Monday, May 24, 2010
A Regular Yoga Practice Will Keep You Healthy
Under the heading of preventative care, yoga is something you can do at home to keep you healthy. An influential yoga instructor of mine (Lindsey Clennell, Senior Iyengar instructor, NYC) once told me 4 poses daily is all you need for a yoga practice: dog pose and 3 standing poses. A few years later I noticed he had cut it back to 3. The idea is to get the mat on the floor and get started - 3-4 poses constitutes a daily practice.
I have a rope wall in my meditation/yoga room in my home. I begin with a supported dog pose using ropes for 3-4 minutes (5 minutes is optimal for dog pose). Then i do a chair twist, followed by triangle, half moon pose and usually reverse triangle (for the twisting action). Sometimes I'll throw in Warrior I or parsvottanasana. I then do some leg stretches on the wall ropes, and 21 sit-ups (21 is a Taoist number, that's why i use it). That's enough to quickly get me stretched out and to get my joints and muscle ready to take me through the day. In evenings or weekends when i have more time, i'll add a couple of inversions: headstand, shoulder stand followed by halasana (plow pose). These poses were chosen to support back health. (I've had a number of injures).
During times when i'm tired & run down i have have a group of restorative poses i like to do, including the inversions. I have worked out these sequences after years of regular (3days/week) Iyengar yoga classes in NY & San Diego.
If you don't know the poses by name, take some classes, or get a tape. Once you have a few standing poses under your belt, you can begin a home practice.
In addition to stretching the body and building muscle tone, yoga builds the immune system and reduces stress, by inducing the relaxation response. When we are under stress, we go into what's called the flight or fight scenario. We get ready for fight or flight in response to the perceived would be attacker (this response was developed over millions of years of evolution). All non-essential systems get shut down: digestion, elimination, immune function, in order to devote all available to defense or flight: muscles, energy production, vision, hearing. Yoga & acupuncture reverses the fight or flight response by putting the body into relaxation mode. The digestive system is opening and flowing so that we get optimal nutrition extracted and stored from our food to create energy and fuel the cells and organs. Immune function is restored.
The fight or flight response explains stress related conditions, such as IBS, hypertension, acid reflux and people who get sick while over-working. Eating well, getting proper rest, exercising, including stress reduction activities such as tai qi, yoga & meditation all reduce the fight or flight response and keep the body functioning optimally.
Acupuncture too puts the body in deep relaxation mode, builds the immune system, reduces the effects the stress and calms the mind. KB