Saturday, 31 August 2013

The 4 paths

Why so much anatomy in this blog?!
After this post you'll know why eheheh!!!

Here i gave you a first definition of yoga and what you'll get practicing!

Let's be more traditional now!

We agree that yoga is the merging of your individual self with the universal self, let's reformulate in this way: out there there is an infinite source of energy that is all creating, all pervading, all moving, all effecting... you can fill this concept with religious words or philosophical words or scientific words or you can just keep it as a concept... if you consider this concept unexisting you should ask to yourself what is moving billions of planets in all the galaxies around billions of stars, how these stars are producing their energy -the sun is a star, remember!-, how this can happen from millions of years and is going to happen for millions of years... you will agree that there are some kind of forces ruling the universe... there is energy, there is a source of energy... what is that? how does it work? blablabla?
In the universe there are forces and there are rules the are the effect of the interaction of these forces! This is the macrocosm!

And then there are us, with our bodies and minds and in-understandable laws and understood laws and billions of cells and there are energies flowing through us and ways to increase them and to dissipate them and so on... this is our microcosm!

There are laws effecting everything at every level, everything will have a birth, a growth, a maturity, a decay, a death... be it a person, an animal, a plant, a rock, a planet, a star, a government, a country, an iphone...

There is a principle behind the macrocosmic universe and there is a principle behind your microcosmic personal universe... that principle is the same... merging your microcosm into the macrocosm, harmonizing yourself with natural rhythms and patterns... that is yoga!

Let's have a laugh, look at these 2 videos from... the Simpsons! Hope they'll give you something!


There are many different people on the planet, with many different inclinations, so to get to that final destination there must be many different ways!

Traditionally in yoga we have 4 main paths:

1- Karma Yoga: this is the path of selfless service, for people active in nature.

2- Bhakti Yoga: this is the devotional path, for people emotional in nature.

3- Raja Yoga: this is the path of controlling the mind, for people of scientific nature

4- Jnana Yoga: this is the path of knowledge, for people intellectual in nature.

Again my choice will be to deepen only a part of the whole picture, leaving the rest maybe for following articles or for your personal research!

In this blog we are talking mainly of Raja Yoga.

Raja Yoga is the path of controlling the mind, it's based on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali and it's one of the 6 traditional schools of indian philosophy.
It's the hardest path... do you think it's easy to control your mind?
It's the path leading to meditation as the step immediately preceding the final stage of samadhi, or super consciousness, a state devoid of thoughts and fluctuations in your mind, a state of complete stillness that will make you easy to see the reality as it is, to achieve the "phantomatic" self-realization that is considered the ultimate goal in life!

Anyway, being a so hard path to climb on that mountain... there are other paths leading the same mountain!
Controlling your mind you will control your body... the equation can be reversed, controlling your body you can get to the control of the mind... this is the concept behind Hatha Yoga!

In Hatha Yoga (this blog is mainly about Hatha and Raja Yoga!) we start cleaning our body, we go on understanding and balancing the forces behind the functioning of our body... when these forces will be balanced and the channels through which they move will be clean... at that point the control of the mind will be enough easy!

Hatha Yoga is a mean to reach the state of Raja Yoga, it's a part of it! Other techniques as Kundalini Yoga or Mantra Yoga are all considered under the bigger path of Raja Yoga.

The idea behind this blog is actually to focus on understanding the body and to develop an attitude of physical well being... after we'll be able to work on more subtle aspects as the breathing up to even more subtle topics as the mind... exactly the transition from hatha to raja!

Back to the 4 main paths... all is the same one thing and everything is just a different aspect of the same one thing... don't consider the 4 paths as something to compartmentalize, please!
For sure you'll follow some guidelines but at some point you'll find yourself in very different ways of practicing... only the final destination will always be the same... even if your understanding of it will change!
Yoga is not just becoming flexible and strong, yes it is, but not only! It will be an evolutionary process impacting all the aspects of your being... including understanding what your being is, that's the self-realization, the ultimate goal!

Friday, 30 August 2013

Connective tissue

Let's spend some words on our connective tissue from a yogic point of view!

You already know there are 4 kinds of tissues in our body, connective tissue is one of these. Anatomically talking it is a kind of biological tissue that connects, supports and separates the different types of tissues and organs of the body... it's a big category including bones, blood, fat, cartilage and more.

Nervous tissue controls everything, muscular tissue moves everything, epithelial tissue is the external clothing of the body and the internal lining of some organs... all the rest is connective tissue!
From our yogic point of view we'll focus on 4 types of connective tissue: tendons, ligaments, cartilage and fascia.
Why? Easy answer... we work with them a lot during our practice and it's important to know them to practice in total safety... we practice to feel good and better, if we know our body we can easily get this result... if you don't know what you're doing, you can't expect the best result, possibly you could even get the worst... this rule is applicable on every aspect of our life, do you agree?

1- Tendon: it's dense fibrous connective tissue that attaches muscles to bones

2- Ligament: it's dense fibrous connective tissue that attaches bone to bone

3- Cartilage: it can have different functions, we're here interested to the protective and smoothing function of the cartilage covering the bone extremities in our articular joints

4- Fascia: all your muscles and organs are wrapped by fascial sheaths, everything in you is enveloped and supported by a single unique fascial web interconnecting all from your toes to your head!

We already talked of this stuff -> here, here and here! Probably it's better if you read or read again those articles rather than repeating the same stuff, do you agree? About fascia we'll talk deeper in a following article, fascia is much more important than how it's traditionally considered!

Their composition is quite similar, they all have in common the presence of 2 proteins, collagen and elastin, in different proportions. As the name says, they have 2 specific functions, quite opposite in nature (remember this? it's another case of the 2 forces working together!)

1- collagen gives strength to these tissues
2- elastin gives them the capacity to stretch at a certain level when a force is applied and to go back to the original state when the force stops

They're present in bones and muscles as well, in different proportions... we should not consider bones, ligaments, tendons, muscles as different "objects"... but as the same one thing with different proportions of their -similar- ingredients... there is the bone that is very hard because of large amount of collagen and very small of elastin... the mix starts changing and the structure is a bit more elastic but still very strong... we call it tendon... the proportion changes again and it becomes a softer and more elastic tissue that we call muscle... on the other side of this tissue the proportion changes again becoming more harder and we have again a tendon that in turn will become even less elastic and more hard... we have a bone again... got this concept? We give many names to the various aspects of the same one thing... if you don't agree it's all the same one thing try to imagine it without one of its aspects, for example take out from the organism the muscular system (we could not move anymore... how could we get our nutrition?) or simply one substance as elastin (now we're hard as rocks, what to do?) or the connective tissue (ready to fall apart?!?!). To understand how it works we gave many names... otherwise how could you be tested at school on the argument eheheh!!?!?

