Your Daily Practice – Benefits of Yoga

Prompted by the recent discussions about yoga, I went back to the basics to answer my own question: Why is it worth our time and money to come back week after week, and year after year, to Downward Facing Dog for the hundredth time or more?

I looked around researching for some ‘scientific” data on benefits of yoga vs. my personal opinion, and came across Tim McCall’s article. Tim is an MD and a yoga teacher who has that solid analytic and common sense approach,  yet leaves enough opening  to accept  those yoga benefits that are not so easily explainable. He counts, more or less, 38 benefits of yoga. I will focus on the #1= flexibility.

For most of you who have taking yoga for a while, you know that we are not talking about this:

I hope you are looking at this photo with a total dis-interest or maybe  “Good for you” comment. Thank you! Lovely, but this is not where we are.  We are in the functional flexibility, at a place – time when we have been using our bodies for a while, over used right arm or a right leg, or left,  worked at a place where the chair did not fit the desk, or where we were repeating one sided movement over and over again. We slept in old beds, and wore shoes which were not really a good fit. But were they fashionable! We successfully ignored many injuries and are just slightly surprised that a well oiled machine that took us so far, is somewhat creaking, and mornings … mornings makes us wonder if we will ever make it to that yoga class.

If you are reading this and you do not recognize yourself, mark my words, one day you will!

To simplify, I will re-state  Dr McCall’s first point  as

TIGHT HIPS > KNEE PROBLEMS

TIGHT HAMSTRINGS > BACK PROBLEMS

Here are two simple poses/stretches for those two. Here is for the hip opener.

And for hamstrings you can not go wrong with:

Photos are from Yoga Journal.

I will ask you to persistently continue all these and other  familiar little poses that feel good for you. Hold them, repeat them even if you see no progress.

1-2 minutes each side. 2 repetitions on both sides.

An extra repetition on the tighter side.

As you can see, these are simple poses, and they may not make a huge impact on the limited flexibility that we have, but they can help us prevent future reduction in the range of movement. That may not sound like much. Still, over the last couple of years, I have heard from at least 5-6 people in their late fifties and sixties  telling me, without being asked,  that yoga stopped or even reversed some foot/knee/shoulder problems. It took them about a year of steady yoga/stretching practice but they reversed it. When you are 60, it is a lot.

To further illustrate the overall point of how important are all psychical exercises, walks, hikes, yoga we do:

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