An introduction about Merel Martens book
I am exited and super grateful to be one of the first people who can read Merel Martens first book, the founder of Parimukti Yoga School. These days she is finishing her book; which is about the foundations of yoga therapy and applied physiology. Physiology is the study of the normal function in living systems, in this cause our living system, our physical body.
Why a book about yoga therapy and applied physiology?
This book is most of all the result of years of self practice and study. While training aspirant yoga teachers, Merel found herself ending up teaching anatomy: a logical step as she studied Medicin. She is truly thankful to teachers such as Paul Grilley and Ray Long, whose books she used for studying and teaching anatomy. However, she did come to realize that most practitioners are well aware of the benefits of a regular yoga practice but few of them can explain ‘why’ in a physiological context. She found herself looking for background information and found that there was not much around. In her own words: “There seems to be more information available on the effects of meditation on the brain that’s fueled by the field of neuroscience. On the other hand subjects like: why yoga lowers blood pressure and how it can potentially reverse Diabetes type II there is nothing much around. Also I found powerful scientific articles, but without a background in medical sciences or psychology, those papers are damn hard to read ‘J So…she found herself making her own notes, lectures and study material. Earlier she put together a reader, an online course and now it’s the time to put that altogether in one book.
What is yoga therapy?
Yoga therapy is a systematic approach to gain health and well-being. It is not focused on curing symptoms but seeks to understand the underlying mechanisms, which cause the symptoms. Yoga Therapy is an answer to the increasing demand for a different approach to health and well-being, triggered by a growing understanding and experience that we are more than our tangible, physical bodies, and that maintaining health and well being has be sought within and beyond the physical body.
The core of a yoga therapy treatment plan are yogic practices such as asana, pranayama and concentration/mediation in combination with changes in life style and (ayuvedic) nutrition.
How is the book organized?
Merel discusses the benefits of yoga practices on the bodily systems. These are: the nervous system, the cardiovascular system, the respiratory system, the digestive system, the endocrine system, the reproductive, the skeletal and the muscular system.
At the end each chapter Merel gives summary of the benefit and a list of asanas, bandhas, pranayama, and meditation that are relevant for that body system. At the end of the book there’s detailed overview of all the practices with a picture, a short description of how to practice it, the benefits and contra-indications.
‘The yoga effect’
Merel has come to recognize that the effect of yoga is threefold. She calls it: ‘the Yoga Effect’.
- The relaxation effect
Stress reduction and finding a structure and balance that fits the individual client are the foundation for a healthy lifestyle
Relaxation in the body results in relaxation in the mind and vice versa. How this works exactly Merel explains in the chapter on the nervous system.
- The activation effect
Ask any person practicing yoga and they will tell you that they feel more energized, motivated, and creative. In yoga we acknowledge the concept of ‘prana’ which is the subtle energy that flows in our bodies. Similarly like a stiff muscle, stagnated lymph, or blood cloths, prana can get stuck at places too. Different yoga practices wake up the prana, improve its flow and remove blockages.
- The awareness effect
Allowing yourself to observe your mind and its product is much different from the typical rumination and daydreaming. The difference is: awareness. We are looking at the thoughts, rather than drowning into them. If any emotion comes up; like anxiety or fear we can stay neutral and look at what’s happening, When you take distance it is usually much easier to see what’s occuring and what needs to be done (or not done).
Humbleness and the ability to drop your own believes
Those are according to Merel the most important aspect of yoga therapy when you want to help somebody. A yoga therapist has the task to recognize what the person sitting in front of you needs on physical, mental and/or energetic level. Merel: “There is no single ‘quick fix’: everybody is a unique individual with a specific make up and arrangement of patterns, behavior and physique. However, the elements that we are made up off are common. We all have similar fears, anxieties, and thoughts plaguing us. The foundation, the root is universal. How an individual does express him or herself is different; influenced by our individual past experiences and current circumstances. Therefore listening carefully, feeling with sensibility and allowing intuition to come are important tools in the healing process.”
Chewing on yoga therapy
Being a yoga teacher myself, I must say the information comes for me at the right moment. In my personal practice and teachings I use the knowledge I gained in studying yogic anatomy. Now I’m ready to take the next step and learn more about yoga therapy and applied physiology. Merel writes in a very lively and energetic way; this helps me to understand the sometimes ‘dry’ theoretic content. I like the way Merel takes me by the hand explaining to me what I, according to her, as a yoga teacher should know. J
While reading her book, I became aware there are some topics I want to chew on. Therefore, I decided to write my next articles about yoga therapy, related to physiology. The first topic I’ll dive into will be about how yoga can be helpful to strengthen the bones. In the first place this subject captures my interest because as a result of early menopauses I have osteopenia.
For answering this question I have to dive deeper into the skeletal system. What is the function of this system? What kinds of minerals are flowing in the bones and what is their function in having a balanced bone capacity? Tomorrow you can read about this 🙂