Posts Tagged ‘flexibility’

27 Amazing Benefits of Yoga

May 15, 2016

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Yoga is a spiritual, mental, and physical practice that’s been around for centuries. Today, there are several types of yoga that vary in difficulty and speed. While different yoga types feel different, yogis and scientists alike will tell you they are all extremely beneficial for your mental and physical health.

The great thing about yoga is there are very few limitations to start. While colorful yoga pants, support blocks, and fancy mats are nice, you don’t necessarily need any of that stuff to get started. Instead, simply pick a basic yoga routine that has beginner poses and follow along. You’ll notice your body and mood change in no time. To find out the health benefits you can expect when you begin yoga, check out the following 27 benefits of yoga:

1) Better Flexibility

Have you ever watched an experienced yogi twist herself into pretzel-like poses? Seriously, who knew the human body could even bend like that?! The truth is, if you don’t keep your body conditioned to do such movements, then it won’t be able to. Overtime your muscles will atrophy and your joints will settle into a limited range of motion. So when you take your first yoga class, you may not be able to touch your toes let alone tuck your feet behind your head. Stick with it, though, and you will gradually notice your body loosening up.

2) Better Posture

Has anyone ever told you to stop slouching or to sit up straight? Poor posture doesn’t only look bad, it also has a negative impact on the body. Bad posture has been linked to backaches, neck pain, joint problems, and muscle fatigue. Luckily, there are a few things you can do right now to improve your posture, with yoga topping the list. Yoga is one of the best ways to fix poor posture since each pose aims to get your body back into proper alignment without forcing you into unnatural positions. By the way, I’m not just talking about a straighter back. Yoga poses require your entire body to work together, which means everything from your neck to your shoulders, back, and lower body needs to be properly aligned.

A word of advice – before you take your first yoga class, snap a photo of yourself. Then, keep documenting your progress with more photos. Pretty soon you will notice a huge difference in your posture. Before and after photos are extremely useful since improved posture generally isn’t something that you’ll notice by looking in the mirror. That isn’t to say your friends and family won’t notice the difference, though!

3) Better Balance

From easy beginner movements to more advanced stretches, you will need to concentrate and focus in order to hold yoga poses. Overtime, though, you will notice that you don’t have to concentrate quite as hard. That’s because your balance has naturally improved. Every yoga pose helps improve your balance, even the ones that don’t appear to require any balance. When you are sitting or leaning you are still required to center your body.

4) More Strength

Unlike other types of workouts where you pump iron or pull on resistance bands, with yoga, you only use your own bodyweight as resistance. Since yoga requires you to enter into and hold various positions, you will naturally strengthen your muscles. Don’t worry about your muscles getting bored with the same old poses, though. As soon as one pose becomes easy for you there is always another, harder, pose for you to begin working on.

While just about every yoga pose helps your body to build strong muscles, some of the best include planks, bakasana, and various headstands.

5) Tones the Body

One really great aspect of yoga is that it works to tone your body without using weights or exercise equipment. Like a push-up or a pull-up, yoga only uses your own body weight as resistance.

One worry a lot of women have when they hear the terms “resistance training” or “strength training” is: “Will it make me bulk?” Take a sigh of relief ladies because yoga won’t make you bulk up. Rather, it will give you a nice, lean figure.

The poses that work best are the ones that pit your body weight against you, so go for any pose that has you lifting any body part in the air and holding it there. You’ll definitely feel the burn.

6) Better Sleep

While sleep experts recommend getting between 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night, according to the National Sleep Foundation, millions of Americans are getting nowhere near that. Rather, many people are suffering from sleep problems. If you are someone who has trouble sleeping, scientists recommend trying yoga. In a recent study conducted at Harvard Medical School, researchers investigated how a daily yoga practice might affect sleep for people suffering from insomnia. After eight weeks, they found significant improvements in participants’ sleep quality and quantity. This isn’t the only study that reached those findings.

