Mel Robin is the author of a 1500 page book titled, A Handbook for Yogasana Teachers, The Incorporation of Neuroscience, Physiology, and Anatomy into the Practice, he is about to publish a more comprehensive eBook in 2016. Mel has practiced yoga, studied and taught Iyengar yoga for the past thirty years. Mel started practicing yoga at age 50 and became passionate about the relationship between what is experienced in the physical postures of yoga (asana) and functions of the body, mind and emotions as put forth by western medicine.
Before learning yoga, Mel was Captain of the Gymnastics team at UCLA and worked as a Chemist for Bell Labs for 28 years. Mel combines his intellect, experience and knowledge of yoga to bring a western medical explanation to yoga postures in reasonable and logical ways.
In this Podcast we discuss:
Balancing in yoga postures
- Mental balance allows balancing in a yoga postures.
- To balance on one foot in a yoga posture focus on the ankle. Freeze other body joints and keep the ankle joint loose and in focus.
- Find a stationary spot across the room and hold it in your center of vision.
- Vision is an important part of balancing.
- It is easier to balance with eyes closed in headstand, than eyes closed in a standing balance. And this is because your head is not moving in headstand.
The progression of a yoga posture series, the effect on nervous system and how a student feels after class.
Stress or anxiety causes the sympathetic nervous system to react to a perceived threat. The physical reaction is a defensive posture, the of release chemicals, increasing your heart rate, the chest collapses, ribs pull down to your pelvis, shoulders roll forward, body hunches over, muscles contract in the abdomen. Reaction to stress and anxiety is very quickly (fight or flight response).
The calming, “rest and digest” nervous system is the parasympathetic nervous system. The parasympathetic nervous system reacts more slowly (in15 to 30 minutes).
Yoga postures can stimulate the sympathetic or the parasympathetic nervous systems and a sustained yoga practice will foster better control of the stimulus and response of the body’s nervous systems.
Most useful and healthy is being able to activate both the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. Best to be able to activate the nervous system most appropriate for a given situation. To fire-up when needed, or to relax when needed.
The progression of a yoga class: Parasympathetic postures à sympathetic postures à parasympathetic postures.
Ending a yoga class in a parasympathetic mode leaves a student feeling satisfied and happy walking out of class. A good reason to stay for Savasana! (lying on your back at the end of class.
Remodel stress and anxiety in your mind as a challenge rather than a threat. A challenge will not cause the same excitation of the sympathetic nervous system.
Yoga Posture: Open up your chest (sometimes referred to as “open up your heart”). Mel prefers the physiological description and directs students to; lift your chest, drop your shoulder blades, move your arms so that your shoulder blades push into the back of your chest from behind. Then lift and open your chest.
The lifting your chest motion is part of many yoga postures and over time cultivates better body posture including the strengthening and toning of back muscles.
Biomechanical Effects of Inversions – Blood returns blood to the heart through veins. When the body is in an inversion, gravity causes increased pressure in the blood returning to the heart. There is a sensor in the upper right atrium of the heart that reduces the heart rate and the force of the heart contraction, producing a relaxing effect.
If the student is a beginner, and fearful of an inversion, the “relaxing effect” may be offset by the stimulation of the sympathetic nervous system.
The relaxing effect of the shoulderstand is also, in part, due to sensors in the neck that sense the reduced blood flow to the head and correspondingly reduce the heart rate. The action of tilting the chin into the chest as part of the shoulderstand posture partially blocks blood flowing to the head and triggers the sensors to slow the heart rate.
The Mental Effects of Yoga
More awareness. Body, mind and emotions. The barrier is reduced between conscious action and subconscious action. More permeable. Conscious actions becomes subconscious. Subconscious actions become part of conscious actions.
For example, A new student may hold their breath when entering a difficult posture as a subconscious response. As a student progresses, breathing becomes consciously slow and even through all postures.
Mel talks about his personal yoga practice and the work he is doing to finish his book.
Mel Robin’s book is available on Amazon: A Handbook for Yogasana Teachers, The Incorporation of Neuroscience, Physiology, and Anatomy into the Practice
Mel’s New book is expected to be out this Summer (also available through Amazon) A 21st Century Yogasanalia, in Celebration of Yoga, Science and Medicine.