Vinyasa, Muscle Stiffness and Kinesiology
By Y. Kerry Sara, RYT 200 hours
When I practice yoga, the martial arts or any other form of physical exercise I think of myself as a scientist.
When I exercise my intentions extend beyond the desire to simply gain proficiency. I train to obtain personal knowledge and improve my health and wellness. I am also interested in using the scientific method to assess whether the endeavor that I am performing at the time is effective in dealing with the challenges that I have to face. By studying what happens to my body when I engage in systematic physical activity I hope to alleviate my depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and solve other problems related to ill health.
About 5 years ago, I began to travel across the country and drop in on yoga studios in various U.S. cities.
Vinyasa Yoga In Las Vegas
In 2011 I visited Las Vegas. During my trip to “sin city” I briefly trained yoga and dance with several teachers who were professional dancers or showgirl performers. After about 3 months, I subsequently moved on to visit and train in other cities. However, there was something about the teaching techniques of the dancers and performers in “sin city” that made me wish that I was still training in Las Vegas.
I came back to Las Vegas in February of 2013 and I have been here training ever since. My experiences in Las Vegas has influenced me to meditate deeply on the factors in my life that have influenced me to be drawn to health and wellness.
I think that yoga is more than simply another form of fitness. There are many elements of yoga that are very similar to the art of dance. Dancing is one of the most basic forms of social expression and inspiration. Many of the yoga teachers that I have trained with over the years in various places seemed to find motivation in their practice of asana through their love of dance and the performing arts.
In yoga, the aesthetic sense of dance is most clearly displayed by the sequence of poses that practitioners call vinyasa. Vinyasa is a dynamic style of exercise that links challenging yoga poses and breath awareness to create a continuous flow of physical movement. It is a strenuous practice that develops strength and flexibility. Vinyasa also cultivates balance in the body and the mind.
Most of the coaching on vinyasa that I have received from teachers in the various places that I have visited has been adequate. Yet, I have learned through trial and error that the level of instruction that usually happens in public classes does not necessarily work for me as a man. Many of the points on economy of movement that I have heard over the years while performing vinyasa have women in mind.
This makes sense. Even though the practice of yoga is popular with members of both genders, the overwhelming majority of yoga practitioners in America are women. To say that female bodies are very different from male bodies would be an understatement. While men are physically stronger and have greater lung capacity than women, females are distinguished for their superior range of flexibility.
I have had to learn to exercise caution while practicing yoga. I have injured myself a few times by trying to use my strength to force myself into challenging poses that my muscles were not ready for. The strength advantages that men have translates to more density in our muscles and bones. This increased thickness can lead to stiffness and immobility in the muscles, ligaments, tendons and joints.
Even though I had many years of vinyasa practice before I came to Las Vegas, I did not really understand how to move my body in space until I began training with the dancers of “sin city.” The muscles of my body feel so stiff and dense that I usually have a difficult time performing vinyasa.
Kinesiology and Yoga
Kinesiology – also known as human kinetics, is the scientific study of human movement. The function of kinesiology in relation to health and wellness include sport psychology; exercise strength and conditioning; methods of rehabilitation such as physical and occupational therapy; biomechanics and orthopedics. The performing arts and various forms of recreational activities such as sports, dance, athletic drills and calisthenics are usually the introduction that most people have to the science of kinesiology.
Extravagant expenditure of muscular energy in any form can have very profound therapeutic benefits. From my individual practice and investigation kinesiology can be used to heal, renew and strengthen the body, counter the ravages of aging and calm the mind. Systemic physical activities such as yoga, acrobatics the martial arts and dance can help millions of people cope with ailments such as heart disease, joint inflammation and arthritis, hypertension and chronic physical pain.
The Vinyasa Workshop
The scientific method is a body of experimental techniques for measuring evidence subject to principles of reasoning. As someone who thinks likes a scientist I consider the studio at Barefoot Sanctuary or any other place where I might engage in fitness activity as my laboratory. I notice that when I am in public vinyasa classes, I feel the need to spend extra time in three poses regardless of what other people in class are doing around me. The poses that I constantly feel the need to revisit and breakdown in public classes are Adho Mukha Svanasana (downward facing dog pose); Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (upward facing dog pose) and Virabhadrasana 1 (warrior 1 pose).
Adho Mukha Svanasana (downward facing dog pose)
Downward facing dog pose stretches the shoulders, legs and spine; builds strength throughout the body – particularly the arms, legs, and feet; relieves fatigue; improves the immune system and calms the mind.
Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (upward facing dog pose)
Upward facing dog pose strengthens the spine, arms and wrists; stretches the chest, shoulders, and abdomen and helps relieve mild depression and fatigue.
Virabhadrasana 1 (warrior 1 pose)
Warrior pose strengthens and stabilizes the muscles of the feet and knees; strengthens the shoulders, arms and the back; stretches the hip flexors and calf muscles and improves balance and concentration.