In the first part dedicated to physiology of yoga poses, I have written in details what happens in your body when you practice dynamic yoga, when we don’t stay in positions too long, but we are flowing with breath from position to position (yoga vinyasa flow). You can read it here. I also explained all different benefits for the body in such practice. But I also mentioned that dynamic yoga is missing the one, important part of yoga practice: deep relaxation of the body. By deep, I mean reaching relaxation of deep tissues and cells of your body, which is all needed for the healing process as well as for achieving the holistic health. In dynamic yoga, you can definitely calm your mind, by loosing yourself in a flow of movement. But if we want to have all what yoga have to offer, we also have to add static practice into our routine. Ultimately we can achieve balance by mixing both practices,and taking all the benefits which both has to offer.
So in the part 2 of the series of physiology of yoga, I am focusing on all the benefits of static practice. You will find below also some indications on how to practice and what is going on in your body when you stay in positions for longer time.
Static practice is a type of demanding practice. Staying longer in the position requires a lot from our body, but especially from our mind. It is not easy to stay with our thoughts and physical discomfort. That’s why very often such practice is considered as intermediate or advance practice. But adding static practice where you hold the poses for longer time has enormous amount of benefits on different levels. What kind of? Check it below!
Physiology of static practice- what is going on in your body when you hold the position?
- influencing parasympathetic nervous system (responsible for “rest and digest” mode), so we achieve deep relaxation on many levels in our body
- poses hold for at least 15-20 seconds and more (up to minutes; advance practice can also include holding poses for much longer 10-30 minutes or more)
- gentle pull to your muscles- comfortable, not painful stretch, over period of time will cause relaxation of the muscles and make muscles more flexible
- Golgi tendon or “clasp and knife reflex” relaxes the muscles
- Blood pressure and heart rate decrease, no sweating
- In static yoga practice the oxygen requirement is less
- Red muscle fibers of skeletal muscles work more
- Reciprocal inhibition achieves maximum stretch and protection to the muscles
- Stress is on skeletal muscles and is also passed onto the deeper muscles which support the organs
- Intermediate and Advance level practices
Benefits of static practice- what your body, mind and soul will get out of it?
- Brain – Primary motor cortex involved in “Awareness of the posture”
(Asana focusing on body parts, muscles, joints)
- Nervous system – Focusing on a body part increase the blood flow and nervous system activity in that area. Balancing the ANS, by stimulating Parasympathetic Nervous system
- Endocrine system – yoga poses pressurize and stretch the glands, affecting secretion of hormones, making the glands stronger, and balancing the hormones which in turn affect every other organ and metabolism
- Secretion of endorphins, the natural pain killers bring positive
state of well being.
- Muscular system – more activity of red muscle fibers, which consume more of fats, carbohydrates and red muscle fibers specialize in long-duration, low-intensity movement, increased endurance
- Digestive system – Superficial muscles (skeletal muscles) relax, so internal organs get more blood, they are pressurized, squeezed, and made efficient and stronger
- Respiratory system – Different static poses make the breathing more efficient, expand lungs, increase lung capacity, promote slow, deep and relaxed breathing.
- Blood circulation and heart – different static poses exert pressure on heart making it strong, impure blood is drained from various parts of body, entire circulatory system is affected positively.
- Static Yoga poses reduce the metabolic rate (BMR). Studies of humans living more than 100 + years have shown lower BMR.
How to practice static yoga- how you can achieve the best out of it?
- The main effect is focus and relaxation- this should stay as your goal. Even in poses which build strenght, we enter them with full engagement but after we relax the body in the pose
- Don’t overstretch- use 70% capacity of your strength- that much stretch you should feel. This is leading to relaxation. As the body adapt to it, it is not a stressful reaction of the muscles.
- Focus on alignment- alignment is present in traditional yoga. You should focus on basic alignment of the body. Don’t look but feel the body. After a while you should be able to close your eyes and practice with closed eyes.
- The balance should be felt within you. It will come with practice. After a while you will be able to read sensation within and body signals
- While staying in the posture, visualize it with closed eyes.
- Focus on active part: muscles and joints
- Focus on breathing while visualizing the posture
- Observe your mental activity- we have around 60 thoughts per minute in our mind. So try to focus on positive thoughts. While staying in the posture, choose one positive thought, like a mantra- in this way you will start to train your mind.
- Bring positive emotions into the position, same like with positive thoughts
- Focus on breath- once you are in static position, no control of the breath, no manipulation. You focus on breath, but you don’t hold it
Type of static yoga poses
- Forward bends, Back bends, Side bends – stronger core muscles, back muscles, joints
- Twists – best for spine and vital organs
- Inversions – strengthening heart, reproductive organs and endocrine glands
- Balancing – helping nervous system and brain, improving neuromuscular coordination
- Stretches – restoring tone of skeletal muscles
- Relaxation – affecting entire body, especially nervous system & mind
- Meditative – brain & mind