Author: Randeep Singh / go to all articles on Yoga Concepts
How Yoga Works on Your Body? Asana, Pranayama Mechanics
How Yoga works?
Its way bit different from
how exercise works.
Any form of exercise is necessary
for all men as well as women,
in order to maintain optimal muscle strength,
and to release potential energy for all the
bodily functions. Like other parts of the body muscles
are prone to atrophy – wasting away or degeneration
– if not put to use for a long period of time.
Regular exercise has its own benefits, it improves the resilience of the body, the ability to bounce back to normal functioning immediately after it has encountered stress or strain of any kind.
Muscles in human body never function individually, each muscle accomplishes its task by working in coordination with other muscle, or a group of muscles the movements of which need to be harmoniously synchronized with each other. This synchronization needs all muscles to maintain their optimal tone and strength all the time.
Due to our living styles as necessitated by modern cultures- sedentary jobs and domestic chores being taken up by the machines – not all the muscles of our body receive the minimum required movement on daily basis for keeping them in optimal condition. In fact, modern day living on account of being focused on physical comfort has rendered a lot of muscles in our body redundant.
This is where Yoga, and not any other exercise comes into play. Have you ever wondered about how yoga works on your body? Unlike other forms of exercise yoga movements and techniques help exercise even the least used muscles of the body. As per the law of biology any muscle that is not used adequately loses its tone – hypotonia- leading to fatigue when put to work.
A special set of yoga techniques which alleviate fatigue issues help work out the entire body evenly so that the harmony between the working of the muscles can be gained. Complete lack of exercise also causes the deposition of fat leading to obesity and the related issues.
Being a moderate form of exercise, as distinct from severe exercise, practicing Yoga doesn’t lead to oxygen debt, which can happen due to hyperventilation in severe exercise, in the body nor to any degree of fatigue. Thus even older people can immensely benefit from yoga.
Yoga works on your body by evenly working out every muscle towards attaining a normal tone, only if the asana and the pranayama are selected carefully and done by adhering to proper understanding of and guidelines for doing yoga asana, as well as by keeping the basic rules of doing pranayama in mind.
How Yoga works on your body via Blood Circulation?
Yoga Techniques for improving blood circulation works on the body by changing the blood content as well as by dilating all the arteries and the capillaries present within the muscles. This increases the blood supply to the muscles: the normal resting muscle has the blood supply of about 1- 4 c.c. per 100 c.c. of muscle, with yoga it goes up to 25 c.c. per 100 c.c. of muscle mass.
The alternating contraction and relaxation of the muscles spikes up the movement of the venous blood ( impure) towards the heart increasing the overall venous pressure.
The depth and the rate of respiration is also affected positively with the regular practice of Yoga for improved breathing. Moderate increase in heart rate increases the cardiac output per beat. The heart rate gets a boost from increased flow of the venous blood towards the heart, impulses being released from the higher centers of the brain due to the impact of yoga, and the increase in the level of carbon dioxide gas in the blood.
The increase in amount of carbon dioxide in the blood drops its ph value leading to increased acidic condition within it. The chemo receptors placed within the blood vessels pick up these signals, of the blood turning acidic in composition – this stimulates the sympathetic response to the vascular system which increases the blood flow into the dilated blood vessels.
Correspondingly, the rate of respiration is also pushed up in order to balance the amount of carbon dioxide present within the blood with the higher intake of oxygen via hyperventilation. Presence of higher concentration of carbon dioxide in the blood stimulates the hemoglobin cells to absorb more oxygen than usual.
The increased heart rate thus is redistributed to the part of the body which is active at that moment due to the practice of Yoga. Yoga works on your body by helping adjust the haemorespiration – ability of haemoglobin cells to absorb oxygen – in order to increase the blood supply to the muscles which are involved in a particular yoga movement.
How Yoga Works on Your Body Muscles?
Yoga works on your body by causing the skeletal muscles – voluntary muscles- to contract in certain areas and extend in others. The energy required for shortening the muscle into a contracted state is released within the muscle itself, glycogen stored in muscles is reduced to glucose, each molecule of glucose is converted into two molecules of ATP (adinosinetuphosphate) molecule which when gets hydrolyzed into ADP ( Adinosinediphosphate) molecule releases an inorganic phosphate molecule and energy.
