Undulations, Recruitment and Neuroplasticity - Elevating the way we practice
Over the past few years we’ve seen the physical practice of yoga evolve quite a bit, more consideration of joint preservation and movement mechanics. While yoga is great for training flexibility, isolation and isometrics, it is hugely deficient in training mobility- the sad truth, yogis don’t move all that well. We can hold postures with expert precision, however lack the coordination and recruitment for fluid transitions through these poses. This leads to a lot of joint hinging, energy leaks and over time, chronic pain and injury.
There is a reason you hold tension in your traps, low back, or hamstrings. It’s probably because these muscles are picking up the slack for a lazy friend, the energy leak. Energy leaks represent the weakest parts of our body, the places we usually skip past during our practice. Our bodies are always looking for the path of least resistance, often to our detriment. However, it is our job to find the path of more resistance, to discover those weak parts and recruit them.
So, how does one train recruitment? The answer lies in mobility training. We cannot simply train strength or flexibility alone. We need to train movement. Mobility and recruitment are important concepts to understand and work with, but they have been reduced to buzzwords. As a result, people only focus on small aspects of the greater picture. When it comes to a yoga practice or really any type of physical training, it's helpful to start bringing our attention to the spaces in between, slowing down & ironing out our transitions.
UNDULATORY LOCOMOTION > JOINT HINGES
Undulation is a flowing, up-and-down Movement similar to the motion of a wave, so Undulatory Locomotion is movement characterized by wave-like movement patterns that act to propel animals forward and back. Undulatory Movements recruit more movers and stabilizers in the body, aiding us to iron out our parts which are hyper-flexible, weak or stiff. They also help prevent us from wearing on the same joint action over and over. Yoga is a lot of shoulder and hip hinging, like a whole lot. Hinging isn’t inherently a bad thing, but when we do it hundreds upon hundreds of times (think about all those sun salutations and add them up) we begin to create chronic strain due to over use. Look at the most common yoga related injuries- tendonopathy of superior hamstring tendons, rotator cuff tendinitis, sacral disjunction- these are all injuries correlating to wear and tear. So having other tricks in your back pocket to pepper into your practice, like undulations, will help cut down on all those miles.
NEUROPLASTICITY AND HOW MOVEMENT RESHAPES THE BRAIN
If we constantly skip over our weakest areas, our body will relay to our brain that those areas are unimportant and we will never adapt. Flex your brain-body by breaking up with your movement patterns. When we train our body difficult, higher recruitment motor functions we promote neuroplasticity, meaning new connections and functions between nerve cells. Undulatory movements encourage the brain to rewire itself by growing new, stronger connections and in turn, make those weak areas of the body stronger and more functional, we call this Cellular Adaptation. Our brain-body wants us preforming optimally in functional tasks.
Below is my Signature Pasu Namaskar we practice in place of the traditions Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutation). Pasu is the Sanskrit word for Animal as we are integrating animal locomotion into our practice, and Namaskar means Salutation. Since we navigate through hundreds of Sun Salutation in our yogi lives, they are a great place to weave in Undulatory Locomotion and eliminate some of our patterned hinging.
Movement & Wellness Studio
Helix Alternative Movement Studio in Westport. Yoga, Calisthenics, Meditation, Strength Training, Stretching and Traction, Foam Rolling and Animal Locomotion Classes. Yoga Teacher Trainings 200hr & 300hr