Flexibility articles

  • Follow-up Q and A: Are Some Yoga Poses More Harmful Than Helpful?

    “Are Some Yoga Poses More Harmful Than Helpful?” generated a flood of comments from readers wanting to share their experiences and explore the benefits (and potential hazards) of other common poses. Here are some follow-up answers from author Megan Segner and her team of yoga experts.

    Q: Headstands are considered contraindicated in the fitness community, and I believe that the cervical spine is far too fragile for most individuals [to properly perform this pose]. Are there modifications for those who would like to build up to headstands?

    A: In a yoga headstand, your body weight should be supported by the muscles of your upper body and not your cervical spine, says Dr. Eden Goldman, D.C., a chiropractor, co-founder of Yogadoctors.com, and co-director of yoga teacher training at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. He notes that a headstand is an advanced pose, which may require up to a year or more of preparatory training. “Just like in fitness, don’t start clients with the hardest variation.”

    Ideally, only 10 percent of your weight should rest on the crown of your head, he explains, with the remainder supported by the muscles of the shoulders, arms, upper back and chest. Because poorly performed headstands can excessively load the cervical spine,

  • Yoga Straps for Scapular Strength

    By Elizabeth R. Kovar M.A.

    In a well-rounded yoga practice, it is important to demonstrate scapular—or shoulder blade—strength. For some people, however, achieving good form in yoga can be a challenge, particularly in poses emphasizing scapular stability, such as Warrior II and downward-facing dog. Incorporating yoga straps, however, can help learn how to properly engage the upper body during scapulothoracic movements.

    Understanding the Scapulothoracic Region

    Relating to the kinetic chain, the scapulothoracic region is a stable joint located between two mobile regions: the thoracic spine and glenohumeral joint. Although the scapulothoracic region contributes to various degrees of movement of mobility, it is still considered a stable region. The scapulothoracic articulation is known as the joint of the scapula and the thorax, which lies underneath it. Depending on the movement of the arm, the scapula glides over the soft tissue of the posterior region of the thorax.

  • 6 Great Post-run Yoga Exercises

    By Elizabeth Kovar

    Running is an intense sport that works within the laws of gravity and physics. In biomechanics, runners experience ground reaction forces, which is the force exerted by the ground as the body places contact. The force that is applied to each footstep will receive a reaction (force) that passes through the foot, upward toward each lower extremity joint. Without proper self-maintenance care, runners may experience skeletal or muscular pain or injury.

    Incorporating yoga poses post-run is ideal to maintain flexibility and recirculate lactate build up. In addition, most yoga asanas are not isolated stretches; therefore, the body’s connective tissue and what is known as fascial lines are opened in various poses. There are various fascial lines in the body, which connect foot to head and the right and left sides of the body. Yoga improves the flexibility along these specific lines to keep the musculature balanced and flexible.

    Yoga poses can be used with traditional post-run flexibility exercises. Hold each pose for 30 to 60 seconds each and complete each asana twice.

    Diamond Pose – Variation

  • Is Yoga Hazardous or Helpful? The Biomechanics and Benefits of Advanced Yoga Postures

    By Megan Senger

    Sustained neck extension, full range-of-motion squats and loading of the cervical spine. Are they harmful, or healing moves?

    While each raises concerns of risk for potential injury, these movements do show up in certain advanced yoga poses. And some experts argue that—with proper experience and warm-up time—otherwise questionable or “contraindicated” movements can be healthy for a yoga student’s body. Read on to discover more about the biomechanics of advanced yoga postures that might raise concerns in the eyes of fitness professionals.

    All Poses in Their Place
    Commercial yoga companies frequently choose complex and contorted yoga poses (like the ones discussed below) for their brochures and marketing tools.