What should be our attitude towards them during our practice?
First... We have to keep in mind that we are strengthening them... the more you use (in a good way!) the more it's reinforced... usual fact isn't it? If you know that and you have the concept present in your attitude while you're exercising... magically it will happen even more... it's a trick of using your thought power in the proper way eheheh!
Second... when you stretch you should really forget tendons and ligaments... i mean you must not focus on stretching them, not even try! They're there to give stability to your joints, they're mostly made of collagen, elastin is there for not to break easily... ligaments can elongate safely around 4%... that is nothing, maybe 1 mm? Would you like to risk to stretch them so much to tear or not to go back to the size stabilizing the joint to gain 1 or 2 mm? Your muscles must stretch, there you'll gain centimeters over time!
Third... alignment and awareness please!!! Your cartilages like to be used in the proper way, the force bearing on the maximum possible surface (joint congruence)... not all on a single square millimeter in a goofy attempt to try a difficult pose without proper awareness of what's happening in your body!
Fourth... the fascia, that's what you want to work on!!! Soon an article about that!

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Muscular system - Functions and yoga benefits

Muscular system - part I
Muscular system - part II
Muscular system - part III

We described in a basic way the muscular system and how it works... but what are its functions?

1- Movement: this is the most obvious function, you move in space through the contraction of your muscles!

2- Posture: bones and muscles together hold you in the position in which you are right now!

3- Protection: think of your abdominal internal organs... stomach, intestine, pancreas and so on... without the strong barrier of your abdominal muscles it would be very easy to severely injure them!

4- Breathing: it happens through muscles, the diaphragm (the main breathing muscle) is the biggest muscle in your body!

5- Communication: you talk through muscles that help the voice production in your larynx, you write and paint and produce art through muscles in your body!

6- Production of heat: muscle contraction is the result of a chemical reaction that has heat generation as side product... maybe in summer you don't like this but when you are very very cold your muscles will start shivering to help you to maintain your vital temperature!

7- Internal life: the heart is a muscle and you live through its constant pumping of blood in your body, muscles are present in your blood vessels to help the blood circulation, muscles are involved in many internal movements as the food moving in your intestine during the digestion and different secretions from internal organs... or simply the expulsion of urine!

Is this enough?

What's the relation between yoga&muscles?

To begin let's say that your muscles are 100% under the control of your nervous system! Then let's add that yoga is 100% education and stimulation (i don't mean arousal!) and improvement of your nervous system!
As direct consequence yoga will improve any of the muscular system functions... simply because it improves the efficacy of the system directly controlling it!

Furthermore yoga will strengthen all your muscles through the different poses you'll move in, hold and move out... in the image utkasana, the chair pose
Yes, he's obviously strenghtening a lot of muscles at the same time!
You will actively engage different parts of your body in the poses and some muscles will be performing an isotonic contraction while others will be isometrically contracting and others eccentrically lengthening... all at the same time eheheh, maybe a bit overwhelming at the beginning but very nice and enjoyable after a couple of classes... the nervous system is learning new movements and possibilities!!!
Strengthening your muscles you will do the same for your connective tissue and skeletal system!
The muscle contraction will generate a force that will be transferred to your tendons and then to your bones... this increased stimulation will signal to your body that those areas need to be reinforced... we have already seen how your osteoclasts and osteoblasts will do this job... the bone remodelling function! Muscular and skeletal systems are deeply connected... keep in mind that muscles require calcium to work... and calcium is stored mainly in your bones! Improve one system, get results on the other as well!

Your posture will change and you'll tend to be more aligned and straight... because you'll release unnecessary tensions from some muscle and start using some more efficient muscle in more efficient way... being aligned and straight means less required effort... you have a "silent enemy" always active... it's the gravity force!
Try this exercise!
1- Lay down on your back, arms near your body, palms facing down, legs and feet together
2- Inhale and raise your both legs 90° with the straight knees
3- Now check how much force you need to hold the legs in this position
4- Try now with the legs 60°
5- Try 45°
6- Try 30°
Do you feel the difference? Legs 90° means they are aligned with the gravity force line and your bones are absorbing much of it, it's enough easy to stay in this position for some time! When you start lowering the legs, specially at 30° the gravity force will be trying to push down a much more larger surface of your body, your bones will not help you anymore and you will feel it much harder!
We'll talk more on gravity force... for now understand that the more straight and aligned you are... the less muscular effort you'll need!
Through yoga a lot of tensions will be released from your body... often we actively contract some muscle (think to the crouched position we often assume in front of our computer or in the office or while texting with the phone!) but we "forget" to release them when we change what we are doing... some muscular contraction will remain welcoming us when we're back in front of the computer... this unnecessary contraction will increase day by day tightening itself... the result will be a stiff and tense body... obviously those contracted muscles will require energy to stay in permanent contraction (!!!) and this energy will be subtracted from the energy you could use to enjoy your life instead of carrying up that situation!
Doing your asana practice will release the tensions, give to your contracted muscles a rest, increase the activity of "too much relaxed muscles" (agonist vs antagonist means that if a side of your body  is always tight... as consequence the opposite side will be weak!) and start building a balanced structure on which you will enjoy much more your life!
Next step will be to develop a stronger body awareness... now you recognize which posture is crouching you and which one is opening you, your body will find easy to sit with a straight spine so you'll prefer it to a compressed position... your mood will change because your posture and your mind are strictly connected... if you never noticed it try to sit straight with your chest open and lifted up by your sternum opening your lungs, neck in line with your spine, shoulders in line with your torso, slightly open to the back and relaxed, chin parallel to the floor but slightly tuck in and have a deep and relaxed abdominal breathing. How does this position affect your mind and mood? If you find this natural position impossible to achieve don't you think you should start doing something to bring you more close to it?!?!
Now try to sit in a typical modern days position... shoulders and neck forward, inward collapsed chest, outwardly relaxed abdominal wall and internal organs, egg shaped spine, compression of lungs and air passageways, have a shallow, fast, clavicular breathing (logical consequence of the pose!). How does this position affect your mind and mood? Do you find any difference with the previous open position? Do you recognize the apparent easiness of the second compared to the first? Do you think that the second is more sustainable and healthy for you compared with the first? How often do you find yourself in the first or second position during your day? Do you think that a more natural and sustainable could be associated to a state of wellness?Can you associate an unnatural slouched pose to some typical pain that modern people suffers, lower back pain in primis? If you could choose between wellness and pain... which one would you choose?!?!

Your balance, coordination and skills will improve simply because you will start training these functions in your body! There is nothing special, nothing magic, nothing inaccessible to anybody of any age, sex, present abilities or condition... there's only one way: practice and everything will come... but the biggest secret is: start practicing!!!

You will be the witness of the change happening in your body... change happening as mathematical result of strengthening and awakening core and postural muscles, releasing unnecessary tensions, strengthening weak areas, reallocating energetic resources in your body, balancing your system, acquiring coordination and muscular control, establishing a new tendency towards a more sustainable and healthy way to sit, stand and move!!!

