Practicing yoga has many benefits and as a yoga guide I am often asked what those benefits are. The answer is both simple and complex. Most situations call for a laundry list of sorts and others invite more in-depth explanations. I hope this blog series will answer some questions and raise others, encouraging you as the reader to conduct deeper research into the topic as the journey towards healthy living continues. Always consult your doctor before starting a new physical activity and ask specifically if you have any physical restrictions or limitations.
Yoga for Flexibility
Guiding yoga classes is personally gratifying to me for several reasons. One of the aspects of I enjoy most is connecting with the people in the classes I lead and discovering what they want to gain from practicing yoga. I arrive at classes early enough to give participants an opportunity to ask me questions, make requests and to allow us time to bond, chat and catch up before class begins. Prior to our physical practice together I generally start by introducing myself and then ask the class if they have any injuries that I should know about. I ask this question so that I can ensure that injured participants do not further injure themselves: I provide modifications and recommend when not to attempt certain poses. The most frequently revealed injuries are chronic or new knee injuries, back pain, and arthritis. More often than not practitioners that have arthritis acknowledge that their doctor strongly suggested they join a yoga class as part of their wellness plan. You might wonder why a physician would encourage a patient that has chronic joint pain to move around. I will explain why.
Low- and no-impact exercise can help relieve the pain associated with arthritic stiff painful joints. Doctors specifically recommend yoga because it is particularly effective in combating stiffness by creating flexibility in the joints. An increase in flexibility means that joints can absorb more strain which in turn lessens susceptibility to injury. When the range of motion in joints increases, the joints become lubricated and circulation increases. Yoga practice also lengthens muscles, connective tissue and ligaments which works well with joint movement. All of these benefits can lead to a decrease in joint pain, an increase in mobility and in turn improve quality of life.
There have been several studies conducted on the effect yoga has on arthritis. Early studies showed that a regular yoga practice encouraged improvement in joint health, quality of life and physical mobility. Several more studies are being conducted on this subject and I look forward to reading the findings once they are published.
If you have stiff joint, here’s how I suggest you get started. Join a gentle, beginning yoga class. I believe that for beginners it is best to attend a class, at least until you are able to understand the body placement and alignment for poses. An instructor is in the room with you and can assist you with learning poses correctly, whereas a home video cannot give you feedback on how you are doing. After taking classes and working with a yoga guide, a home practice can become part of your wellness routine if you choose to do so. To find a class that works for you, inquire at the yoga studio of your choice or determine through online research the schedule for gentle classes. Because yoga is a very personal practice and energy is exchanged, it may take trying several different classes and instructors to find the class that is best for you. Students that stay in my class stay because they feel some kind of connection to me and like the style of yoga I lead. Before purchasing a membership at a health club or a class package at a yoga studio, ask if you can take a sample class or observe the class you are interested in joining.
A water exercise class is another workout option that can also have a positive impact on improving mobility. So if you like the water you may want to inquire at your local aquatic center or health club about class schedules. Again, always consult your doctor before starting a new physical activity and ask specifically if you have any physical restrictions or limitations.
Go forth and be healthy!
I leave you with,
Meaning peace for all…