Yin and Teenaged or Young Adult Athletes

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mjohns
Posts: 3
Joined: Wed Nov 16, 2016 4:28 am
Location: Memphis, TN

Yin and Teenaged or Young Adult Athletes

Post by mjohns »

What do you think of the increase in musculoskeletal injuries among youth athletes. The injuries range from spinal fractures to knee (ACL and meniscus being the primary) injuries. Can yin yoga provide the health needed to strengthen the tendons, ligaments, and disc though the practice may come at a cost to the athlete's performance.

Though every individual is unique and generalizations are not necessarily best, and the youth are in the yang of their life, how could we possibly help the health of these areas through yoga? Could a yin/yang class be the balance? Just curious as to how or is there a fit for yin in the community of youth athletes. I am asked to teach yoga to youth and I have shied away from teaching for several reasons, but I am concerned at the number of athletes I see on crutches for 6 to 8 weeks as they recover from surgery to the knee. Maybe the answer is simply stop playing sports year round. I don't know. Just curious as to direction and thoughts. What type of yoga might be best in this yang time of life and can yoga help prevent these injuries or would adding yang yoga add to the potential overuse of these tissues? "Overuse" may not be the right terminology as it may simply be a part of the diagnosis and the actual symptom. Nonetheless, I am seeking more dialogue so I can rest my brain on the issue.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27637664

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27726754
Michelle R Johns
Bernie
Posts: 1236
Joined: Sat Sep 23, 2006 2:25 am
Location: Vancouver

Yin yoga for young athletes

Post by Bernie »

Hi MJ

Thanks for the questions. I don’t know the answers to most of them, and I am not sure there are answers to all of them: the science is just not being done to give us the information we would like to have. However, let me take you in a different direction ... let's ask what the intention is! ;-) Why do kids do sports? It seems that the increase in sports injury in the young (fragile) bodies being reported is a consequence of more time spent playing the sport and more intensity as well. Why do we need that? Certainly to be a competitive elite athlete is harder today than at any time in the past. Training is long, study is required, and there is practice, practice, practice ... but is the sport more fun because of all this? When I was young, and when my son was young, we played because it was fun; not because we had to, not because we were trying to be one of the 1% of the 1% of the 1% who might make a living out of it. In this regard, our intention to just go out and have fun was yin-like compared to many of today’s child athletes, who are driven (both internally and externally) to maximize their performance: that is a yang-like intention and attitude.

How can yoga help? By allowing the student time to pause, to feel their body, to ask "Why?" Why are they destroying their body for the sake of maximizing sports performance? This is not to presuppose that the answer will mean they stop their sport, but if they do choose to keep pushing their body to the limit, at least it is done with full, conscious awareness of this decision and its possible consequences. Yoga can also help those who continue to try get the maximum they can get out of their body become aware of the signals from their body. Of what value is a spectacular career that lasts only one season? Ignoring pain that indicated severe degeneration almost guarantees a career ending injury is right around the corner. Paying attention to such signals may allow the athlete (young or old) to stop training, address the issue, let it heal, then continue with their career. Strengthening a weakened, fragile area is far better for being and remaining a competitive athlete than ignoring the signals.

I know you are asking if Yin Yoga will help prevent or heal physical injuries by strengthening the weakened tissues: the answer is yes, no and maybe. It depends upon too many factors to say for any one individual. But, I think it is safe to say that all athletes can benefit by being more mindful and aware of what their body is telling them, and learning the appropriate responses. Yin Yoga can be excellent for building that level of mindfulness, which should translate into enhanced and longer sports performance as well as a healthier life overall.

I hope this helps! I would be interested to hear other views.

Cheers
Bernie
mjohns
Posts: 3
Joined: Wed Nov 16, 2016 4:28 am
Location: Memphis, TN

Yin yoga for young athletes

Post by mjohns »

I like the response. I agree. Most of the youth pushing themselves won't make the professional arena and many of whom may have the opportunity will be injured on the way to the top. I guess my next question is how to approach the audience with transparency. I have had several parents, coaches, and student athletes ask me to lead yoga for them. I have avoided the "opportunity" as I really want to be thoughtful and take the right approach with 'yoga for athletes."

i would love continued dialogue as I think to ignore the request would be irresponsible on my part given the evidence to support the need for their healthy bodies, yet allowing them to make an informed decision regarding the benefits and potential effects of yoga could have on their performance is only fair. How would you communicate the benefits and effects or potential effects to parents and athletes? If you don't mind helping me communicate the message appropriately. javascript:emoticon(':)')
Michelle R Johns
Bernie
Posts: 1236
Joined: Sat Sep 23, 2006 2:25 am
Location: Vancouver

