This blog could be titled 4 reasons to practice Yoga, Tai Chi, or "just move". Movement helps limit the effects of aging, inactivity, and poor lifestyle choices. Not only do we lose muscle mass as we age but also lose flexibility in the connective tissue, particularly in the spine. Here are four effects on the joints that can be minimized through regular activity like practicing yoga.
Connective tissue needs to be stressed appropriately the same as muscle tissue. Without periods of stress and rest this tissue is in a state of immobilization and will degenerate. Meaning it will become less dense and weaker. Degeneration is often seen in older populations, with accompanying fragility, especially in the spine.
Without regular movement or stress, connective tissue shortens. Appropriate stress on the joints lengthens connective tissue. To maintain the body's maximum mobility, this tissue, as well as muscle tissues needs or requires regular stimulation. In modern society, sitting, driving, and sleeping decrease articular movement of the joints in the lower back.
Fixation occurs when two smooth surfaces that are surrounded by fluid are compressed. Like a cold glass of water on a coaster on a hot day. The water drips to the bottom of the glass and creates a seal between the bottom of the glass and the coaster. When you pick up the glass the coaster comes with it. The pressure from the glass on the coaster and the fluid around the bottom of the glass creates fixation. It takes force to pop the coaster off the bottom of the glass. This example is mirrored in the joints of the spine. If the joints of the spine are not articulated regularly, the joints of the spine are in an environment where they can easily become fixated. Compressed due to gravity and the surrounding fluid. Once fixated, the joints require movement and tension to become de fixated. As we age it becomes more difficult to de fixate the joints of the spine. The connective tissue and muscles become too short and too tight due to immobilization.
4) Hyaluronic Acid
Hyaluronic Acid is the major constituent of synovial fluid, and is produced in the connective tissue of the body. This coiled molecular structure draws over 1,000 times its own weight in water to itself. As we age we literally dry out as hyaluronic acid production decreases. By stimulating connective tissue through mmovement, hyaluronic acid production is increased. In ancient Yogic teachings, vast numbers of Nadis, or Meridians of energy are mentioned. Of these innumerable nadis(72,000), we are told three are of particular interest. They are the Ida, the Pingala, and the Sushumna channel. These nadis are, according to modern meridian theory, water rich phases lying within the connective tissue of the body. These meridians are not visible to the eye, as they are not encased in a structure like a vein. Upon death all fluids dissipate from the tissues of the body, making these meridians almost impossible to locate when dissecting a corpse. It is possible that the ancient Yogis invented Hatha Yoga intuitively, in order to keep this energetic and communicative system of the body healthy.
As we age the body needs stimulation and a certain degree of stress through movement in order to keep muscle fibers and connective tissue healthy. To combat degeneration, contracture, fixation, and loss of hyaluronic acid production. Yoga, being an ancient science designed specifically to keep the body in good health can also be practiced at almost any age. Either to maintain what you have or to re establish what you may have lost, Yoga is is a gift perfectly suited to these needs.