Archive for the ‘Yoga for Skeletal Health’ Category

Yoga for Skeletal Health

Friday, December 6th, 2013

reverse warrior for spinal healthBy Faye Martins

The ancient practice of yoga, which dates back more than 5,000 years, improves skeletal health through skillful selection and consistent application of a variety of exercises. Yoga poses for skeletal health are chosen for their ability to improve posture, increase flexibility and relieve skeletal system tensions. Yoga assists in maintaining bone density. It also helps minerals that are stored in the bones, as well as the blood cells produced in bone marrow, to be released to the bloodstream for the body’s use as needed.

The Importance of a Healthy Skeletal System

Human skeletons contain 206 bones. Joints connect the ends of some bones. Encapsulated synovial fluid provides lubrication to the adjoining bone ends to reduce friction. Ligaments and muscles attach to bones by making use of either attachment points or insertion points on the bones. A healthy skeletal system is the foundation for a healthy body. Yoga postures optimize the conditions necessary to improve or maintain skeletal health.

Treating Osteoporosis with Yoga

Loren M. Fishman, a medical doctor affiliated with the Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York City, led a pilot study to research the effectiveness of yoga in treating or preventing osteoporosis. The findings of this study were published in “Topics for Geriatric Rehabilitation” in 2009 and can be viewed here. Although the number of participants who completed the study were small, results were significant. Those in the study who faithfully performed the prescribed yoga routines showed noticeable improvement in the bone density of both spine and hip.

Yoga Helps Joints and Musculoskeletal Disorders

Because yoga increases the circulation of synovial fluid, it helps joints move more freely and reduces joint pain. In addition, yoga positions that require the use of a person’s muscles to push and pull on the skeleton stimulate local bone growth. Yoga also has proved useful in treating musculoskeletal disorders of the hand and wrist. Marian Garfinkel, with the Medical College of Pennsylvania, led studies in 1994 and 1998 that confirmed the effectiveness of yoga in lessening the effects of carpal tunnel syndrome and improving grip.

Align the Body and Improve Balance with Yoga and Props

Yoga poses align the body and improve balance. Because yoga allows the use of props, people with disabilities or physical ailments can perform poses that otherwise would be impossible. Yoga instructors familiar with the proper use of props are able to individualize the various routines to fit each person’s age and condition. Such individualization maximizes the benefits of yoga for the skeletal health of every participant.

© Copyright 2013 – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division

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Yoga Therapy as an Approach for Osteoporosis

 

 

What Can Yoga Asanas Do For Skeletal Alignment?

Wednesday, August 7th, 2013

yoga instructor training onlineBy Sanjeev Patel, CYT 500

Let’s be honest; not many of us have students who enter our Yoga school and say, “I really need to practice asana because I want to improve my skeletal alignment and my posture is poor.” People with bad posture usually aren’t aware of it until somebody tells them about it. Worse yet, even if their coworkers imitate their bad posture, they still might not ever take action. For anyone, of any age, Yoga asanas can correct poor posture; but a lifetime of bad posture is much harder to correct. For this reason, people of all ages need to practice some form of Yoga posturing exercise.

The Typical View of Asana Practice

“It’s for women or young people who are already fit and flexible.” Firstly, there’s a style for everybody these days, even if you can’t get out of the chair. As a Yoga teacher, you have heard all of the excuses by now. Secondly, some tough guys think they don’t need to practice asana because they lift weights, drink protein shakes, eat lots of meat, and create big stiff muscles. That’s not all weight lifters, but it’s the usual response. I don’t want to get in the way of a big guy who is hell bent on blocking his arteries, but I wish some people would read.  Yes, I know: A bad diet doesn’t have a warning label yet!

Back to reality: It’s really nice to have women in a Yoga class, but a lot of guys aren’t getting it, and many of them have the worst posture. Some of us have necks like buzzards. So, when it’s time to eat, they have to slightly lift their face off the table and slide the plate in between. It’s a perfect fit and my dog has better posture during meals.

Practicing yoga asana regularly helps people gain a level of fitness, unlike anything before, and achieve mental serenity. Many people, who practice yoga, don’t even realize the positive benefits that happen underneath their muscles in the skeletal frame. Yoga is known for having a more positive impact on joint function, as certain yoga poses strengthen the muscles by releasing fluids throughout the body. Here are some ways, for anyone to practice yoga, to improve their joint health and their overall skeletal alignment.