Post by Bernie »

I would start by explaining why all tissues need stress to regain and maintain health (explain fragility and antifragility). This includes our joints. How we exercise the joints is the important thing to learn. Most athletes retire, not because of muscle problems or getting older per se, but due to joint problems: a bad back, bum shoulder, trick knee, hip damage, etc. These are the areas we target in Yin Yoga, but through a safe form of exercise: not rapid movement of the joint, but long held, static stresses, which is like applying a traction to the joint.

I generally believe that children, who are in the yang time of life, need yang exercise, but you are dealing with a population of people (teens) who are already yang, so my concerns is not as great for them. Athletes' injuries range from mild and annoying (a muscle strain) to painful and chronic (tendon and ligament sprains) to career ending (usually, severe joint damage.) Yin yoga won't help the first of these injuries, but rest and massage may, but Yin Yoga may help with the last group: joint problems. As we know, all tissues need exercise, even damaged tissues. When a joint is damaged, there exists the possibility of doing too much to the joint and making matters worse, but to do nothing just guarantees that the joint will atrophy. So, some yin--yes! How much yin? Don’t know.

This is where it becomes very valuable for you, as the teacher, to help your teen students learn their own bodies: their limits, what works, what signals to attend to and when to back off. You can apply yin stresses to all the joints you want to target, to help stress the cartilage, ligaments, joint capsules and bones, but keep asking the students to attend to what the body is saying. Not just now while in the postures, but as they come out, and the next day. Start easy, pay attention, if safe move up the antifragility curve slowly so that you don’t go too far.

There is no one prescription that will work for every athlete: but with attention and intention you can help them discover what might work for them.

Good luck!
mjohns
Posts: 3
Joined: Wed Nov 16, 2016 4:28 am
Location: Memphis, TN

Yin Yoga and Joint Problems

Post by mjohns »

I just read an article from Harvard Medical Review with the following excerpt:

"Stiffness in the back, knees, or feet is a common complaint I hear from older individuals. People often say, "I'm just getting old," but old age alone does not cause morning joint stiffness. It is usually an indication of worn joints, muscle tightness, or inflammation from arthritis.

As your joints get older, the spongy cushion of cartilage begins to dry out and stiffen. The joint lining also produces less synovial fluid, which lubricates the joint. Weak muscles and stiff tendons also tend to tighten during sleep. Osteoarthritis, (the "wear and tear" kind), and rheumatoid arthritis, (which involves swelling and inflammation), both can trigger morning stiffness.

The average episode lasts only about 10 to 15 minutes. The stiffness goes away as you move and warm up the joints and muscles. However, stiffness from rheumatoid arthritis may last more than an hour.

You cannot reverse the effects of joint aging, and while certain medications can help manage arthritis pain and inflammation, stiffness can still occur. Still, you can reduce the severity and frequency of morning joint stiffness by being more active and engaging in exercise to increase muscle strength and flexibility. Maintaining a healthy weight also can help. Finally, don't be swayed by joint health supplements, such as glucosamine or chondroitin. These do not appear to help manage symptoms in the long term."

—William Kormos, M.D.
Editor in Chief, Harvard Men's Health Watch

What are your thoughts on the first sentence of the last paragraph?
Michelle R Johns
Bernie
Posts: 1236
Joined: Sat Sep 23, 2006 2:25 am
Location: Vancouver

Turning back the arc of aging

Post by Bernie »

I would agree that we can't run the clock backwards, but only in the long term. We can always reverse yesterday's accumulation of decrepitude. Everyone follows the same "arc of aging" but some follow it much faster than others. Sometimes, we can temporarily turn back the clock a little bit, but eventually we all get older. I would add to their list of reasons we are stiff in the morning the fact that the intervertebral discs swell up overnight, reabsorbing water that is squeezed out during the day. Since the discs are thicker, the ligaments wrapping them are tighter in the morning. But, once we become vertical again, the water starts to leave the discs, the ligament are a bit more lax, and by evening, we can fold deep in a forward fold, etc. I would agree that those supplements seem to be rather ineffective, but there are other things we can do (injections of hyaluronic acid into the joint has been shown to be effective, but not long lasting.) Exercise! Stress! Motion is the lotion of life. Use it, don't lose it.

Cheers!
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