The Power of The Body and PNF techniques

Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF) is a crucial piece of movement application. I use this daily in my practice and teachings. Too me this is far more important than foam rollers, yoga tune up balls, band assisted stretches which are good but only as good as your ability to know how use your body. The body itself is a powerful tool, the most powerful especially when combined the power of your brain and body working together. Learning PNF will get you further in all aspects of a healthy, pain free body and for high end performance.

This is a great summary from an article Bandha Yoga – The Scientific Keys

“Sports medicine experts long ago perceived that this particular reflex arc could be carefully manipulated to lengthen muscles. Using this knowledge, they invented a technique called proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF), or facilitated stretching. It is the most powerful method for gaining length in muscles to improve flexibility. Yoga uses stretching, so why not use PNF in our practice to deepen the asanas?

It is important to remember that any powerful tool, including yoga itself, is a double-edged sword (like a surgeon’s scalpel). If used carelessly, it can cause injury. This is also true of facilitated stretching. The key to using techniques like this is to apply them slowly and with care. They are like a tincture of medicine, so use less muscular force rather than more. 

Facilitated stretching works as follows: after warming up, we take the target muscle into a moderate stretch. This establishes the muscle’s “set length”—a measure in the brain of how far the muscle can lengthen. Stretching a muscle produces tension at the muscle-tendon junction and stimulates the Golgi tendon organs located there. The key to PNF is to then gently contract the same muscle that we are stretching. This combines the biomechanical event of positioning the body into a stretch and the physiological event of intentionally contracting the stretching muscle to amplify the tension at the muscle-tendon junction. The Golgi tendon organs fire more intensively, producing a powerful relaxation response. We then stop contracting the target muscle and “take up the slack” by going deeper into the stretch. The net effect is a new set length.”

 
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Warmup and cool down, the essential rules

Warmup and cool down, the essential rules

For warm up start with foam roll. First do a general roll paying attention to specific hot spots or trigger points. Next hit those points with a targeted roll. Be sure to stop and allow the roller to apply a gentle enough pressure that you can breathe comfortably say a 6 out of 10 on the old pain scale. After a few deep breaths re roll the area. Repeat for all major muscle groups or areas of discomfort.

After you roll move to a dynamic warmup. Traditionally speaking most people will do a movement or sport specific warm up and this is a great approach as you want to work the patterns and their associated movements.

An often overlooked component is the joint mobility aspect. Typically in my practice this comes before the actual dynamic warm up. It in itself is a form or dynamic warm up. Here I take each joint through a circular based motion and other variations. Doing this prior to the actual sport specific dynamic warm up will enhance its effects.

Note: this process provides insight to the days current state of the body. Be sure to pay attention, for me this is the most important aspect of my practice.

Cool down.
The focus of the cool down is more yin in its approach. This is a gentle and more static approach and often we call this stretching. For tighter areas you can use PNF patterning followed by a relaxed approach allowing the body to rest in the pose. This is a restoration or restorative process meant to help the body recover for it’s next bout or workout.

As always these are my general rules and provide a basis from which to move from. All my practices take into account the individual needs first and foremost and I use this as a template.