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Everything starts with a stretch!

When we first step on the mat with the intention to do some body work, we normally have no idea of how many elements of ourselves will be involved and how the essential parts of our being are connected. I am referring to our body, our unconscious mind and our conscious mind.

Our body is comprised of different elements, such as: bones, muscles, ligaments, tendons, cartilage and fascia. These connective tissues are all different parts of the whole. The very structure of connective tissue compels us to acknowledge that the slightest or most subtle change in one area of the body necessarily has an impact on the whole body. A small movement in the big toe affects the foot, ankle and, consequently, even the position of the pelvis. The spider’s web is an excellent analogy - our muscles, arteries, veins, and bones are joined to one another through even more connective tissue called fascia. These attachments create a web of tissue that wraps around our body structures, one structure within or connected to another and another and so on. Although we use different words; like muscles, bones, ligaments and so on, in effect they are different parts of a single unit. And to make them separate would be like trying to separate bread, butter and jam on the toast! And so, when we perform a stretch in on body part, that would have a knock on effect on the other parts of the body.

Our nervous system weaves its way into the muscular system, telling it what to do and how much tension to have. Nerves reach from the deeply protected layers of the spine and skull to make their way throughout the body, getting into every nook and cranny. Our mind and body are not two separate parts but are a continuum and our nervous system when stimulating the physical body will also be stimulating our mind at the same time. When we’re performing a stretch, alongside the stimulation of the muscles, we are stimulating our whole nervous system and our mind!

When we work with our body on the yoga mat, making our body stretch, we are, in essence, working with our mind. Through yoga practice, we learn how to focus our mind using the physical sensation of the movement, while stretching on the mat. And through developing this focus we are establishing a stronger connection between our minds and our bodies. We get ourselves into a stretch, which normally will be very demanding depending on how tight our muscles are, and we wait and listen to the feedback from our bodies. We learn to be guided from within; only moving when the body says it is ready.

In its essence, when we start with a simple stretch, we start our long journey of self study. Toned muscles and beautiful bodies are a pleasant side benefit of this journey but the real goal achieved is a better understanding of ourselves.

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Yoga by Elena

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