Episode 88: Looking at Yoga Poses Through the Lens of Yoga Neuromechanics With Robyn Capobianco

Robyn Capobianco in Plank Pose

Yogis often talk about the nervous system in terms of how it responds to stress. But if you’ve ever wanted to learn more about the science of how the nervous system works, this episode is for you! (Spoiler alert: It controls almost everything related to movement!)

This week, I talked with yoga therapist and PhD candidate Robyn Capobianco, who studies at the Neurophysiology of Movement  Laboratory at the University of Colorado, Boulder. She explains how her research applies to yogis and offers practical ways to apply her findings to avoid yoga injuries and more. It’s fascinating stuff.

We explore:
* How the nervous system works and informs movement
* How the body responds to sensory input, and how it relates to yoga
* How the SI joint differs from other joints in the body and what yogis can do to avoid SI joint pain
* One simple thing you can do to engage the core more in Plank Pose
* Questions the science behind common beliefs like: Is it really unsafe to jump back from Downward-Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana) to Plank Pose? And gets to the bottom of why teachers instruct you to lift your toes in Utkatasana (Chair Pose).

“I really believe in creating a sustainable yoga practice. That means doing the postures, not for the reward of doing the actual pose, but for being in our body, and being in our breath, and really trying to suck the juice out of yoga.” – Robyn Capobianco

“There are no bad movements. There are movements that are appropriate or not appropriate for a certain time and place.” – Robyn Capobianco

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Robyn  Capobianco on Instagram

Yoga Neruomechanics website

The Story of the Human Body by Daniel E. Liberman

Light on Life by BKS Iyengar

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  1. I loved this episode! I’m a yoga teacher and finishing up my last year of PT school so this episode was right up my alley. I’m still struggling with the plank vs chaturanga jump back. I think you touched on some good points about needing adequate core stability (and shoulder stability) to jump back to either pose, but I’m not sold (yet) that jumping back to plank is the same as jumping back to chaturanga in the average yoga practitioner. Especially because I think yoga teachers generally don’t do enough to teach adequate core activation. I’d be interested to see the EMG comparison in people who aren’t as knowledgeable as Robyn about how to access their core while jumping back.

    • That’s an interesting comment, Natalie! I’ll pass it on to Robyn. Thank you! Andrea

  2. Awesome interview!! I loved it! So many interesting issues with scientific background about such antique discipline. The interview connects two things that I loved deeply: science and yoga (which for some people this might sound completely unconnected). Definitively I will look for Robyn’s papers and website. Thanks Andrea!

    • I’m glad you enjoyed it, Aline! Warmly, Andrea

  3. A very interesting interview, thank you! I am still thinking about the reason to cue lifting the toes in Utkatasana… Could the reason for this be to help support the ankle? I once twisted my ankle right before a weekend yoga workshop and the teacher suggested I lift my toes to bring support to my ankle.

    Listening to Yogaland, and the website, have been amazing resources and inspiration for me. Some times I just want to geek out on yoga and it is so nice to do that with people you trust–Andrea and Jason, you two are an amazing team!

  4. What a great episode! I’m a yoga teacher and I also teach motor learning and control at a university so this hits both my areas. Thank you.
    I have students lift their toes in chair to make sure they’re moving their weight back into their heels and moving their shins back, not to activate anything from the lifting itself. I like them to sit back and use their glutes and also root the whole foot – especially the big toe mounds if they’re really using their butts.
    Ps – I want to meet Robyn! 🙂

  5. Thank you so much for this podcast. I’m Pilates trained & the plank she’s suggested makes lots of sense as far as core activation goes. I also make my students lift they’re toes in chair pose to make sure they’re not putting all they’re weight on they’re knee. Amazing yoga and science connectivity. I educate my students as I learn from your podcast. I truly appreciate your efforts. A big thank you from Malaysia.


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