Monday, December 17, 2012

Western fitness class vs Ashtanga Yoga

Arching Quadriceps

Pros/Use – Stretches quadriceps and hip flexors.  The above is not a traditional yoga pose.  In my opinion  is that westerners dreamed this one up for fitness class.  Again no yogi trained by the various styles from India has this pose, at least not in Ashtanga yoga.
Cons – Places high stress on kneecap and other tissues in front of knee joint.  Those with a history of knee problems should refrain from this stretch.  Most health-care professionals also discourage use of this stretch.
Above is last of dangerous poses listed in NASM text book.
Ashtanga yoga has pose similar as follows, but is in the Advanced Series, which most never master until after years of practice.
Many western yoga studios include this pose depicted above, and I have not yet encountered in my Ashtanga Yoga practice, for after 15 years, I am not ready for this one.  Takes years of practice.

Kapotasana from Ashtanga yoga advanced series

Note the difference of pose from Ashtanga yoga and the western version.  Hips are up, not descending toward the ankles.  

Again NASM publicizes its criticisms of yoga, without researching nor providing reliable information.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Straight Leg toe touch (NASM term)


Definition: Bending forward in a standing position.
Standing poses develop strength and flexibility in your legs and hips and equilibrium in your body. The Hands-to-Feet Pose stretches your spine and joints, and increase the blood supply to your brain. The Triangle is the last of the basic Asanas. You must master this pose and its variations before trying the advanced Asanas.
Objective: To make your spine and legs supple and strong.


This is similar to the Forward Bend, but here gravity helps to stretch your body down. Stand with your feet together. Inhale, while lifting your arms straight above your head. Exhale as you bend forward and down. Breathe normally while you are in the pose. Hold for at least 30 seconds: as you gain experience, increase the time to several minutes.

NASM lists this as dangerous potentially.
Possibly placing the vertebrae and cartilage discs in low back under high stress.  Not for those with history of herniated discs or nerve pain that runs in the back of the leg. Advises not to hyperextend the knees placing high stress on ligaments of the knee.
Again NASM text tells what not to do, but does not offer cues for doing this pose properly.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Shoulder Stand

The above is how the pose is done.  The one depicted in NASM text is not recommended and if performed how they show can cause injury.  Note above the student is using a blanket, neck and spine are not touching the floor.  A mouse could crawl under the neck.  The spine is vertically aligned and the palms face up located each side of the spine and gaze is toward the toes.

Sarvangasana, the Queen Pose of Yoga, is another asana that NASM says can be dangerous due to high stress on the neck, shoulders and spine.  This time there is qualification of if exact technique is not used.  However NASM does not say what that is, so they have limited knowledge in this area.

Again the neck and spine are not used to bear the load, rather use the shoulders upper arms and use hands for back support.

Inversions encourage blood flow to the brain, help move fluid of the lymphatic system.  Balance and spatial awareness are developed.

Beginners should learn this pose from a qualified yoga teacher not a fitness trainer.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Plow Pose

Academy of Sports Medicine says Plow Pose is another yoga asana that could cause injury to the neck and spine saying that undo stress is placed upon the neck vertevrae. NASM ignores yoga instructions for this pose which yoga teachers say that weight is supported by shoulders not the C-5 of neck vertebrae.  This is an inversion which encourages blood flow to the head and encourages movement of body fluids.

The more I study NASM and their negative comments about yoga asanas I begin to question their intentions.  I have noticed most physical trainers have negative attitude about yoga and do often say negative things of this sacred practice that has existed for centuries.  The CPTs often have yoga versions developed by physical trainers in their gyms for group classes.  Having attended these I do notice that instructions and cues are not the same as yoga certified teachers, and I often see positions and sequences that are harmful and encourage muscle imbalances.  I think NASM should focus more time on their teachers and not claim yoga poses are dangerous.

There are fitness trainers that recognize yoga benefits and include them in their DVDs; e.g. Tony Horton of beachbody.  He attends traditional yoga classes and often has his yoga teacher on the yoga dvds.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Inverted hurdler's stretch

The hurdler’s stretch can injure the knee and should be practiced with caution:
1.  It stretches the medial ligaments in the knee.     
2.  It crushes the meniscus, or the disk of cartliage found in your knee.  
3.  It can lead to slippage of the knee cap, which could result in a twisted or compressed knee cap.

There are modified versions with back knee in various positions.  Yoga versions involve folding forward face to knee.  Hurdler version includes folding forward and bending backward.  This stretch looks like a track athlete going over a hurdle.  Runners benefit from stretching the muscles involved with this.


The National Academy of Sports Medicine considers this stretch dangerous.  

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Controversial Yoga Poses

The National Academy of Sports Medicine indicates 5 yoga poses which are potentially dangerous:
1.  Inverted hurdler's stretch
2.  Plow
3.  Shoulder Stand
4.  Straight Leg Toe touch
5.  Arching quadriceps.

Now I see the yogis saying that I am being negative and should not speak  on this subject.
Of course,  exercise can cause injury and each person should strive for improvement without injury, but one should use common sense.

The group yoga leader will say only go as far as your body tells you to go without pain; but alas the group class teacher first demonstrates the desired position in the pose, as taught in teacher training, and afterwards advises beginner positions not so challenging.

Ashtanga yoga has philosophy of learning the sequence from a teacher and progressing with your self practice, which is a good one.  Yet many depend too much upon the teacher to master the pose with adjustments, which is another source (major one) of injuries.

Then the Ashanga yoga teachers claim only the Series of Ashtanga yoga are all one needs for daily exercise.  This means aerobic exercise like jogging or running are not necessary.  And the push, pull, squat, gait, twist and bend from physical fitness academies are not recommended.

I say the advanced yoga people avoid other forms of exercise because they want a body that will make the advanced positions more accessible.  Running does tighten the leg muscles making forward fold and others more of a challenge.  Pull ups and lifting weights enlarge the muscle tissue and this additional muscle inhibits those often sought after yoga poses.  So the yoga person devotes entire life to the yoga practice and thus does not  acquire the benefits of an Academy of Sport Medicine workout.

Ashtanga yoga is challenging and uses body weight for improving the body, mind and spirit through the practice.  Yet the advanced yogis from Ashtanga add gymnastics moves to the flow making the practice more challenging; yet they claim this is as taught by Jois.  I say the literature indicates that these gymnastic moves were added to what was originally taught.  Just watch the original practices of those going to Mysore in the early days and compare them to those that went more recently and there is a noticeable difference in how the practice is performed.