Yoga and the art of spinning plates.

I’ve been in the muscle/bone (Musculoskeletal) world of physiotherapy for approaching 20 years. I’ve come across many situations where increased length in and around the body’s soft connective tissue (ligaments, muscle, tendons, fascia and nerves) has been required. As a result I have suggested to many patients that they maintain the gains made in their physiotherapy course by dovetailing the home stretches we have practiced with either class based or 1:1 Yoga practice.

Having suggested patients should try this eastern, almost mystical seeming discipline, I finally had to sample it for myself and practice what I (p)reach. Life can often feel like you’re spinning lots of different sized plates on sticks all at once – family life, work, sport/leisure being the brighter coloured plates in my world. You could argue that as well as these interchangeable bright plates, are smaller ones representing the physical, physiological and mental systems that are influenced by their counterparts. If you focus on one plate for too long and neglect the others, the scene can look a little wobbly and precarious! The physical and mental efforts required to keep all of these plates spinning in harmony requires a fair bit of attention. This is why Yoga is a nice fit for me. Yoga helps combat the physical tensions that my life can produce. It helps maintain and improve the areas of the body that get through a large workload and thus shorten/tighten or develop tension. Repeated working and sporting postures create these tensions in me. I stand and lean over folk for much of my working day. It obviously benefits the patient, but you have to watch your own body position too. I cycle to work daily, I run and am still restoring full function following an Achilles tendon rupture/surgery earlier in the year. Yoga helps to iron out these areas of tension and restore that balance when one of those plates gets a bit wobbly. It also helps the strength and fitness required to successfully navigate life.

My muscle length and strength are improving as you would hope/expect. My physical and sport/leisure plates are thus spinning ok. The discipline I hadn’t bargained for or really considered that strongly (if honest) was the psychological impact that yoga can have. I’m well used to the endorphin release and the physiological benefits that exercise brings, and I’m pleased to find these are present in yoga practice too (small plate spinning-check). But I hadn’t factored in the quiet, mental time and space that Yoga practice brings. In a hectic world we don’t take enough time out to practice “nothingness” where all “noisy” external influences melt into the background for a while at least. A gradual mindful shift is taking place. It may be a slow moving stone on a shallow gradient, but the benefits of where this mindfulness could lead me is all too apparent. So that’s another plate spinning well, but one that requires focus to keep it moving.

Nearly 2 years in and my roughly twice weekly taster sessions are paying dividends. At the time of writing I’m only able to attend x2 45 minute Yoga Express sessions per week. These convenient sessions consist of a quick paced, condensed Ashtanga sequence. 2 short sessions are OK, and it is better than no practice at all. It still feels a little like I’m peering through the crack of a door into an appealing and intriguing world that knows no bounds. This is both daunting and exciting and will keep me hooked for a good while longer. My next step on this voyage of discovery will be the longer 90 minute sessions. In the meantime, I hope that Yoga continues to provide the lubricant that helps all of those different plates spin nicely. For now, things are spinning well, but lose too much focus and things may resemble a Greek restaurant!