Muscles are an integral part of the functioning of the human body. They are the providers of movement at more than 180 joints of our physical body. There has been a lot of discussion and research on the effects of yoga on muscular functions. We will try to assemble some of the facts on the topic, in this article, so as to bring to our readers a qualitative viewpoint towards the benefits of yoga.
Muscles are a collection of very small straps called fibers. Fibers are the contractile unit of a muscle, which is irritated through a nerve impulse from the brain, and in response to that, they respond as a whole, bringing about the contraction of the muscle. How many fibers are stimulated in a given activity determines the efficiency of performance?
Muscles are to be used constantly in order to keep them strong and fine-tuned with the requirements of an individual. Active muscles allow the blood to be transfused through them deeper and maintain the level of nutrition of fibers, which are essentially made up of protein.
When we talk about training the muscles, there are generally two popular methods in the modern regime of workout, Endurance and Resistance training. First, let’s try and get a quick glimpse of what these are.
- Endurance training: This method employs the workout which is primarily used for increasing endurance and stamina. Activities like jogging, swimming, treadmill are some examples. These actions, when performed, engage the slow-twitch fibers of muscles, which are generally meant for prolonged output in an aerobic environment when enough oxygen is available for energy production in the muscles. It helps in increasing the efficiency level of fibers and makes them more resistance to fatigue.
- Resistance training: Resistance training develops muscular strength and anaerobic endurance and increases the bulk of muscles. It employs fast-twitch fibers which bring about a burst of quick action in a relatively anaerobic environment. This type of training helps in improving the strength of muscles and ligaments, improves bone density, ensures cardiovascular health and manages the blood cholesterol. The training is done with the help of increased weight load on the muscles which improves the force production in the muscles and ability to sustain tension. Weight training is a popular method of resistance training. Sprinting is another effective method.
How yoga develops endurance:
First and foremost point is breathing. Practise of asanas is not complete without synchronizing the breathing patterns. This ensures a constant supply of oxygen for the body’s requirement, thus activating the aerobic system. Yoga teaches us how to breathe appropriately in various physical movements in coordination with diaphragmatic and costal muscle involvement. Along with that, we are encouraged to breathe slowly and deeply, which helps in the utilization of maximum lung capacity and also increases it over time.
Asanas increase the endurance in that they require the use of the body’s strength in attaining several positions which are not falling under the normal ranges of movement in daily life. Slow-paced practice while trying to cover the maximum range of our joints engages the muscles in a way that helps in improving their abilities to explore their inner potential and abilities. Flexor muscles are actively trained to sustain an increased level of activity by holding the postures for long duration and the extensors at the same time are trained to avoid sending panic signals too quickly in activity by lengthening them slowly and steadily over a long range of time. Asanas performed for a long duration of time with a steady rate of breath and maximum holding time and meditation sessions which are an integral part of yoga practice, not only improves physical but mental endurance as well. The dedication required for the practice, holding postures and letting go of fears of pain, helps to clear unnecessary Vrittis from the mind, and brings clarity and concentration due to channelization of efforts. Mediation at the same time centralizes the mental energies and help to control the bizarre tendencies of the mind to fluctuate. This strength of mind is essential in facing challenges and avoids stress in life.
How yoga develops resistance:
Resistance training in yoga is about using your own bodyweight to develop muscles. Instead of external weights and equipments, a yogi employs the body weight and gravity to bring about different types of muscular contraction and engaging various muscle groups in a variety of dynamic actions. This helps achieve muscular strength, healthier tendons and ligament attachments, increased bone density. Different types of muscle contraction also improve the venous return to the heart thereby adding up to the cardiovascular efficiency. The anaerobic endurance is improved and overall muscle tone adds up to the quality of life.
To conclude we can say that as per its meaning, which is to combine or join, yoga provides us the dual benefits of endurance as well as resistance training at the same time. If practiced under the classical guidelines and traditions, yoga actually comes out as a very positive form of workout with no scope for injuries.
Please remember, if we get injured, the fault lies at our end and is not to be ascribed to the yogic practices.
It’s difficult to put up the amazing benefits of yoga into articles and words. Rather we would like you to incorporate yoga into your life to experience these benefits by yourself. Patanjali in his Yoga Sturas says that key to siddhi or perfection is Abhyas and Vairagya. Abhyas here means a constant line of practice and Vairagya in this context refers to a refined intellect which can see and discriminate with clarity. Adding up yoga in your routine can actually provide you with the above-mentioned effects and you can improve your quality of life and well being phenomenally. After all, it’s worth trying as there is everything to be gained here.
Happy Yoga to all