Simple Tools to Improve Your Yoga Practice
Last, but not least part #3
By: Mark Phillips, Yoga and GX instructor
This pertains to muscle whose action is normally controlled by an individual’s will, mainly skeletal muscle that is composed of parallel bundles of striated, multinucleate fibres. In other words,
muscles that move your skeletal structure and allow you to control the movements of the bones between the joints. The controlling is all up to you: either by a habit you have developed or by focused, controlled movement.
The physical culture of muscle control has fallen by the wayside over the years, much like hand balancing. Muscle control involves flexing and relaxing the muscles individually and in groups. By practicing these moves in a controlled fashion, you not only gain a stronger command of the muscles, but you will be able to make them dance. Many old time strongmen had muscle control in their acts. They would move from position to position, showing off their muscles and the control they had over them. Some yoga masters say that the yoga practice is not the pose, but how you get from one pose to the next. A big part of this, as you might guess, involves muscle control, and you really can’t talk about muscle control without saying something about body alignment.
Your body’s muscles were designed to work best when your joints are aligned. The short version of body alignment is ears over shoulders, shoulders over hip, hip over knee, knee over ankles, and feet pointing at twelve o’clock. If you focus on this little phrase while doing yoga and adjust your body to fit into it, you will be on your way to better body alignment. Once your body is aligned, your muscle control will become much more effective because the muscles are working in line with the joints as they were intended to.
Now that you understand body alignment, you can focus on the muscle control movement (flexion, abduction) of your body parts. Again, this sounds easy but most of us over the years have developed bad habits when it comes to alignment and movement, and the main reason is we are a lazy bunch of folks. We are often aligned perfectly in our minds, but the reality is when we take a good look at ourselves in a mirror we think, Who is that person? The key to muscle control is body alignment because when you try to control your muscle movement on a misaligned body, you become unstable and can fall out or compromise the movement. Always remember: proper body alignment and slow and controlled muscle movement. Most people can become good at jerking their muscles around on an unaligned frame, but in the long run it will result in injury at some point. Keep focusing on your body alignment and muscle movement and continue building strength and flexibility in your practice, and most of all, have some fun!