In a well-rounded practice, a doctor provides patients with recommendations for optimizing their overall health.
This can include resources to improve their sleep, understand the impact of nutrition, reduce their stress, become more mindful, and improve their movement patterns. After all, regarding the latter, Thomas Meyers says, “A gesture becomes a habit becomes a posture and eventually lodges in our structure.”1
Posture and structure
Doctors of chiropractic know that the musculoskeletal system is an amazing system of rigid and flexible parts, pulleys and levers, all working together to create the tensegrity (“tension” plus “integrity”) required to move and absorb shock.2 However, when the body begins to succumb to gravity, its beautifully engineered joints begin to lose elasticity.
Then, increasingly, parts designed to be mobile become rigid, stiff, sticky and immobile (such as the shoulders, hips and ankles). And conversely, the joints and body regions designed to provide strength and stability are compromised, losing the ability to maintain their integrity (such as the lower back, core region, and lower neck).
In fact, most mechanical dysfunctions that come into your office have some kind of reversal or deviation from the ideal body structure (Figure 1).
Furthermore, daily life is riddled with habitual movements, intense physical and emotional demands, and stressors that feed into these patterns. From a study on the causes of musculoskeletal (MSK) pain, these repetitive motions are correlated with the source of pain.3
Specifically, occupational physical activity is described in the study as “often involv[ing] static load, repetitive movements, and high peak forces, all of which—if occurring for prolonged duration—are risk factors documented to compromise musculoskeletal health and to causally relate to muscle pain development.”
The article further asserts that “an individual’s daily physical activity profile is the accumulated impact from all the domains of physical activity and should be balanced to counteract lifestyle diseases, including musculoskeletal disorders.”
In short, a person has to balance the load of their days, which includes any repetitive strain, with an un-doing of the accumulated impact. So, one form of exercise that is often prescribed because it can help with the aforementioned “un-doing,” is yoga.
Yoga literally translates to “union” or “connection.” One implication of this concept is the union of mobility and strength that yoga requires. This where the union of “science and feels” comes in because yoga, as a science, is a body of biomechanically brilliant techniques that leads a person to consciously connect with the experience of yoga, and how the body feels in each posture.
Types of yoga
In the discipline of yoga there are numerous styles that focus on the concept of mobility and strength in their own ways. Below are a few examples of popular styles of yoga, and their approaches at the concept of “union:”
Hatha yoga refers to the overarching theme of postures in yoga. This style blends a variety of styles that focus on getting into the postures of yoga in a gentle and slow-paced way. This style pairs breathing with the postures to create a union of breath and movement.
Iyengar yoga focuses on precise alignment of the postures. This style includes props such as belts, blocks, blankets and other tools to achieve precision in the postures while avoiding strain or injury. This style focuses very much on the three elements of technique, sequencing and timing.
Ashtanga and Vinyasa yoga styles are considered to be the more dynamic and physically demanding styles because they focus on continuous flow and movement. These styles are known for linking several flowing movements together with breathing and are focused on building strength in the core and toning the muscles.
Yin yoga focuses on holding postures for 45 seconds up to several minutes. This technique is all about providing therapeutic stress on the connective tissues of the body to affect the practitioner’s mobility. This style functions as a great compliment to other yoga styles and athletics. It works on key areas of immobility in the body by focusing on areas such as opening the hips and trunk.
Restorative yoga is one of the gentlest styles. In a typical session, the focus is on light movements, such as gentle twists, back bends and forward folds. During a class, only about five to ten postures are held, but for several minutes each. This style stresses proper alignment more than going as deeply as possible. This style is complements a high-stress lifestyle because it focuses on calming and rejuvenating the system.
Prenatal yoga is designed for a woman’s entire pregnancy. Each trimester requires different modifications and regressions to accommodate the mother’s changing body and changing needs. This modified style of yoga is focused on helping the mother with:
- Improving sleep
- Reducing stress and anxiety
- Increasing strength, flexibility and endurance of muscles needed for childbirth
- Decreasing low-back pain, nausea, carpal tunnel symptoms, headaches and shortness of breath associated with pregnancy
Research suggests that exercise—including prenatal yoga—is safe and can have many benefits for pregnant women and their babies. The key steps are for the mother are talking to her physicians about her ability to do yoga during pregnancy, keeping a gentle pace, staying cool and hydrated, and avoiding or modifying certain postures.
Bikram yoga was derived from traditional Hatha yoga by Bikram Choudhury. This style is known for being performed in a hot room (95 to 108 degrees) with high humidity (40 percent). The classes are consistently 90 minutes long with 26 postures, each performed twice in the same sequence. The sequence moves from a series focusing on spine flexibility, core strength, balance, and flexibility, to a series on improved circulation and spine strength. In the final series, the spine is moved in several different directions in a seated position to deepen healthy movement in the back.
Putting it all together
This look at popular yoga styles sheds light on the goal of positively restoring the body by training its joint-by-joint relationship. In keeping with yoga’s meaning of “union,” it can be an asset to your clinical recommendations for patients to improve their sleep, reduce their stress, become more mindful and improve their movement patterns.
The union yoga offers is improvement in mobility and stability, between the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems, and of the mind and body. The breath alone can help calm down our body’s sympathetic overdrive and the fascial system’s tonicity is governed by the sympathetic nervous system.4,5
Abby Perone, DC, CES, CF-L1, is a graduate of Parker University. In 2010, she was selected to be on the sports medicine team for the Colombian Olympic Committee in Bogota, Colombia, and served on the sports medicine team for the NASL soccer team, the San Antonio Scorpions. She served on the Airrosti Athlete Services team for multiple CrossFit regional events and the CrossFit Games from 2013 to 2016. She can be contacted through rocktape.com.
1 Myers T. “Structural Integration.” Structural Wisdom. http://www.structuralwisdom.com/Structural_Integration.html. Published Jan. 2008. Accessed Oct. 2018.
2 “Tensegrity.” Anatomy Trains. https://www.anatomytrains.com/fascia/tensegrity. Published Sept. 2013. Accessed Oct. 2018.
3 Søgaard K, Sjøgaard G. Physical Activity as Cause and Cure of Muscular Pain: Evidence of Underlying Mechanisms. Exercise and Sport Sciences Reviews. 2017;45(3):136-145.
4 Oneda B, Ortega KC, Gusmão JL, Araújo TG, Mion D Jr. Sympathetic nerve activity is decreased during device-guided slow breathing. Hypertens Res. 2010;33(7):708-12.
5 Schleip R. Fascial plasticity – a new neurobiological explanation: Part 1. Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies. 2003;7(1):11-19.