Let me begin this blog by saying two things.
1. I have never properly addressed what this blog is all about. I will do that today.
2. When it comes to the human body, there is no definitive answer.
When I review and interpret research, the answer is always “more research is needed” or “sample size was too small” or “results were/were not statistically significant” and so on. There is rarely an answer. I must read through several related studies by the same researchers, by different researchers of the same opinion, and by different researchers of the opposing opinion. I must analyze the methods of the study to determine if the results are valid and if they can be reproduced should the study be repeated. This is no easy feat.
As many of you know, I’ve been writing my Master’s Thesis on the Biomechanics and Science of Stretching these last few years. Hopefully, you understand why it is taking so long. Sometimes it literally takes me 5 hours to write one paragraph. I must make sure I am interpreting the data accurately. 95% of my writing time is spent reading. And as of today, it’s 147 pages. You do the math.
My last post was challenging for me as a scientist. While my post was of full of “coulds” “mights” and “maybes” it was perceived by many as straight up advice about never balancing on one leg and moving from external to neutral rotation (think Half Moon to Standing Splits and vice versa). I admit, I was more dogmatic than I’ve been before on my blog. Wouldn’t you know it – it was one of my most popular posts. You guys loved it! And I think I get.
You don’t want to spend 5 hours of reading before planning your class. You want a trusted authority (me) to do that for you (you) so you can get on with your day and be a better teacher. And I love you for that.
In turn, I had some interesting social media conversations with some of you. I had to back away from the dogma to remind you all that when it comes to mechanical loading, it always depends!
To help you understand this concept, memorize this line: The tissues of the body adapt to the demands placed on upon them.
Translation: Your tissues can withstand stretch/compression/shear based on how you have trained them.
Can some of you rotate on one leg without degrading your cartilage? Of course! Some of you have resilient cartilage due to years of adequate loading. But how do you know who can and who can’t? In group settings, it’s hard to do know who is in your class, what their lifelong loading history is, or even what class they went to yesterday (yes, that matters, but that’s another post).
Can you learn this movement safely? Of course! If it’s a movement the body makes, there is a smart way to execute it. But it’s best taught in a learning environment like a teacher training or a workshop. A transition between poses in a vinyasa class is not an adequate learning environment. Furthermore, the muscles that would support this movement in a safe way are often fatigued during class. Especially if you like to sequence several poses on one leg (that also another post).
So why not err on the side of caution in extreme cases? Why not omit transitions that could potentially be harmful to even one of your students? This does not mean cannot ever, should not ever, move that way. Unfortunately there are a googolplex number of ways in which you can move and train your tissues. It is impossible to consider all of the variables when teaching a group class.
But if I write a blog that says:
“Maybe you should do something sort of like this unless you think you know something about some sort of past something that would change the way some of your students and some of their joints were able to handle some of the loads at some frequencies, for some durations, in some directions, at some rates, at some magnitudes, in which you case you could do this or this or maybe possible some of this. More research is needed before I can give you any advice.”
you would be just like a grad student researching her thesis pretty annoyed.
In reality, if your body moves that way, you should train it that way. But proper collagen adaptations to training do not occur in just 10 yoga classes. It actually takes years. This is exactly why my yoga business is based in private lessons – I have the opportunity to interact with the students and develop a sequence of poses for their unique adaptive needs.
In conclusion, my point here is we should agree upon some basic rules of this blog:
1. I know and you know that any advice I offer is my interpretation of my research geared toward the general yoga community – its teachers and students who want to learn. Not scientists. Although, I encourage you to wear your scientist cap while reading my blog.
2. There are exceptions to everything I say. Biomechanics is all about adaptation to loading – there is no such thing as generalization. But I generalize to make it readable, digestible, and fun.
3. I cannot even begin to teach biomechanics in a few blog posts. I actually believe in variety of movement and smart movement. I believe that all movement is good, even some movements I advise you not to teach. But a solid foundation in anatomy and biomechanics is the prerequisite to teaching complex movement. That’s what this blog is for.
4. When I choose to be dogmatic passionate about something, it is so I can provide you with some science in a 5 minute read or less. You’re welcome.
That is all. Thank you for following and for sharing. You make the difference!
On a side note, I have successfully mastered my handstand in the middle of the room. Thank you thesis! I think I have attempted 10,000 handstands in between moments of procrastination brilliant insights. It has proven to be an excellent shift in perspective during those 12 hours days. And yes, I have been loading my body weight on my arms for 20 years now. I made an educated choice to increase the frequency of the load. 🙂