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Chapter 5

Seated poses and muscle toning

As muscles fatigue and body energy decrease, you move to less intense poses. The truly difficult task now is to keep the mind focused. You need to become very sensitive to reset muscle tension.

You have started exploring standing poses in depth. By now, your muscles are warm and elastic. Your mind stopped wondering, and you are focused on the moment. However, your energy levels are starting to get to the peak. It is an excellent stage to spend more time in the poses. You will delay the cooldown process with seated poses. The theme I like to explore during this section of my practice is stability, which I will address later in this article. As your heartbeat slows down, I encourage you to extend the length of your breath to keep the levels of oxygen high.

The broader meaning of seated poses

Seated poses include every pose where your body rests on your knees or your bones seat. Poses, in general, can be classified in Forward Bends, Back Bends, and Twist. Using these broader categories, you can group seated poses as the following:

 

  • Forward Bends: They stretch the neck, back, glutes, hamstrings, and calves. These poses are great to cool down and relax. The most common ones are Paschimottanasana, Upavistha Konasana (one of my favorites), Janusirsasana, Badhakonasana, Hero and Child's pose.

  • Back Bends: These poses stretch the front of the body. They are particularly suitable to deal with slouching symptoms and anterior pelvic tilt symptoms such as the neck, shoulder, lower back, and knee pain. Moreover, backbends increase breathing capacity. In this category, you find Camel pose, Pigeon and Puppy.

  • Twists: They have a significant impact on your spine, your core muscles, and the organs inside the abdominal cavity. Forward and backbends mostly affect hip and shoulder joints. But Twists positively stress the vertebrae evenly from the tail bone to the base of the skull. Regarding the organs, twists create temporary differences in blood pressure on critical organs like the gut, stomach, liver, and pancreas. The change in pressure stimulates blood circulation in and out of these organs, facilitating the exchange of nutrients, waste, oxygen, and carbon dioxide. Typical twists are Lord of the Fishes and Marichyasana III.


Stability and Toning

Joint stability is essential to avoid injuries in the long term. The joint is stable when all the muscles attached to it are contracted evenly enough to sustain a posture or a movement. If one of the muscle is too weak, there are chances that you will lose the posture or make an irregular movement that can overstress other muscles that are compensating the deficiency. That is why toning is key in all muscles. This term refers to the ability of the muscle to sustain contraction. All muscles have a minimum contraction present at all times. If the contraction is too sharp (rigid muscle), the muscle suffers from excessive tension, which leads to pain and stiffness. If the contraction is reduced (undertoned muscle), the muscle weakens and could undergo atrophy, reduce its length and become tight. 
 
When doing seated poses the intensity in muscle contraction and tension levels reduce. That doesn't mean that your muscles will fully relax, but you will have to use mental focus to observe subtle sensation in different muscles. If a muscle is not correctly engaging, you will encourage contraction. If a muscle contracts in excess, you will aim for relaxation. This stimulus will reset the tension of the muscles to improve stability.


Moving ahead
Now you could create new heat using flow to continue exploring muscle contraction and relaxation. But if you feel like you are starting to get fatigued, it is time to move to the next stage: Ground Poses. Keep deep breathing or try extending the duration of your breath. Ideally, you will lose track of time under a deep state of concentration. Poses will be gentler from now on, and you need to become more sensitive of your body responses.