My healthiest patients are the ones who do yoga.
Very simply, joints that don’t move enough are going to decay. If you want to keep your spine and other joints healthy and young, you have to keep them moving. Our sedentary, desk bound lifestyles are wreaking havoc with our general health and creating an epidemic of degenerating, arthritic joints.
So what’s the solution? Move more. Consider adding some yoga to your daily health repertoire.
To overcome the degrading effects of our modern, “movement deficient” way of life, we need to move more – MUCH MORE. Our genetic make-up has changed less than one percent in the last 40,000 years. But obviously our sedentary lifestyle isn’t even remotely comparable to our hunter-gatherer genetics. Now, I’m not going to suggest foraging for seeds and berries on your lunch hour, then climbing trees and chasing squirrels and raccoons for sustenance. But, I am going to suggest something incredibly simple and effective – yoga.
Hunter-gatherers, yoga, cavemen … maybe you’re asking yourself, “When and why would cavemen ever do yoga?” It sounds ridiculous, but it’s a logical question. It’s one which I used to ask myself. If our genetic requirements are still the same and we should be emulating the hunter-gatherer lifestyle, how could yoga possibly fit into that? In the course of a day, hunter-gatherers ran, jumped, stretched, strained, lifted boulders and carried heavy weights for long distances. So to answer the question, of course they never did yoga.
You can see that our modern lifestyle is nothing like that of our ancestors. And we’ve established that we need to add a lot more movement to our days. So, can you think of a better way to add copious amounts of movement to your day in a relatively short period of time? I don’t think so. Yoga fits the bill perfectly.
Yes, yoga has been getting bad press lately. Most of the visits to my blog for the last few months have been from searches on the dangers of yoga. Like anything, if done recklessly, or without proper instruction, it has the potential to injure. But what’s the alternative – sitting in front of the TV, eating processed fast-food with rapidly degenerating joints and a lowered quality of life?
I’ve been promising my patients a beginner’s yoga sequence for some time now. So I’ve put together a basic series of poses (asanas for the yogis/yoginis) which should take anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes to complete.
- You should strive to do the sequence 3 to 6 days per week.
- Don’t eat just before the sequence (blood should be oxygenating your muscles, not aiding digestion)
- I wouldn’t do it first thing in the morning. If you have to do it early, consider doing some foam rolling first. A quick, brisk walk would be good too. Also, don’t emphasize forward bending (flexion) in your first few hours out of bed – you’re much more likely to injure a lumbar disc in the morning.
- If you experience any pain – stop. Especially joint pain. Muscle stretch – good. Joint pain – bad. Listen to your body.
- Go to a few basic yoga classes. It would be a good idea to get some instruction.
1. Child’s Pose.
A very nice way to gently get the body ready. Hold for as long as you want. It’s a lot of people’s favourite pose.
2. Cat – Cow
Do this until you feel a little more warmed up. Note any areas of tension.
3. Mountain Pose
Great for your posture. Who would have thought standing straight could be so complicated.
4. Wide Legged Forward Bend
Easier on the low back than the standard forward bend. Bend your knees as much as you need to take any pressure off your low back
5. Five-Pointed Star
I like to modify this pose by pushing the hips forward, tightening the glutes and squeezing the shoulder blades together. Lift the arms about 20 degrees and don’t over extend the neck. You can make this pose as challenging as you want. It’s a powerful, invigorating pose with this modification. Imagine you’re trying push your hips to the front wall and your arms to the back. Consider alternating from this pose to Wide Legged Forward Bend about 3 to 5 times before moving into the next pose, Triangle.
6. Extended Triangle Pose
So far we’ve flexed and extended the spine. This pose adds lateral flexion.
7. Squat Pose (Malasana)
A nice pose to transition from the standing poses back to the mat. A great pose to keep your hips supple and strong.
8. Bridge Pose
A great pose to do before twists.
9. Reclining Twist
10. Savasana (sounds a little nicer than Corpse pose)
Just go straight into Savasana after the twists, no need to sit up like the video says.
This sequence puts your spine through a full range of motion in flexion, extension, lateral flexion and rotation. The other joint we need to keep moving is our hip-joint and the yoga squat pose does this very nicely.
If you are experiencing pain with any of these poses be sure to speak to a yoga instructor, a chiropractor, or a qualified health professional with sufficient biomechanical expertise.
Your spinal health is critical to your overall health and long-term well-being. You’re only as young as your spine – keep it moving with yoga. And remember, if you rest, you rust.