• T
  • M
  • Sensational Yoga Poses

    The idea of "Sensational Yoga Poses" is to help you learn your body.

    To that end, Sensational yoga poses teaches you not only how to control your body, but how to feel it also.

    Dealing with Muscle or Joint Pain

    One of the reasons that I started to learn to feel my muscles (and control them) was to deal with muscle and joint pain as well as poor posture. Muscle or joint pain is generally a signal that something isn't working right.

    Pain is a pretty useful signal. In general, it's your brain telling you something isn't right.

    Muscle control (and varying the relationship or "alignment" between bones) is one way of changing the way you do a pose or movement to see if the pain signal turns of.

    If there's nothing wrong with your body but your brain thinks that there is, then muscle control can be a way of tricking the brain back into turning the pain signal off.

    As for poor posture (winging shoulder blades, head forwards posture etc), muscle control is also a useful tool. Muscle control gives you a feel for your body, and it also controls how your bones relate. You could say that poor posture is the result of poor muscle control habits. And so a part of poor posture is learning to feel and control the muscles that can help you regain good posture (as well as the muscles that pull you into bad posture.)

    If trying to alleviate joint or muscle pain or poor posture, it helps if you have some basic understanding to help you better decide how to use your muscles. And that's where the principles of muscle control come in!

    Principles for Muscle Control

    1. Muscles Create Sensation

    In particular it can help to understand that muscle control not only creates movement (as well as relaxation and stability). It also creates sensation. Muscle control, muscles turning on or off to vary tension and pressure within your body is what gives you the ability to feel your body.

    If you didn't have muscles, not only would you not have movement, you would also be severely deficient in body awareness. (And what point would there be to body awareness if you couldn't move it in the first place?)

    2. Muscle Control Keeps Joints Lubricated

    Muscle control directly affects synovial joint capsule tension, whether directly via tendons or ligaments, or indirectly via bursai that communicate with the joint capsule.

    For the most part, ligaments are "active" structures. They are directly affected by muscle activation!

    Muscle tension varies the tension in the joint capsule envelope which in turn pressurizes the synovial fluid within the joint capsule. This pressure keeps the joint lubricated (since it forces fluid between mating joint surfaces).

    This method of lubrication is called "Hydrostatic Lubrication".

    This not only keeps the joint lubricate, it also allows bones to adjust relative to each other which helps to distribute tension throughout the joint capsule.

    3. Muscles have Overlap

    In order for us to have the variety of movement and posture possibilities that we have, muscles overlap. As you move from one posture to another, as you change the shape of your body, muscles hand of to other muscles in a smooth progression.

    The brain can use this same overlap to keep joints protected in the case where one muscle isn't working.

    This then causes difficulty in some movements (because muscles are being used for other tasks) and over time can lead to pain from overuse.

    4. Muscles Work Against Force

    Muscles not only create force, they need a force to work against for sustained activation.

    As an example of this, if you flex your biceps, you'll notice that your triceps also activates. (You can also notice that your elbow is stabilized while you are flexing your biceps.)

    Muscles can work against some external force or weight, they can also work against each other. But in order to create non-momentary sensation, there needs to be some force for a muscle to work against.

    5. Muscle Control Has Logic

    Because of the need to keep joints lubricated, and because of the overlap in function of the muscle system, and because muscles need an opposing force to work against, there is a logic to muscle control that is similiar in some ways to "relay logic."

    Electrical relays can be set up in a way that certain relays stay on or off until another relay changes state. If a muscle won't turn on or turn off it may be because the "state" of another muscle is preventing it from turning on or off.

    Muscle logic also extends to posture. Posture affects muscle control just as muscle control affects posture.

    6. Muscle Control Requires Stability

    Another important idea with regard to muscle control is that muscles need a stable foundation, a fixed end point.

    Basically, one end of the muscle being controlled needs to be anchored. Then the muscle can activate or relax as required. And so muscle control (and even dealing with pain) can be as simple as created a fixed end point for whatever muscle ails you.

    7. Muscles Need Room To Move

    Another point when dealing with muscle control is that muscles are effective when they are "stretched" just the right amount. If the distance a muscle spans is too short, or too long, it becomes that much more difficult to activate a muscle effectively.

    So when trying to control particular muscles make sure that you are giving those muscles enough room to activate effectively.

    An Introduction to Muscle Control

    Sensational Leg Anatomy offers an introduction to leg control.

    Rather than focusing on different postures, it focuses on feeling and controlling the muscles of your legs while standing (and in a few cases, while sitting in a chair.)

    Here the focus is purely on learning to feel and control the muscles of your legs.

    • You don't have to be super flexible.
    • You don't have to do any special yoga poses.

    What leg anatomy can you learn while standing? In a nutshell, the anatomy that can help you begin to understand knee and hip problems and even in some cases SI joint problems.

    You'll also learn how to self-adjust, which is the equivalent of tuning a guitar. But instead of sounding right your body will "feel" right.

    Read the intro to Sensational Leg Anatomy to learn more.

    More Index

    For the latest articles check out What's New in the yoga poses blog page.

    Ashtanga Yoga (and Learning Little Bits at a Time)

    When I first started doing yoga I learned and then practiced the Ashtanga yoga primary series of yoga poses.

    It's a set series of yoga poses that I learned by memorizing little bits at a time.

