This sort of discussion can get quite technical and intricate, but we don’t want to go down that rabbit hole. I am going to explain these topics to you in simple language that will give you a better idea of how flexibility works in your body. In very basic terms we have ‘doing muscles’ and ‘supporting muscles’ and each play an important role in the body.
Lets look at the ‘doing’ muscles first. We can also call these doing groups ‘Phasic’ muscles. These are the muscles that are predominately used for active movement - pushing, pulling, kicking, lifting etc. These muscles are big and dense and have the consistency much like a piece of steak. I am not sure about you but if I tried to pull apart a piece of steak, I would have to be using all the brute strength I could muster. This strong force and active way of stretching has a yang energy.
Yang energy is strong and powerful and quite masculine in its nature. Yoga classes such as Hatha, Vinyasa and Ashtanga focus on these bigger, stronger groups of muscles. The best time to stretch these denser, more powerful muscles is before active exercise to prepare the muscles for elastic movements. That said, anytime of day is also suitable for yoga, but if you are going to prepare the body for physical exercise, then this stronger way of stretching is best performed beforehand.
Here are some great benefits of yang style stretching:
• Reduced muscle tension.
• Increased range of movement in the joints.
• Enhanced muscular coordination.
• Increased circulation of the blood to various parts of the body.
• Increased energy levels (resulting from increased circulation).
Now lets talk about stretching the supporting muscles, this is the yin to our yang. These muscles are more often described as tissues and this is due to their consistency. Connective tissues are thinner and more elastic than the phasic muscles. They are the support system to the skeleton, they hold the bones together and join the bigger muscles to the bones.
Where most of this ‘joining’ is happening is at the joints. So this style of stretching focuses more on joint mobility and postural alignment. Along with the connective tissues is our fascia. Fascia is a net-like tissue that sits under the skin and on top of the muscles and covers our entire body. I like to explain it much like the sheet on your bed. When you make a bed with fresh sheets, the sheets are straight, wrinkle free and sitting quite smoothly on the bed. However as soon as you sit on the bed or move around on top of the sheets, there is a wrinkle or a crease.
Our body’s fascia is similar, every time we carry a heavy object for long periods, sprain or injure ourselves or slump and hunch for long periods of time on a regular basis, the sheet of your body gets pulled out of shape. Imagine if you never made your bed again, the sheet on your bed would be smooshed and crumpled down the back of your mattress, never to be seen again.
The same thing happens with the supporting tissues of the body. They are squashed, trapped, and crumpled together and this changes the way you stand, walk and hold your body. All these tight, trapped tissues make you feel like you are wearing pants and a shirt that are about three sizes too small.
Your movements become smaller and limited.
The yin style of stretching is like remaking your bed. The stretches open up your range of movement again and your body feels a release from joint tension. Yoga classes such as Yin & Restorative Yoga focus on the connective tissue. If you practice yoga along side other forms of exercise, then this style of yoga is best performed after exercise when you are ready to relax and rest the muscles.
Here are some amazing benefits of yin style of stretching:
• Calms and balances the mind and body.
• Reduces stress and anxiety.
• Increases circulation.
• Improves flexibility.
• Releases fascia & improves joint mobility.
• Balances the internal organs and improves the flow of chi or prana.
It is important to nurture both aspects of our body, we want to find balance.
If you imagine that yin and yang are the two ends of a long piece of wood... if you just hold the wood at just one end, the other end drags in the dirt and becomes a burden for the journey ahead. But if you carry the long piece of wood in the centre, both sides are perfectly balanced and the journey becomes easier.
Metta, Kim oxo
Kim White Yoga
One of the main motivations that drives Kim to teach yoga is her desire to keep true, real yoga alive; the propagation of yoga for yoga. She strives to achieve this through teaching and helping people fall in love with yoga everyday. She gives you her yoga mind and yoga heart to guide anyone wishing to traverse the beautiful journey that is yoga. Teaching group classes, private classes, yoga intensives & retreats across the island.