I find it a bit funny that some folks roll their eyes when we talk about energy movement throughout the body in our yoga practice, but have no problem discussing the kinetic chain of energy transference in sports. Let’s look at tennis, for example.
Tennis is a demanding sport that involves a series of complex movements. You need to generate power to propel the ball forward, and it is not enough to use only your arm/shoulder. “The power behind every shot in tennis is generated through a series of body segments or links referred to as the kinetic chain. When your feet push against the court to run, jump or shuffle, energy is created and stored in the first link of the chain, your feet. The power is then transferred in sequence to the major muscles in the remaining links — your lower legs, upper legs, hips, trunk, shoulders, upper arms, forearms and finally to the last link, your hand.” (1)
Both lack of power and body injuries come from interruptions along the kinetic chain. That’s why it’s important to learn proper technique – to make sure that the body parts transfer the energy properly. “Efficient function, with maximal performance and minimal risk of injury, requires optimum activation of all the links in the kinetic chain designed for power. Injury is often associated with alterations in the flow of energy across segments, such that if one segment is removed from the chain, then there is an increased reliance on the others to accommodate this loss, which may lead to tissue overload.” (2).
We pretty much talk about all the same things when we discuss body alignment in yoga poses. We often use the term “energy lines”, but it describes the same principle: different parts of the body need to be organically aligned with one another to avoid injury and facilitate smooth energy movement. The original purpose of yoga asanas was to be “prana pumps” – to move the energy to every nook and cranny in the body and nourish it. If those lines become “kinked” it leads to restrictions in the energy flow; if we rely on some parts more then others we can create compensation patterns that lead to injuries. That is why when we look at yoga poses we need to understand them in their entirety, rather then focus on positioning of isolated body parts (just like we would in tennis).
Today we feature a short yoga practice to prepare your body for playing tennis. It contains large whole body movements mimicking different aspects of the tennis game. Each movement is meant to integrate different parts of the body while emphasizing specific areas that require special preparation. Give it a try and let me know what you think!