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  • Writer's pictureRegina Trailweaver


Starting something is not hard. Sticking to a routine is where it gets more tricky. You are more likely to stick to something that you understand. That is why I want to explain that yoga is about building a stronger body, a more flexible mind, and a more resilient central nervous system: CNS

I practice and teach yoga that develops strength in the end ranges of your muscles. So flexibility may be an outcome, but more importantly you will definitely gain strength. Why is that important?  Most of us think that stretching means that you just literally stretch the tissue, the muscle itself, and that's it. Well, that's not really true. What is actually happening is that you are increasing your tolerance to it and the nervous system is actually the one allowing you to perform the yoga postures. Stretching is more an issue of sensation, not mechanics. Think about it: What happens when you go beyond your range of motion - you feel either pain or your muscle stiffens. Both responses are protective mechanisms activated by your nervous system. And you should listen to the messages your body is giving you. But pain and stiffness doesn’t mean stop practicing. It means you should not go past your end range of motion. The priority of your CNS is to keep you alive at all costs. You might want to run a marathon, climb a mountain or get into hanumasana (splits), or just reach for something without hurting yourself! But your CNS doesn't care about that. It only wants to protect you from physical threats. The CNS's beliefs about what is a danger to survival are based on millions of years of evolution – being eaten by predators was a danger. Therefore, injuries like a pulled muscle could have killed you. And your CNS still believes that. The most obvious protective mechanisms are pain and the startle reflex, but also weakness and stiffness. ⠀ ⠀ Stretching is more about teaching your BRAIN that the position is safe, rather than elongating the actual muscle. ⠀ ⠀ >> We teach the brain that it is safe to stretch by:  1) Emphasizing frequency over intensity 2) Moving in a smooth controlled matter (when doing passive stretching) 3) Working on strength - The body won't allow you to go where it doesn't feel safe. Create the feeling of safety by adding strength to the end ranges of motion and you will experience your safe (ahimsa/non harming) and honest (satya/truth) range of motion.All three principles, but especially #3, will support strength and safety in your practice over physical flexibility. Flexible muscles are not really a goal in yoga although they may be a result. The real goal is learning to be safe by paying attention to, but not being controlled by, your CNS so that you have a more stable and resilient body and mind. I hope that this sheds a bit more light on the goal of asana practice and gets you excited! Not only will you get stronger and maybe more flexible physically, but since you are also training the CNS, you will gain strength and flexibility in the mental and emotional realms as well!

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