Are there any benefits in tensing the muscles as described in Rites No 4 and 5?
Here's what Colonel Bradford had to say in the original 1939 book, The Eye of Revelation.
Rite No 4 – The Tabletop. When the body is pressed up to the complete horizontal position, tense every muscle in the body. This has the tendency to stimulate Vortexes, F, G, E D and C.
Rite No 5 – Upward/Downward Dog. After a few weeks, that is after you become quite proficient in this movement, let the body drop from its highest position to a point almost but not quite touching the floor. The muscles should be tensed for a moment when the body is at the highest point [Upward Dog], and again at the lowest point [Downward Dog].
Although Bradford gives information about stimulating the Vortexes in Rite No 4, he doesn’t provide any for Rite No 5 (illustrated above).
Also, he doesn't say how long we should hold the contraction (5 seconds, 10 seconds, etc.), which is standard to other muscle tensing exercises.
Is it possible we may have read more into this instruction than Bradford intended? If not his reasons have been lost to time.
On the other hand, he may also have simply meant, that when we reach the apex of the movement, all our muscles are tensed (which they are) before we move down into the second part of the movement. It is impossible to do both of the movements above and not have all your muscles tensed at those particular points - that's how we get our bodies to align and hold the pose before releasing.
In Tibetan Yantra yoga, as taught by Chogyal Namkhai Norbu, who introduced Yantra Yoga to the West in the early 1970s – tensing the whole body is carried out - however, it is done differently (sometimes held for four counts and to the point of trembling.) It is also done for a specific purpose. “Yantra Yoga is designed to coordinate our energy through the synergy of breathing and movement.”
“Oddly, some of the five movements—one especially—resembles one of the eight movements of Yantra Yoga, but it’s done without any knowledge of integrating the breathing with the movement, which is a fundamental point in the practice of Yantra.” Fabio Andrico an internationally recognized expert on Yantra Yoga.
Other Muscle Tension Methods
Muscle-tensing exercises are also known as isometrics. Isometrics have been used for many years to build up muscle strength and for post-injury rehabilitation. They work by contracting your muscles as hard as possible against an immovable object. You hold this contraction for a set length of time or until you can no longer hold the contraction at maximum force.
Apart from developing strength, isometrics may also increase muscle size, ligament and tendon strength, and improve bone density.
An example of isometrics is to perform a wall squat by pushing your back against a wall, then sliding your back down until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Like you are sitting down without a chair. Using your legs, push your back as hard against the wall as you can for 10 – 30 seconds, then rest for about 60 seconds. Repeat two to four times.
2. Dynamic Tension
In isometric tensing (contraction), you generate force against an immovable object like the wall squat above. In dynamic tension, movement can take place. The significant advantage of dynamic tension is that you don’t need to use heavy weights to get the same result. Instead, you simply tense the target muscle as hard as you can. This way, you don’t overload your joints and muscles and avoid wear and tear and injuries.
Dynamic relies on self-resistance, you create tension in your muscles, and that’s what you have to work against (instead of the wall, for example). To try this, place a broomstick in the palms of your hands, then close your fingers towards you (underhand). Next, with your hands shoulder-width apart, bring the stick towards your shoulders like you are doing a bicep curl. Now, try and squeeze your muscles as hard as you can, as if the broomstick is so heavy you can’t lift it quickly or easily. To use dynamic tension in your workouts, you would do a number of repetitions in one set and then repeat that 2-4 times with a 60-second rest in between each set.
Muscle tensing exercises can cause a significant rise in blood pressure, particularly if you are holding your breath. If you suffer from high blood pressure or heart or circulatory problems, you should check with your doctor before trying this type of exercise.
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