Yoga helps to relax the nervous system, which is the part of your body responsible for a restful sleep. Additionally, yoga’s meditative aspect comes into play to quiet the mind. So if a racing mind is what keeps you from getting a good night’s sleep then performing yoga at any point during the day may offer you some relief.

There are specific poses you can do that are known to help people sleep more soundly. Try uttanasana, halasana, or savasana before tucking yourself under the covers. These should put your body into a relaxed state, making it easier for you to drift off into dreamland.

7) More Energy

Yoga does a few things for the body that result in a boost of energy. For one – a better night’s sleep makes for a more energized day. Second, studies show that some yoga poses adjust the hormone cortisol. Too little of this hormone can drain your body of energy. Although, you don’t want too much of it either!

Additionally, when you practice yoga you are taught to breathe more deeply, which means your blood receives waves of fresh oxygen. This is key to increasing energy levels.

To help beat fatigue try the following poses: utthita trikonasana, utkatasana, and salabhasana. Once you’ve completed these poses you should feel more awake, leading to a more productive day.

8) Better Sex

Transforming your body into a super sexy machine is perhaps one of the most popular benefits associated with yoga. There are a few ways yoga translates into the bedroom. First and foremost, flexibility. As I mentioned earlier, the longer you do yoga the more flexible you will become. The more flexible you become the more poses (both on the mat and in the bedroom) you will be able to do. Additionally, you’ll be able to hold those poses for a longer period of time without getting tired. You’ll have more strength, more balance, and more flexibility, which all translates to better performance.

All yoga positions are linked to the sexual act, so you can literally choose any sequence and you’ll be improving yourself greatly. Choose poses that resonate with you and build from there.

9) Lower Blood Pressure

It’s important to monitor and lower high blood pressure since it can lead to heart attack, stroke, and other unhealthy cardiovascular events. Aside from taking medications, there are natural ways to lower high blood pressure. According to a study published in the British medical journal The Lancet, yoga is a great workout for your heart and over time will improve your cardiovascular function. The key is sticking with it long enough to get these benefits. In one study, researchers looked at people with hypertension and compared the effects of Savasana (Corpse Pose) with simply lying on a couch. After three months, the group that practiced Savasana noticed a 26-point drop in systolic blood pressure and a 15-point drop in diastolic blood pressure.

As you can see, you don’t have to do any extreme yoga poses or practice hot yoga to get the benefits of lower blood pressure. Rather, it’s the calming nature of yoga that does the trick. So focus on feeling good and only push yourself far enough for continual growth. Don’t push yourself to the point of frustration. Additionally, if you’re looking to lower your blood pressure then try to focus on meditating while you hold your poses.

10) Better Circulation

With all of the twisting motions and upside down poses, yoga can really get your heart pumping and blood circulating. This means fresh blood and oxygen are delivered to your cells and organs, enhancing their function. According to studies:

“Twisting poses wring out venous blood from internal organs and allow oxygenated blood to flow in when the twist is released. Inverted poses encourage venous blood flow from the legs and pelvis back to the heart and then pumped through the lungs where it becomes freshly oxygenated.”

Yoga also thins the blood which can decrease the risk of heart attack and stroke, since they are often caused by blood clots. Additionally, yoga can help reduce swelling in the hands and feet.

The chair pose, downward dog, and warrior pose are just three poses that can improve circulation. However, it’s important to note that these benefits won’t be achieved overnight. So stick with it!

11) Lower Cholesterol

Cholesterol is a lipid that’s found in the bloodstream. While the body needs some cholesterol, too much LDL cholesterol can lead to a buildup of plaque in the arteries, blood clots, heart attack, and stroke. Impressively enough, numerous studies have shown yoga to lower LDL “bad” cholesterol and boost HDL “good” cholesterol. According to the American Heart Association, HDL cholesterol actually helps to remove LDL cholesterol from the arteries and carries it back to the liver, where it’s broken down and passed from the body.

If you are on a medication that lowers cholesterol and would like to begin practicing yoga on a regular basis, consult with your doctor first.

12) Lower Risk of Heart Disease

Between lowering blood pressure, increasing circulation, and lowering bad cholesterol, it’s no wonder that yoga helps to lower a person’s risk of heart disease. The various poses and deep breaths help the heart do its job, increasing blood flow throughout the body, and improving the entire circulatory system.

There aren’t any specific poses that will lessen your chance of heart disease. They’re really all effective!

13) Less Pain

Much of the pain we experience today is related to our lack of motion and activity. Yoga is one thing you can do to ease that pain. After a short period of practicing yoga, you may find your body moving into its proper alignment. When that happens, chances are a lot of your pain will dissipate. According to several studies, both asana yoga and meditation can help to reduce arthritis pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, back pain, fibromyalgia, and other painful chronic conditions. It’s important to remain optimistic and realize that it’s not likely going to be an overnight process.

There are specific poses you can do for pain management, but these will vary depending on what is hurting. You can do routines for back pain, arthritis pain, as well as any specific body part that’s giving you trouble.

14) Boost Your Metabolism

You’ve heard the term “metabolism” countless time, but do you really know what it means? According to the Mayo Clinic, metabolism refers to the process of your body converting what you eat and drink into energy. Each person has their own metabolic rate, which is affected by lifestyle. When someone is more active, their metabolism will get a boost. This assists in weight loss.

Try the locust, bridge, and shoulder stand if you want to directly work on revving up your metabolism.

15) Weight Loss

Yoga can help boost your metabolism and build stronger muscles, two things are essential for weight loss. Tip: If you start to eat more whole, organic foods while performing a daily yoga routine you’ll be more likely to see the pounds come off quicker.

16) Better Immunity

Do you feel like every time you turn around you are battling another cold or illness? If so, your immune system is probably weak. A weakened immune system can stem from a variety of things such as lack of sleep, chronic stress, and poor digestion. Since yoga has been found to improve all of those things, it may not come as a surprise that yoga can also strengthen your immune system.

According to doctors, yoga can stimulate the four main physiological systems that are linked to your immune system. They include the circulatory, digestive, nervous, and endocrine systems. Performing poses that benefit at least one of those systems could have a positive effect on immunity. That means, almost every yoga pose will help improve your immune system. However, there are a few poses that are more effective. They include bridge, shoulder stands, and head stands.

17) Better Respiration

During your first yoga class, you will quickly realize that one of the main focuses is your breathing. You’re consistently asked to pay attention to your breath. Taking deeper breaths, expanding your lung capacity, and being more conscious of your breathing are all part of the process. For that reason, it may not surprise you that yoga is great for people who are suffering from any sort of respiratory ailment or condition. It can help open up a person’s airways and gets their lungs to function more effectively.

The cow pose, cobra pose, and gate pose are all ones that you can do to boost your respiratory health. There are also several more as you get better at performing yoga, but it’s best to start with the easy poses to build confidence and move up from there.

18) Less Stress and Anxiety

Between bills, bosses, family, and the hustle and bustle of everyday life, people are stressed to the max. As if the feeling of stress isn’t bad enough, chronic stress wreaks havoc on health in a number of ways. It can lead to poor digestion, weight fluctuations, weakened immune system, cardiovascular conditions, and much more. One way to naturally beat stress is to exercise. According to researchers, when you perform yoga, feel-good brain chemicals like serotonin are released, putting you in a better mood.

Additionally, yoga helps quiet the mind, gives your body an outlet to release energy blocks that may have you stressing out even more.

To de-stress try the balasana pose, also known as the child’s pose. It’s hard to hold this pose and feel stress at the same time, the two are almost mutually exclusive.

 

19) Better Memory

Since yoga improves blood flow to the brain, it’s often viewed as a brain-boosting workout. According to one study published in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health, just 20 minutes of yoga a day could have big brain benefits. Researchers had 30 female college-age students spend 20 minutes practicing yoga and 20 minutes doing an aerobic exercise. Researchers gave participants a cognitive assessment test after both the yoga session and the aerobic session. They found test scores to be “significantly superior” on tests that were taken after the yoga session.

The great brain-boosting pose is padahastasana. It involves bending over so that your head eventually is near your knees with enough practice.

 

20) Lower Blood Sugar Levels

This is great news for diabetics and those that have been told they are at risk for developing diabetes. Yoga has the ability to lower blood sugar levels when done on a regular basis. Paired with a well-balanced diet, this can go a long way towards keeping these levels within healthy parameters.

Diabetics are often advised to exercise and yoga is one exercise that you can do all year long, no matter the weather, and without any extra equipment. Pranayama is a great pose for lowering blood sugar.

21) Lowers Sodium Levels

The average American gets about 3,400 mg of sodium a day, which is much more than recommended. Rather, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends limiting sodium to less than 2,300 mg a day. While sodium is an important nutrient, too much can lead to fluid retention, high blood pressure, stroke, and other heart issues. Along with cutting back on table salt, it’s important to get active and sweat out the sodium. Tip: You may want to try hot yoga, which is yoga performed in a room with sauna-like temperatures. This helps to get you sweating.

22) Improves Digestion

You may not realize it, but when you exercise you’re not only working your leg and arm muscles. Inside your intestines, there is also a layer of muscle that is constantly contracting to help food waste pass. If you aren’t getting enough physical activity, though, your intestinal muscles may become too relaxed. In yoga, you perform a combination of deep breathing exercises and twisting poses that really massage the organs, works your intestinal muscles, and helps release any trapped toxic stool.

If you are looking to relieve constipation or simply improve your overall digestive health, try cat/cow pose, half gas relief pose, half lord of the fishes, or any other twisting pose.

23) Moves Lymph Fluid

Your lymphatic system is interesting because it doesn’t have a pump to move its fluid like the heart pumps blood. Rather, it relies on you to get enough movement throughout the day to get lymphatic fluid moving. However, since many Americans simply don’t get enough exercise during the course of a day to stimulate the fluid movement, there is a virtual epidemic of lymphatic problems caused by improper drainage of lymphatic fluid. To fix this, all it really takes is some specific yoga poses to get the job done.

For example, try anything that gets you inverted, like a shoulder stand or a headstand. These are pretty advanced moves, so you’ll want to work your way up to them or use a wall for support.

24) Helps Prevent Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is a medical condition where a person’s bones become brittle from loss of tissue. This is typically the result of hormonal changes or nutrient deficiency (namely calcium and/or vitamin D). To help prevent the condition, researchers recommend practicing yoga. Studies show that weight-bearing exercises (like yoga) strengthen bones and help ward off osteoporosis. In an unpublished study conducted at California State University, Los Angeles, people who practiced yoga experienced an increase in bone density in their vertebrae. This could possibly be a result of yoga’s ability to keep calcium in the bones.

The parivrtta trikonasana, salabhasana, and ardha chandrasana poses will all help you prevent osteoporosis. Remember, you don’t have to be a yoga master to do these poses, or hold them for long periods of time at first. Just trust your instincts and do what you can to start. Starting is the most important thing, not being perfect.

25) Alleviates Symptoms from Many Conditions

From helping cancer patients recovering from chemotherapy treatments to helping arthritis sufferers regain mobility in their joints, yoga can provide symptom relief when it seems like nothing else works.

The great part about yoga is no matter what condition you’re currently in, there are at least a few poses that you can perform. Some yoga exercises are just breathing. So even if you’re bedridden you can do these breathing exercises to help focus your mind and improve your respiratory function. You’d be amazed at how much better you feel just by breathing more effectively.

Depending on your symptom, you’ll want to do specific poses. You may also find that a general yoga routine with some of the most popular poses works just fine.

26) Improves Your Outlook on Life

Getting a better outlook on life can help you in nearly every aspect of your life. You may feel like not even trying some days, or you may get stuck in a cycle of unhealthy thoughts. Thankfully, yoga boosts serotonin levels and can help you break free from your slump. Who knows, with a new zest for life you may take on new work projects. You’ll never know unless you get started and the good news is even the most basic yoga poses can get you there.

27) Provides an Inner Calmness (Eventually)

When first starting out with yoga, you may find the poses hard to get into and even harder to hold. Your state of inner being might be all chaos and confusion mixed with frustration and exhaustion. Trust me, if you have faith and stick with it, you’ll get better. Once the poses get easier to you, you’ll be able to turn your mind inward, which produces the calmness you typically hear attributed to yoga.

Article sources here: http://bembu.com/benefits-of-yoga

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But I Thought All Yoga Was Therapeutic?

October 25, 2015

On the intelligence of varied movement.

Yoga practice, tree concept for your design

As we were moving slowly and consciously through a series of poses in a yoga therapy session last week, a 69-year-old client of mine who had practiced asana off and on for 40 years noted the difference between yoga therapy and the typical group classes she’d been to in the past, exclaiming, “No wonder I don’t attend classes anymore! It doesn’t make sense for me to do what they are doing. And I thought all yoga was therapeutic!”

What we came to understand in her session was that many of the poses, instructions, and approaches to fitness that she was encountering in her local yoga classes were aggravating her conditions rather than alleviating them. Was this just because she was no longer 25? Not at all—I’ve seen the same kind of overuse and repetitive strain in people in their twenties, and even in teenagers. But for some reason, it’s a common belief that yoga is exempt from the rules of cross-training and diversity of movement.

Injury has now become so much a part of yoga practice that it is widely accepted as inevitable. I recently came across a Facebook post written by a self-described “yoga teacher/mentor” this week that illustrates this prevalence perfectly. Her words (directed to her students) were, to this effect: “We’ve been through so much together, so many changes. I’ve seen some of you become mothers, others retire, we’ve ripped hamstrings and blown shoulders…” My mouth fell open. Since when are torn hamstrings and injured shoulders a normal, accepted part of the yoga experience? Memorable, yes, but something to look back on with nostalgia?? Somehow I don’t think that sages of yoga would agree, since yogis ascribe to the same rule of ahimsa as do medical doctors—first, do no harm.

Injury has now become so much a part of yoga practice that it is widely accepted as inevitable.

More and more, doctors are offering referrals to yoga classes, and teachers and students alike must be aware of what that means. Within the medical community, there is a growing sense of trust in yoga and in yoga teachers. My classes at a hospital, and my private lessons and therapy sessions, were full of doctors, nurses, physical and occupational therapists, and their families. Many of these medical professionals even chose to go through yoga teacher training programs so that they would have new options to offer their patients.

The issue is that to most people, a “yoga class” means a “follow the leader,” and includes the same 20 or so poses in every class. Some of them might feel good, like the reclining bent-knee-over-straight-leg twist that makes your back pop every time. This type of twist is actually destabilizing for your lumbar joints and can lead to later arthritis or sciatic nerve issues. Is it really worth it then? And while it may be momentarily empowering to kick up into headstand so you can say “I got that pose,” what about the nagging neck pain the next morning? Or maybe you love the achievement of full lotus but are noticing knee pain. Thankfully, there are other poses out there—poses that may make you stronger and more flexible. But discovering those poses takes time and demands attention to the specific needs of your body.

To see why a “one-size-fits-all” approach to yoga can be problematic, let’s look at the outline of a standard yoga class. A standard yoga class starts with some kind of warm-up. This, in my opinion, is the most important part of the class. Exploring your tightness du jour, breathing into a more supple ease in the morning, or de-stressing at the end of the day is why most students say they come to class. If left to our own devices, many of us might choose to spend anywhere from 20 minutes to an entire class doing cat/cow variations and all the core work and delicious hamstring and shoulder stretches we want. But the next thing we know, we are up and into sun salutes (or a comparable vinyasa) because the fitness class model demands that unless we sweat, we aren’t “doing yoga.”