Yoga to Strengthen Joint Supporting Muscles

The isometric contractions that occur during asana practice train the smaller muscles that surround the joints to withstand more pressure, and it makes them work harder to stabilize the body properly. For example, poses that force people to balance on one leg, and change elevation, trains the supporting muscles to work in ways for strict balance and stability. The practice of daily yoga helps people improve their function and their overall daily activities.

Improving Flow of Synovial Fluid

Synovial fluid is a slippery liquid that occurs in the joint systems, and which allows bones to move in a smooth and painless way. Synovial fluid is in joints, such as the hips, elbows, and knees, where there is a lot movement of the bones. There are few joints in the body that do not have synovial fluid, such as sacroiliac joints on the pelvis and the discs on the back.  The synovial fluid is also important for delivering oxygen and nutrients to the hyaline cartilage, which doesn’t have any source of blood supply. The poses in yoga allows the synovial fluid to reach different parts of the body, thus making the joints move more smoothly.

Weight Control

Oops! Did I write that? Look, I know there are so many scams out there for weight loss, but a yogic lifestyle is going to cause a practitioner to watch his or her weight. If people just ate their veggies first, they would lower their health risks and make life easier on the old skeleton. Let’s face it; extra weight is not good for your ankles, knees, or hips. For every pound of weight somebody puts on their body, it puts an additional burden on their joints. Forms of exercise, such as jumping or running is good, but the impact may add up over time, especially if I am carrying extra body weight. The joints in the body are made to support the human body as individuals carry extra pounds. So, when individuals carry the extra loads via weight gain, then they’re gradually causing more serious joint problems throughout their lives. Yoga, walking, and a healthy diet can help individuals manage weight, which is putting unnecessary pressure on their joints and inhibiting their movements. I’m not saying, yoga is a weight loss remedy, but the lifestyle might keep some extra weight at bay.

With all that said, no other form of exercise can concentrate the muscles that surround the joints like yoga asana, while promoting a healthy blood flow throughout the body.

© Copyright 2012 – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division

See our testimonials to find out what our graduates have to say about teaching yoga sessions and our selection of affordable yoga teacher training intensive courses.

If you are a teacher, yoga school manager, blogger, e-zine, or website publisher, and are in need of quality content, please feel free to use my blog entries (articles). Please be sure to reprint each article, as is. Namaste!

Yoga Training as a Method for Spinal Health

Wednesday, June 26th, 2013

500 hour hatha yoga teacher training intensiveBy Faye Martins

Adult students of all ages participate in yoga training sessions for pain relief, but students often ask why it works.  As a teacher, you should have learned this during your foundational 200-hour yoga certification course, but most students know very little about spinal or skeletal health, unless they have experienced chronic joint pain. Let’s go over the basics, just in case you want to have a short workshop for your students to give them a deeper understanding of how and why they are feeling better after a class at your yoga school.

Spinal Basics

The spine has three distinct parts, the Cervical, Thoracic, and Lumbar. Each part carries the body’s weight in different ways. Every part is susceptible to injury at any given time it they are over worked. The cervical part is located at the top of the spine. This area contains the top most vertebrae and carries the brunt of stress from life and work. The asanas can relieve depression, anxiety and stress. The thoracic area contains the next twelve bones of the spine. This section supports the ribs and is a vital part of good posture. This area needs to stay in alignment to keep the body in line. The lumbar section consists of the last five vertebrae. The lumbar is the most frequently injured area of the spine as it has the job of holding up the entire upper body.

Understanding Basic Spinal Movement 

The spine works like the control center for the body. It should be kept as straight as possible when exercising. There are 5 natural Yoga movements that keep the spine healthy and strong.

1. Flexion is curling the body in a fetal position. Poses that include this movement are the child pose, downward facing dog and cat pose. These all help the spine keep its natural position.

2. Axial Rotation is the twisting of the spine. Yoga moves that use this movement are half spinal twist, half lord of the fishes twist and the sage twist. Performing these movements will strengthen the spine and prevent twisting injury.

3. Extension the normal movement that allows the spine to stretch out and get longer. Asanas that perform this movement are Cobra pose, camel pose and upward facing dog. This helps keep the spine and vertebrae from compressing.

4. Lateral Flexion bending from side to side. Asanas that strengthen the spine in this manner are the revolved head to knee pose and the side stretch.

5. Axial Extension is not common in every day movement. There are no specific asanas that help alone. There are movements that do incorporate this extension or stretching.

