BY: TRISHA CURLING
Ok well, the first answer is…always check with your doctor first and get the “ok” from them, but the second answer is…YOGA.
- I have problems with my breathing, what should I do?
- I am overweight, what should I do?
- I have high blood pressure, what should I do?
- I have digestive issues, what should I do?
Get my point? I’m forty, so the truth is not all forms of exercise agree with my body anymore. I’m sure we can agree that while we want to look and feel attractive, other issues that may arise as we get older also become important to address.
Early in life we tend to think less or not at all about things like how we are breathing, whether or not our weight is an issue, the health of our blood pressure and/or whether or not our digestive system is functioning optimally.
Added stress or trauma can influence our breathing patterns by making us breathe with less depth. We tend to lose the softness in the belly and take the breath out of the diaphragm and more into the chest. When practicing yoga, there is a great emphasis on the breath. This can be found either from taking time at some point throughout the class (generally beginning and/or end to bring your sole focus there). This helps to prepare us for the potentially increased movement during the “flows” in the class where we are generally moving through a sequence of postures and transitioning through each posture with an inhale and exhale. Paying attention to how we’re breathing and changing possible “bad” habits that may have been developed can help us to increase our lung capacity, therefore minimizing stress and tension in the body and ultimately helping to improve your breathing patterns.
When we breathe better, we move better. Overweight and afraid to start exercising? Doing a more “athletic” practice (i.e. Ashtanga or Vinyasa Yoga) can help us to train and strengthen the deeper muscles (our stabilizers) which help us to build a solid foundation, in turn activating more muscle fibres, which of course, help us to burn more calories, and yes, lose weight! That sounds like a good deal to me. It’s not that we can’t do this with other forms of exercise, it’s just that we absolutely CAN with yoga too.
If the weight falls off, then doesn’t our blood pressure normalize too? Of course, it does. Some of the postures in yoga like “folding forward” are said to have the ability to lower blood pressure. Controlling our breath and slowing the heart, giving it time and space can have a positive impact in regulating blood pressure. During a yoga practice, one is potentially stretching and contracting muscles throughout, therefore increasing the circulation to the muscles which can be limited due to the pressure within the blood vessels.
Twisting postures are said to help with some digestive issues. Again, focusing on what is taking place in the internal organs is just as, if not more important that what is happening to our external body. When we twist and/or fold forward in some postures, we are compressing the organs of the digestive system, therefore promoting the movement of waste. Elimination is not the only important factor in digestion, we also want to absorb nutrients. Creating these shapes with our bodies help to increase this absorption.
Regardless of our stage in life, these issues are always relevant. We may have these issues under control, so let’s keep it that way. If they are not under control, let’s work towards getting them there, with what? Yoga.