In my private work, more than three-fourths of my diverse clients are unable to benefit their current physical state very much by doing “sun salutes” as they know them. Their backs are rounded in forward folds, their knees locked in downward dog, and their heads flung back as they grasp for backbends by straining upward. A chaturanga is a belly flop with shoulders wailing in misery, and stepping forward from downdog is an arduous and pretty embarrassing process. They hate these sun salutes but have done them religiously—thinking they were required in yoga practice and therefore must be good for them. With new or untrained teachers especially, sun salutes often take up a good amount of class time, as they may not be aware of other ways to generate heat.

In my private work, more than three-fourths of my diverse clients are unable to benefit their current physical state very much by doing “sun salutes” as they know them.

Next comes standing poses. Despite the fact that even students who have practiced for years have alignment epiphanies when they raise the surface at which they practice, in your average class, modifications with a chair or other high surface are almost never offered for standing postures like triangle. If the agile teacher and the other students are using no props, it could be embarrassing to pull out a chair—especially if the student is young, or older but wanting to appear strong and healthy.

After a few standing poses, many yoga classes include some sort of inversion, often much too difficult for those lacking core and arm strength. More experienced teachers will give some helpful modifications, since falling out of an upside-down pose can look pretty scary (as are lawsuits). Poses like legs-up-the-wall (or legs-up-a-chair) are wonderful, accessible inversions. And for those with more arm strength, a handstand or forearm balance is actually less risky than a headstand or unsupported neck-smashing shoulderstand. But even so, practitioners often eschew the simple poses in favor of more dramatic or “classical” postures. While inversions can be very beneficial for the body and mood, keeping your head and neck safe is an essential part of the practice!

The backbending part of class is excellent for many people, and a well-aligned bridge or locust can be quite strengthening. But when the other students start jamming stiff arms into full cobras, or teachers lift students into full wheels so that everyone “gets there,” many practitioners feel pressured to do things for which their own bodies will suffer (both now and later).

Twists can be the most subtle and luscious of asanas when approached in an informed and exploratory fashion. But a ”get it done” mentality takes much of the sweetness out of the twist. Going for a popping “adjustment” or squeezing excessively to “wring out toxins” promotes an aggressive approach to the spinal movement. In actuality, it is the breath that promotes the “detox,” not the twists “flushing the organs with new blood.” Of course, gentle twisting can help to calm the nervous system and keep the spine mobile. Popping is not always a good thing, though, and may set you up for joint problems down the line.

In many classes, there tends to be a similar approach to forward folds, which should be calming, soothing, strengthening, and lengthening poses. The “If you are more flexible, do ____” cue becomes a punishment to those whose natural suppleness (or lack thereof) may not meet their own expectations. They begin pulling and tugging themselves forward with rounded lumbar spines. When you consider the sitting that most of us do all day, why would collapsing and squeezing our spinal discs be a good plan?

Along the same lines, you’ll probably also find the ubiquitous “hip opener” in most classes. These are beneficial to a degree and may feel good to tightly clenched buttocks—but when overpracticed without good core strength and a countering squeeze from the outer thighs, they can cause instability of the hip joint. My motto is “Don’t feed the pigeon,” especially if it’s a fat spacious pigeon with way too much entitlement. In other words, if the pose feels too easy, the student needs to strengthen the muscles around the joint rather than increase a passive stretch. Loosen what’s too tight, tighten what’s too loose.

Along with warm-ups, shavasana relaxation has the opportunity to be a particularly healing part of yoga class, especially when attention is given to diaphragmatic breathing. In fact, some really great teachers add a sprinkling of “stop, breathe, and pay attention” practice throughout their classes, or start class with a centering resting pose. It is in the moments of resting that our minds and bodies download what we have practiced. Without the stopping and resting, the autonomic nervous system can’t assimilate the deeper benefits. Conscious rest provides a training ground for keeping us calm in all of life’s stressful situations.

