the muscles in response to the nervous system. With this insight, participants will collaborate in class to refine cueing, posture, and movement patterns of various yoga poses.
Here’s what we will cover.
Muscular participation during specific yoga poses – Surface electromyography will be used to observe the activity of the neuromuscular system while performing exercises. This technology allows us to see which muscles have been recruited and when. Where you feel the stretch or muscular effort is not always the full picture. We can see how slight changes in body position or cueing influences muscle participation.
Body, brain, mind and consciousness: The malleable and inextricable relationship between the mind and the body – This is a massive topic. We attempt to define the mind and consciousness, and their relationship to the brain and body. After that, we’ll construct strategies to train mental habits and behavior while training the body.
• Hypothesis: The mind and body are being trained during exercise whether it is realized or not. Therefore, as you exercise, your thoughts, attitudes and patterns of behavior must be skillfully curated in order to achieve and maintain your goals.
Furthermore, strategically training mental habits and behavior while exercising is the difference between attaining and maintaining goals, and giving up or regressing.
Emotional and physical stress, exercise, and the brain – Under specific conditions, contracting muscles produce hormones that can activate genes in the brain that reduce the negative affects of stress on the brain and the subsequent responses by the body. We will study the relationship between muscular activity and brain health in detail so that we can design exercise experiences to facilitate brain health. In addition, we will review the affects of stress (both physical and mental) on the multiple systems of the body2. As a part of this topic, we will explore:
• How physical and mental stress contribute to building character, relieving stress, and enhancing focus and learning
• The literature and proposed mechanisms for how the hormonal products of exercise may influence depression, addiction, and some eating disorders.
• How exercise can produce hormones that prepare the brain to structurally change.
• Potential consequences of a misunderstanding the “Just do it” mindset.
A practical, anatomically-based exploration of the mechanics and control of breathing – We look at the control and mechanics of breathing and the influence that it has on the position, motion, and stability3 of the spine.
Passive stretching – Passive stretching has been roundly ridiculed and labeled as a useless, if not dangerous, force application. But is it, really? We will explore the structure of the Contractile Connective Tissue Continuum (CCTC)4and observe that this tissue is not uniform in its composition or function throughout the body. For example:
• The CCTC composition of the Achilles tendon and the gastrocnemius are structurally and functionally different that the CCTC of the patellar tendon and the vastus intermedius. As a result, the force applications (like passive stretching) applied to one joint may be inappropriate for another.
• The mechanics of how nerves and the spinal cord lengthen are different than for muscle. Understanding these differences will help us reconsider the causes of restricted in motion and our strategies of improving it.
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The brain, spinal cord, endocrine system, and skeletal muscle↩
ability to withstand forces trying to flex, extend, or rotate the spine↩
The confluence of tissues that generate and transmit force from the inside of a myofiber out to and including a bone or aponeurosis↩