What is Iyengar Yoga
In short Iyengar yoga focuses on proper form and alignment of the body in yoga Postures. It incorporates tools such as blocks, straps, blankets and more to help people find their optimal position. In addition, more advanced practitioners of the practice are further instructed on breathing principles which are keys to deeper effects within the practice.
What you need to Know
Think of this a deep and prolonged stretching series that focuses on increasing flexibility, range of motion and overall muscular balance to the body. Most athletes suffer in some form or another in all 3 of the above. The Iyengar practice is an active practice where the athlete uses the bodies innate kinesthetic, anatomical and bio-mechanical principles to effectively stretch the body. While the postures make appear to be static they are far from. Using the concept of reciprocal inhibition and contract/relax such as in PNF techniques, the individual is meant to pay attention to the finer details and actively create the posture.
Athletes Do Not Need Another Workout
Athletes do not need more workouts therefore practices such as Vinyasa, Power or Bikram Yoga are not suited for their needs. All athletes have specific needs and it is important to provide them with the postures that suit. In the Iyengar system, the Teacher can pick the appropriate postures to address the needs. In addition, the deeper and more prolonged stretching will help to active the parasympathetic nervous system creating a relaxing feel and a gentle active recovery.
Athletes in general need far more specific work, much greater attention to detail within the work and generally simpler not more complex movements and instruction. We as Coaches and Sports Medicine Practitioners do not need to step beyond the basics to effectively address the challenges 95% of the Athletes and People we treat face in the Orthopedic side. Any movement provides the opportunity to be therapeutic, it is our ability to effectively teach and translate to the individual and their ability to do as asked that often determine the success. Iyengar Yoga is a system that allows us Practitioners to put our Athletes in positions that address common issues.
This series is a great series for stretching the Psoas. The key is how we use the body in the series to strengthen and stretch the hips as a whole. Often times the gluteals, in particular the Gluteus Maximus is ineffective at doing its job. In this series it is crucial that the Gluteus Maximus performs properly in order to help release the Psoas. This relationship is crucial for the hips in terms of Bio-Mechanics and healthy function. So, we are not only ‘stretching’ but we are strengthening as well. Most important a consistent practice and use of these methods will help develop the all too important neuro-muscular coordination and function of the hip complex and more.
What you may also notice is mention of the core, the concept of squeezing the legs together, the use of the Lats and more. These are crucial concepts for proper function of the body on the whole. Yoga and this practice is Physical Therapy. Practice this and your body will thank you. Some of the concepts may seem esoteric therefore finding a good Yoga teacher may be helpful.
Psoas Short Series
Sitting is and leads to problems with pain by encouraging bad posture. There has been a movement toward standing desks and the like which presents a list of other problems. However, moving between sitting and standing throughout a traditional work day will help. But, we must embrace the truth, you need to reset your body and one of the best ways is through postural training using yoga and stretching methods. Regardless of what you might read on the internet, in my 20 years I have seen personally and know a number of other professionals whom have been at this game longer than I see tremendous success in using and applying yoga and stretching principles.
Here is a guide to some great postures and a great start. Most important is to do them and do them daily. Do not stress over time, etc. just practice and all will come especially if you stay consistent.
The Anti Sit Plan
As a professional Sports Medicine Practitioner and Yoga teacher its is all too often I see patients with lower back pain. Here is a sample of some of the common yoga stretches/movements I use both for patients and in Yoga classes I teach. Note there are other things that will support a health back including learning how to use your deeper core muscles (Transverse Abdominals) in yoga this relates to the uddiyana bandha (located at or near the navel and means to bind. It is best to work with a trained professional who can teach techniques to strengthen the Transverse Abdominals or a Yoga Teacher who can teach you how to use the concept in your practice.
This guide is purely based on stretches that done daily will help you improve the strength, mobility and flexibility of the body supporting the low back and spine. Yes, there are many other poses/movements that will help and I encourage you to listen to your body and do what works and make it a regular practice.
Please feel free to share. Also, you are welcome to reach out and email me with any questions.
Warmly, Joe Sarti
Low Back Pain Guide