Sunday, 12 July 2009

The Anatomy of Yoga

A weekend of intense body engagement and awareness topped with heavy duty applied anatomy and physiology is the way to go sometimes. Refreshing and certainly interactive. Set in the woody environs of KLPAC, it was as organic as it gets in the heart of KL and well suited for the three-day Functional Anatomy & Yoga Physiology Workshop organised jointly by Yoga in Asia (Singapore) & Yogasana (Hong Kong).Whilst yoga practice and theory were being conducted in Studio 5 over the weekend, this performing arts center transformed to a hive of activity as young people rehearsed musicals, drama, song and dance with the familiar figures of Joe Hasham and Faridah Merican spending long hours providing mentorship to their young proteges. What is yogic practice? Who am I? These are the questions Yogi Michel Besnard asks at the beginning of the workshop. A Frenchman, originating from Normandy, but has since travelled far afield learning and teaching Astanga Vinyasa Yoga, now resides in Hong Kong and is the founder of Yogasana.

The practice is more about the what and the how rather than the why. The need for goal-setting is essential, as in all things important in life, from asanas to pranayama or yoga breathing.
Physiotherapist, Michelle Lam of Hong Kong, gave a thorough review of human skeletal anatomy and its physiology with the aid of 'John', and participants became active models in the learning of how poses affect the body and vice versa. For example, trikonasana or triangle pose , is abduction and internal and external rotation at the each of the hip joints, lateral flexion of trunk, abduction of arms at shoulder joints and rotation of neck. This translates to precise positioning, identification of joints and muscles involved, identification of limitations and recommendations for improvement.

Comparative skeletal markings highlight the body's asymmetry in common conditions like scoliosis and joint dysfunction. Note the imbalance in hips and buttocks and spine of scapula in the adho mukha svanasana or downward facing dog pose above. The use of blocks and backward traction of the hips further engages the muscles of the legs which corrects the misalignment.

Hanumanasana or split), is demonstrated here without (above) the use of props namely blocks, blankets, straps, bolsters etc which are used to improve alignment of varying body structures and help to prevent injury.

Victor Ch'ng, the founder of Yoga in Asia (Singapore), finds improved alignment with the use of blocks.

Sacro-Iliac Joint dysfucntion is a painful, chronic condition that limits movement. Michelle demonstrates how over-working a pose or poorly informed intructors can cause or worsen this condition.

More technical jargon like the Q angle, that ranges from 10 to 20 degrees, indicates hip flexibility. The downside of this is, the more flexible the hips the more proned to injuries.

Urdhva dhanurasana or upward bow pose is an important part of back bends. Although the three can get into the pose, they exhibit 3 different postures due to indivudual problems of compression, tension, proportion or strength.

A sound yoga teacher is one who understand the students' limitations and can facilitate better attainment of the pose. In this case, eka padaparivitta upavisthasanan or seated twist can aggrevate a SI joint dysfunction. Rather than twist at the shoulders which will damage the SI joint, a lifting action of the side of the chest and opening of the sternum will better achieve the goal.

The hips are a major joint with potential problems. Michel demonstrates the range of hip flexion which can improve with time and correct practice.

Inversions are an important part of yoga practice,yielding many benefits to the body and organs. Sarvangasana or shoulder stand, stimulates and rejuvenates the entire body, massages the thyroid, strengthens the shoulder, back and leg muscles. This pose can be done with the support of a wall if strength is an issue. Keeping knees bent is another option. A strap can be used to keep elbows drawn inwards and improves stability and strength.

If balance is an issue, wall support can be used to an advantage.

An energised and better informed group of new found friends at the end of the workshop with their teachers.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi there. I’m so glad you posted something on SI joint stability. Leeann Carey, an amazing yoga teacher, says that there are ways to protect the SI joint through yoga. She has a free yoga video on this that I think your readers might like: