“Postures are the vehicle to transform your body back to the way it was meant to move.”
While yoga is renowned for its ability to calm the mind and rejuvenate the spirit, the practice is also fundamental to helping our bodies move as they should.
“The object of yoga is actually you,” notes Breanna McCubbin, one of the owners of Bikram Yoga Red Deer, who builds on last week’s look at the mental benefits of yoga with a focus on its physical features: how it works your muscles, joints, breathing and organs.
Yoga’s benefits are realized through the alignment of the body, engagement of muscles, focus and breathing:
Muscles & joints – When first starting your practice, muscles and joints may initially feel a little sore before feeling better; soon, you’ll notice you’re getting up in the morning without feeling your knees and hips. “That becomes really encouraging. As soon as you start to feel better, you want to come to class.”
Bikram yoga – performed in a heated space – combines strength and stretching in a workout targeting muscles, ligaments and joints.
While Bikram yoga features a fluid series of movements, Yin yoga involves mostly seated, longer-held postures – great for the hips. “You get the chance to work deeper into the fascia tissue and joints,” McCubbin says. “You store so much stuff in the hips, you really get the chance to go in and release it.”
With Pilates, alignment is essential, “but it’s a lot more about strength and muscle toning because you’re moving instead of holding still.”
Breathing – “As the union between your mind and body,” breathing is key to your yoga practice, McCubbin says. “By using our breath, that’s where we can really go inside ourselves and find more space or create more space,” she says. In turn, that supports the physical process of contracting muscles to hold a posture or bending deeper.
Organs – Different postures are designed to support internal wellness. For example, postures requiring you to bend and hold your head near your knees target the thyroid and parathyroid glands which support the endocrine system and hormone regulation, McCubbin explains.
Yoga also forces the heart and lungs to work together. “You’re holding still but the inside of your body is working so hard.”
Those new to yoga needn’t worry about a perceived lack of flexibility or strength as they embark on their practice. “We all have a mixture of a certain degree of strength and flexibility and yoga is designed to bring that in balance,” McCubbin says.
“It’s all about moving with awareness.”