Hatha yoga is known to be a healthy way to exercise and keep the mind and body in top shape. For those suffering from back pain, there are some yoga training exercises (asanas and warm ups) that can ease the pain and with continued use, can prevent it from coming back.

© Copyright 2013 – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division

See our testimonials to find out what our graduates have to say about teaching yoga students and our online yoga instructor training school.

If you are a teacher, yoga school manager, blogger, e-zine, or website publisher, and are in need of quality content, please feel free to use my blog entries (articles). Please be sure to reprint each article, as is. Namaste!

Yoga for Bone Density

Monday, July 23rd, 2012

yoga trainingBy Faye Martins

Studies show that Yoga helps to fight one of the most common diseases affecting older Americans. Osteoporosis, a disorder that results in the loss of bone density and the thinning of bone tissue, affects 20 percent of American women over the age of 50. Bone loss is gradual and for some adults it may start before the age of 40.

When we are young, our bodies use calcium and phosphate to produce strong, healthy bones. With age, production of these minerals declines, making bones brittle and vulnerable to fractures. Although bone loss is more common in women, it also affects men.

Areas like the spine, wrists, and hips are especially prone to breaking. Yoga helps to build bone density, improve posture, and prevent hunched backs. Depending on the health and age of the practitioner, exercises can be adapted to fit individual needs. For beginners with osteoporosis, chair Yoga may be a good choice.  However, a specialist chair Yoga instructor is essential for a safe class.

Ten Poses that Increase Bone Density

• Chair Pose

• Cobra Pose

• Mountain Pose

• Forward Bends

• Backward Bends

• Warrior Pose

• Bridge Pose

• Triangle Pose

• Upward Facing Dog

• Downward Facing Dog

Although Yoga is a weight-bearing exercise, it is much less likely to overwork the joints or damage cartilage than exercises like walking or jogging. Instead, asanas lengthen muscles and pull on bones, stressing and strengthening them in the process.

In a small study done in 2009, older adults with bone disease practiced a series of ten asanas. Two years later, bones scans showed that 85% of the participants had increased bone growth in the hips and spine. An unpublished study completed at California State University also showed that participants who practiced Yoga increased the density of bones in their vertebrae.

Another weapon in the war against osteoporosis is Yoga’s ability to reduce levels of cortisol, the stress hormone produced during “flight or fight” response. Not only does cortisol suppress the immune system and raise the blood pressure, but it also depletes the supply of calcium in the bones and inhibits its absorption in the intestines.

Although an early start helps to prevent problems that come with aging, it’s never too late to begin a Yoga practice. Especially for people already suffering from bone loss or other health problems, it’s always a good idea to speak with a doctor before starting a new program.

© Copyright 2012 – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division

To see our selection of Yoga teacher training courses, please visit the following link.

http://www.aurawellnesscenter.com/store/

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The Yogic Approach to Managing Osteoporosis

Sunday, December 4th, 2011

yoga teacher trainingBy Dr. Rita Khanna

Osteo means bones and porosis means porous. Osteoporosis is the disease which affects the bones inside the body of the human beings. In this disorder, the bones of the skeleton become fragile due to excessive loss of tissues. Ladies are affected more than the males by osteoporosis. This difficulty is noticed mostly in postmenopausal women who cross the age of 50 to 55. When a person suffers from osteoporosis, the bones become susceptible to fractures even by small injuries. It could result in cracking and collapsing of the bones in the three parts of the body areas like wrists, hips and spine. Normal bone consists of a series of thin, intersecting plates called ‘trabeculae’. These plates are surrounded by a dense shell. These plates form is called the bone mass. In osteoporosis, they become filled with holes or may even totally disappear. This causes a diminution of bone mass. With loss of bone mass, the shell also becomes thin. All these changes make the bones extremely fragile and it can crack with the most trivial injury.

Symptoms:

• If the fracture is in the spine, the victim may feel a shooting pain that spreads from the back to side of the body.

• Repeated fractures in the spine can result in a deformed and curved spine. It may give the affected person a hunched back.

• Some victims of this ailment may develop minimal trauma fractures while performing regular activities like walking or climbing stairs.

Causes:

• After menopause, women tend to lose bone density and, in some cases, this leads to the development of osteoporosis.

• Some women develop osteoporosis due to their genetic structure.

• People who do not get adequate amount of calcium and Vitamin D in their diet also develop osteoporosis in their later years.

• Excess consumption of meat, heavy smoking, chronic alcoholism, post-menopausal hormonal imbalances and diminished physical activity with age increase the chances of osteoporosis.

The Yogic approach:

yoga instructor certificationOsteoporosis can be prevented and treated through regular Yogasanas, with proper diet and lifestyle habits. Yogasanas surely help to strengthen your bones and muscles, preventing the onset of this condition and providing relief from the pain. Yoga helps in creating a balanced harmony between the ovaries, adrenals, parathyroids, pituitary and pineal gland, thus ensuring that the body receives a steady supply of the right hormones for maintaining bone strength and maximum health and well being. Any one without any fear can start with simple Yoga flexibility exercises.

Flexibilty exercises:

• Sit on the ground with legs stretched out straight on the ground, and exercise the parts of toes of legs, soles, ankles, leg muscles, knees, backbone and thigh bones, waist, spinal column, fingers, palms, wrists, elbows, shoulders, chest, belly and stomach, neck, eyes and muscles of the face.

• To perform the flexibility exercise known as butterfly exercise, one has to sit with legs extended in front. Thereafter bend both the legs from the knees. Thereafter widen both the knees. Thereby heels are nearer the body now hold toes of both the feet by both the hands. Now move the knees in such a manner that it resembles the butterfly moving its wings up and down. Heels must remain touching each other and as near to the body as possible. This exercise helps bones of the thighs, pelvic girdle; cover bones of the knees and joints of the paws of legs.

• Now repeat this butterfly exercise by holding the knees. Heels and toes should remain touching each other and remain very near to the body. Now hold the knees and press both the knees downward as well as upward position.

• In the third process of the exercise stretch left leg forward; raise and lift right leg and put it on the left thigh. Now move the right knee initially from top to bottom and bottom to top and thereafter in a round circular motion. This process must be repeated at least 16 times. In the above-described manner now straighten the right leg; put the left leg on the right thigh.

• Thereafter left knee should be moved alternatively up and down, as well as down to up. Thereafter move the left knee in a circular movement. This process should also be repeated 16 times.

• In addition to these flexibility exercises even when food is consumed one can no doubt sit in Vajrasana. In Vajrasana keeping the legs turned behind, the bones of knees and bones in the leg with its muscles including tibia-fibula and other bones as well as ankles of the legs and fingers of the legs get a good advantage.

Certain more Yogic postures are very helpful in battling this ailment.

yoga teacher certificationThey are called Kati-utthana, Setubandha, Trikonasana and different types of Trikonasanas, Virikshasana (Tree pose), Suryanamaskara, Bhujangasana, Shalabhasana, Dhanurasana, Chakrasana, Halasana, Paschimottanasana, Ushtrasana, Supta-vajrasana etc.

Pranayam: Omkar, Bhramaari, Nadi Shodhana, and Kapalbhati (Frontal brain cleansing breath) are also beneficial for osteoporosis.

Below is a description of Kati-utthana, Setubandha, Shalabhasana, and Supta-vajrasana:

Kati-utthana: Lie on your back, and bend your knees. Keep your feet close to your hips with hands by the side, and palms resting on the floor. Inhale slowly and push the waist upwards as much as you can without any pressure on your neck. Hold for some time while breathing normally.

Setubandhasana: From Katiutthana get into Setubandhasana.

yoga teacher courseNow support the waist by both the hands. Keep both the upper hands up to the elbow from the shoulders parallel to the ground; the hands from the elbow to the wrists should be straight at right angles. The support of the hand will be given to the waist from down under. Now straighten both the legs on the ground slowly; knees should not be bent, heels and toes should be touching the ground, legs should touch each other. In this fashion the shape of the body will resemble a fly-over bridge.

This Setubandhasana if practiced will give exercise to the joints of bones of the shoulders, bones of the elbows, and joints of the bones of wrists, fingers, whole of the spinal column, bones of the waist pertaining to the thighs, knees and ankles of the leg.

Shalabhasana: Lie in the prone position, bring the legs together, toes pointing outwards, hands by the side of the body, fists closed, and chin on the floor. Then raise both the legs slowly without bending at the knee. Do not tilt the pelvis. Hold this for some time with normal breathing, and come back down slowly.

Supta Vajrasana: Sit straight in Vajrasana. Keep your feet apart on the floor. Lean backwards on your right and left elbows. Now try and bend your head a back towards the floor as much as you can till you are comfortable while stretching the abdomen. Keeping the hands on the thighs, hold for some time breathing normally. Now with the help of the elbows slowly come back to the original position.

Yogic Diet for Osteoporosis:

Diet plays an important role in the treatment of osteoporosis. A Yogic diet of fresh fruit (orange, lemon, pineapple, papaya) and vegetables (green leafy vegetables, red beet and carrot), whole grains and high protein foods with moderate amounts of dairy products (milk, curds and milk products) will provide the calcium and other important minerals to prevent and reduce the development of osteoporosis. In particular, add omega-3 and vitamin E rich nuts, seeds and fish. Beware of consuming too much salt and animal protein as these can both leach calcium from your bones. Caffeine, alcohol, carbonated soft drinks and nicotine can also deplete your body’s calcium supply and a diet high in sugar has also been linked to low bone density. Make sure you get outdoors for your daily dose of vitamin D from the Sun. While supplementing your diet with calcium and other vitamins and minerals is important to help meet your daily intake requirements, these vitamins and minerals, especially calcium, are much readily absorbed and utilized when they are obtained from the food you eat.

Osteoporosis can be avoided through adequate prevention and by adhering to a calcium-rich diet, Yogasana, Pranayama and regular checkups with a qualified orthopedic doctor.

Aum Shanti

If you feel inspired by this article, feel free to publish it in your Newsletter or on your Website. Our humble request is to please include the Resource as follows: -

Courtesy: Dr. Rita Khanna’s Yogashaastra Studio.

A popular studio that helps you find natural solutions for complete health.

Also conducts online Yoga Courses & Naturopathy Guidance.

Mobile: + 919849772485

Ph:-91-40-65173344

Email: yogashaastra@gmail.com

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Dr. Rita Khanna

Dr. Rita Khanna is a well-known name in the field of Yoga and Naturopathy. She was initiated into this discipline over 25 years ago by world famous Swami Adyatmananda of Sivananda Ashram in Rishikesh (India).

She believes firmly that Yoga is a scientific process, which helps us to lead a healthy and disease-free life. She is also actively involved in practicing alternative medicines like Naturopathy. Over the years, she has been successfully practicing these therapies and providing succour to several chronic and terminally ill patients through Yoga, Diet and Naturopathy. She is also imparting Yoga Teachers Training.

At present, Dr. Rita Khanna is running a Yoga Studio in Secunderabad (Hyderabad, India).

Yoga for Bone Density

Saturday, December 3rd, 2011

yoga teacher training courseBy Bhavan Kumar 

An increasing number of individuals are finding themselves suffering with ailments related to a weakening of the bones. Age is typically blamed for this decrease in bone density and strength, but in truth extreme bone weakness is not a normal side effect of aging. This new problem has only been an issue in recent years, and our current lifestyle is to blame. Postmenopausal women are most prone to bone weakness, but this problem is starting to extend to young women and even men. The bones are like anything else in the body and must be used in order to be strong and durable. If you are looking to boost your bone density and strength, yoga could be the answer for you.

The bones are easy to overlook by even the most health conscious of individuals. We give a lot of consideration to the health of the muscles, skin, brain and even blood, but not the bones. The bones serve as the body’s quiet foundation and deserve to be maintained. Bones don’t ask for a lot; all they need is to be exercised on a daily basis.

When we think of exercise, we usually think of weight loss or building up muscle, but the bones are also impacted in a positive manner during a good exercise session. Weight bearing exercises stimulate increased bone density because the muscles pull against the bones during the workout. The bones respond to this pressure and stress by building themselves up. The stronger the muscle, the more pressure is put on the bones.

Any activity that makes the bodywork against the forces of gravity will increase bone density naturally, but not all weight bearing activities are created equal. A large number of them, including jogging and step aerobics, put a great deal of wear and tear on the delicate cartilage of the joints. This makes these exercises less than ideal for the long haul. Yoga is a weight bearing exercise that effectively builds up density in the bones and increases muscle strength without putting excessive stress on the joints, making it the perfect lifelong physical practice for maintaining movement and agility. In addition, yoga strengthens the hips, wrists and spine, which are more prone to problems than other bone structures.

Backbends strengthen and support the spine while seated poses safely open up and work the hips like nothing else. Cobra Pose counteracts the forward hunch that many individuals with bone loss suffer from and also improves posture. Standing poses work the hip bones by putting a great deal of weight on them in a gentle and effective manner and Downward Facing Dog puts weight on the upper spine and the wrists, strengthening these delicate bone structures naturally over time.

