Muscle tone is developed when the muscle can take the body’s weight (‘load’) and still stretch sufficiently to be flexible. Muscles are never completely relaxed, even in the resting condition. A muscle is usually in a partial state of contraction. During a resting condition the joints are relaxed and the muscles are slightly stretched. Strictly speaking therefore, a muscle tone is the minimum degree of contraction present in a muscle when it is at rest and preparing for further muscle action. However, the position and stability of the body requires adequate muscle tone. It is in this sense we talk about improving muscle tone.
Generally speaking, the stronger a muscle is the less flexible it can be (and visa versa). For example, it is often the case that a yoga practitioner will have a strong / dominate side (let’s say the right hand side) and a weaker but more flexible other (left hand) side. By improving muscle tone through regular practice of yoga asana (postures) we train the muscles to work independently (as explained below) which increases their strength without compromising their ability to stretch.
Certain yoga asanas in Prana Vashya Yoga will stretch one muscle group (in, for example, the right leg) and at the same time will require the other muscle group (in the other leg) to take the load. Such yoga asanas are repeated (so that both the right and left side of the body are worked). This ensures that all the limbs/muscle groups are, on the one hand strengthened, and on the other hand stretched / flexed.
The improvement of muscle tone is one of the reasons for the particular arrangement and sequence of the Prana Vashya Yoga primary series. In addition, its emphasis on joining the movement with the breath assists muscle tone. The Prana Vashya Yoga system is a continuous flow of yoga in which the muscles always move with the breath. This includes getting into a posture (the ‘mount’) and getting out of a posture (the ‘dismount’). Thus each mount and dismount is observed by the practitioner and joined with the breath. This engages the parasympathetic nervous system (i.e. the body’s ‘rest and digest’ mode) and ensures oxygenated blood circulates within the relevant muscle group just worked. This removes toxins from the muscles (e.g. lactic acid) and supports muscle tone.
Damian is an authorised teacher of Prana Vashya Yoga. Damian will be opening a Yoga School at 250 Queens Road, Leicester, LE2 3FU in February 2017. Spaces will be limited so please register your interest by contacting Damian: email@example.com Tel: 0777 900 1896