How a Gentle Yoga Practice Can Combat Common Wear & Tear Body Ailments
Common ailments such as back, neck and shoulder pain are usually the result of our modern lifestyle. Factors such as prolonged poor posture; sitting at a desk, slouching on the sofa or standing on the train at an awkward angle all contribute to this wear and tear. Even carrying a heavy bag on one shoulder has ill effects for the body.
As a Physiotherapist, I am trained to understand the function and structure of the body and how it moves - that is, the biomechanics of the musculoskeletal system. The musculoskeletal keeps us upright against gravity and requires coordination, posture alignment and the correct range of movement in specific joints as well as balance of strength in opposing muscle groups. This harmonious relationship between structure and function of the body can be interrupted by the way we choose to live our lives.
Take eating junk food as an example; we all know that if we ate a take away for two out of three meals per day five days a week, that this would not be a healthy pursuit for our body. Lethargy, poor digestion, skin problems, gas, bloating and weight gain would all come knocking at our door. So why is it we apply the same approach to our musculoskeletal health? We walk for 15 minutes carrying a bag on the same shoulder every morning, we sit on the bus slouched and getting tossed around, only to arrive at work to sit for nearly eight hours, after which we go home and sit some more. Is that really what our bodies are designed for? Can we really expect a sporadic 30min work out once or twice a week to make up for over 40 weekly hours of bad posture? The easy answer: no.
The results from this type of routine lifestyle are: commonly nagging joint pain, headaches and fatigue. These common symptoms often lead to less activity and thus, the cycle repeats itself. You slouch because your neck aches. Then your back aches lower down so the muscles that maintain that lovely upright-posture get weaker, and you are no longer able to maintain good posture throughout the day.
Yet to combat these ailments, we don’t have pound the pavements for eight hours a week, or squat 120% of our body weight seven days a week, nor do we need to headstand our way through six weekly Bikram yoga sessions. In fact, the government recommends just 30mins of moderate physical activity five days a week. And if that sounds like too much to fit into your hectic schedule, you’ll be pleased to know that includes walking, too! So swapping the bus for your trainers, and the lift for the stairs are excellent places to start. Something else I’d highly recommend doing to overcome the poor posture epidemic of modern life, is yoga.
Gentle yoga offers more than just OMs and an anaemic excuse for a camping roll mat. It offers the body an opportunity to stretch out the slouches of the day. It enables us a slow and progressive way to strengthen the whole body, which in the end will reduce the risk of injury. Yoga also promotes listening to the body, which is crucial if you are recovering from an injury, or don’t want to get one. Throughout the practice, circulation is stimulated; bringing blood, oxygen and nutrients to the muscles and joints. Gentle yoga also encourages relaxation and the opening of tight areas. Often our psychological stress is held in our physical body with no way to escape. By working through gentle poses, yoga offers an escape and release for the built up physical and mental tension all whilst reconnecting body and mind. Bringing this awareness to the body can help protect us from poor habits and keep our bodies and minds stronger for longer.
Emily Miller has been practicing as a Neuro-Physiotherapist since 2008. When she's not fixing bodies, she spends her time practicing gentle yoga, and being a Mummy to two beautiful daughters.