Strength and cross-training fitness is often regarded as a discipline confined largely to health and fitness clubs and organizations. Unfortunately, this obscures the fact that it can and does appear to have a significant effect in other settings such as yoga, pilates and other boutique fitness studios.
In particular, the MBB and PNF (Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation) contains many useful techniques which play an important role in stretching and strengthening the body in exercise fitness. It is one of the aims of this paper to show that PNF is a comprehensive conditioning system, which when properly executed can add invaluable benefits to one’s practice.
PNF is regarded by conditioning specialists as a special type of sophisticated stretching, alongside static, ballistic and passive stretching. PNF is far more than just another stretching technique; it is actually an entire system of therapy comprising a broad spectrum of different techniques and procedures for yoga students wanting to become more flexible, increase agility and build more strength and endurance.
Stretching constitutes but one of many aspects of the full repertoire of PNF methods. However, even those very few enlightened yoga instructors who use minor forms of PNF are limited in their work due to lack of any proper tools or training in the trade-- not anymore! Now we yoga teachers have the Mighty Body Band. The MBB is a unique, internationally patented product and is growing in awareness around the world. Together, the MBB and PNF stretching recognizes that all physical conditioning depends primarily on neuromuscular processes involving sensitive receptors (proprioceptors) in the muscles, tendons and joints which enable a person to stabilize and move the body and its parts in space and time. Appropriate recruitment of the various stretch reflexes of the body, therefore, forms a vital part of the MBB via PNF conditioning.
Definition and Scope of PNF
Formally, PNF is defined as a system for promoting the response of neuromuscular mechanisms by stimulating the proprioceptors in a diagonally based pattern. The PNF approach was developed back in the 1940’s and 50’s by three very clever neurophysiologists named Kabat, Knott and Voss. These men stated quite simply that PNF techniques involve placing a demand where a response is required.
Generally, -------two types of PNF may be recognised:
1: classical PNF (assisted)
2- modified PNF (unassisted)
The former refers to the hands-on clinically used by physical therapists as designed by Kabat, Knott and Voss, while the latter refers to an approach which adapts certain PNF techniques and principles for
application by hand or apparatus such as the MIghty Body Band® (MBB™) in physical conditioning.
In applying classical PNF, the physical therapist stabilizes specific parts of the body with one hand on the body, while the other hand is used to grip the extremity or relevant part of the limb of the patient to offer highly specific patterns of resistance.
The MBB works the same way, however it uses a patented body harness/belt to achieve the similar results.
PNF stipulates that the muscle contraction must be maximal throughout the current range of movement, thereby ensuring that summation occurs at all times. Summation refers to the adding together of individual muscle twitches to produce strong, cooperative muscle movements. It occurs by imposing exercise of high intensity or prolonged duration to increase either the number of motor units contracting simultaneously or their rate of firing (or both).
The MBB helps promote a strong involuntary contraction in a debilitated muscle by imposing a sharp tension during extension of the joint, thereby eliciting the myotatic stretch reflex produced by the muscle spindles.
PNF recognizes that the myotatic stretch reflex actually consists of a short duration, phasic stretch reflex and a longer duration, weaker tonic stretch reflex. Consequently, short and long duration stretching loads are imposed in PNF to achieve different muscular responses. At other times, resistance will be increased or prolonged so as to enhance activation of the Golgi tendon reflex, thereby tending to reduce the tension in a muscle and promote local relaxation, which is sometimes desirable in facilitating the execution of a certain diagonal patterns.
PNF also relies on the phenomenon of reciprocal inhibition in which strong contraction of the agonist
muscles causes reflex relaxation of the antagonist muscles to prevent the latter from being injured.
Application of this technique can produce a significantly stronger contraction of the agonists.
In an MBB setting, PNF requires the teacher to make regular use of verbal and non-verbal cues, including contacts with the hands or highly specific spoken commands to direct, instruct and motivate the student/client. Sometimes, PNF implements various supplementary methods to augment facilitation produced by other primary means such as the use of blocks, chairs weights and belts to achieve the desired results.
The combined efforts of PNF and the MBB teaches yoga therapists to teach repetitions of graded resistance, to incorporate phases of relaxation, to elicit reflexes to facilitate contraction and greater range of movement, to impose specific patterns of passive and active movement, to use supplementary procedures for
enhancing performance and to generally stimulate all neuromuscular processes related to voluntary and
involuntary movement.No other yoga training method comes close to qualifiying as an all-around healing
and conditioning system
The basic principles of PNF may be summarised as follows:
1. Use of spiral and diagonal movement patterns
2. Motion crossing the sagittal midline of the body
3. Recruitment of all movement components (e.g. flexion-extension)
4. Exercising of related muscle groups
5. Judicious eliciting of reflexes
6. Movement free of pain, but not free of effort
7. Comfortable full-range movement
8. Application of maximal resistance throughout the range of non-ballistic movement
9. Use of maximal resistance to promote overflow (irradiation) of muscle activity
10. Use of multiple joint and muscle action
11. Commencement of motion in the strongest range
12. Use of static and dynamic conditions
13. Appropriate positioning of joints to optimise conditioning
14. Exercising of agonists and antagonists
15. Repeated contractions to facilitate motor learning, conditioning and adaptation
16. Selection of appropriate sensory cues to facilitate action
17. Emphasis on visuo-motor and audio-motor coordination
18. Use of distal to proximal sequences in neuromuscularly mature subjects
19. Use of stronger muscles to augment the weaker
20. Progression from primitive to complex actions
21. Planning of each phase to lay foundations for the next phase
22. All activities are integrated and goal directed
23. Use of adjunct techniques (e.g. massage, vibration).
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