Sunday, 25 August 2013

Muscular system - III

Muscular system - part I
Muscular system - part II

We've seen that a (skeletal) muscle has 3 possibilities:

1- To contract - this is the only "active" possibility, there is a generation of force that will lead to some result
2- To relax - this is a releasing of the contracting force, anyway being an act of release we could say it's active as well even if the action is the "un-doing" of a previous contracting action
3- To be stretched - it's normally a passive situation, it happens when the attachments of the muscle are pulled apart so that the muscle lengthens -> probably it's in the "antagonist modality" or maybe we're intentionally practicing some stretching technique (or should i say yoga??!)

Each of the 3 possibilities will lead to one of this 3 states:

1- State of contraction: it happens when you're doing an active muscular effort... but the muscle can remain in (partial) contraction when you "forget" to release it after the effort (muscular tension, stress and so on... we'll talk much more on this!). A certain amount of muscle contraction is always happening, that's the muscular tone, for example it keeps you ready for action or it keeps you in your actual position through the postural muscles

2- State of relaxation: the switch is on the "off" position and the muscle is resting... this very idealistic though! We've seen that the contraction level of the muscle depends by how many sarcomeres are contracting in that moment... let's say that more sarcomeres are relaxed the more the muscle is relaxed. In deep sleep or deep meditation we reach our highest levels of muscular relaxation!

3- State of stretch: this is a pleasant state with many benefits! How do you feel stretching your arms and legs when you wake up? Or when you are tired and sleepy? Do you get that refreshing sensation? Yes man, your muscles LOVE to be stretched, all your body LOVES to be stretched!!! We'll talk much more on this (hehhe it's a yoga blog, remember?)... for the moment consider this... your muscles can contract and can relax... but they can't stretch by themselves, it's a passive movement that requires action somewhere else, yoga at a physical level is mostly about stretching your muscles, instead of continuously contracting them as you do at the gym or running or in most of modern days physical activities!

Talking about contraction we can distinguish 3 types of contraction:

1- Isotonic contraction: the contraction shortens the muscle and movement happens... when you bend your arm at the elbow joint the biceps are performing an isotonic contraction

2- Isometric contraction: the muscle is contracting but there is no shortening of its fibers... because you're not allowing it or the weight you are trying to lift is higher than the force applied (if possible to apply more force maybe the isometric contraction will become isotonic) or the object you're trying to move is unmovable... try to push a wall away, that's an isometric contraction

3- Eccentric contraction (aka eccentric lengthening): the muscle is lengthening while actively contracting. The result will be a smoothing or a slowing down of the movement, you will have more control on it. Imagine to be standing with an heavy weight in your hand and the bent elbow... if you allow your arm to straighten without opposing any force the movement will be a quick jerk (gravity will quickly pull down the weight!) that can injury the joint or the tissues. If you release the arm in a slow and controlled way it will be because of the eccentric contraction of your biceps

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Muscular system - II

We gave a basic description of muscles and how they contract (Muscular system - part I)

We said that muscles are attached to bones through tendons, those attachment points are called origin and insertion:

1- Origin is the attachment to the bone less movable during the muscle contraction
2- Insertion is the attachment to the bone more movable during the muscle contraction

Do you see?
The biceps (i like to use them as example eheheh!!) have 2 origins in the bones in the shoulder area and 1 insertion on the radius bone in the forearm.
The gastrocnemius (one of your calf muscles) has the origin on the femur bone (the thigh bone) and the insertion on the calcaneus bone.

When the muscle contracts it will become shorter bringing nearer the attached bones resulting in flexion of the arm at the elbow in the first case, extension of the foot (technically this is called plantar flexion) in the second.

Let's make friendship with our body! Take your right biceps with the left hand, can you feel the soft middle part? That's the belly of the muscle! It will be easy to follow all its shape up and down, can you? Going up towards the shoulder at a point you will lose it, there is the deltoid and the biceps will dive under! Now go down toward your inner elbow... can you feel that at a point the belly becomes smaller and harder? That's the tendon! And then it goes down to attach to your forearm... you are in the insertion area!
Now try your hamstrings, the muscles on the back of the thigh! They are a group of 3, all originating at your ischial tuberosities (those 2 bones you can touch under your buttocks! We call sitting bones because you should sit on them pointing straight down, maybe a little on the anterior side!).
Sit on your chair and touch behind your right knee bent 90°, can you feel that hard stuff? Try twisting only the lower leg to the right side and then to the left side, you will feel them more! They're the tendons, you can touch one on the right external side (lateral side - biceps femoris tendon) and 2 on the left internal side (medial side - at the beginning they seem 1 but touching accurately you can feel the big semimembranosus tendon and the smaller semitendinosus tendon!)

Let's go back to your bent elbow... what to do if we want to bring it straight again? Should we ask to the biceps to "un-contract" and straighten the elbow? You can try but probably it won't work... maybe you can relax the biceps, put a stick between forearm and upper arm and with the other arm operate the stick to unwind the arm... mmmhhh... it's a bit complicated... and you always need a stick with you!

That's why our muscles work always in pairs to achieve movement... in the upper arm case there are the biceps on one side that flex the arm... and there are the triceps on the other side that extend the arm.
So in every movement of our body we can distinguish 4 groups of muscles:

1- Agonist: it's the prime mover, the main muscle envolved in the movement, the biceps in the case of elbow flexion
2- Antagonist: usually it's on the opposite side of the bone, its role is the opposite movement, in the case of elbow flexion the antagonists are the triceps (their role is to extend the elbow)

Agonists and antagonists are just definitions depending by the movement i am doing...
if i want to flex my elbow -> biceps are agonists/triceps are antagonists
if i want to extend my elbow -> triceps are agonists/biceps are antagonists
What is important is the concept: when i perform a movement there is a main mover (agonist) that contracts, at the same time there is an "opposite movement maker" (antagonist) that relaxes. We'll explore more this relationship when we'll talk of the nervous system!

And then we have

3- Synergists: they're muscles designed to help the agonist in its movement, to make it more precise or accurate, to give more strength or help it with alignment, they help to refine the movement. The biceps have the brachialis and brachioradialis as synergists

4- Fixators: considering that all the body is interconnected, these muscles stabilize some part of the body while you are moving another part... imagine to be in a balancing pose and your balance is weak... probably half of your muscles will be engaged in trying to hold your balance eheheh!!

Again a couple of videos to clarify all these concepts in your mind... i suppose that reading descriptions, looking at images, seeing videos combining descriptions&images is good enough to acquire these informations?

I'm not sure why i can't put the video player directly in the page!

Friday, 23 August 2013

Muscular system - I

Let's talk about the muscular system, again i'll try to point only at those facts relating our yoga practice and not to become too encyclopedically boring eheheh!