Making yoga a part of your daily routine is a simple and easy way to maintain the best bone health possible, and the best part is that it only requires about 30 minutes a day. There is no reason not to incorporate this healthy practice into your everyday life.  Practicing yoga for bone density is one more way to take care of skeletal health.

© Copyright 2011 – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division

To see our selection of hatha yoga teacher training programs, please visit the following link.

If you are a yoga instructor, studio owner, blogger, e-zine, or website publisher, and are in need of quality content, please feel free to use my blog entries (articles). Please be sure to reprint each article, as is, including the resource box above. Namaste!

Yoga Precautions for Rheumatoid Arthritis

Thursday, September 29th, 2011

yoga teacher trainingBy Faye Martins 

Yoga teachers know that pre-existing physical conditions are important when teaching students. This is covered in a basic 200-hour yoga teacher training. Yet, there are a few new students who may manage to slip by an orientation. Maybe they arrive late, or the staff is helping other new students, but each student should be made aware of precautions for his or her health. Rheumatoid arthritis is one of the many ailments that teachers and students should talk about before practice.

A long-term disease leading to inflammation of the joints and tissues, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) can also affect other organs. Up to 1% of the world’s population is estimated to suffer from rheumatoid arthritis, with women experiencing it three times more often than men. Chronic and debilitating, those with RA may eventually require surgery to maintain movement in fingers, hands and other areas.

Can Yogic techniques help those with RA maintain an active lifestyle? Some studies indicates yes: a study in the United Arab Emirates showed that patients who completed 12 sessions of Raj yoga, with exercise and breathing techniques, showed significant improvements in disease activity scores and health assessments. In 1994, the British Journal of Rheumatology published a study showing arthritis symptoms improving for patients who practiced Yogic techniques and the Rheumatic Diseases Clinics of North America published two studies detailing joint stiffness and pain relief for practitioners in 2002.

Yet, even though Yogic methods may offer significant relief for RA, its practice should be approached with caution. The disease does not follow a steady, progressive course; instead, sufferers experience flare-ups followed by remission. Yoga practice suitable for someone in remission may be different from someone experiencing an active flare-up. RA affects joints symmetrically, in wrists, elbows, hands, shoulders, knees, feet and ankles most frequently. As the disease progresses, joints become more unstable and the patient’s range of motion is restricted.

It is important not to confuse asanas recommended for those with osteoarthritis and those with RA. Multiple joints are not affected in osteoarthritis, nor does it entail ongoing joint damage from inflammatory processes. Holding poses for increased lengths of time to strengthen static muscles is recommended for osteoarthritis but should be avoided for RA. According to a structural Yoga therapy research paper published in 2006, people with moderate to severe RA should avoid “high intensity exercise; prolonged weight-bearing exercise; prolonged immobility in seated or lying positions and stretching past the comfortable endpoint of range of motion,” among other lifestyle triggers.

Asanas involving pressure on the neck should be avoided, while poses like Dandasana or the Butterfly may be beneficial. Pranayama and smooth motions are well suited to Yoga practitioners with RA. Carefully evaluate whether symptoms are in remission or actively inflamed before practice.

© Copyright 2011 – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division

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How to Lengthen Your Spine through Yoga Moves

Sunday, May 29th, 2011

yoga certificationBy Dr. Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500

The spine is one of the most important parts of the human body. The nervous system gathers, stores, and controls the body’s information through this key highway. The spine allows the body to analyze itself and initiate the proper response, which the central nervous system sends to the other parts of the body. When the spine is misaligned, it can throw the entire body into disarray. Through Hatha Yoga postures (asanas), you can lengthen, strengthen, and stretch your spine back into alignment, which brings one’s back into a proper state of health.

Many people do not realize that the spine can stretch and lengthen in two directions. The sacrum and the tailbone can move downwards while the lumbar spine and everything else extends upwards. By learning the natural curves of these two separate directions, the spinal column can be stretched to its maximum length.

Back injuries are the most common type of work-related injury. It may come from lifting a heavy object too quickly or without proper form. Additionally, one may experience pain, as a result of sitting with bad posture, or from sitting for long periods of time. Too many people think that this spinal pain is something that they just have to push through. In cases where there has not been extreme damage, Yoga may be extremely helpful in alleviating this pain, while preventing it from occurring regularly in the future.

