If you haven’t opened up to the benefits of asana followed by meditation to start your day, you probably have a good reason! Keep in mind, though, that “I don’t have enough time” is not a good reason. I mean reasons like, “that’s not for me”, or “I am not interested in joining a cult”, or “I don’t believe in God”. If those sound like your reasons, you’re in luck! Spoken in general American terminology, Yoga is actually called Flexibility Training, followed by Mental Therapy. Maybe you are in top physical condition and don’t need any kind of flexibility training, and maybe your mental health is in a state of perfection; therefore, maybe you don’t need Yoga.
The science of Yoga from the perspective of Yoga goes far beyond what we here in the West require as proof to feel logical understanding, trust, and security to become involved. Our “required proof” lies in the realm of exercise science, stuff we can make sense of on a practical level way before the profound concepts beyond and including humanity are accepted, less understood. Because I am aware of this resistance and general incomprehensibility in our culture, I will begin to describe yoga in terms of exercise science and explain the aspect of meditation as a mental health maintenance protocol.
I’d like to start with the word Posture. To most people, yoga means putting yourself in different poses, or moving through a series of poses. We all have an idea of what poor posture is, and definitively poor posture and repetitive movements (even sitting at a computer on a daily basis like I’m doing now to type this is repetitive stress) create dysfunction within the body. The body treats this as an injury, initiating a repair process. Adhesions form and can become permanent structural changes in soft tissue along lines of stress with an inelastic collagen matrix. Here’s where it gets scary: muscle fibers can be prevented from moving properly because these stress-induced inelastic remodeled soft tissues act as roadblocks in the neuromuscular system. This is the worst case scenario of why good posture is so important, and every physical yoga posture is one that has been scientifically designed in the yoga world, just as in the exercise science world flexibility training restores the normal extensibility of the entire soft tissue complex and every stretching technique is one that has been scientifically designed in the sports medicine world.
Next time, we’ll match and compare yoga postures with stretching techniques. It is important to note that yoga is not a stretching technique, but within the similarities the common denominator is the human body. By explaining the benefits of stretching techniques, we will explain in a “modern” way the positive effects of yoga in its smallest sense, or the physical benefits of a regular practice.