Our muscular system is made of more than 600 muscles, muscles are made of one of the 4 tissues composing our body... muscular tissue (as you know from a previous article, tissues originate (as anatomic definition!) when cells with a similar function organize together to perform that function

There are 3 major types of muscles:
1- Striated or skeletal, they can be voluntarily controlled to move the body, perform activities or mantain the posture
2- Smooth or involuntary, typical of your internal organs, for example they move the food inside your stomach and intestine during digestion. Breathing and blood circulation are assisted by smooth muscles
3- Cardiac, striated muscles that work on an involuntary basis, the tissues composing our heart!

Here i'll refer mainly to striated/skeletal muscles!

What's the basic structure of our muscles?

In a few words muscles are composed of many strands of tissue called fascicles that in turn are made of many strands of muscle fibers that in turn are made of many elastic "strings" called myofibrils that in turn are made of filaments called myofilaments!

Does it seems complicated? Maybe it seems but it is not... imagine a rope:
It's made of many strands of a certain material bundled together, in the same way as our muscles are made!
There are myofilaments that together make myofibrils (the basic muscular string, as you see in the rope picture), many myofibrils are bundled together in a strand called muscle fiber, many muscle fibers are bundled together in a strand called fascicle, many fascicles are bundled together to form a muscle... easy isn't it? Sharing the same structural concept ropes and muscles both have the quality of tensile strength, you need a good amount of force to break them while stretching their extremities!

What can a muscle do? Well, not many options... it can contract / relax / be stretched!

To understand how contraction happens let's look at the myofibrils... they are elastic strings, the basic structure of muscular tissue! Look at your biceps in the upper arm, they're made of millions of myofibrils (bundled on different levels), every myofibril is made of series of contiguous -even more basic- structures called sarcomeres:

In every sarcomere there are 2 important proteins: myosin (a thick filament) and actin (a thin filament)

they're the main actors for muscular contraction, the muscle receives the contraction order from your nervous system (we'll talk much more about it, for now consider it as your communication system... for example you decide to bend your arm, so the nervous system carries to the necessary muscles in your arm the electrical impulses that will contract your biceps resulting in the bending of your elbow), after receiving the order some chemical reaction will happen in your sarcomeres

when contracted actin and myosin will slide on each other shortening the muscle... the shortening of the muscle will originate a movement between adjacent bones at a joint (obviously i'm talking here of an isotonic contraction!) (

Have a look at these 2 videos, i'm sure they'll clarify all this explanation in your mind! Don't try to understand everything, in some part are very technical... just get what you get ehehe!!!

The overall contraction of your muscle depends by how many sarcomeres are contracting at the same time... everyone has only 2 options: contracted or relaxed. It's not possible for a single sarcomere to be slightly contracted... that will happen on your muscle when maybe 25% of the sarcomeres are contracted... obviously 50% is half of your possible contraction on that muscle and 100% of the sarcomeres contracting will result in your full contraction of the muscle!!

Monday, 19 August 2013

Class promotion

The usual wednesday's class will be advanced to today 19/8... from tomorrow i'll be off to Italy and the next class will be the 11th of September!

It will be focused on strengthening the body and gaining control on our muscles to expand our choice of possible movements. There will be some experimentation to implement new ideas i had from a course i attended in the weekend!!!

It will be in Brick Lane area, Heneage Street 16-18, at the Rag Factory, postcode E15LJ, there are yoga mats so don't worry, bring yours only if you like it, class will start at 19 (come some minute before) , 12 pounds for a 2 hours long class!

You can pop in or text me a confirmation at 07404675553

See you later!!

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Cells, prana and apana

We talked about us as the union of trillions of cells, organized together for a common purpose called life!

There are 3 common parts in all our cells:
1- Nucleus: it controls the cellular processes and contains the genetic code
2- Cytoplasm: it's a fluid substance filling the cell, it's the support for the organelles (small cell's internal organs)
3- Plasma membrane: it's the membrane separating the internal from the external environment

You have seen some of the trillions of cells constituting your body, i've put more images so you can make an idea, in 2 of them there are short descriptions of the organelles functions.

Cells are the smallest living unit, they're a very small replica of your body (or maybe your body is a big replica of your cells?), with a central processing unit (nucleus), different organs to achieve all the necessary functions (organelles) and something holding all together (plasma membrane)... you are a bit more complicated but you have a central processing unit (brain plus nervous system), different organs necessary for your life (heart, lungs, liver, stomach, glands and so on) and something holding all together (the external lining is the skin but you have connective tissue absolving this function as well). Exactly as you need food to survive, your cells need to acquire some kind of nutrients and at the same time to expel waste. Cells live and die, they are constantly replaced by new cells, they need to reproduce... same as we do on the planet, we keep reproducing otherwise we would disappear in some time!

I want you to focus on this fact: even at the root of life, at the cellular level 2 distinct and opposite forces are working together :

1- the first is related to the source of energy (food, nutrients, oxygen) coming in and to the force principle behind the acquisition of these nutrients, we call it prana

2- the second is related to the waste physiologically resulting from metabolic processes (easy words: daily activities) going out and to the force principle behind the elimination of the waste, we call it apana

The cell membrane is the perfect example of a structure balancing prana and apana, it contains the cell in while leaving the world out, it lets nutrients and required substances come in while it lets waste and unwanted substances go out... at this level everything is a kind of fluid, the cell membrane is a balance of containment and permeability, it protects while permitting something to pass through... if this barrier was too strong the cell would die by starvation (not enough nutrients coming in) or intoxication (too much unexpelled waste), if the barrier was too loose... well, can you imagine the liquid cytoplasm spilling out?

This 2 concepts together, integrity and permeability, are again fundamental in nature and yoga philosophy...
in sanskrit we say

1- sthira: steadyness, firmness
2- sukha: gentleness, softness, comfortable

I would say that yoga is very deeply connected with these 2 concepts, yoga as all the idea of life in general.
Try this exercise:
- sit comfortably
- close your eyes
- try to sit with the spine straight, shoulders relaxed, chin parallel to the floor, palms up, on your knees, thumb and index finger touching together
- connect your mind with your body by simply being aware of your breath, aware of the air coming in when you inhale, aware of the air going out while you exhale
- now, without doing nothing in particular, just holding this pose and being aware of your body sensations, try to connect with your spine, can you feel an upward movement of the spine (if you can't feel the spine, maybe you can feel the torso or your muscles expanding) while you breath in? can you feel this sensation or this movement as an expansion? as an elongation? as an activation?
- now breath out... can you feel the effects of this exhalation on your spine? can you feel it shortening? can you feel your body relaxing while you breath out? can you feel a sense of deepening?

Did you feel it? On inhalation the pranic force is acting, on exhalation apanic force is acting, on inhale sthira is happening, on exhale sukha is happening... all your life should be a perfect balance between the 2, between containment and permeability, rigidity and plasticity, boundaries and space, between the "apparently" opposite attitudes "never surrender" and "always let go".

