RESTORATIVE-YIN YOGA involves supported body/mind relaxation. This is gentle, gentle yoga that promotes deep relaxation for stress reduction while also stretching and rehabilitating connective tissue.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013



“FLEXIBILITY” IS PERHAPS the most common physical aspect that is associated with yoga.  It is a quality to which practitioners aspire, as well as a quality that discourages and drives potential participants away. 

Our sense of “health” is evolving and changing, and so too, the concept of “flexibility.”   In this evolving sense of health, flexibility involves more than being able to touch one’s toes or head to knees.  Health is evolving from “fitness” through a more comprehensive “wellness” (that includes nutrition and stress reduction, and may stress functionality more than fitness’ strength/power) to an “optimal health” or “thriving” (vs. “surviving’). 

[For a look at the evolution of health, see Islands Of Grace post, “Thriving: Toward The Cutting Edge of Health, 4/18/13.] 

In optimal health/thriving, there is a transformation from an emphasis on “skeletal flexibility” to a more holistic suppleness of the body.

The term suppleness expands “flexing” to describe a process of opening the entire body rather than emphasize stretching and strengthening muscle and connective tissue. Attention to suppleness directs actions to
  • Muscle and connective tissue, and
  • the internal organs of the central body,
  • and the micro-structures of all cell tissue (with special attention to opening the fringes of the body—the outer edges of the brain and appendages—).to open cardio- and neuro-endocrine- and, lymphatic- and Eastern energy channels.
[Example shows the difficulty of trying to illustrate the gross complexity of the chest/shoulder (with no regard to the complexity of the micro-anatomy of this body region).  The lymph system is not illustrated yet present, nor is the more visible muscular/ligament structure that tends to be the most conscious aspect.  The density of tissue [bone, muscular, vascular, nervous] illuminates the need for suppleness as crucial to allow openness in such density.]

Traditional fitness flexibility may either miss or even encumber efforts toward suppleness.  Suppleness leads to activities that release body tension by “flipping a switch” to engage the parasympathetic nervous system.  Real “hip openers” and opening the “floating bones “ of the upper back/shoulders and the lower back and neck aspire to free the body—softening the body—to optimize the flow of body physiology rather than lengthen and strengthen muscle and connective tissue.  Strong muscles may be hard and impeded and even injured.

micro anatomy example

In suppleness, the “vitality” of blood vessels and nerve tissue and lymph channels would become crucial loci for intervention with a goal of vitalizing these tissues, by reducing restriction not only in the joints (where muscle and connective tissue require attention) but also in the central body and fringes—down to micro structures such as capillaries and even further into the regulation of optimal sodium levels in the body) and by making them more responsive by enhancing relaxation skills.

The slow, deep comprehensive stretching of restorative yoga, yin yoga and soft power yoga fit well with this evolving sense of health that emphasizes suppleness. These practices are quite different from the flexibility orientation of traditional fitness models that optimize sports performance.      

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