What I’m talking about is yoga as a healing modality—not just for weight loss or “detox,” or to firm buttocks or perform impressive postures. I had one yoga therapy client who really understood the difference. She said, “I am here for the therapy, the process that happens in the breath and mind and body. I also do fitness yoga, a vigorous power flow, because I don’t like running!” She practiced yoga as therapy, along with yoga as fitness, and did not confuse the two.

If a healthy person with a clear mind and good joints and muscles takes vigorous classes to stay fit, good for them. But they need to vary their movements and be aware of the pitfalls of some repetitive actions too. A repetitive strain injury (RSI)like carpal tunnel syndrome is an “injury to the musculoskeletal and nervous systems that may be caused by repetitive tasks, forceful exertions, vibrations, mechanical compression, or sustained or awkward positions.” How many awkward positions do we assume repeatedly in yoga classes, especially in vinyasa? (Think weight supported on hands, neck thrust back.) How many times per week? Or if you are a teacher, how many times per day?

If you are unsure about how to practice therapeutically, it may be good to visit a well-recommended yoga therapist or experienced teacher who can map out some areas where you need strength practices, and others where you need to focus on flexibility. Consulting with the International Association of Yoga Therapists (IAYT) for trained therapists in your area may be helpful. Most importantly, a trained professional can observe how you breathe during yoga and help you to modify the speed and intensity of your practice accordingly. This type of help will give the prospective or long-term yogi more confidence in how to practice in general. Remember, the poses and breathing techniques we choose to practice may lower pain levels and help with range of motion, but it’s how we practice them that can change our lives.

I’m not offering these thoughts to frighten students or keep them away from classes they love. But how many times must we ignore the pinches we feel around the tops of our thighbones, or the lower back twinges in straight-leg forward folds? How many times must we continue to lower to chaturanga when it hurts our shoulders? When we “do it anyway” (just like going for a third cocktail or chocolate pie bender), we will pay for it sooner or later.

If you attend classes because you love them, consider trying the simpler “beginner’s” options for awhile. Go to your knees in plank pose, or skip the deep backbends even if you think you can do them—then add gradually from there. Ask yourself: Is this uncomfortable? Is my breath ragged? Am I stressed or anxious when I try this? If a teacher pushes you to ever-harder movements that result in pain, or won’t let you modify a pose, look for a new class.

If a teacher pushes you to ever-harder movements that result in pain, or won’t let you modify a pose, look for a new class.

My personal preference is to let my yoga be sweet yoga, and take a long walk (with attention to alignment!) if I want fitness. My “sweet” practice includes different strong asana every day, along with plenty of TLC. My body has been at this awhile and rewires well with some intense focused poses; this may be the case for you as well.

The home remedy I suggest for anyone is to be more playful in your practice—to breathe and stretch in joyful ways that generate a sense of openness in your body. Historically, before the development of asana as we know it, yogis simply moved to link the circuits in their energetic systems. They would then “breathe life” into these shapes. In fact, Tandava (Indian sacred dance) and Qigong both evolved out of playful, wise, joyful movement combined with breath.

Start on the floor on your belly or back and just see what your breath is doing; then move your way into cat-like stretches—not necessarily a yoga pose, but stretching to feel better and to connect with deeper breathing into tight areas. And when you discover the yoga postures that give you space, allow you to breathe deeper “into” constricted areas of your body, and leave you feeling refreshed, practice them! Practice them in a spirit of exploration.

Swami Rama of the Himalayas, a spiritual scientist and remarkable scholar of the mind/body connection, likewise encouraged his students to be like scientists in exploring the body and energetic system. But no good laboratory research is done without variables or by allowing oneself to damage the equipment. Explore and learn your strengths and weaknesses, and vary what you are doing physically. Only a mad scientist does the same thing over and over and expects a different result.

Article sourced here:  https://yogainternational.com/article/view/but-i-thought-all-yoga-was-therapeutic?utm_content=bufferd420f&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=buffer
Written by:   BETH SPINDLER