Life is a continuous mix and play of these 2 forces, almost all the original cultures noticed it and integrated in their knowledge as the chinese did with the yin-yang theory... here we risk to go in a side track, better to talk of it in a following post!

Coming back to our yoga practice... Patanjali in his Yoga Sutras (2.46) gives only these words to describe the physical postures of yoga

Meaning that every posture (asana) should be steady (sthira) and comfortable (sukham)  and this is exactly what we are looking for in every asana, to reach a balanced mix of grounding and mindful expansion, only at that point you will be in the asana... until that moment it will be only effort you are putting on the path to be there!
This pose is Virabhadrasana 1, the warrior... can you see the elegance and the grace? Can you see the balance between the grounding apana and the uplifting prana? can you feel this pose as steady and comfortable?
Of course the first time i tried it i was shaking in all my body and sweating from fingers to toes including the nose, my front thigh was far from being parallel to the floor and my back foot not really flat on the floor (considering it makes implicit a certain openness in the hips!) but when you gain the necessary qualities of balance, strength and openness this asana will be easy and possible to hold for long time without any discomfort, now you are in the asana!

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Class promotion

Tomorrow 14th august, i teach the usual class in Brick Lane area (London!).
It will be a -not hard- class, focus on strengthening the body, gaining control on muscles to improve the choice of movements. We'll blend some vinyasa with a more traditional Sivananda sequence, as usual we begin with breathing's exercises and finish with long guided relaxation!

It will be in Heneage Street 16-18, the Rag Factory, postcode E15LJ, there are yoga mats so don't worry, bring yours only if you like it, class will start at 19 (come some minute before) , 12 pounds for a 2 hours long class!

As usual i'll try to teach you something, it will not be an ordinary "execute my instructions" class!!

You can pop in or text a confirmation to 07404675553

Monday, 12 August 2013

Biology and union!


Biology is a natural science concerning the study of life and living organisms and all the related stuff.
Anatomy is the study of the body and body parts.
Physiology is the study of the functions of living organisms.

Can you see the 3 as the same argument, from different points of view? Can you see biology as general container, anatomy and physiology as "blocks" of biology? Or maybe biology as a full study course and anatomy and physiology as 2 of the many exams you need to pass to become doctor in biology?

So we have the main subject "life" that has been examined, divided and studied under different points of view to make a full systematic and organized study course... this organization is necessary for an easier approach and understanding... unless you like to have only one book, 15.000 pages, for tomorrow written assignment on page 1 to page 7.500...!!!

 Organization is the key!

Our body is a fully integrated organized whole... this is the only way we must consider it!
Obviously if we want to understand it, its parts, its functions, how it grows, works, evolves and decays we need to spread the whole argument into different levels of organization.

All around there are infinite atoms, the basic unit of matter, these are the bricks building everything... in the past they were considered the littlest unit... obviously even a brick must be made of something, so are atoms... but now we're going to examine from atoms up! Atoms will join in molecules, than there can be macromolecules and organelles... and finally we get to the first step in the ladder of life: cells!


This is how we are organized

1- Cellular level. Cells are the smallest living entity constituting us, we are literally made by trillions of cells living in the same way we live, with the same needs... nutrients, energy, to expel waste, to reproduce and so on!

2- Tissues. Cells are not all equal, they have a life and in their life they may become involved in different processes, they tend to specialize on particular functions -a nervous cell is similar but different than a muscular cell!- and to aggregate together to achieve that particular function. When similar cells aggregate together for a specific function we call them tissues. We have 4 possible types of tissues:
      a) epithelial
      b) muscular
      c) connective
      d) nervous

3- Organs. When different tissues organize together for a specific function they form an organ. Heart, brain, lungs, stomach... all organs, that means they're different tissues organized together, every tissue formed by many cells with similar specialization. For example the stomach is made of epithelial tissue (the lining), connective tissue (blood), muscular tissue (that makes it contract to help the digestive process), nervous tissue (commanding and regulating all the process).

4- Systems. Groups of different organs working together for the same function are defined systems... the digestive system is made of esophagus, stomach, liver, small intestine, large intestine and other organs, everyone has a specific role, together they work to transform the food you get from outside, absorb the nutrients and expel the waste. Your bones are organs (yes, they're made of different tissues so they classify as rigid organs!) organized together as a skeletal system to give you a shape, protect other internal organs and so on. Then we have the muscular system, nervous system, lymphatic system, respiratory system, circulatory system and more!

5- Organism. This is you! You are a living organism that is made by the union and the organization of trillions of cells in tissues, organs, systems to permit you to move, enjoy and support all the basic vital functions.

At this point some considerations on who we are and what we are... for sure if you think enough you will answer that you are not any of your systems or organs or tissues or cells and at the same time you are all of them... what we are is really the living union of different living parts... at the same time these parts are the union of other living parts... until you reach a level, cellular level, that is the union of other -non living- parts as atoms or molecules... what is the difference between a cell and a molecule? well, we could say that in a cell all the components are organized in some way for a combined result that is life, while in molecules there are only atoms bound together doing nothing.

- we are the union of trillions of parts -again the concept of union, the the meaning of yoga!
- all the parts are organized together for a common function
- the organized union is the difference between living and not living (cells vs molecules)

Do you agree?

Sunday, 11 August 2013

More on procrastination!

I told you, this is something i've to work on, so i'll write some more about procrastination!

You have a task to complete but you delay in doing it, even in starting it, preferring to do something less urgent instead or even going to the park instead or even doing nothing instead, maybe only lying on your bed looking at the ceiling.
The task you need to (start and) complete can be your yoga practice or your sport training or that relation for your job or those pictures to work on or that book to study for the exam or even the flight to book for your already decided and planned travel abroad, that interesting ad found on gumtree to answer and so on... and every time for some subtle reason... simply you won't do it... until the moment that you really have to do, maybe because you have a deadline... at that point in some cases you'll rush in doing it -overactivating your nervous system- or in other cases you'll pay the flight 2 or 3 times more or you will regret to have lost a super good offer...
...well, almost 99% of the times, late start doesn't give you benefits, not even that "i work better under pressure" that somebody keeps repeating his your mind... that's only the sensation coming from adrenaline and all the other stuff released by the sympathetic nervous system when you're on (perceived) emergency!

Did you get this concept? Do you find yourself in this situation? How often?