    Categories of Yoga Pose

    Basics for Yoga Pose

    Two things you can do in any yoga pose are to work at creating space and to work at creating stability.

    Creating space or length makes you yoga pose look and feel big (and can improve both feel and control).

    Creating stability can be viewed as an important subset of control. It can be one of the first things that you create when using control, and it can lead to easier control of other parts of the body.

    Ironically (or not ironically) creating space in a yoga pose could be thought of as one way of creating stability since creating space tends to add tension to connective tissue which in results in not only a better feel for your body but stability.

    Yoga for Strengthenging

    One idea you can work on when trying to get stronger is creating stability.

    While you are at it, for efficient strength, work at feeling and controlling your muscles.

    Yoga for Flexibility

    When working to improve flexibility, you can use the same guidelines as in strength training.

    Create a stable foundation.

    Feel and control the muscles you are trying to stretch (and the muscles that oppose those muscles).

    Meridian Stretches

    In meridian stretching you can focus on relaxing the muscle being stretched so that you stretch the connective tissue within the muscle itself.

    Although you are trying to relax the muscle you are stretching, the goal isn't to relax completely. You still need to stabilize or anchor one end of the muscle being stretched.

    One advantage of meridian stretching is that it can leave you feeling refreshed.

    Breathing as a Muscle Control Practice

    Most breathing exercises are actually exercises in muscle control.

    Bar focusing on the actual passage of breath through your nostrils, throat or mouth, most breath control exercises ask you focus on feeling the sensations generated by your respiratory muscles.

    And so one way to think of muscle control is that it is like a breathing exercise, particularly if you practice activating and relaxing muscles slowly and smoothly.

    Proprioception
    (and Muscle Control)

    Muscle control is what allows you to consciously feel and control your body.

    It's via muscle control that you can develop proprioception (a fancy word for "feeling your body".)

    With respect to the posture, movement, muscle control and proprioception, tensegrity is the state where you've optimized tension throughout the body so that you can sense and respond simultaneously.

    You could think of it as being tuned, like a guitar or violin.

    Balance
    (And Body Awareness)

    Balance is about feeling and controlling your relationship with the earth.

    As you get better at feeling and controlling this relationship you can apply the same ideas to feeling and controlling the relationships within your body at least at the musculoskeletal level.

    And that's where the anatomy and biomechanics section comes in.

    Yoga Anatomy
    (Biomechanics is Built In)

    The study of anatomy and biomechanics can be used to help guide how you explore your own body.

    The idea here isn't just to talk about, say, the insertion and origin of the biceps muscle (I would just say attachment points) but to actually feel those end points and the muscle that pulls them towards each other in your own body.

    Anatomy:
    Shoulder, Elbow and Arm

    Anatomy:
    Torso and Spine

    Anatomy:
    Pelvis, SI Joints, and Low Back

    Anatomy:
    Hip Knee and Leg

    Sensational Leg Anatomy
    Learn to feel, identify and control your major leg muscles, from hip bones to toes

    Pain and Poor Posture

    Some people get into yoga to deal with pain. Others experience pain in the process of doing yoga.

    If you are going to try and fix any problems of pain yourself, I'd suggest that part of that process includes learning to feel and control your body.

    The feeling/sensing part is how you try to diagnose what is causing the problem. The controlling part is what you do to fix the problem.

    Learning to feel and control your body is a very long process. And you may find yourself going in circles, till you figure out what you need to do in order to go deeper. But if you deal with problems in other areas, the same process applies. In either case, the better you understand what you are dealing with, the easier it is to fix problems, (or redefine problems so that they are fixable.)

    If posture (or a lack of good posture) is the problem, the same thing applies. Practice feeling your body and controlling it so that you can then find good posture with minimum effort.

    Consciousness, Time and Space

    Depending on how you practice yoga, it can lead you to a better understanding of what it means to be more conscious.

    (It could simply be used to feel good and there's nothing wrong with that).

    But the better you understand consciousness, the easier it can be to apply what you learn in yoga to other aspects of your life.

    I'll suggest here that thinking, and ego, aren't bad things.

    They are handy tools to have.

    Thinking (and ego) are how we create limits, or definitions. Limits are tools that we can use to make learning more effective. The trick is learning to get rid of limits when they no longer serve.

    Being present is a state of consciousness where we aren't thinking, but we are aware. It's the state of mind where we become fully immersed in the present moment so that time seems to stop.

    You could think of being present as the equivalent of expanding your consciousness into the space of your immediate environment while when thinking your consciousness is expanded across time in "imaginary space".

    How does this relate to yoga?

    The more you focus on feeling your body and controlling it, the more present you become, and the less you think. And that's one reason for the focus on sensation, particularly tension and pressure. These sensations give you something to pay attention to in the present moment.

    Thinking, or analyzing is also important because this is how you look back on your experience of your body from another point of view.

    Both points of view help you to better understand your body.

    All of my yoga ebooks and videos are designed to help you have a better experience of your body. Currently you can find a list of them on my Neil Keleher page.

    Sensational yoga poses are a way of Learning Your Body.

    • The better you can feel your body (proprioceive),
    • the better you can experience it,
    • the better you can understand it

    The easier it is then to improve strength, improve flexibility, coordination, or simply the ability to "be present" in your body.