On yoga and the Anatomy of Hatha Yoga

I don’t write as much about yoga as I used to because, well, I haven’t though of that much to say. But given that I’ve been going on about alternative medicine recently, I should note that a simple “PubMed search”:http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?CMD=search&DB=pubmed&term=yoga reveals that yoga is being intensely studied as a complementary or alternative therapy to a lot of conditions:

* weight loss
* heart disease and risk factors
* pain management
* anxiety and stress
* psychological and physiological side-effects of cancer and the treatment of cancer

More often than not, yoga looks pretty good. Now, granted, it is nigh impossible to blind these studies. And for many of these studies, it’s hard to decide whether stepping on a treadmill and watching _Days of our Lives_ for a half hour each day would achieve a similar effect.

One thing is clear, though. Something is going on, and it’s caught the attention of researchers as well as a growing number of practitioners. I think much of the story can be told by the fact that yoga is an exercise that involves body awareness, mindfulness, and stimulation of both the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems (assuming you are doing savasana or meditation at the end — you _are_, aren’t you?)

At any rate, if you are a yoga teacher or serious yoga student, let me recommend ??Anatomy of Hatha Yoga?? by H. David Coulter. (Link to “Amazon”:http://www.amazon.com page below.) It is very dense an laden with physiology, especially stuff that you think you might have once been taught in your biology class, but you are not sure. I certainly don’t remember all of it. However, it has information that is hard to find anywhere else on just exactly what happens inside your body when you are doing hatha yoga, or heck just about anything else for that matter. It breaks down processes such as reflexes, pain, and breathing, and explains how the muscles, connective tissue, and bones interact to support the body. It even explains what happens when someone’s arm “gives out” in an armwrestling match. But most important, it analyzes the different types of postures (back bends, forward bends, twists, standing postures, abdominal exercises, and a couple of inversions) and explains relaxation and meditation. Even given what little I’ve absorbed from the book, I’ve found it helpful to know what is going on inside my body so that I can select which postures to focus on and know what to avoid in my home practice.


One Response

  1. […] The cobra is one of the most recognized poses in yoga. However, there is much more to this pose than meets the eye. Inspired by The Anatomy of Hatha Yoga, I played around with the pose some. Try doing the cobra with the following variations once you’re comfortable with the basics (know the rules before you break them!): […]

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