Procrastination is to voluntarily delay an intended course of action despite expecting to be worse off for the delayThere can be different causes as disliking the task or lack of self-confidence (not feeling enough for the task will make you to postpone it, extreme perfectionists can have a similar feeling). It's connected with impulsiveness, the more you act on impulses the more you tend to procrastinate a planned task, that's very logical!
Planning, impulse control, attention are all rooted in the prefrontal cortex of our brain... it's very important because an imbalance in this area can reduce your ability to filter out distracting stimuli, resulting in poorer organization, loss of attention and increased procrastination... can you imagine to sit at your desk to do your task and suddendly all the possible distractions come into your mind? This is the reason... and this is something that through yoga we can work on, to gain enough mental strength to be able to concentrate more.
Concentration is opposite of dispersion, i'd say that procrastination is a good friend of dispersion, so let's work on our ability to concentrate and we'll overcome the procrastinating attitude!

If we look from the point of view of Raja Yoga the situation is easy to understand and handle:
1- Somewhere there is an unbalance
2- The tamasic quality of nature is prevailing
3- Being aware of this you have 2 choices leading to the same result
     a) Decrease the tamasic quality so you will be free to act (this is more hard, need a strong mind control)
     b) Increase the opposite rajasic quality... act! (this is more easy)

If you don't know raja yoga or tamas and rajas... we'll talk on them... for the moment take the most important part with you -being aware of-!!!

There are many tools to improve your life, maybe infinite tools?
Every of them will gravitate under these words -being aware of-!!!

Next time, when you recognize that you are postponing something important... be aware of it! Ask to yourself why you are procrastinating (actually it's not only ask to yourself... pretend the answer from yourself!) and really examine the pro and cons of doing it tomorrow... and then evaluate what to do and take a decision, a decision based on awareness, maybe you'll postpone anyway but at least you'll know that you postponed because of an actual decision rather than some automatic pattern response...
Procrastination can be very deep in your way of acting, everything so deep most of times goes on automatic pilot, be aware of it, try to make it become a conscious decision... that's the way to make a conscious decision to change the pattern, in this occasion or at the next one... first step: BE AWARE OF IT!

Anyway to be sure not to miss another workshop because of late booking... i already booked next week's Vinyasa Immersion with Mimi Kuo-Deemer at Triyoga, see you there!!

Couple of links to deepen the argument

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Procrastination and the distractions of the mind

Today and tomorrow i was supposed to attend an interesting workshop about anatomy under a yoga perspective. I could't because i waited to book online until this morning at 7.30, on the website there was no cue about being sold out but i couldn't book, i called and, of course, the course was full... this is the effect of procrastination in your daily life... you have already planned to do something but you procrastinate in taking the necessary steps... procrastination will usually lead to consequences you won't like... procrastinate to book the flight for your planned holidays and you will see the price going up and up and up!

In the traditional sources of yoga (i'm referring now to the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, verse I.30) 9 main distractions of the mind are listed as main obstacles on the yogic path... if we broaden our point of view we can define them as general obstacles in our life, in our daily quest to obtain results, may them be in our job, sport, relationships, whatever! We can consider them as "wrong" attitudes of your mind, defining wrong as something bringing you away from your chosen/expected goal, obviously we can define right as something bringing you nearer to your chosen/expected goal... just an introduction on the right/wrong argument!

Let's see them one by one, i'll describe them talking of yoga practice but can be adapted to any of your activities:

1-Vyadhi: illness/disease, physical or mental. Of course when you have a cold or pain in your teeth you will use them as excuse for not doing your practice.
In Ayurveda vyadhi is defined as a state of your body or mind in which they're subject to discomfort, pain or injury. The fundamental cause is the imbalance between your 3 doshas, vata-pitta-kapha... equilbrium is called health, disequilibrium is called disease, unbalance is the root of all diseases!

2-Styana: apathy, dullness, idleness, mental laziness... leading to procrastination. This is a very tamasic attitude, "i'm tired now, i'll do it later", "i've something else to do, i'll do it later", "it's not so important, i'll do it later", "i don't like to do it but i have to... anyway i'll do it later", "i don't feel ready to do it, i'll do it later"... are these words familiar to you? in my case yes, it's something i've to work on, lot of us should work on this... the usual problem in procrastination is that tomorrow never comes... and if it comes, it will be much more expensive than yesterday!

3-Sanshaya: doubt. Of course you will start doubting, on yourself, on your capacities, on what you are doing, on your teacher... doubt is a state in between belief and disbelief, the mind is stuck between two contradictory propositions... the "valley of maybe vs maybe not" is a very dangerous place to stay for your well being!
How to overcome doubts? -Theoretically- is very easy, you only need a faith, a certainty that what you're doing is right, sometimes you only need to take a decision and stick with it!

4-Pramada: indolence, negligence, inattentiveness, carelessness. Pramada will impact the quality of your practice, whatever you do the attention to details is the key to reach a superior performance. Pramada is on the opposite side, moreover it is the factor leading to forgetfulness and again to procrastinate!

5-Alasya: sloth, laziness. Should i add something? Is there any single aspect of your life that can improve through this attitude?? Discipline is on the opposite side!

6-Avirati: it is the constant desire, necessity and craving for wordly objects, you want this and that, those, everything, constantly! This is the root of the non-cessation of your mental and physical activity, always on because always running behind the infinite stimuli coming from outside.

7-Bhranti darshana: misinterpretation, wrong perception. Is it actual nowadays? How many people read a couple of lines in some article in some magazine and build a full cosmogony on that? They become so convinced to know, to have the right understanding that some are even ready to fight for their credences... whatever the magazine was advertising...!

8-Alabdhabhumikatwa: the sum of all the previous... the inability to progress! Often being unable to progress is synonym of being stuck... and being stuck is the prologue for decline... or acquiring the ability to progress! You can't be stuck forever, something will happen and it will be your choice... up or down?

9-Anavasthitatwani: you got there... but you lost it! This is the inability to maintain your progress. Unfortunately (or maybe luckily!?!?) wherever you'll get in this world will bring you the responsibility to maintain your new position, be it your new job or your new relationship or the new asana you finally went into, whatever!

So? Did you find yourself in any of these? That's very good, understanding clearly some of the tricks of our mind is a good way to change our patterns for the better. I call them tricks because in a certain way your mind is fighting against you, the mind can be like a drunk monkey bitten by a scorpion... can you imagine its reaction when you try to tame it? Your mind will do everything for not being tamed, you can only keep on doing your practice, day by day, step by step and the results are bound to come, you are bound to success!

All this factors generally can work all together, they are all connected and one opens the road for the others... example? Today i don't feel good as usual, it was an hard day (vyadhi), maybe i will rest and practice tomorrow (styana). Tomorrow i feel again a little down, maybe rest again or do something else instead. After one week finally i practice again and feel some discomfort in my usual poses, i don't feel enough flexible for this yoga (sanshaya), i'm not focusing anymore and don't pay attention to alignments and details (pramada). Last practice wasn't very exciting, should i do it today? Or should i stay in bed one more hour... or day (alasya)? Well, maybe i could go out for some chocolate muffin and coffee, or should i opt for a full english breakfast (avirati)... i'll do yoga tomorrow. After 2/3 weeks like this my mind gives me this nice suggestion... "i'm too stiff, yoga is not for me"... stiffness is the problem, yoga is the solution for stiffness but i wrongly perceive (bhranti darshana) that -because i have that problem i can't access to that solution- mmmh, here we are, mind is giving checkmate on me! At this point obviously you can't progress anymore and you could even lose your past results if you really let yourself sink...