Practicing Yoga poses, in order to stretch the spine, works in a multitude of ways. First, the poses strengthen the muscles around the spine, preventing injury in the future. Second, because the spine itself is more limber due to the stretching, the blood flow to the area is increased. This decreases the stress and pain within the area.

Suggested Yoga Postures for Spinal Health:

Forward Bend

Camel Pose

Half Chair Pose

Fish Pose

Seated Twists

Triangle Pose

Proper instruction, from a certified Yoga teacher, is advised before practicing independently.

Finally, Yoga that focuses on the back and spine promotes a healthier posture. In some cases, sitting too long can cause serious compression on the entire spinal structure. What this means is that people need to get away from sitting before major skeletal problems occur.

Problems, due to sitting too long, happen slowly; and most people do not realize it is happening until they begin to feel pain from it. After a couple weeks or months of Hatha Yoga sessions, it is possible that you may even gain a little height from stretching your spine.

When performing Yoga poses to stretch your spine, be sure to use caution. You do not want to push your body passed its limits. When Hatha Yoga movements and postures are performed responsibly, this gives a second life to one’s spinal health.

© Copyright 2011 – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division

To see our selection of Online Yoga teacher training courses, please visit the following link.

http://www.aurawellnesscenter.com/store/

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FREE CONTENT: If you are a Yoga Teacher, Yoga studio, blogger, e-zine, or website publisher, and are in need of quality content, please feel free to use my blog entries (articles). Please be sure to reprint each article, as is, including the resource box above. Namaste!

The Healthy Spine and Yoga

Sunday, April 24th, 2011

yoga teacher certificationBy Dr. Rita Khanna

You are as young or healthy as your spine. ‘Keep the spine erect,’ you will often hear the teacher calling the instruction in a class of Yogasanas. In the entire animal kingdom, the human being has the most erect spine. Let us see the implications of this instruction. In Kundalini Yoga, it has a significance of its own, as far as the Nadis and Chakras are concerned; but in this article, we shall consider only from the anatomical point of view.

Upon entering the world, a newborn baby’s spine is flexed (bent forward) at the beginning. Later, when the infant turns on its tummy, and starts to raise its head, it develops the first backward curve of the spine, in the cervical (neck) region. Still later, when the young child first stands on its own feet in the erect position, it develops another backward curve in the lumbar (lower) region. These curves will continue to develop until growing continues.

BACKWARD LUMBAR CURVATURE OF THE SPINE

yoga teacher certificationWhile standing in the erect position, the lumbar spine has to bear the weight of the upper half of the body. Due to this, and also due to strides of the legs in erect walking, the spine develops this backward curvature which pre-disposes man alone, amongst all the animals, to a new range of evolutionary spinal diseases, including low back pain, slipped disc, sciatica, scoliosis, and spondylitis.

In addition, various disturbances of digestion, menstruation, and reproduction arise, due to congestion and irritation of emerging spinal nerves in the lumbar region. Another disadvantage of the erect posture is the increased likelihood of developing piles (hemorrhoids) and varicose veins, because the column of venous blood from the legs and rectum, has to travel so much further upwards against gravity to reach the heart.

THE STRUCTURE OF INDIVIDUAL VERTEBRA

yoga instructor course• The spine is like the trunk of a tree, supporting the entire body structure. Atop this trunk, sits the bony, enclosed cranium or box of the skull, containing the most important of all human organs – the brain – which not only controls the human body, but gives a real purpose to its existence.

• The top-most vertebra is called the atlas, because it supports the round head like the Greek mythical figure Atlas, who supported the earth upon his shoulders.

• The second vertebra is the peg-like axis, so named because the atlas and skull rotate upon it. Thus, the head moves both independently of the movement of the neck, and with the neck as well. Of the 33 vertebrae of the column, these are the only two which are named. All the others bear only numbers.

• In the thoracic region, the spine supports the expansive rib cage, which is composed of bones (ribs), muscles, and cartilage. The rib cage surrounds the lungs and the heart, which are next in importance to the brain. The lungs purify the blood, while the heart circulates it to the entire body, supplying the cells and tissues with all their nutrient requirements, and taking away their waste products.

• In the lumbar or abdominal region, the spinal column serves as an anchor for the muscles, which hold the gastro-intestinal organs in place: stomach and intestines, liver, spleen, and pancreas, and also, the kidneys and urinary system. These are held suspended, as if in a cloth handbag, with the spine forming the handle.

• At the lower (sacral) end of the spine is the pelvis, which is like a bony basket or cavity cradling the excretory and reproductive organs. Here the fertilized human egg is nurtured in the mother’s womb, like a bird’s egg in its nest.