A part of the energy so released gets utilized in contracting the muscle and a part of it is available as heat. This heat further dilates the capillaries which help suck in more blood into the region. Phosphate molecule which is released as a by product of the process of release of energy is known as a metabolite which is converted into a less harmful substance and is then flushed out of the body via the excretory system.
Yoga works out your body by cutting of the supply of blood to the region ahead of the area which gets compressed, contracted while doing a yoga pose, fresh blood gushes into the same region as soon as the compression is released as the compressed blood vessels relax and their internal volume increases.
This benefits by replenishing the less nutritive, or already spent blood, with fresh nutrition (vitamins) rich blood for better health of the tissues (nutients from plants), and organs around the area.
The alternating compression and relaxation of the muscle fibers while doing yoga imparts optimal tone to hypotonic – below optimal level tone- muscles which adds to the strength and flexibility of the movements of the body parts dependent on those muscles.
If done by taking into consideration the principles of alignment all for the yoga postures all the muscles of the body get a good and harmonious stretch which improves their efficiency. The complete stretch received by the ligaments if the yoga poses are held for some time with normal breathing ( static) helps increase their suppleness.
All the muscles of a given part of the body, if targeted with specific yoga poses, develop uniformly which on its own corrects the defects due to hypo tonic or weak muscles like the postural curvature of the spine. The best part of doing yoga is that when the yoga asana are properly coordinated with the natural breathing pattern one doesn’t experience fatigue even after working out the body with yoga for longer duration.
How Yoga Breathing Works on your body?
Yoga techniques like pranayama and meditation (meditation has other benefits too help reduce the consumption of oxygen by the body which induces a relaxation response.
Certain pranayama like alternate nostril breathing help calm the nervous system by calming the mind which slows down the oxidation process within the body tissues, thus less oxygen is consumed in a relaxed and calmer state of mind. Oxygen consumption actually happens in the brain, mind and brain are different entities but do affect each other.
Oxidation is known to damage vital components of the cell like DNA and protein which are responsible for carrying various bodily functions. In fact destructive free radicals are the product of cellular oxidation. Reduced oxidation means prolonged cell health and life.
Regular practice of pranayama and some yoga techniques improves lung capacity which prolongs the duration of an individual breath; the number of breaths per minute from a normal count 16-18 come down to 8 – 9 which ensures lesser intake of oxygen leading to its better utilization comparatively.
Prolonged and regular practice of yoga brings the respiratory quotient down to 0.7 from about 0.8-0.9 before the yoga exercise commenced, reaching a respiratory quotient of 0.7 ensure thorough burning of extra fat from the body helping the practitioner to lose weight.
Yoga Workout and Prana
Most of the Hath yoga concepts and technique have been found to adhere to the objective and empirical approach of hither to known fundamentals of physiology, anatomy in biology. Science, as it evolved, has been successfully corroborating the basis of Hatha yoga, or body yoga as it majorly deals with the physical culture and its implications.
Today, the medical science has uncovered the composition and functioning of the physical body and its organs but its methods are still not precise enough to be able to understand the nervous system and its related bio electronics, or the movement of prana – bio energy – within it as electric impulses.
Though the ancient systems of China like the traditional Chinese medicine system had tried to explain this through the concept of Chinese meridians or the energy channels. and how the acupressure points present on these channels can be used to regulate flow of prana in the body.
Neurology, as a science is still falling short of explaining how the yogis are able to master the control of prana to the extend that they can control all the involuntary functions of the body even to the point of suspended animation – Khecari. The knowledge of anatomy and physiology remain inadequate in explaining the complete functioning of body without the understanding of bio electronics and bionics. It has already been established that the physical activities – on the rhythm, harmony and continuation of which depends one’s existence – actually originate from the impluses ( pratyaya) transmitted by the nervous system.
The nervous system itself is supposed to be powered by something known as “animal electricity” as understood by modern scientists. The nearest they have come to explaining this ” animal electricity” is that it results from certain chemical changes which runs along the length of the nervous system with the speed of a lightening strike.
Ancient yogis being motivated by the search of self and the ultimate truth, unlike modern scientists whose quest ends at the physical level itself – traversed beyond the physical laws of anatomy and physiology. Their thirst for the ultimate realization of the self lead them to the higher, subtler planes of existence. This search led them to realize the existence of bio energy, animal electricity as a primal energy from which the physiology and the anatomy has evolved.
