Prescribing Yoga For a Healthy Body and Mind
04/02/2014 03:00PM ● Published by Annette Winter
Angie Toman and Melissa Aguirre are local yoga/Pilates instructor/therapists
Sleeping pills to quiet our minds, then stimulants to perk us up in the morning.
In our Western world of instant gratification, we feel fortunate to have so many options to quickly, if only briefly, cure our symptoms. If a short-term fix that costs a good deal of money is the goal, then yes, we are fortunate. However, we must look elsewhere if we are truly interested in the long-term, less expensive benefits associated with alleviating the symptoms naturally and quite possibly solve the root of our illnesses.
Physically, yoga, which means “to yoke” or bring union, brings balance between strength and flexibility of the body. “Yoga is a strong medicine, but a slow medicine,” says Dr. Timothy McCall in his book Yoga as Medicine. Yoga asanas (poses) and the incorporated breath work have been scientifically proven to alleviate symptoms from acute, as well as chronic, conditions. Through the controlled, exacting movements, the body gains joint strength and mobility with muscle flexibility. Anyone who has tried the different Warrior asanas can attest to the strength it takes to hold these poses as the muscles are stretched. Joints that are mobile and lubricated tend to ache less, while muscles that are properly stretched do not cramp, pull or spasm as much.
Physiologically, different breath patterns in yoga offer a mind/body connection. What does this really mean? By disciplining one’s respiratory system, a person can better control the body’s ability to relax. This can translate into better sleep, less anxiety, slower heart rate patterns, lowered blood pressure and a stronger immune system. Ujjayi breathing often used during a yoga class has been scientifically proven to calm the nervous system, specifically by stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system. Yoga asanas with this breath work also positively affect the internal organs. For instance, twisting poses activate the liver and kidney thus assisting in digestion, literally wringing out the toxins. Poses such as bridge and shoulder stand massage and activate particular glands thus helping with hormonal balance.
Mentally, because yoga challenges our minds to be still and present, it can bring one face to face with the illness, its symptoms and ultimately its origins. As one creates space in the mind, he is free to consider life choices that might be causing or aggravating the malady. Often, as people delve into a serious yoga practice, they begin to contemplate eating choices, relationship choices or unhealthy habits. Through such contemplation, the numbing of symptoms with medications is replaced by actions that address the root of the problem.
In the United States, approximately 15 million people are practicing yoga today. Predictions suggest that this number will continue to grow. While for many, yoga may have started as just another form of exercise to firm, strengthen and stretch the body, the mental and emotional benefits soon become apparent. Through a disciplined practice, the yogi’s body becomes balanced as a whole. Therefore, the chance of health and healing are maximized. Plato proposed, “The part can never be well unless the whole is well.”
More time on the mat will translate into a healthier body and less time and money spent at the pharmacy!
Angie Toman and Melissa Aguirre are local yoga/Pilates instructor/therapists. They can be contacted atwww.livingbalancestudiosnc.com.