Friday, 9 August 2013

Skeletal system - Yoga benefits

Let's give a look on the benefits of yoga on your bones!

Most is connected to the bone remodelling we examined in the previous post...
In a sedentary life or everytime your bones don't receive enough stimuli they tend to lose strenght, there is a principle always working in our bodies (and more, it's a kind of universal principle)... use it or lose it! Whatever you don't use or move or stimulate... it will tend to perish... imagine your car or motorbike or bike or boat... do you use it? well, you will give it some physiological maintenance but it will last for a long time... if you don't use it and simply leave it there a "decomposition" process will start, the sun, the rain, the wind, nature will break it down in due time... yes, if you protect it in a sterile environment this process will be delayed... but is your body protected in a sterile environment? mmmh... i don't think so, the "use it or lose it" principle will be applied!

In many asanas (yoga postures), specially standing poses, the weight is bearing on our bones in different specific ways and we constantly pull our bones... how? the contraction of muscles generates a force that is translated to tendons, ligaments and bones... this constant action will stimulate your bones to remodel and become stronger... same as muscular training... you use a part of your body and that part, being stimulated, will tend to become stronger... nice equation, isn't it?

Stronger bones means a stronger framework supporting you and obviously a stronger protection for your internal organs... or i could say that your life is more protected when you have strong bones!

There are other indirect factors... you need calcium and minerals to support the skeletal system... you get them from your nutrition... yoga on your body will make everything more efficient, so that the nutrients present in your food will effectively be digested, transformed, transported where necessary and assimilated!
It's really important to eat the right food, it's as much important to have an efficient system that can maximize the effects of the food you eat!
Another benefit comes from the action of yoga on your endocrine system, we'll talk later on this, at the moment consider only the stimulation of your thyroid and parathyroid glands... they secrete hormones deeply involved in bone remodelling, make these glands more efficient and consequently your bones will become stronger!

We can't finish this part without mentioning again osteoporosis, it's the most common degenerating disease for your bones, specially for women in menopause because of the dropping of estrogen production. Yoga will help you to prevent it... if you have a good bone density when you go into menopause you'll have much less problems and if you already have osteoporosis a gentle yoga will help you to slow down this degeneration and to rebuild your strength.

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Skeletal system

Let's talk about our skeletal system!

Maybe somebody could imagine our bones as something similar to iron rods, that would be a good reason for our bones to be strong enough to carry and protect us for all our life! Other will think to bones as so strong and sturdy that when we become adult they get the final shape... until in old age they start naturally to break... Reality is totally different!
Look at this
It's your right humerus, your upper arm bone, at the junction with shoulder joint... looks more like a sponge than an iron rod, isn't it?

In our bones we find the perfect combination of 2 "opposite" qualities, resistance and lightness... they're strong enough to resist hard impacts and light enough to let us run and swim in a nice way... try this: fill a backpack with 30 kg of additional weight, put it on your shoulders, run/jump/swim/whathever and tell me the difference... if you notice it eheheh!!

In a few words there is an extracellular matrix made of collagen and mineral deposits (mostly calcium plus phosphate, magnesium and more) filled by other stuff... including blood vessels, nerve endings, marrow... and i would add some air, at least at an elemental level bones are the mix of earth (that gives the solidity) and air (lightness)... that's why, talking in ayurvedic terms again, kapha (earth+water) has very good and strong teeth and bones, while vata (air+ether) can have problems in both... too much air my friend!!!
This leads us straight to the functions of the skeletal system:

- Support, this is our framework
- Protection, think to the safe place inside your skull or chest for you brain and lungs/heart
- Movement is the combined job of muscles and bones!
- Blood cells production is mostly happening in the marrow
- Storage of minerals, for example calcium in excess is stored here for when it will be requested

Do you think that after childhood the shape of your bones is never changing? Answer is NO!

There is a constant process going on called bones remodeling, this is evident when you break a bone and it rebuilds but it's a really always going on process, this fuction is there to let you access easily to your mineral deposits and for the system to respond to new mechanical solicitations, obviously the remodeling is quicker when you're young but it can change your bones at a 10% per year rate in adult age... do you think it's not a big amount?
It happens through the combined job of 2 opposite forces (again!!!)... osteoclast cells open the matrix (so you can access to your deposits) and osteoblast cells are responsible for new bone formation... an unbalance between the 2 is the root of bone diseases as osteoporosis... too much osteoclast-catabolyc power releases the calcium but there isn't enough strength on the other osteoblast-anabolyc's side to balance, you breakdown more than you build and the bones become narrower and easier to break.
This is a very important possibility to have present in your mind...
the more you move,
the more your muscles will require calcium (it's necessary in muscular action),
the more you require calcium,
the more it will be released from your bones,
the more calcium is released from your bones,
the more you bone's extracellular matrix will be open
-> as result you'll be able to work at a very deep level on the shape of your bones, the shape of your body, your posture and everything connected!

Here some links to deepen these informations, some are very technical!

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Hot Yoga

This morning i went to my second hot yoga class!

Preface: hot yoga is not a kind of sexy yoga! it's yoga practice in a 40ยบ heated room... the reasons behind "should be" mainly sweating a lot thus eliminating a lot of toxins from your body. Furthermore being so hot your muscles will stretch more so you will deepen your poses... potentially attracting isn't it?

A lot of people are fanatic about this and a lot are really condemning this style that became famous because of mr. Bikram... well, don't talk about this, this wasn't a Bikram class but an hot ashtanga class in a studio in Old Street.

What to say?

Being the second time, i enjoyed it more than my first, for 3 reasons!

1- i knew the obstacles! the story of stretching more "CAN" be true... but for sure you need a special mat or a special towel or special gripping feet ahahha... example: imagine prasarita padottanasana, in the image the B variation
Maybe you start with your legs nearer together but then you start sliding because of your sweat, sliding more you arrive to the situation in the image... then you slide more and little more... you will easily reach the point of no return... now your only choice will be to go for a full leg split... or call the breakdown truck to put you back on the road ahhah!
At my second hot class i knew this so i decided to take it easy!!

2- I took it easy, so the class was much less than my usual personal practice (i tend to be an ashtangi but not only!)... for me is was an "easy" class in a very hot environment (anyway India, where yoga has its origins,  is a hot environment!)... in an ocean of sweat ehheh! i've to say that not everybody in the room was taking it easy...!

