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Purpose of Yoga: Physiology. One of the most obvious benefits of Yoga is flexibility – bendiness, the ability to do up your laces without bending the knees (or even splits). It's key to identify what we do in Yoga and how it affects us, especially as tracking changes helps us to evaluate our progress. While Yoga is more than just chasing poses the physical benefits of Yoga can be the most easily quantified. What do we mean by flexibility? Stretching elongates soft tissue, the majority of the stretch impacting the muscle. Our soft tissue doesn't release tension because holding tension is it's purpose: it connects the skeleton, creates movement and protects other elements of the physical body – if you could stretch your hamstrings like a rubber band the less easily stretched blood vessels and nerves would be heavily damaged. We have different degrees of flexibility determined by the presence of collagen and elastin; some people are naturally more flexible than others (my personal opinion is that this determines the starting point, rather than the rate of progression in Yoga). Muscles hold tension, and the process of stretching them in a controlled manner, constantly reassuring the mind/body of your control with your conscious breath allows your nervous system to release the tension you create(a 'relax' impulse). When we stretch near the limits of muscle length the muscle sends a message back to the nervous system that the muscle is in danger – the nervous system responds by shortening the muscle to prevent overstretching. As you hold a stretch or pose you can find that it's possible to move deeper into the stretch after a few deep breaths. This can accelerate your progression in the practice, but it brings you close to pushing the limits of your muscle, so be sure to work mindful of your bodies response – listen to how you feel working into the stretch. Think tortoise and hare – slow and steady wins the race. Conrad Freese Yoga Instructor at Gosforth Physio and Wellness Limited Classes with Conrad for 2016: 8 week Forrest Yoga course – Starting Wednesday 6th January at 7.45 pm -8.45pm - £9.00 a session 8 week Forrest Yoga course – Starting Monday 1st February at 6.30pm – 7.30pm - £9.00 a session
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