Many of my patients present with problems which could be vastly improved by increasing activity levels. This doesn’t mean climbing the Beacons, it simply means getting the heart rate going for ½ hour or more 2 to 3 times a week with fast walking or swimming or maybe a session of something to maintain elasticity and flexibility in the body.
Yoga a perfect fit for this elasticity and flexibility activity and, by the way, for those men out there who are thinking all yoga is about chanting and breathing and nothing else, it’s not – it can be challenging and strengthening depending on the practitioner.
There are more than 100 different schools of yoga but most classes are based on adopting postures to stretch, flex and, as appropriate, strengthen various muscles groups and joints. Breathing exercises and an element of meditation can also be included.
These elements of yoga all help to lessen chronic pain such as low back pain, headaches, arthritis and reduce blood pressure and insomnia. In addition, yoga increases flexibility, muscle strength and tone and respiration, vitality and energy, reduces weight, improves athletic performance and maintains a balanced metabolism and, importantly, protects against injury.
Mentally, yoga also helps people’s mental clarity, ability to concentrate, relaxes the mind as well as reducing stress levels – which in turn reduces the musculo-skeletal tension throughout the body and allows people to sleep better and cope with life more effectively.
Yoga is therefore very much promoted by the Osteopathic community as a preventive measure to avoid acute injury, to manage chronic pain and to boost patients’ ability to cope if pain does arise. It’s worth starting with a beginners class or a one to one to start with and work within your limits without overdoing it and trying to get yourself into unattainable positions. You’ll get there, it just takes patience. Also, do try different classes until you find a practitioner who has a style you enjoy and takes time to observe you to ensure you adopt the optimum positions.