Our shoulder is a precision instrument that simultaneously has a vast scope in its range of motion. With pinpoint precision we can synchronise our shoulder muscles to maneuver our arm to point our finger precisely at our object of choice – an action that requires the coordinated recruitment of numerous muscles that surround our shoulder joint like a clock.
When I was young and naïve I used to say “the good thing about practicing yoga is that as you get older you only get stronger and more flexible!” This is true up to a point and that point is different for every body. The fact is that as we age our body slows down. All of our bodily functions are affected as our cells multiply more slowly.
Many yoga practitioners instinctually know to engage their inner thigh muscles (adductors) in backbends to prevent their knees from falling out to the sides. Let’s examine how we can utilise this action to ignite our core, expand our backward arch and experience simultaneously more stability and spaciousness in backbends. The adductor muscles of the inner thigh are part of our axial core.
If you’ve ever had an injury at your hamstring injury, you will know about it! You’ll go from comfortable forward bending one day to dramatically restricted, often painful forward bends the next day. This injury occurs where the tendon of the hamstring muscle knits into the membranous lining of the bone, the periosteum. In this case it is where the periosteum covers the ischial tuberosity or sit-bone. Often this is not a tear of the tendon itself but an avulsion, where the periosteum has been pulled or torn away from the bone.
Although we usually think and talk about muscles as being weak or strong, closer to the truth is that muscles are usually inhibited or facilitated, respectively. Inhibition is when neural input (from our nervous system) to the muscle has been down-regulated. Facilitation is the opposite, when neural input to a muscle is excessive or up-regulated. Facilitated muscles are often those muscles compensating for the loss of input into a movement pattern that should come from the muscle that is inhibited.
In Part 1 we looked at some of the biomechanics of neck problems and especially how to eliminate unnecessary tension in our neck when weight-bearing on our hands. In yoga asanas we commonly take our head back, extending our head and neck. Students are often cautious and hold back with this movement, concerned that it may hurt their neck. However, our necks are perfectly designed that we can gaze at the stars with wonder and delight!
Our necks are one of the most vulnerable parts of our body and once we have a neck problem they can be complex to resolve.There are a few reasons why the neck cops the brunt of it. Firstly the neck or cervical spine has the greatest range of movement possible in the entire spine. This is partially due to the specific angle of the facet joints that connect each vertebra to the next but also due to the high ratio of vertebral body to disc height.
For some the jury is still not out on whether one should or should not engage the gluteus maximus muscle when performing back bending yoga postures.Firstly, let’s have a close look at the functional anatomy of this muscle. Gluteus maximus, commonly known as glute max, is the superficial ‘rump’ muscle of our buttocks. Its prominent, characteristic shape and large size correlate to its powerful role of maintaining our trunk in an upright position. Additionally, gluteus maximus plays an essential role in gait, i.e. walking.
Functional is the buzz word at the moment in the exercise, movement and especially the physical rehabilitation scene. Movements or exercises are considered ‘functional’ if they support the movement patterns that are necessary for us to function in our daily lives. There are seven primal, functional movement patterns: bending, squatting, lunging, twisting, pulling, pushing and gait.
In a yoga practice much emphasis is placed on opening the heart. Opening the heart has physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual benefits.Rounded shoulders and a hunched spine are typically associated as the posture of someone who is less confident, timid, fearful or possibly depressed. We round our shoulders and stoop forward to protect our heart as we carry our emotional, psychological and/or spiritual wounds.