Many inquiries have come into the studio on how our yoga works to help in recovery from injury, and that we have an excellent reputation for this at Breathe Into Motion Yoga Studios. Certainly there is a unique approach in how our classes are designed, and this accounts for our success in helping students to overcome injury. There are some general attributes yoga offers when yoga is taught properly.
Yoga deepens breathing, slowing resting heart-rate. This is the foundation that all yoga practice should be based. Controls over the autonomic nervous system are possible through breath control. Advanced Pranayama techniques involving esoteric types of breathing are not only unnecessary for beginner yoga practitioners but are dangerous as they can cause a sympathetic nervous discharge and stress if taught to beginner students. Sticking with the breathing basics and learning deep breathing in an elliptical pattern will switch sympathetic nervous discharge to parasympathetic, which offers calm and relaxed feelings that enable the process of healing to begin.
Once a foundation with proper breathing pattern is established, then connecting breathing to yoga posture practice is the next logical step. Yoga helps to improve coordination by connecting breath and movement. Think of yoga practice not only in terms of holding poses but how the breathing can aid in entering and exiting yoga postures. The mindfulness acquired in moving with the breath is a critical skill to enhance coordination necessary to perform physical skills that can lead to recovery from injury.
Within each yoga posture performed attention to the details of alignment are necessary. Yoga postures are defined by correct physical alignment. The proper instruction of yoga poses necessitates precise direction within a parameter of variables that account for different skeletal structures between individual students. Well trained instructors are able to include appropriate cuing for alignment principles offering the best possible circumstances for teaching students how to heal their injuries.
Learning the correct alignment in yoga postures involves protecting the spine. The health of the back is relative to a balance between flexibility and stability. Yoga improves spinal flexibility helping the movement of fluids and nutrients along the spinal column. It's also important to recognize there can be too much spinal flexibility in yoga practice. Knowing how to protect the back from excessive spinal hyper-flexion, lateral hyper-flexion, hyper-extension and rotation is critical for back health.
The scientifically unfounded claim that Hot Yoga enables practitioners to sweat out toxins has undermined the true science behind how yoga practice can help to eliminate toxins. Yoga cleanses the body of toxins that build up in organ tissues. This is done by stimulation of the organs that filter toxins such as the liver, kidneys, intestines and through the massaging effect from both yoga postures and breathing techniques. Removing toxins from the body is critical for the repair of tissues during injury rehabilitation, however there is no clinical evidence proving that this is possible through sweat.
Beyond yoga’s ability to influence the function of organs involving elimination is the impact of yoga practice on glands that control hormone secretion. Glands are not able to be massaged since their tissues are unique. Glands are influenced by the nervous system. Yoga stimulates the endocrine system. It does this through the stimulation of nerve plexuses corresponding to particular glands when practicing yoga postures.
Yoga improves circulation. It does this by challenging the circulation system to return blood to the heart despite the many unusual postures that are practiced in yoga. Breath control techniques can also challenge the heart and improve its function. Improved blood flow and efficiency in the circulatory system has been proved to enhance the rate of healing injuries.
I have embraced the need for joint stability while practicing yoga a long time ago, knowing that lack of joint integrity leads to many injuries. Yoga builds core strength and muscle stabilizer strength. Joint stability is dependent on balancing the flexibility of yoga posture practice with appropriate core and stabilizer strength.
Yoga improves balance. Think of the variety of angles in relation to gravity it takes to perform yoga postures. Improving balance will decrease the possibility of further injury and can dramatically improve stabilizer strength leading to improved joint integrity.
Weight bearing yoga postures can improve the strength of bones and the skeletal joints. Building joint integrity requires resistance against gravity. Yoga increases bone density, however, this is only possible through the practice of weight bearing postures (as opposed to restorative yoga or yin yoga practice, which involve non-weight bearing poses).
My hope is this blog can help students of yoga become informed. To understand how yoga helps to improve chances of recovery from injury some exercise science is required. Yoga can help in the recovery from injury when practiced with a common sense approach and with a little scientific knowledge.