The Library

Functional Yoga

                                                FUNCTIONAL YOGA


Why do we practise yoga?  To judge by many illustrations in books, DVDs etc it would appear to be so that we can bend backwards to touch our feet to our head, perform a perfect handstand or other contortion.  In reality of course yoga exercises are essentially to allow us to live more fully, freely and effectively with awareness.


Flexibility, strength and stamina are simply measures of our ability to function as living physical beings.  All three aspects are essential if we are to function most effectively, but strength and stamina are often missing from the average yoga practice.


Strength, the ability of the body to support daily (or extra) activities is needed not just to carry heavy bags of shopping, but for apparently easy movements such as rising from a chair unaided.  A recent study showed an alarmingly high proportion of 60 year olds needing to assist their legs by pushing with the arms as well.  Related to strength is `power` the ability to use expulsive strength – strength translated into action and movement.  Both of these aspects often fail to be developed in the holding of static stretches or even the strong holds of some of the standing poses such as Parsvakonasana.


Stamina is just the ability to keep going!  Correct breathing is important but for most people it is the tiring of the muscles which becomes the limiting factor.  If you are daunted by the thought of a 5 mile walk, or even find cleaning your windows too tiring, or digging a few square metres of garden, it could well be that stamina is a facet of your training to which you should give more attention.


Functional training, whether in yoga or any other form of exercise aims to address all aspects of fitness for living.  Functional movements work on all levels, and on all parts of the body.  A flexible back is of no use if it and your core strength are weak.  Pranayama is irrelevant if you cannot breath according to the needs of your activities


Fortunately Indian exercise systems have the answer we need.  In `Yoga and Health`, Yesudian describes the practice of Dhandal and Bhasky; slow motion exercise with maximum muscular contraction.  Taking a basic movement such as chopping a log, digging, or lifting up your shopping bags and placing cans on a high shelf, the aim is to move with total awareness of each muscle being used, and with every muscle of the body being tensed as though you were moving through the resistance of thick treacle.  Each move should take up to a minute to complete.  Ten to fifteen minutes of intense effort (after warming up) and good free breathing should leave you feeling as though you had been performing the action for two to three times that length of time.  So the next time you fill your bags with 2-4-1 offers be grateful your yoga practise has given you the functional ability to throw the bags into the boot of the car.


  Derek Osborn / Shiv Giri          c.                                                         2006 01


Enter content here

Enter content here

Enter content here

Enter content here

Enter supporting content here