The last blog of this series tackles the most technical and muscular relationship of effort and ease: the relationship between contraction and relaxation.
We started this series with the first type of effort and ease which is the combination of shavasana and asana. Then we moved to the second which is pose and counter-pose. Now we close with reciprocal inhibition.
Reciprocal inhibition describes the muscular relaxation of one side of a joint in order to accommodate muscular contraction on the opposite side.
This means that when the biceps contract to bend the elbow, the triceps know to relax. Or when hamstrings contract to bend the knee, the quadriceps know to relax.
In asana, this means that something is relaxing even if we notice effort. It also means that relaxation of a muscle in a posture is the result of contraction.
Let's take the example of the spine in Half Moon Sidebend, pictured above. When bending to the right in this posture, the left side of the body gets longer. This is relaxation or stretching.
However, this stretch is only the result of engagement on the other side. So when bending to the right, the right side contracts and shortens. This is engagement. We are not trying to relax everything, but we are also not trying to contract everything. We need the opposites to be in conversation with one another: one side contracts and its opposite relaxes.
This will happen somewhat naturally due to reciprocal inhibition.
However, if we understand this concept we can be more precise in practice. We should always focus on contraction of the correct muscles in each posture, knowing that relaxation will result from correct engagement.
This concept, reciprocal inhibition, represents the third way in which we cultivate effort and ease. Within each posture, even when they feel quite challenging, there is still relaxation. Where there is effort, there is always ease.
Scott & Ida are Yoga Acharyas (Masters of Yoga). They are scholars as well as practitioners of yogic postures, breath control and meditation. They are the head teachers of Ghosh Yoga.
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