Restore Health With Yoga

Yoga can help restore the good health of people of any age. Postures can be modified for those with less mobility or the elderly. Getting started is very easy and inexpensive.

At some point in our lives, we all experience some degree of ill health. When stress exceeds normal levels, it may weaken the immune system and make the body more susceptible to infection. Moreover, stress may, in some cases, contribute to the development of disorders such as hypertension, heart disease, peptic ulcers, digestive problems and many other ailments. Illness may, in addition, be the result of an imbalance in our energy body when the flow of prana (energy) becomes blocked.

Yoga assists in restoring equilibrium to the body and mind so that good health can flourish. It is particularly effective at dealing with stress-related disorders, because it works at both a physical and mental level. The asanas (posture) works on the physical body and the breathing exercises and the meditation practices help to control and calm the mind. Several conditions which are largely psychological in origin, such as anxiety, panic attacks, insomnia, depression and addiction can profit from regular yoga practice.

Yoga is advanced to where specific postures have been discovered to help each particular medical ailment. There are also certain poses to avoid certain medical conditions. Seeing a doctor first and working with a yoga therapist is best when first starting out to discover a program to fit your specific health concerns. Individual and group sessions are often available at most exercise facilities. Tapes and videos are also useful for those wanting to practice at home. Special props, such as blocks, mats, and ties that assist in the postures are also marketed.

An easy way of dealing with stress is through physical exercise, such as simple stretches and postures, breathing exercises and calming meditations. These exercises can be done by anyone, of any age, in gradual stages. Selecting a suitable combination of exercises and practicing them regularly will not only lessen stress, but also prevent its occurrence in the first place and will generally keep good health.

Meditation is a strong and necessary addition to the yoga process in terms of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. The advantage of meditation is that it can be done anywhere at anytime. There are hundreds, possibly thousands, of meditations in practice today so it is very plausible to find one to fit the exact needs of any wellness situation. The standard start is to sit cross-legged with hands resting on knees, clear the mind, relax, and focus on breathing. A mantra (a repeated word or phrase) may be used at this point or focus on a situation or environment to hold the conscious relaxation. The key in focused meditation is to reach the level where the body and mind are totally relaxed and to hold that without falling asleep. Each individual eventually finds a meditation that is right for them. This, plus daily yoga practice, keeps the total body healthy.

When first beginning yoga, there is bound to be some discomfort, depending on the fitness level and age. With daily practice, flexibility will increase and the postures should be varied to gradually become more demanding. It took years for tension to accumulate, so the relaxation will not be achieved overnight.



Tension first accumulates in the middle of the shoulders at the base of the neck. The second place it builds up is the back. Due to poor posture, the muscles and ligaments in the lumbar region can easily strain. However, low back pain for which there is no physical cause is often a symptom of stress. Backward bends are energizing, whereas forward bends quiet the mind and body.

Yoga is probably of greater potential benefit to elderly people than to any other group. For maximum health, all the joints should be put through their full range of movement regularly or they will start to stiffen. Muscles need regular work or they will waste and become weakened. As people age, they tend to give up the forms of exercise, which they enjoyed in their youth and become prey to stiffness, muscle weakness and general physical unfitness. Yoga postures and sequences work the muscles, which respond by becoming stronger. By practicing yoga daily, joints will retain their suppleness and it will be easier to manage osteoarthritis. Poses that bear the body's weight, especially on the limbs and spine, will help to counteract the decline of bone density, which occurs later in life.

Yoga is very helpful for the frail elderly, although advice from a yoga therapist is needed to modify postures without losing their basic nature and benefit. Many poses can be adapted for sitting in a chair or lying in bed, if floor work is not possible. Any inverted pose is greatly discouraged. Frail and confused people often derive great pleasure and benefit from meditation and relaxation practices, which can be recorded on tape. Sleeping during these practices can be very helpful in this case as a deep form of relaxation and should be encouraged.

Headache sufferers, especially those with reoccurring migraines, can find partial relief through meditation and yoga's deep relaxation and breathing techniques. Although these will not stop the pain completely, they should abate the symptoms that coincide with severe migraines. Temporary partial loss of vision, sensitivity to light and sound, nausea, and tingling in the limbs are among examples of these. However, headaches and migraines can occur for a number of different reasons. A doctor should be consulted if other physical ailments such as dizziness or weakness not related to the migraine occur.

Insomnia is rarely a direct symptom of any serious disease, although sleeplessness can be due to a painful condition, such as arthritis. For most people, difficulty in sleeping well occurs at times when they have many worries on their mind or when their body and mind are so stressed that they cannot relax into natural sleep. Those suffering from insomnia will prosper from yoga. Stretches are very helpful if practiced slowly and backward-bending movements should be avoided in evening practice, as they raise energy levels. Yoga before bedtime will relax the body and quiet the mind, especially if focus is on breathing exercises (breathing through both nostrils while gently contracting the muscles inside the throat) and deep relaxation exercises (lying flat on back relaxing entire body).

Most women would like to approach pregnancy in the best possible health, both physically and mentally. Yoga is useful to prepare for the intense, physical experience of the birth and the anxious moments waiting for that moment to arrive. In early pregnancy, because of hormonal changes, women may feel tired or experience periods of nausea. At this time, gentle yoga stretches and deep relaxation exercises may prevent or lessen those symptoms. Every pregnant woman will benefit from raising the feet above the heart for at least ten minutes daily. This can be done against the wall to relieve pressure in the womb, which leads to varicose veins and swollen ankles.

Although yoga can bring great benefits, it is not meant as a substitute for conventional medical care. Participants should consult their doctor and follow any treatment prescribed in addition to using yoga therapy. If suffering from a serious condition, help of a qualified yoga therapist should be sought. However, anyone with only minor ailments, such as slightly raised blood pressure, tension headaches, backache due to muscular strain and persistent tension, can safely practice yoga to prevent and relieve stress.

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