Yoga is a very popular and mainstream exercise regime, but is it the right choice for everyone? What are the differences between the many types of yoga?
Yoga is a physical, mental and spiritual practice that intends to transform the body and mind. The origins of yoga are still unknown but it is speculated to date back to the sixth and fifth centuries BC. What we do know is that the original meaning behind the practice of yoga is to answer the profound questions about our identity, the meaning of life and our purpose.
Modern yogis, particularly in the western culture, have taken its practice at a more fitness-oriented level. By using the same poses, parameters and philosophy, it emphasizes on building strength and improving flexibility.
A “Yoga in Australia Survey” conducted in 2012 found that one in five people practiced yoga for a specific health practice or medical reason which was seen to be improved by yoga practices. These reasons include and not limited to back, neck or shoulder problems, mental health issues such as stress and anxiety, as well as other non-musculoskeletal conditions such as cardiovascular issues.
The survey also illustrated that 21.3% had incurred some sort of injury (or exacerbated an existing injury) in the previous 12 months by practicing yoga. The pose most commonly associated with injuries was the headstand, followed by shoulder stands, lotus and half lotus (seated cross-legged position), forward bends, backward bends and handstands (S Penman etal. Yoga in Australia: Results of a national Survey. Int J Yoga. 2012 Jul-Dec; 5(2): 92–101.)
Now to answer the question you are really asking- is yoga for me?
We need to consider two different examples:
The first involves a twist or rotation in your hips and pelvis, leading to an unstable foundation within your skeletal system.
The second involves your hips and pelvis being corrected and symmetrical, meaning the foundation of the skeletal system is stable and you are using the Dynamic Therapy to maintain this stability.
We know that the hips and pelvis form the foundation of the skeletal system. The reason for this being that the body’s centre of gravity lies within these structures. If we have an imbalance in our foundation, this will bring stresses and strains within the body, which act as compensatory mechanisms.
In yoga, the majority of the poses are practiced in spinal neutral. Spinal neutral can be achieved by having the hips in a halfway point between a hyperextension and a hyper flexion position- which is a point half way between having your pelvis tilted all the way forward and all the way backwards.
Spinal neutral allows the spine to perform any type of exercise in its strongest position, however if your hips and pelvis are un-balanced, this position will not be achievable and you will not receive the highest benefits of yoga.
Let’s have a look at the two examples we mentioned earlier- this time with different people with different bodies, and how yoga could possibly affect them.
If we consider 20 year old Sally, who has never had her hips and pelvis balanced, and wants to start her yoga journey. She may be able to do most movements but it is likely that she will encounter much more difficulty if her hips and pelvis are not balanced, causing the rest of her spine and body to compensate. These compensations can mean that she may find certain yoga positions much more restricted, as her body is not able to function to it’s full capacity. This can also possibly aggravate old strains from past injuries and cause Sally more pain.
In the second example, 25-year-old Bob has seen a practitioner at Spinal Symmetry, had his hips and pelvis balanced, and is using the Dynamic Therapy nightly. His centre of gravity will be neutral, allowing his body to be symmetrical, which in turn has a positive effect on his physiology.
This means that his nervous system is more positively geared to any changes in movement to his body. This allows him to build strength upon a leveled and stable foundation. He will be able to achieve a spinal neutral position more easily and will also have less difficulty in getting into poses, which are new to his body. Bob’s body is functioning at it’s optimum potential through symmetrical alignment of his skeletal system- this gives him a better chance of responding in a positive way from yoga, which gives hiss body the opportunity to strengthen and stabilize further.
As we mentioned, there are many different types of yoga. They all vary slightly and have a different objective and therefore will suit different body types. We have made a table to describe all the types at the end of this article for you to see.
The best advice is to do your research in picking which yoga style is best for your body and to discuss this with your practitioner at Spinal Symmetry.
Yoga can be a fantastic complementary exercise to treatment with many benefits to the health of both your skeletal system and your body as a whole.