As the body ages, it begins to stiffen, tighten and shrink, affecting both flexibility and movement. Various exercise systems such as yoga or tai chi purport to address these changes through their specific disciplines.
Yoga typically concentrates on developing flexibility and strength by stretching into static postures, while tai chi emphasizes movement through a series of specific movement routines. stretching in postures, and tai chi through movement.
Taoist yoga is an exercise system that addresses flexibility and movement and is part of a Chinese yoga style known as Yin & Yang yoga.
Yin & Yang yoga consists of exercises and movements that use simple postures that the student gently flows in and out of. The body and muscles remain relaxed during the practice so that the joints and connective tissues can be emphasized.
Muscles, tendons, ligaments, veins and arteries, cartilage, bones, and even the organs are all also targeted by the practice.
Circular and spiral designs and movements found in nature are integral to the practice and are similar to those used in tai chi and other chi kung disciplines.
Yin & Yang yoga was developed by American yoga teacher Paulie Zink and is a style of Taoist yoga originating from the ancient health practices, philosophy and spiritual traditions of China.
Taoist yoga is part of a larger system of physical and breathing exercises known as qigong that is used in Chinese medicine as a prescription for restoring health and as a preventative to disease and premature aging. In this tradition it is important for all the joints to be open and mobile in order for chi, or the life force, to flow efficiently.
According to the theories of Chinese medicine, Yin & Yang yoga invigorates the body’s innate healing response by equilibrating its energy flow.
According to Zink, “Our blood flow circulates better and our energy moves in a more efficient way so our health can be optimized.”
The more static postures are used to grow flexibility, yet the emphasis is not about becoming more flexible in static postures, but learning how to move more fluidly. The ability to flow fluidly and comfortably in and out of them is equally important to the practice, if not more so.
Standing and balancing postures can also be added as a component of the practice. Yin & Yang yoga is also designed to develop muscular strength, and the weight-bearing movements of the postures temper the bones. Since bones are living tissue and generate new cells, they too are capable of growth and adaptation.
Every joint of the body is targeted in this practice, and attention is paid to the fingers, wrists, toes and ankles, back, shoulders and neck. The continuous transitions from tight, contracted postures to open, expanding ones are designed to help the body move through and extend its full range of motion.
Certified Yin & Yang yoga instructors trained in this discipline are available in select geographical areas throughout the country, including the Lowcountry, and can be found through an internet search.
Gary Jaster of Hilton Head Island is a certified yoga instructor with more than nine years of senior yoga and senior fitness experience. www.yinyogahiltonhead.com