by Marilyn DeMartini
No matter what the age or level of activity, the motor components of balance, agility, speed, coordination and power are all vital for functional daily living and athletic performance. Yoga could be the best prescription for all such motor activity, according to Kiersten Mooney, co-founder of greenmonkey, a yoga studio chain with locations across South Florida, including a studio in Fort Lauderdale, two in Miami and two in Naples.
Mooney teamed up with the University of Miami to document the theory and has been studying various components of yoga.
One study looked at the muscle utilization patterns of different yoga poses and showed which muscles are being used and how actively during specific poses at different skill levels. Additional studies showed the improvements of groups with neuromuscular diseases like Parkinson’s or those prone to falls. From this data, Mooney created a scientifically proven sequence of asana or poses geared to increasing balance and aiding in fall prevention.
“When you fall, whether it’s falling out of the pose on your yoga mat or in daily life, quick reactionary time is key to preventing injury,” says Mooney. “Having the capacity to respond quickly to catch yourself in the midst of a fall—or even to grab a child out of harm’s way—you want your body to have speed; falls rarely happen slowly or when you are standing still, but rather when you are transitioning.”
While most think of yoga as picturesque half-moons or holding a tree pose, the practice truly is using various muscles to build balance and coordination—skills that are important in preventing falls and subsequent injuries—especially as we age or when practicing the transitions between poses. As an example, the yoga electromyography (EMG) study recorded electrical activity produced by skeletal muscles and showed that as the toes were more activated, the lower leg muscle activity increased, therefore targeting the muscles that are predominant factors for balance and fall prevention.
After mastering a pose sequence, you can begin to add speed into your practice, building your capacity to react quickly and also to develop power and strength. “Not all yoga has to be slow,” Mooney explains. “When you increase the speed of the sequences, you develop more power. Also, as we move through our practice, we are moving our body weight from pose to pose, so it is weight-bearing resistance training, which builds strength.”
Various yoga classes are offered at greenmonkey, from Power Vinyasa with some heat to Slow Flow Restorative and Gentle Yoga. Children’s classes, private coaching and corporate wellness programs are also offered. The style you choose depends on the goals you set for your fitness and wellness. The greenmonkey motto is “Live your practice”—yoga becomes part of your life, not just something you do in class.
greenmonkey is located at 1445 SE 17th St., Fort Lauderdale, 954-533-6782, greenmonkey.com. Introductory specials available and first class is free.