Yoga is a holistic practice that incorporates the mind body connection. It works on your breathing habits, concentration skills and the ability to focus on the present. Yoga is important for all people and especially for the competitive athlete. Practicing yoga gives the athlete a very real and tangible edge.
The philosophy of yoga is based on the belief that you cannot obtain control of the body without the control of the mind. Yoga combines and integrates the mind-body connection.
Physiologically, yoga practice stimulates performance of the Central Nervous System (CNS). The autonomic nervous system is composed of two parts, the sympathetic and parasympathetic. The latter one is activated with yoga practice. Examples of parasympathetic stimulation from yoga include decreases of oxygen consumption, cardiac output, breath rate, and metabolic rate. The sympathetic system however, has the opposite characteristics. It is your “Fight or Flight,” mechanism. When you get angry or upset this is the system that gets activated. Enhancement of the CNS through yoga practice increases mind-body coordination and improves our ability to react mentally as well as physically. Enhancement of CNS also increases intelligence, decreases anxiety and provides a more effective overall interaction with the environment. Psychological investigations suggest that yoga improves mood, and aids in the development of will power.
Yoga postures are similar to active myofascial release. These postures, or asanas, help develop flexibility. In addition, they help balance, coordination and proprioception, i.e., the ability of your joints to “know” where they are in relation to the ground for any given movement. This is extremely important for any athlete because all athletics are based on the foundation of our feet, hips, and most important our pelvis which is the foundation of our spine.
Many diseases are linked to a crooked spine. If the spine is not straight, energy from the brain is distorted by pressure applied on the nerves from the associated spinal-vertebral structures. Yoga postures fosters the correct alignment of the spinal column and the spinal cord, allowing them to function properly.
Experiments have shown that illness causes the spine to misalign, and subluxation complexes ensue. A subluxation is a misalignment of the vertebral bones of the spine that irritates a spinal nerve. The complex is associated with abnormal motion or position of the spinal bones, abnormal nervous system function, abnormal function of the soft tissue, and malfunction of the spinal joints. Thus, misalign vertebrae can irritate nerves as they emerge from the spinal column and impinge the flow of nerve impulses. Asanas and Chiropractic prevent this by straightening the spinal column. In addition, Asanas and Chiropractic help realign the spinal column and encourage the blood flow to nourish the spinal cord and associated nerve plexus.
Yoga is extremely important factor of obtaining optimal levels of health. It detoxifies your body from all of the toxins we are exposed, from the environment and from our food. Scientific investigations concluded yoga improves mind over-body coordination by increasing physical tone and awareness while improving mind and breath control which are necessary components for peak performance of the body.
Yoga is a beneficial form of exercise. There are many different forms or styles of yoga. Although many forms of yoga are very good for developing fitness, strength, balance, and flexibility, some forms of yoga are less useful for recovering an already injured body. Some styles of yoga incorporate repetitive poses that put stress on the shoulders, which while fine for healthy shoulders, is detrimental to injured shoulders. If you have an active yoga practice and have an injury, please let your instructor know before taking a class. Adaptations should be made to prevent further injury. In-person instruction by an expert instructor, as opposed to online yoga classes, can give you corrections required to ensure your safe practice. He or she can help you avoid mistakes which may cause further injury. If you feel any exercise may exacerbate your injury, don’t do it.
Doing yoga in a warm environment (95 – 108 degrees F)(as opposed to a normal temperature room) warms up your body, enhances your flexibility, and reduces your chance of injury. Although there are many forms of “hot yoga”, Bikram yoga is a fixed series of poses that was designed to be accessible to beginners and people with injuries, yet still be challenging for advanced practitioners of yoga.
In the Annapolis area, Bikram yoga classes are available at the following locations.
Yoga Factory Annapolis and Crofton
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