For a Better Life

For a lot of people the first image that will pop into their head when they think of Yoga is a little old man in a loincloth sitting on top of a stone pillar with his legs crossed and his arms on his knees. He’s probably chanting, humming or got a look of relaxation and serenity on his face. I’m not a person who likes to sit still and I hate any minute that I feel is wasted so this idea of sitting around doing nothing all day was not something that appealed to me. I’ve changed that initial perception quite a lot and in this article I want to tell you about the personal journey that taught me about the benefits of yoga for a very non-spiritual person.

The first yoga class I ever went to I spend a lot of time sitting in silence with a bored expression on my face and thinking, “This is so dumb”. I listened to the instructor drone on about inner peace and harmony and balance and energy flowing through my body and I was pretty close to never going back again. Then I got lucky.

One of the guys in the class was a professor at the local university and it struck me as a little strange that a professor of biology would be doing this spiritual Yoga thing. I got an opportunity and speak to him briefly. Actually he singled me out and observed I looked bored. He explained he had felt the same way when he began and then he translated the instructors talk into biology terms and it was all very sound.

That hit me like a ton of bricks. As I thought on it more and more I could see this from a purely scientific point of view. For instance take the ‘energy’ that flows through our body. A lot of people are turned off when they start to hear talk like that, but it’s a very core component of Yoga. I substituted ‘blood’ for energy and looked at this thought process again.

I know that blood carries nutrients and oxygen around our body. I know that if our cells don’t receive these nutrients and supplements they become weak and we can become ill. I know that people can become sick if they have high or low blood pressure. The regular healthy flow of blood is clearly a very important factor in us staying healthy. Of course, Yoga was first used many hundreds of years ago and while it would be arrogant to assume that we know everything about circulation and blood flow, we certainly know more than the average Chinese peasant from that time. “Energy” is just a nice word that anyone can understand for blood flow.

Yoga Class at a Gym

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Yoga stretches out certain muscle areas and allows our blood to flow more freely and bring the nutrients to all parts of the body which need them. That is a nice scientific explanation I am quite happy to accept. You can do the same with the other ‘alternative’ terminology you don’t relate to when you hear the instructor talking about it. Inner peace, oneness, emotional calm – it’s all just a very dressed up way of saying concentrate on one thing – your blood flow and the health it is bringing you, or your breathing and the supply of life giving oxygen it brings you. Concentrate on that just for this one small part of the day and make being alive and healthy your only goal. Forget about what’s happening at the office because you cannot do it from here. Forget about what your husband or wife is doing or whether the kids are being bullied at school and just concentrate on being you, being alive and being healthy.

Now stress has been attributed as a major factor in over 40% of all medical issues. Stress, in a nutshell is caused by thinking too much. This practice shows us how to let all those worries be something we can think about later and leaves the brain free to concentrate on doing all it’s vital health giving functions.

It’s strange that as I’ve done more and more Yoga I have developed a spiritual side that I never had before. It’s not a religious thing but more a case of recognizing that my own health and wellbeing are important and worthy of being made a priority. Whether the same happens for you is yet to be seen, but if you’ve been putting off learning Yoga or giving it a try because of all the spiritual talk I can assure you there are scientific reasons behind it and that if you give it a chance you may just be surprised.

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There are a great many people who are in the unfortunate position of having to live with painful aches and pains caused by severely damaged or inflamed joints. For some people it is a discomfort, and that is bad enough, but for others arthritis can turn them into a virtual cripples. Arthritis has been something that has affected people throughout history since prehistoric times, but it is only recently that we have begun to understand it.

Arthritis is a join disease that can cause problems in any area of the body where two or more bones intersect. The arthritis itself can affect the join in a number of different ways, targeting different areas such as the synovium, the muscles or tendons or the cartilage. Cartilage is the soft protective material that protects the ends of the joints from rubbing against each other and the entire join is encased in a type of capsule that is lined with the tissue synovium.

Arthritis is a broad term which we use to describe a group of over 100 disease that effect these area of the body. Wherever there is a problem involving inflammation around the joints and associated discomfit in movement we refer to it as arthritis despite the multiple different causes that can lead to this. The other common name that is used in the same broad fashion is rheumatism.

English: Joint Example

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Because it affects so many people arthritis is a very public problem and is discussed openly and frequently. Roughly one in every seven Americans is thought to have arthritis in some form and relieving the pain of Arthritis is a primary concern for all people suffering from it. Some people take medication, but others have found relief from the pain in exercises performed at a gentle pace and intensity. Yoga is the perfect example of this type of exercise.

