Beyond Asana: redefining the way we look at posture

Ever thought of using yoga postures to help improve your body reading and functional screening skills?


In our modern era of social media, many yoga practitioners aim to “perfect” a posture by mimicking an image or example from an external perspective. Students are impatient to make a pose appear advanced, while teachers often forgo the in-depth education needed to safely and effectively perform the asana. A key component of the practice is skipped in this methodology. In fact, the most important element of yoga is overlooked here which can lead to misalignment and injury.


This element is biomechanics.


Biomechanics is a discipline in the field of Exercise Science and Human Movement that studies the function, structure, and movement of biological systems. In other words, biomechanics studies the inner workings of different forms of movement through a functional approach. This study looks at how forces are applied and loaded in the body, on a deeper anatomical level.


By integrating modern sports science into traditional yoga practices, yogis and athletes alike are able to not only refine a posture, but understand it. More often than not, a student will learn and practice a pose without truly understanding why they are doing it, and what is happening beneath the surface. We’re putting an end to this lack of information by providing the missing link of teaching yoga from a biomechanical perspective.


The benefits of comprehending biomechanics extend beyond the mat. When you learn to look at anatomy through forces, you begin to understand just how connected elements of the body are, and will look at injury and injury prevention in a new light. From children to professional athletes to elderly people, the study of biomechanics can be applied to any form of movement; minimal to advanced.


To fully grasp the deeper knowledge of a posture, two key components are needed from a teaching angle:


  1. Understanding the benefits

  2. Communicating the benefits

Understanding the biomechanical benefits will be of no use if the teacher cannot communicate this knowledge to the student. Furthermore, communicating the benefits of a pose will hold no real meaning (and can actually be harmful) if the teacher lacks a functional understanding of the asana.


Let’s break down these key components of understanding and communicating by taking a look at two seemingly simple poses through an optimal teaching lens:


Cat


Poses like Cat can reveal postural imbalances that could be masking potential injuries and structural limitations.


Understanding


Cat is considered a low level intensity pose. The simplicity of the posture provides a great opportunity for you and your student to see/feel smoothly and efficiently move through the kinetic chain, or the notion that joints have a direct effect on one another during movement.


Communicating


First cue the movement from an activation point. For example, load the energy down through the hands, and observe how the student naturally moves through their body from that starting point. Take note of where the movement looks blocked or restricted - this visible blockage will begin to tell you a story that will help to clearly communicate needed modifications and adjustments to the student.


Downward Dog


Downward Dog might seem like an easier posture to body read, but the real skill lies in what you do with what you see.



Understanding


Downward Dog is a complex, advanced pose that is often used by many yoga teachers too early in a session. Without enough physiological adaptation and preparation of the body to adapt to the potentially challenging loading on joints and muscles, incorrect loading can occur which leads to increased postural issues.


Communicating


First shift the load in Downward Dog to experiment with what feels more mobile or stable for you. Now ask yourself - if I want to teach this posture to help my students feel more mobile, (or stable, depending on what the objectives are), where do I need to shift the load to facilitate that safely? After playing with this shifting in your individual practice, you will be able to pass this information to your student in a confident manner.


From these two examples, you can begin to see that postures should be looked at from a greater perspective than simple anatomy and basic benefits. Yoga can be a powerful tool for healing the body from injury and stress. However, when an asana is incorrectly practiced due to lack of understanding and communication, yoga becomes a catalyst for increased injury and stress to the body.


Let’s take a deeper dive into the communication component.


Often, it’s not the way a teacher communicates to the student that’s the problem, but the information itself that is lacking. Here are a few examples of how communicated benefits of yoga can be improved:

  • Instead of saying “improves body control” say “developing neuromuscular control through the application of specific yoga sequencing techniques prepares the muscles to move and respond to rapid or unexpected directional changes.”

  • Instead of saying “prevents injury” say “introducing sports-specific warm up and cool down techniques ensures the body is fully prepared for the activity, and has sufficient time to recover afterwards.”

  • Instead of saying “increases self-awareness” say “understanding joint position and motion in space through sensory feedback from the body helps to develop an awareness of self and others.”


The foundation of our teaching is based on these biomechanical principles to empower yoga professionals to adapt postures when needed, and apply this deeper knowledge to any setting. When a solid foundation of anatomy and biomechanics is applied, space is created for yoga sequencing to become experimental and creative.


The outcome? Yoga teachers with concrete confidence who build trust with their students by delivering a yoga education, not just a practice. When we look beyond the asana, we begin to understand yoga (and general movement) on an entirely new level. A level that bridges the gap between ancient practice and modern research, and opens the door to a new world of understanding.


From this understanding, we are able to better communicate this missing link to yogis and athletes and produce safe and effective performance results.


Top up your yoga teaching


Learning to develop your body reading skills is an art and a science. Top up your yoga teaching skills with us this November and gain specialized knowledge in yoga and biomechanics so you can teach both the general public and the athletic population.


Applications close October 24th. Our online Course starts November 14th 2020. Only 5 places left.


Click here to discover more...



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