3- I'll say more on this, now i suppose you know something about Ayurveda. I'm a Vata person, my dosha is cold and dry, air and ether elements mixed -> my understanding is that some hot can balance my nature and make it more smooth... i always prefer hot than cold... so why not, probably even recommended sometimes? obviously if you are Pitta (this dosha is about fire!)... man, probably hot yoga is not the best for you! Kapha (earth/water elements) should enjoy it as well... fire in our body is a crucial element, our digestion is all about fire, the fire is the element that will transform the food that we ingest from its gross physical form to the more subtle form of nutrients and chemicals ready to be assimilated, most of the possible diseases come from un-perfect digestion... the fire in our body is fundamental (well, what is not fundamental in our body???!!), to keep it on and working is vital!

Another point for hot yoga is that sometimes is good to stress the body, give it an hard situation to stimulate its capacities!
On the other side we have:
1- being possible to stretch more you could go beyond your sustainable possibilities!
2- "the sweat a lot to eliminate your  toxins" is a common paradigm... but it's not completely true!
3- being so extreme, in the case of a daily hot practice, can happen that your body will modify itself to be very efficient in the hot environment (it's a case of the body's tendency to homeostasis, we'll talk on it!) losing its efficiency in other situations... your body is trained for the extreme, what about the normality!?!
4- cover yourself when you go out of the studio eheheh!!!

What about a hot class with a relaxed style? Shouldn't it be interesting?!

After 3 hours my body feels "normal" again, i have a 10 class groupon voucher... 8 more to go!!!

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Class promotion

Tomorrow, 7th August, I'll be teaching a class different than usual!

It will be a foundation class, to explore all muscles and joints of the body, understand how they work, physically touch them to initiate a new relationship with your body... on the deepening of that relationship we'll work on all next classes!

It won't be focused on poses or vinyasa, we'll really take our time to feel the body, to gently massage it, we'll try to create a new channel to communicate with it!

We'll start with some breathing, to learn how to breath efficiently (breath and mood and energy levels are strictly interconnected!) and finish with a long guided relaxation... yes, to learn how to relax, pure utopia for many of us!!!

It will be the best class for beginners but also for more advanced students... back to basics is always a good way to improve!

This class will be 2 hours long, there's a full body to deal with!

It will be in Brick Lane area in Heneage Street 16-18, postcode E15LJ, 2 hours class for 12 pounds, start at 19 (so try to be there some minutes before!), if you like bring your yoga mat but we have enough on site!

You can pop in or give me a confirmation texting or calling me at 07404675553

Yoga on your joints

The benefits of yoga for your joints are various.

To begin we improve the range of movement of the joints (this is part of the flexibility that yoga will gift you, we'll talk more on it) and the new extended range of movement permits to the synovial fluid (see previous post) to access a bigger surface of the joint thus increasing its lubricating effect and bringing more nutrients and oxygen as well as removing more carbon dioxide and waste material from the areas around the cartilage.
This is very easy to comprehend... if the range of movement of the joint expands, the area benefiting the effects of synovial fluid will expand... do you think that your cartilage will be happy to have more "oil" around to help her when you move?!?

Then we have the benefits on ligaments and tendons... for sure the joint will open a bit and they will be a bit longer and efficient but we don't want to work directly on this aspect, the sustainable stretch for a ligament/tendon is very little, maybe 1% to 4%, some more in some cases, consider that ligaments are there to hold your bones together, they're not supposed to be too elastic so always remember: we want to stretch mainly muscles, not ligaments and tendons! What we get from their use in an extended variety of movements and conditions will be to strengthen our ligaments and tendons, they will become as the steel in reinforced concrete... per example in an efficient knee joint your body weight will be distributed between ligaments/tendons and muscles and bones... in case of weakness this doesn't happen, the weight maybe could be all on your cartilage and maybe, because of your posture, can be all on a small surface of the cartilage... cartilages are strong but not made of steel, can you imagine the effect of this unbalance after some weeks or months or years, considering that by definition you are constantly acting and moving this articulating joint?

Here we come to the best/worst part!

It is worst because all these parts, ligaments, tendons, cartilages are little vascularized, few blood vessels are present or dealing with them... in few words if you damage them the healing process will be from hard to impossible (yes, it's the blood that brings "life" to all the parts of your body!)... that's why degenerative diseases are common in joints, typically from a weakness originates an unbalanced posture, from this more stress on some parts of your body, from this excessive work of some joint and from this in a due time you can have a cartilage beginning to tear... now the degeneration can start!
Opposite to vascularization, these areas are well served by nervous system... this is very important for the movement and your proprioception capacity (we'll talk on this) but... yes, this will contribute to make you more sensible to pain in these areas!

Now the best part!!! You know this stuff so you can work on it, in this case we really have to work on the prevention of future diseases, specially if you spend your days as typically we spend days in this society, this is the real cause of many problems... if you live moving in the open air you're safe but... now we sit for hours in front of computers, facebooking or working or facebooking at work (!!), we dive in smartphones whenever we can, we stand for hours in a shop waiting for next customer, television on the couch and blablabla!!! Virtually everything we do in this modern life can damage our body if we're not aware of our movements and position!

And the very best... you are totally responsible for your health, act consequently!!!

How do we obtain the benefits from yoga? Almost every pose will bring some action in some joint, this action will be mindful and aware... you will feel the parts of the body you're working on and you will be present in them with your mind (this is yoga, being present in your body with your mind, don't expect it at the first class eheheh!)... this will bring your movements under your conscious control, you will learn how to move and sit and stand in a way that your body will appreciate... we'll expand more this concepts later!

Furthermore for joints health there are specific sequences (example: pawanmuktasana series part I)... anyway let's talk later!

A little link, 10 ways to protect joint... nothing special but everything aimed at increasing the awareness of your body and its possible vulnerabilities!

Monday, 5 August 2013

Synovial joints

We understood what a joint is and its importance in our daily movements... now i want to focus your attention to a kind of joint very common in your body, the synovial joint.

This his the case of your knee joint, hip joint, shoulder joint, elbow joint, wrist joint and more.
Its particularity is to be enveloped in a synovial capsule, on the inside there is a synovial membrane that produces synovial fluid. The synovial capsule envelopes as well the ending part of the bones coming together at the joint and, of course, these bone endings are usually covered by a smooth surface called cartilage.
Cartilage and synovial fluid are here to make the movement between your bones smooth, easy, soft and sustainable... can you imagine a joint where 2 bones come in direct contact and rasp each other every time you bend your elbow? Well, it can happen... it's the case of degenerative joint diseases as arthritis or osteoarthritis, enough common in modern days over a certain age but not only.

Beside being a lubricant for the joint the synovial fluid has other functions: it's a shock absorber and a nutrient/waste transporter inside the joint helping cartilage and bone to stay healthy.

I give you a couple of links:
In the first you can go a little deeper in your anatomical knowledge of joints, the second is about one of the typical and potentially common joint disease we mentioned before.

Now let's go straight to the next post, it will be about the effects of yoga on your joints!