Do you need to do yoga poses in order to learn muscle control and proprioception? Definitely not. I'm a yoga teacher and because my main source of income is teaching yoga, I teach muscle control in the context of yoga poses. However, my goal in so doing is to enable my students so that they can use muscle control and proprioception in anything that they do.
That means that you shouldn't have to do yoga poses in order to learn muscle control.
So what exactly is muscle control. It's basically learning to control the engines of your body. These engines are already in place. Muscle control teaches you how to use them. But these engines do more than create (or resist) movement. They also create sensation. They give you the ability to feel your body.
So muscle control basically teaches you to feel your body and control it via your muscles.
You don't need yoga poses to learn your muscles.
(However, they do offer a good way of practicing muscle control in different postures.)
Why bother learning to feel and control your muscles?
So that you can become smarter in the way that you use your body.
The iPhone signalled the beginning of the age of smart phones. The reason smart phones are smart is that they respond in different ways to touch. The iPhone is one big sensor. And within it are engines for responding to touch in different ways, depending on whatever app you have currently running. Note that the touch screen and the machinery inside it is available to all apps. Likewise, your muscles.
In anything you do you can use muscle control to sense your body and what you are doing with it. And you can use muscle control to control your body. and with practice you can use both to control your body with greater finess.
You can thus become "smarter" in the way that you use your body.
In most new activities you learn two things. You learn to use your body in a new context and you learn the skills of the new activity itself. Generally you have to learn your body first, then as the necessary awareness and control is acquired the skills of the activity become easier.
The trouble is, the new body skills may be tied into the activity so that you can't reuse them. It depends on how the activity is taught. With muscle control, you learn the body, and potentially learn it independent of any particular activity, or you learn it in such a way within an activity so that you can then apply that body awareness to anything else that you choose to learn.
One thing that muscle control relies heavily on is anatomy. Anatomy could be considered a road map to learning to control your muscles. However, muscle control could be thought of as a way of learning to feel your anatomy. In particular you can learn to feel muscles, points of attachments, bones, bony landmarks (which in most cases serve as points of attachment for muscles.)
In this case, the names of muscles are secondary to the muscles themselves. You don't need to know the name of a muscle in order to control it. However, if you are using anatomy as a guide, it's helpful to learn names of muscles, bones and landmarks so that you can search for information easily.
With all that being said and done, below is a description of a video workshop that teaches you muscle control and proprioception (and anatomy) for your legs. It's mostly done while standing. (There are a few exercises done in a chair).
It teaches you some basic principles of muscle control. And it teaches you how you can use muscles more effectively. For example, you can use muscles to help reduce slack in other muscles making those muscles more controllable.
In contrast to the workshop videos linked to in the Beginning a yoga practice and Mindful Muscle Control articles, this workshop is more complete with respect to the legs. Things it covers that aren't covered in those programs include: knee and hip joint activation, complete thigh control, long hip muscle control. The intent of this course is to make it as easy as possible to feel and control your leg muscles. And that's made a little bit easier because the exercises are all done while standing. And so muscle control is covered in a lot more detail.
That being said, with the other workshops, you practice each technique in a variety of yoga poses so that you get better at understanding each technique more fully.
Muscle control isn't just a matter of turning muscles on or off. There are some basic principles that make muscle control easier and more effective. This workshop helps you to understand those principles and put them into practice.
In other workshops, the focus is on learning a muscle control technique and then practicing it in the context of various yoga poses. Here the focus is on the techniques themselves. Yoga poses aren't required. Instead, you learn to feel your body and control it while standing.
One of the main benefits of this, apart from learning a wide variety of techniques, is that you can practice these techniques nearly anywhere and at nearly anytime.
Apart from giving you better awareness and control of your body, muscle control can be used to improve flexibility. It's been the root of most, if not all, of my improvements in flexibility.
It can also help with some kinds of knee, hip or foot pain..
As a for instance of dealing with conditions that cause pain, I've been using muscle control to help deal with knee and hip pain and foot pain. Bear in mind, even with muscle control, it can still take some time, and some investigation to fix problems. And it can be a frustrating journey. But that's true of anything that is worthwhile doing.
While this workshop will not show you how to deal with specific types of pain, it will give you the tools that can help you work towards fixing joint pain. (those tools being the ability to feel and control the muscles and joints of your legs).
With Muscle control, you can work towards being self-sufficient. Rather than relying on someone else to evaluate and decide what you need to do, you can learn to do all of this for yourself.
Again, this course doesn't teach you how to deal with pain or poor flexibility. It gives you the tools to work towards those goals. As well it teaches you some basic principles that may help you remedy joint or muscle pain.
(While I've had "loose knees" due to injury, I've had to wait for my knees to heal. After that, I've used muscle control to regain "pain-free" function.)
In some types of yoga class, the focus is on continually moving from pose to pose to help you get out of your "thinking" mind.