  • 4 Yoga Poses That Should Be Part of Your Cool-Down

    Do you have clients that cringe at the thought of stretching at the end of a session or students that constantly cut out of class before the cool-down? For some, it’s a question of perceived lack of time. For others, the thought of spending time stretching doesn’t sound exciting or sexy, despite the fact that a regular routine of static stretching can help increase flexibility, enhance joint range of motion and even improve posture. Before your client throws in the towel on their next training session, consider taking a few minutes to introduce these four yoga poses as a way to breathe new life—and bring added benefits—to your client’s conditioning program.

    Extended Puppy Pose (Uttana Shishosana)

    At the center of the mat come to a hands and knees position, with the wrists aligned below the shoulders and the knees aligned below the hips. With the spine extended begin to walk the hands forward toward the front edge of the mat,

  • Are Some Yoga Poses More Harmful Than Helpful?

    Have you ever wondered why some exercises are considered contraindicated by the fitness community, yet are standard fare in yoga? Consider moves like the yoga plow, deep knee bends, or unsupported forward hip flexion. These have long been considered controversial in the gym, yet are commonplace in the yoga studio.

    But if an exercise is considered “contraindicated” or “high-risk” in the gym, can it still be beneficial in a mind-body setting? Three experts weigh in on what fitness professionals need to know.

    Asana Analysis
    The experts—all of whom hold advanced degrees, are trainers of yoga instructors and teach yoga classes themselves—analyzed five common asanas (yoga poses) as performed by healthy, experienced participants.

  • What are the different types of stretching techniques?

    With so many different types of stretching techniques for improving flexibility, there tends to be confusion on the difference between these techniques and how each one is executed. To help cut through some of the confusion, here is a quick explanation of six common flexibility techniques, along with examples from the Essentials of Exercise Science Manual.

    Static Stretching

    The most common stretching technique, static stretching is executed by extending the targeted muscle group to its maximal point and holding it for 30 seconds or more.

    There are two types of static stretches:

    Active: Added force is applied by the individual for greater intensity

    Passive: Added force is applied by an external force (e.g., partner or assistive device) to increase intensity

    Dynamic Stretching

    Unlike static stretching, dynamic stretching requires the use of continuous movement patterns that mimic the exercise or sport to be performed. Generally speaking, the purpose of dynamic stretching is to improve flexibility for a given sport or activity.

    An example of dynamic stretching would be a sprinter doing long, exaggerated strides to prepare for a race.

  • Non-physical Yoga Techniques

    By Megan Senger

    The yoga classes seen in most gyms are a form of hatha yoga, which is a practice that focuses on using physical postures to strengthen and lengthen muscles. However, there is much more to this ancient practice than just exercise, and there are many additional ways yoga can be of benefit to your fitness clients.

    Yoga poses (known as asana) are only one part of this mind-body method. “Non-physical” yoga techniques include meditation, breathwork and seva (selfless service).

    Self-observation and conscious breathing.

    “Breathe deeply for a few breaths…notice the rib cage moving in and out and give yourself some you time.

    On the next inhale, squeeze all the muscles in both of your legs….Be nothing but your legs and engage muscles around the knee, hip, and ankle joints. Take another breath…and now relax the legs completely.

    Inhale again. Now moving to the upper body, squeeze your arms and hands as hard as you can. Be nothing but your upper body. Squeeze...and let them melt into the floor.

    Relax your shoulders away from your ears and smooth out the skin across your face. Continue to inhale deeply….Exhale…in…out…for a while.

  • Relaxation-promoting Restorative Yoga

    Restorative yoga is a gentle form of yoga that involves holding positions for longer periods of time. This type of yoga uses props to support the body during passive stretches. Most positions are seated, supine or prone, which reinforces a relaxed state and helps reduce stress.

    Complete these poses while using traditional yoga props or with the use of pillows and blankets. Hold each pose for at least two to three minutes for the most benefit. You can ease into the pose with several deep breaths. Once in the pose, allow the breath to come back to a steady state.

    Janushirasana (Head-to-Knee Pose)

    Focus: Lengthens the posterior leg