Hath yoga as a discipline has also evolved in its techniques for dealing with the bio energy along with the physical aspects as covered in body yoga, or “ghatsya yoga” as it is popularly known. Yoga works on your body at the cellular level by revitalizing the cells which have run short of Prana, or the animal energy; as per yoga therapy disease is nothing but devitalized cells and health is the body cells filled with the bio energy.
A particular disease is known to set in when a group of cells or certain organ systems go low on bio voltage, Yoga practices help remove the blockages of the mind via the physical body- which connects the inner prana from the body with the universal prana it is a part of in order to rejig itself.
Restorative yoga practices does exactly the same, the relaxation response generated by these yoga practices silence the fluctuations of the Citta, personality complex, for some time which opens the gates of the infinite reserves of the universal prana into the individual prana.
How Yoga Poses Work?
Below I present the analysis of how yoga works on various muscles of the body, physiologically and anatomically, when one performs the below mentioned, chosen few, yoga poses.
- Sukhasana – Practice of Sukhasana imparts comfort and steadiness to the body, as well as the mind. This simple pose is good for improving concentration and respiration. Flexors of the lower extremities contract while the extensors relax while one does Sukhasana.
- Talasana – This standing pose improves the flexors and abductors of the arms and the forearms, it also works out the extensors of the legs and the trunk. This Yoga pose is very good for improving the respiratory movements in the thorax region, or the rib cage.
- Konasana – This asana improves the flexion range of the vertebral column. As this pose works like a lateral twist it is very good for improvng the elasticity of the interspinous ligaments. It works out the flexors of the forearm and the abductors and extensors of the arms.
- Bhadrasana – This yoga pose relaxes the extensors of the legs and contracts the flexors of the legs and the thighs. This posture activates the normally lesser used muscles of the pelvic region like the obturator, iliacus, and ptoas muscles.
- Yoga Mudra – In this yoga pose the flexon of the vertebral column takes place which stretches the interspinous ligaments while the muscles of the back contract, this improves the circulation of the blood in the muscles of the back. As the primary curvature of the spinal cord is exaggerated it receives more blood than usual. Since the heels press against the inguinal canal opening the stretch so applied to the associated ligaments improve their tone. This yoga pose works out the flexors of the knees, hips, and the ankles. Due to the intense forward bend as achieved in yoga mudra, the muscles of the abdomen receive a strong contraction. In another version of this pose the extensors of the back contract as extension takes place in the vertebral column. The synergist and antagonist group pf muscles act alternatively which compresses the abdominal viscera. The compression when released sucks in fresh blood into the abdominal and pelvic region.
- Paschimottanasana – Regular practice of this forward bending pose benefits by increasing the degree of movement in the flexion and extension of the vetebral column. Here the flexors of both the limbs remain relaxed.
- Dhanurasana – Here the compression is applied to the abdominal viscera with relaxation. The blood supply to the abdominal and pelvic region improves, and the muscles of the back are worked well as they receive proper stretching. Thats why this pose is good for relieving the back pain.
- Ardhmatsyendrasana – This spinal twist works various groups of muscles simultaneously. The muscles of the extremities are subjected to alternating contraction and relaxation along with the lateral rotation of the vertebral column.
- Pavanmuktasana- Glutal and perineal muscles along with flexors of the thighs and the legs receive a proper work out with this pose. The extremities are subjected to complete flexon.
- Sarvangasana – Since the body gets inverted in shoulder stand the force of the flow of blood is reverse towards the brain and the face region. Diaphragm has to work against the weight of the abdominal viscera hanging over it, this improves the strength of the diaphragm. The neck being in ventral flexion position works out the flexor muscles of the neck.
- Savasana – Generally done at the end of a yoga session it is meant to relax all the muscle of the body which were worked out. This complete relaxation uniforms the blood circulation in the entire body due to which the metabolites, toxins are drained away.
Yoga poses which involve inversion of the body along its axis work by relieving congestion in pelvic and abdominal region. This in turn opens the space for proper circulation of the body fluids in these regions.
Conclusion: Yoga works on the body by returning the normal tone to the laxed muscles, if any, of the body which improves their efficiency and helps hold the organs of the body in their optimal functioning positions: healing any sort of ptosis stasis, or prolapse of the organ systems in the body.
Optimally toned muscles prevent the occurrence of hernia, varicose veins of the lower extremities, and cerebral anemia in the body. Yoga breathing exercise help regulate prana- bio energy- within the body which is the basis for the existence of the individual self.
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