The focus in this workshop isn't on poses, but on feeling and controlling muscles. It's a lot like focusing on your breath. However, with breathing exercises, you focus in general on the sensations generated by your respiratory muscles. With these muscle control exercises, you can focus on any muscles to help take you out of your thinking mind.
Because you are focusing on specific muscles, you'll practice being mindful while at the same time learning to feel your body.
When I'm in a class I can see what works and and what doesn't for particular students and pick exercises based on what I sense. With a set of videos that's a bit difficult to do. That being said, the exercises in these videos have been organized and sequenced so that it is as easy as possible for you to learn the various muscle control exercises.
And modifications and "adjustments" are also included.
Perhaps one of the most important ideas you can learn in this workshop, apart from muscle control and proprioception, is the idea of "adjusting".
This is a lot like tuning a guitar. You don't just tighten the strings and get on with playing. You adjust each string till it sounds right and then you make further adjustments so that all strings sound right together.
Self-adjustment is can be used in muscle control to fine tune the feeling of muscle activation. It can also be used to enable muscles to activate. And like with muscle control in general, the way to get better at self-adjusting is to practice it.
So that you can experiment with muscle control safely, the chief safety mechanism is moving slowly and smoothly.
This might seem tedious, but one of the advantages of moving slowly and smoothly, and of self-adjusting is that it forces you to become present in your body. You think less because you are focused on feeling and controlling your body.
Under these conditions, developing muscle control and proprioception can become an exercise that feels good, even meditative in nature.
A side-effect of these muscle control and proprioception exercises is that they train your brain. More precisely put, it improves the models or body maps that are built into your brain. By learning to feel and control "isolated" parts of the body your brain builds a better model of your body. Better yet, it creates a modular model, one whose pieces can be reused in different combinations in a variety of different activities.
Note that any new physical activity will change your brain. Learning in general trains your brain. However, these muscle control and proprioception exercises are designed to train your brain to better sense and better control the parts of your body.
This is then something that you can use in any physical activity. Learning to feel and control the parts of your body can leads to better awareness and control of your whole body.
Are there people who have difficulty learning muscle control?
The students who seem to have the most difficulty with learning muscle control are hyper-flexible or "floppy" people, students who can drop into the splits easily but can't lower into them slowly.
Ironically these are people who could benefit from it since muscle control not only makes you stronger and helps to protect joints, it also gives you the ability to feel your body. The exercises in this course are organized so that it is easy to learn to activate and muscles (and feel them) even if you are floppy.
At the other end of the spectrum are people who are really tight. Most of the exercises are done while standing upright so that most people can learn to feel and control their body even if they are "tight".
This course could be thought of as teaching you to feel and control your leg anatomy. Muscles are mentioned by name but the main focus is on teaching you to feel and control your muscles. Muscle names are secondary to this. Where anatomy is talked about, layman-friendly terminology is used as much as possible. Names of muscles are mentioned, but the main focus is on actually feeling your muscles (and the bones that they attach to)
Note that the focus here is on feeling and controlling muscles of the lower body, from the hip bones down to the toes. Though because the sacrum and lumbar spine is important for some of the exercises, a brief video on spine muscle awareness and control is also included.
The course is divided into 4 Parts. Each part is made up of a series of short videos a maximum of 5 minutes long. Each video focuses on 1 or more simple exercises.
Videos can be streamed (using the gumroad app) or downloaded. (Downloads are 1280x720 MP4 files.)
There is also a "quick guide" pdf. It includes bullet point instructions for each of the exercises.
Exercises are taught using simple and easy to remember instructions. You can watch the video, do the exercises along with the video, then pause the video.
While the video is paused, try the exercise by yourself to make sure you understand it. If not, replay the exercise.
Once you have a grasp of the exercise, restart the video for the next exercise.
It depends on your time constraints.
You could focus on watching one video a day. Watch it in the morning, then practice the exercises throughout the day whenever you have a moment to spare.
If you have a bit more time, you could possibly cover each part (there are 4 parts) in an hour. And so you could go through the whole set of videos in less than a week.
In either case, rather than rushing through the exercises, focus on feeling your body and controlling it while you do them. Move slowly and smoothly so that you improve your ability to feel your body and control it.
Note that some exercises may be a little bit challenging, so may require a bit more time. If you understand the basic instructions, then you can practice whenever you have free time.
If you are a yoga teacher or have your own yoga practice, you can play with any of the muscle activations in your yoga poses.
Note, when experimenting with muscle control in different activities, find a way to gently implement muscle control.
Muscle Control and Proprioception for the Legs is covered with a 30 day guarantee. Try it out and if you aren't satisfied, my email address is included at the back of the accompanying pdf (the Quick guide). You can also contact me using this Contact Form.
You can also paste this link in your browser to purchase directly on the gumroad site: