Rita guides you through a most loving and sacred yoga practice. Her gentle nature and lightness allow for the most wonderful unfolding to take place in her class. As a fellow student and teacher I am always appreciative of her gifts and radiant smile she shares with others. ... Aarti Ganesh           Read more...

Our Musculoskeletal System and Yoga

The musculoskeletal system is also known as the locomotor system & is composed of our skeletal system and the skeletal muscles:

The skeletal system consists of all the bones in the body, including the cartilage & the ligaments. There are about 208 bones in the adult body & they are joined by the ligaments. It is because of these joints that the body is able to move & is less liable to total injury. Besides that the skeletal system performs a number of functions:

• Provides a framework for the body,
• Provides levers for the muscles to move,
• Provides protection for the delicate organs of the body such as the brain & the lungs,
• Contains the marrow which manufactures the blood cells,
• Stores calcium & phosphorus minerals,
• Provides pH balance by buffering blood against excessive acid-base changes,

The muscular system consists of all muscles of the body. There are more than 500 main muscles as well as thousands more that can only be seen under a microscope. The muscles consist of a fleshy tissue which has the ability to contract & expand & it is responsible for all physical movement & motion. The act of breathing, the beating of the heart as well as every other function of our physical organs, is due to muscle action. Indeed half of our body is made of muscles including all our vital organs.

There are two types of muscles-Voluntary and Involuntary:

Voluntary muscles are those which are under the control of our will such as those of the face & the limbs.
Involuntary muscles are those which control the working of the inner body without us thinking about it, such as heart, lungs, blood circulation and digestion. However, those who practice Yoga, gradually acquire some degree of control even of the normally involuntary processes.


Our skeleton system is constantly working to preserve our framework not only externally but also internally. Yoga helps in realignment of various mechanical disorders like knee pain, neck pain, cervical spondylosis, lower backache, slipped disc, hiatus hernia, umbilical hernia, arthritis, including osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and gout etc. In order to counter various medical problems, there are various yoga positions and postures which can be practised to free our joints and relieve pressure on the cartilage. These Asanas can be done sitting, standing, lying down, and upside down. Before attempting these, it is essential to learn how to stand erect. Some people stand with knees bent, others protrude the abdomen, while some throw the weight of the body on one foot or the other or have the feet at an angle. This can be noticed by watching where the soles & heels of the shoes wear out. All these standing defects tell upon the spinal column which in turn affects the mind. For such defects Tadasana is very useful.


Tadasana means steady & erect like a mountain. In yoga, Tadasana is the most basic & the most important of all the positions. It’s not just a standing posture but it also corrects the alignment of the body. It is from Tadasana pose that many positions and exercises commence. The alignment for Tadasana carries in to many of the standing and inverted poses. If your alignment and positioning in Tadasana is incorrect, the rest of your workout will be incorrect as well. So, one must learn this foundation posture perfectly. Here’s a technique:


• Stand straight with feet together. Arms are at your sides with fingers together. Close the eyes & relax with normal breathing. While relaxing, bring your attention on your posture & check the position.
• First, check your feet, are they together? Big toes & heels should touch each other. Then see that the weight of the body is neither on the heels nor on the toes but in the centre of the arches. Do not tighten the toes, but stretch them from the bottom & keep them relaxed. Keep the ankles in line with each other.
• Pull up the kneecaps, tighten your thigh muscles, compress the hips, tighten the buttocks, pull your stomach in & up & expand the chest. Keep the neck erect & the head straight. Do not tilt forward & backwards. Look straight & do normal breathing.
• Stand still for 20-30 seconds & breathe normally. This is the position for all standing postures.


This asana develops physical & mental balance. The entire body is stretched & loosened, helping to improve sluggish circulation in the lower limbs & clear up congestion of the spinal nerves.


• If you’re new to yoga, try practicing Tadasana with your back directly against a wall to find the alignment in this pose. Heels, sacrum (middle of pelvis) and shoulder blades gently touch the wall. When the body is in proper alignment, the lower back and back of the head should not touch the wall.
• If you have difficulty balancing, widen your feet a few inches keeping second and middle toes pointing forward.


While doing Virabhadrasana 1, we can see the most obvious effects on the musculoskeletal system. Before I explain about this asana, there is a story of Lord Shiva. This is a story of love, attachment, pride, shame, vengeance, violence, sadness, compassion and renunciation.


Lord Shiva was married to his beloved Sati and lived in the pleasure city Bhoga, which he had created. Sati's father Daksha had never approved of his daughter's marriage. To Daksha, Shiva was an unorthodox hermit, who frequented cremation grounds. A yogi with long matted hair, who consumed intoxicants, sang and danced whenever it pleased him, was not a worthy husband for his daughter. Daksha the Prajapati (the worldly creator), was the upholder of civilization and he thrived on rules and regulations. Shiva was his antithesis.

Shortly after Sati had left her secure home of her father to live with Shiva, Daksha organized a great party, a yagna or ritual sacrifice. He invited all the members of the entire heavenly universe, all that is except Shiva and Sati. Sati got word of this and suggested to Shiva that they go anyway. Shiva said, "Why go, were we invited? I do not wish to incite your father's anger any more than I have already." Sati was hurt by her father's refusal to acknowledge her marriage and her husband; she decided to go alone to the party.

When she arrived her father asked her why she was there as she was not invited. Her father, sniggering, said "Perhaps you have come to your senses and have had it with your wild animal of a husband, isn't he also called Lord of the Beasts?" All the guests present laughed. Sati defending her husband spoke, "He is one with nature and does not seek to control animals by bending them to his will. Society is artificial and exploits nature." This dialogue between father and daughter entertained the guests. Sati was saddened and humiliated by this public argument with her father. When her father tried to taunt her again she remained silent, letting go of all desire to continue to argue with her father in hopes of defending her husband. She trembled with disgust and indignation at having been so cruelly let down by the one man upon whom she, as a daughter, should always be able to rely. Instead she made an internal resolve to relinquish all family ties. She summoned up her strength and spoke this vow to her father, "Since you have given me this body I no longer wish to be associated with it." She walked past her father and sat in a meditative seat on the ground. Closing her eyes, envisioning her true Lord, Sati fell into a mystic trance. Going deep within herself she began to increase her own inner fire through yogic exercises until her body burst into flames.

When news of Sati's death reached Shiva, he was first shocked and saddened, then enraged. He fell into the deepest and darkest place he could find. He tore his hair out and fashioned from this hair the fiercest of warriors, Siva named this warrior, Virabhadra. Vira means hero & Bhadra means friend. He commanded Virabhadra to go to the yagna and destroy Daksha and all guests assembled. Virabhradra arrives at the party, with sword in both hands, thrusting his way up through the earth from deep underground; this is the first aspect (Virabhadrasana I.) Establishing his arrival for all to see he then sites his opponent, Daksha, (Virabradhasana II.) Moving swiftly and precisely, he takes his sword and cuts off Daksha's head, (Virabadrasana III.)

Shiva arrives at Daksha's place to see the damage that Virabhadra had ravaged. After this vengeful action, Shiva absorbs Virabhadra back into his own form and then Siva becomes known as Hare, the ravisher. His anger is gone but now he is filled with sorrow. This sorrow turns to compassion when he sees the aftermath; the bloody work of Virabhradra. Shiva finds Daksha's headless body and giving it the head of a goat, brings Daksha back to life. Overwhelmed by this generous gesture, Daksha names Shiva as Shankar, the kind and benevolent one. With Daksha's pride put in check he bows in awe and humility to Shiva the Shankar. The other Gods and Goddesses follow his lead and honor Shiva.

The fact still remained; Sati was dead. Shiva walked away from the scene of the party, carrying the lifeless body of his beloved wife, wandering to where he did not know. But one thing he was sure of; he would find the most isolated place possible and once again become the ascetic recluse.

The Esoteric Meaning of this Story:
Shiva is the Higher Self who slays the prideful ego (Daksha) for the sake of the heart (Sati). Through means of infinite compassion, the higher Self forgives the ego but nevertheless withdraws to a secluded place with only the essential nature of the heart left intact. This essential nature of the heart is the power of love which will be brought to life again, in another form.

Here’s a technique:


• Stand in Tadasana, while inhaling jump with the legs 4 - 4 ½ feet apart & extend the arms sideways in line with the shoulders.
• Turn the palms up, stretch them upwards & join the palms. Keep the elbows straight. Take 1-2 breaths.
• Exhale & turn the right leg & trunk out to 90 degrees to the right & the left foot slightly in. Take one breath. While exhaling bend the right knee to 90 degrees.
• Keep the left leg firm & straight.
• Take the head back & look up at the thumbs.
• This is the final position. Breathe normally & stay for 15-20 seconds.
• Inhale & come back. Repeat the posture on the left side by reversing the process.
• When you've completed, return to Tadasana.


While doing Virabhadrasana 1, we can see the most obvious effects on the musculoskeletal system. In this asana, you can discover for yourself, how skeletal muscles operate with feet spread wide apart, the hands stretched overhead & the palms together. Feel what happens as you pull the arms to the rear & lower your weight. To pull the arms up & back, the muscles facing the rear have to shorten concentrically, while antagonist muscles facing the front passively resist the stretch & possibly completion of the posture. As you lower your weight the quadriceps femoris muscle on the front of the flexed thigh resists gravity & lengthens eccentrically. Finally, as you hold still in the posture, muscles throughout the body will be in a state of isometric contraction.


Virabhadrasana I, relieves stiffness in the shoulders, ankles and hips. It strengthens the legs, opens the hips, chest and stretches the arms and legs. It strengthens and tones the muscles of the pelvic floor, abdomen, ankles and the knees. This pose improves sluggish blood circulation and respiration and energizes the entire body. It develops concentration and balance. It also builds & generates confidence.


• People suffering from heart trouble should avoid this asana and those with physical weakness should not remain in this position for long.
• In case you are suffering from ailments, it is recommended to practice under the guidance of experts & to please consult your doctor.

You can take good care of your Muscular System through the help of Yoga. Not only does it strengthen your muscles but at the same time you gain a healthy inner being as well.

Courtesy: Dr. Rita Khanna
Aum Shanti

1 comment:

  1. I bet you won't guess which muscle in your body is the #1 muscle that eliminates joint and back pains, anxiety and excessive fat.

    If this "hidden" highly powerful primal muscle is healthy, you are healthy.