Muscular system – Functions and yoga benefits

Muscular system – part I
Muscular system – part II
Muscular system – part III

We described in a basic way the muscular system and how it works… but what are its functions?

1- Movement: this is the most obvious function, you move in space through the contraction of your muscles!

2- Posture: bones and muscles together hold you in the position in which you are right now!

3- Protection: think of your abdominal internal organs… stomach, intestine, pancreas and so on… without the strong barrier of your abdominal muscles it would be very easy to severely injure them!

4- Breathing: it happens through muscles, the diaphragm (the main breathing muscle) is the biggest muscle in your body!

5- Communication: you talk through muscles that help the voice production in your larynx, you write and paint and produce art through muscles in your body!

6- Production of heat: muscle contraction is the result of a chemical reaction that has heat generation as side product… maybe in summer you don’t like this but when you are very very cold your muscles will start shivering to help you to maintain your vital temperature!

7- Internal life: the heart is a muscle and you live through its constant pumping of blood in your body, muscles are present in your blood vessels to help the blood circulation, muscles are involved in many internal movements as the food moving in your intestine during the digestion and different secretions from internal organs… or simply the expulsion of urine!

Is this enough?

What’s the relation between yoga&muscles?

To begin let’s say that your muscles are 100% under the control of your nervous system! Then let’s add that yoga is 100% education and stimulation (i don’t mean arousal!) and improvement of your nervous system!
As direct consequence yoga will improve any of the muscular system functions… simply because it improves the efficacy of the system directly controlling it!

Furthermore yoga will strengthen all your muscles through the different poses you’ll move in, hold and move out… in the image utkasana, the chair pose

Yes, he’s obviously strenghtening a lot of muscles at the same time!
You will actively engage different parts of your body in the poses and some muscles will be performing an isotonic contraction while others will be isometrically contracting and others eccentrically lengthening… all at the same time eheheh, maybe a bit overwhelming at the beginning but very nice and enjoyable after a couple of classes… the nervous system is learning new movements and possibilities!!!
Strengthening your muscles you will do the same for your connective tissue and skeletal system!
The muscle contraction will generate a force that will be transferred to your tendons and then to your bones… this increased stimulation will signal to your body that those areas need to be reinforced… we have already seen how your osteoclasts and osteoblasts will do this job… the bone remodelling function! Muscular and skeletal systems are deeply connected… keep in mind that muscles require calcium to work… and calcium is stored mainly in your bones! Improve one system, get results on the other as well!
Your posture will change and you’ll tend to be more aligned and straight… because you’ll release unnecessary tensions from some muscle and start using some more efficient muscle in more efficient way… being aligned and straight means less required effort… you have a “silent enemy” always active… it’s the gravity force!
Try this exercise!
1- Lay down on your back, arms near your body, palms facing down, legs and feet together
2- Inhale and raise your both legs 90° with the straight knees
3- Now check how much force you need to hold the legs in this position
4- Try now with the legs 60°
5- Try 45°
6- Try 30°
Do you feel the difference? Legs 90° means they are aligned with the gravity force line and your bones are absorbing much of it, it’s enough easy to stay in this position for some time! When you start lowering the legs, specially at 30° the gravity force will be trying to push down a much more larger surface of your body, your bones will not help you anymore and you will feel it much harder!

We’ll talk more on gravity force… for now understand that the more straight and aligned you are… the less muscular effort you’ll need!

Through yoga a lot of tensions will be released from your body… often we actively contract some muscle (think to the crouched position we often assume in front of our computer or in the office or while texting with the phone!) but we “forget” to release them when we change what we are doing… some muscular contraction will remain welcoming us when we’re back in front of the computer… this unnecessary contraction will increase day by day tightening itself… the result will be a stiff and tense body… obviously those contracted muscles will require energy to stay in permanent contraction (!!!) and this energy will be subtracted from the energy you could use to enjoy your life instead of carrying up that situation!
Doing your asana practice will release the tensions, give to your contracted muscles a rest, increase the activity of “too much relaxed muscles” (agonist vs antagonist means that if a side of your body  is always tight… as consequence the opposite side will be weak!) and start building a balanced structure on which you will enjoy much more your life!
Next step will be to develop a stronger body awareness… now you recognize which posture is crouching you and which one is opening you, your body will find easy to sit with a straight spine so you’ll prefer it to a compressed positionyour mood will change because your posture and your mind are strictly connected… if you never noticed it try to sit straight with your chest open and lifted up by your sternum opening your lungs, neck in line with your spine, shoulders in line with your torso, slightly open to the back and relaxed, chin parallel to the floor but slightly tuck in and have a deep and relaxed abdominal breathing. How does this position affect your mind and mood? If you find this natural position impossible to achieve don’t you think you should start doing something to bring you more close to it?!?!
Now try to sit in a typical modern days position… shoulders and neck forward, inward collapsed chest, outwardly relaxed abdominal wall and internal organs, egg shaped spine, compression of lungs and air passageways, have a shallow, fast, clavicular breathing (logical consequence of the pose!). How does this position affect your mind and mood? Do you find any difference with the previous open position? Do you recognize the apparent easiness of the second compared to the first? Do you think that the second is more sustainable and healthy for you compared with the first? How often do you find yourself in the first or second position during your day? Do you think that a more natural and sustainable could be associated to a state of wellness?Can you associate an unnatural slouched pose to some typical pain that modern people suffers, lower back pain in primis? If you could choose between wellness and pain… which one would you choose?!?!

Your balance, coordination and skills will improve simply because you will start training these functions in your body! There is nothing special, nothing magic, nothing inaccessible to anybody of any age, sex, present abilities or condition… there’s only one way: practice and everything will come… but the biggest secret is: start practicing!!!

You will be the witness of the change happening in your bodychange happening as mathematical result of strengthening and awakening core and postural muscles, releasing unnecessary tensions, strengthening weak areas, reallocating energetic resources in your body, balancing your system, acquiring coordination and muscular control, establishing a new tendency towards a more sustainable and healthy way to sit, stand and move!!!