The Role of the Connective Tissue in our Yoga Classes
By Donna Gianniotis and Alexandra Plane.
At the physical level, our yoga classes focus on moving, stretching and strengthening all the body parts in a way that considers and nurtures the whole of our body – our body being energy well before it is function. In our yoga classes we also focus on re-developing conscious presence (mind and body in union/aligned together), as well as re-learning to feel the flow of energy in our body, which can only be done with a true honouring and consideration of our connective tissue.
The connective tissue is a system of tissues that runs throughout the entire body. It is everywhere and runs throughout all the muscles, tendons, ligaments, bones, nerves, blood vessels and organs. Every part of our body is connected to the others through this fascinating interconnected web.
The connective tissue allows for friction free fluid movements and supports all our body systems from the inside out. Energy flows through our connective tissue, and in its ideal state, the connective tissue supports our natural elongated posture and our organ systems to work together harmoniously. When can picture our connective tissue like a river that flows throughout our entire body.
The status of our connective tissue has a direct relationship with our levels of health and wellbeing. In its ideal state our connective tissue naturally feels fluid, expansive, gliding and sliding in movements.
Often when we feel tight in the body, lacking in health, wellbeing and/or vitality, it is not just a result of our muscles being tight, but rather that tension, tightness, hardness or scars are present within our connective tissue, affecting and potentially blocking the natural flow of energy.
As an example, we come across a lot of people who have tightness and tension through their upper back, neck and shoulders. Often what people are used to doing is trying to stretch strongly to relieve the tension. And yes, the stretch may give an instant temporary relief, but long term and even medium term, nothing really changes. What this means is that they are left with constantly having to stretch for relief with the tightness, hardness never truly going away and the core issue behind the tension remaining unaddressed and thus un-healed.
So how do we address truly releasing tension in the body?
We do this in our yoga classes through a gentle dynamic practise with a focus on feeling and being with the body as we move. We emphasize and encourage moving the body with conscious presence, gentleness and tenderness – in breath and body – because this is what the connective tissue loves and responds to. These qualities of movement allow stress and tension to be released from the connective tissue.
The way we are with and treat our body has a direct relationship with how we feel. Say for instance that we are always slamming doors shut or stomping as we walk. These harsh qualities have an impact on our body, i.e on our joints, ligaments, muscles and connective tissue amongst others. If we were to truly choose to feel our body as we performed these actions, we would connect with the fact that it really doesn’t feel very nice nor self-honoring. But what if we were to close the doors gently, walk gently? How would this feel? No doubt you would find, as we do, that it feels lovely in the body.
So the same goes for stretching or strengthening exercises. If we do them harshly and with force, this has an impact on the body that brings or magnifies that same quality of hardness and harshness into our body. We may push the body thinking that it is good for us/our health, and yes temporarily it may feel good relieving some stress and tension, but what are the long term affects? Could it be that the long term affects are a hardening, more stress and tension in the connective tissue, thus in our entire body?
There is a way to stretch and strengthen our body with a quality of presence and gentleness that honours, supports and cares for our entire being, and that can release stress, tension and tightness that is held in our connective tissue and muscles.
We share this way of exercising in our yoga classes where the focus is on the quality of how we move the body and not about how much you do or how far you stretch. The focus is on learning how to reconnect with our body and ourselves, and moving our body in a way that promotes long term health, wellbeing and vitality.
Exercising our body with consideration and honouring of our connective tissue brings a meditative quality to exercise. It is like a meditation in action and feels exquisite, deeply nourishing and healing.
Donna Gianniotis and Alexandra Plane assist people in their healing via the modalities of Yoga, Meditation, Esoteric Healing and Massage. They share Connective Tissue release exercises in their Yoga group classes and Private Yoga/Yoga Therapy sessions on Sydney’s Northern Beaches, in Balmain, Glebe and North Sydney. They can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.