Yin yoga and teenage gymnasts

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isabelle7
Posts: 2
Joined: Wed Feb 05, 2014 10:29 pm

Yin yoga and teenage gymnasts

Post by isabelle7 »

Is yin yoga safe and beneficial for young gymnasts ranging in age from 8 to 12 years old?
Bernie
Posts: 1196
Joined: Sat Sep 23, 2006 2:25 am
Location: Vancouver

Is Yin Yoga a good idea for kids and young gymnasts?

Post by Bernie »

First, lets consider the question from the age perspective before getting into the discussion from the gymnasts' perspective.

Should kids do yin yoga?

I have talked to this in a previous thread. My philosophy is that kids, being in the yang stage of life, need to build strength, not mobility. Kids need to move! (Our culture’s penchant for forcing children to sit still for many hours a day while in a school classroom restricts the child’s normal behavior --- when a child can’t sit still, we label him hyperactive or ADD, but in reality he is the normal one. Kids who can passively sit for hours at a time are not normal.) Yin yoga can help build mobility, mindfulness, calm and centered awareness, but do children really need all that at this stage in life? I would much rather see kids out playing or doing Kid’s Yoga where they can move, than see them sitting still for an hour or more. Of course there are some children who really do benefit from Yin Yoga, but they are rare.

Now, the second part of your question – will yin yoga help gymnasts?

Gymnasts and dancers have always used yin yoga-like stretches to improve their range of motion. Restrictions to range of motion, when the restriction is due to tension, can come from several areas: the muscles, the fascia, the joint capsules, the ligaments and tendons. All of these can be remodeled through a yin yoga practice. Holding a pose near the edge of the range of motion for moderately long periods of time does increase range of motion, at least until the restriction to further movement is caused by compression. (Once compression is reached, no amount of yoga or stretching will increase range of motion.)

Many gymnastics and dance teachers include yin yoga postures in the basic training. Obviously, this does work to increase range of motion and so – yes, yin yoga could be beneficial to increasing a young student’s mobility.

The question still needs to be asked: should the young student do yin yoga? It is worth consider the risks/rewards here. Some of the most broken bodies I have seen are retired gymnasts and dancers. Many gymnasts suffer lower back problems later in life because of extreme training they undertook as children and young teens. I have seen spondylothesis caused by repetitive deep backbends done in a dynamic way: moving, deep back bends can push the spine beyond its limits causing one vertebra to slip backwards under its neighbour. The general literature on spondylothesis claims that 40~50% of gymnasts will develop it! (Not everyone agrees with these statistics.)

If it were my child considering gymnastics and loves it, I would prefer her to work on strengthening her back and core musculature (yang yoga) rather than have her do yin yoga to enhance her range of motion. Her gymnastics training will give her the flexibility she needs, let her yoga practice develop the stability she needs too.

Cheers,
Bernie
dave
Posts: 31
Joined: Sat Dec 28, 2013 6:12 am

Post by dave »

I am a little cautious about commenting here because I don’t want the person who asked the question to think my comment is directed at her. It is just a general comment.

I have some pictures to add. If you go to this link from Yoga Dancer http://www.yogadancer.com/Pattra/Natara ... shtml#Full you will see some beautiful yogis with nice straight, strong legs and knee joints. Except for picture #3, the one with the ball. You can see how far her knee extends beyond straight. We have no way to know why this young woman’s knees extends that far beyond straight. That could be her natural range of motion, she was just born with hypermobile knees.
But sometimes people start out with straight legs, knee joints and from pushing too far into yoga poses or gymnastics a healthy straight leg eventually looks like the knee in that picture. And other damages can happen as well. If a group of young healthy kids came to us and we send them home with damaged bodies... This is something we should be very cautious about with any sport or activity.

But also, yoga, gymnastics or any exercise if done properly and appropriately can extremely beneficial for people of all ages.
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