Yoga is a very old art originating in India up to 4000 years ago. It uses poses or postures along with deeply controlled breathing exercises that lead to benefits to the body mind and spirit. Yoga is a very versatile form of exercise and meditation and it is used, in different forms, to treat a very wide range of medical conditions and injuries including such diverse areas as fibromyalgia, arthritic, migraine headaches, chronic pain, and sports injuries.

The common misconception with using Yoga for arthritis pain is that it will mean contorting and bending the body in unnatural ways in an effort to force the body to accept the pain and develop some level of comfort. The core attributes of a Yoga for Arthritis Program are still going to be breathing and meditation but the exercises are specially catered to the individuals level of movement and comfort. Stretching will still be involved but they are a part of Yoga’s core statement of developing balance and harmony between the body and mind and enhancing the bodies strength and flexibility. Each pose or position assumed during a Yoga workout has a specific purpose and a specific physical benefit. Sometimes the poses will be done in rapid succession to create heat in the body, a style known as Vinyasa Yoga, and sometimes they are performed more slowly to increase the level of stamina, perfection in the pose and core strength through holding the pose. The poses themselves remain the same but how they are entered and approached will vary greatly from discipline to discipline and teacher to teacher.

The Yoga poses can be tailored specially for specific joints or combinations of joints. For instance a common area for arthritis to strike is the hands and knuckles and in this instance there would be a series of poses that straighten and lengthen the fingers, although the level of comfort in the arthritis sufferer always dictates the extent of this. Stretching the hands also feed energy to that area of the body and over time will assist the arthritis in the fingers. The heat generated by these movements is proven to be very beneficial for sufferers of arthritis.

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Yoga has been described as a science which seeks to achieve the harmonious and balanced development of the body, mind and soul. It is a system which allows us to bring culture, balance and happiness to ourselves. It works via a need for strong mental discipline and the ancient theories, which it is based on regarding the interconnection between the mind and body, are now being regularly supported by modern scientific theory. Yoga consists of a number of different exercises or poses.

Examples of these poses are the cat and cow poses. Both are connected and begin with you on all fours on the floor. Arching the back upwards like a cornered cat places you in the cat pose and the reverse, lowering the back puts you into the cow pose.

Another common form of exercise is a forward bend that will help in the stretching of the lower back and hamstring muscles. There are a number of other advantages to forward bends: They release tension in the back neck and shoulder as well as increasing the flexibility of the spine. Forward bends can be uncomfortable if you have any injuries in the next or back area, but regularly performing will help assists in the recovery of these injuries and even strengthen the area for the future.

English: Kurmasana or The Tortoise Hatha Yoga ...

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The counterpart of a forward bend is a back bend. These open up the chest, hips and rib cage area. As well as strengthening the arms, they also provide increased strength and flexibility to the shoulders. This type of exercise is fantastic at increasing the stability of the spine, but is also useful for relieving built up tension along the front of the body and the hips. The relationship between back and forward bends is a perfect example of the importance of the bodies balance in Yoga.

Hatha Yoga poses were developed in India during the fifteenth century. They are designed as an aid to relaxation and healing and usually introduced with a concept of “the contemplation of one reality”. The result of using these exercises properly and in conjunction with suitable breathing exercises and meditation is an increase in vitality, physical health and a stronger mental health. Hatha Yoga exercises have become a part of numerous different Yoga disciplines over the years and it’s quite common to see exercises such as the half moon posture, the bow posture of the salutation posture even if it is not Hatha Yoga you are practising. This is because the principles of Yoga and the movements and balances required are fairly consistent from one discipline to another.

Another simple Yoga exercise is doing the twist. Twists will strengthen and stretch your back or abdominal muscles and help to increase the flexibility of your spine. They also aid in increasing your bodies circulation that brings oxygen supplies to your cells. This fresh blood and oxygen supply that is released as you twist will improve the functioning of your bodies internal organs.

A yoga session will often begin with a standing pose. These are a very good low impact, low stress starting point for a Yoga session. Standing poses benefit the legs and hips and help provide a sense of centring, balance and of course strength to the legs themselves. The end of a Yoga session is usually marked by a group of poses known as Relation and Restorative Poses. This group of exercises is designed to give the positive energies and forces released by the Yoga session to move throughout your body and benefit you completely.

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