• Like the main branches of this tree, the upper and the lower limbs shoot out from this central trunk, with the nearer joints (the shoulder and the hip) having a full range of movements in all the three planes, like a ball and socket, while the distal joints (the elbow and the knee) can move in only one plane, like a door on a hinge.

Thus, we find that the spine is not absolutely erect in the true sense of the word, but has four distinct curvatures.

FOUR CURVES

how to become a certified yoga teacherThe cervical curvature in the neck has seven vertebrae. The dorsal in the chest has twelve and the lumbar in the lower back has five. Like a stack of coins, these bear the progressively increasing weight of the column above. Thus, each vertebra is slightly larger than the one above, as we descend from the neck to the buttocks. The atlas is only ¼ as large or heavy as the last lumbar vertebra. In Sirshasana, (headstand posture) one should bear the weight of the entire body on the triangle formed by the head and the two elbows. If too much weight falls onto the cervical vertebrae alone, they will suffer damage, as they are meant to carry the weight of the head only, and not that of the whole body.

The sacral vertebrae (five in number) are fused to form a single bone at the back of the pelvis. These are smaller as they have no weight-bearing function and take no part in the movements of the spine described above. The coccyx is the vestige of the tail. The tail is used by lower animals for warding off troubling insects, for holding onto a branch and for balance while jumping. A man can perform these functions with his upper limbs. It is also used for expressing emotions like anger and fright. Human beings have evolved better ways of expressing emotions, and man had lost his tail during evolution.

THE HUMAN SPINE

The human spine is not a single bone, nor is it like a bamboo. It is like a string of beads; but instead of the string holding the beads together, as in a Japa Mala, it is the beads (the vertebrae) that protect the string (the spinal cord) inside. The spine is made this way because it has to perform so many movements. It bends forwards and backwards and sideways and also twists up on itself – hence, the string of beads. There is a degenerative condition called bamboo spine (ankylosing spondylitis), where the spine really becomes like a bamboo (and looks like one on X-ray). Just imagine the miseries of that person – stiff like a bamboo. Between two beads, there is a resilient disc, or pad, to absorb shocks while walking, running, jumping, or even while standing and sitting. Thus, wear and tear on the bones is lessened and the brain and internal organs are cushioned. The delicate string of the spinal cord runs through the central vertebral canal, and numerous nerve branches emerge from it and pass through the gaps between the vertebrae.

THE ROLE OF YOGA

teach yoga classesNow, let us see what afflictions the spine can have and the role of Yoga in prevention and cure of some of them. At the outset, it should be clear that where the bone tissue of the vertebrae itself is seriously diseased, or has been destroyed by a disease, like tuberculosis, cancer, or a serious injury, the lost bony structures cannot be restored by Yoga.

• Yoga helps maintain and restore the auxiliary structures, like the ligaments which hold the vertebrae together, the joints, and the shock-absorbers in between, and the para-vertebral muscles on either side of the vertebrae.

• Yoga also helps in aligning the curvatures of the spine, maintaining the full range of spinal movements and flexibility, and relieving pressure on the nerves emerging between two vertebrae.

• All the Yogasanas have some action on the spine, in addition to their other individual actions and applications. The backward bending, forward bending, and sideward bending Asanas have obvious actions on the spine. Even the balancing Asanas, and sitting postures, help to maintain the para-vertebral musculature.

• Matsyendrasana, and its variation Ardha- matsyendrasana, are the only two Asanas which give a complete rotatory movement to the entire vertebral column; the locked position of the leg, and the arm, acts as a fulcrum for the twist.

• The natural curvature of the spine in the neck region is backwards, but most of our time is spent working with our heads bent forwards. Hence we get degenerative diseases, like cervical spondylolysis. These spinal diseases are prevented and also cured by giving extension to the neck. The orthopaedic surgeons manage it by supplying a supporting collar, or by confining the patient to bed and applying traction on the neck, like a man being hanged. Yoga effectively arrests and alleviates the condition by simple postures, including Pawanmuktasana, Bhujangasana, Vajrasana, Shashankasana, Dwikonasana, Ardha- matsyendrasana, and allied backward bending Asanas.

• The second malady in this region, which is relieved by Yoga, is a tension headache. Due to mental and postural tensions, the muscles at the back of the head and neck become tightened and spasmed (they can be felt as hard tender cords and knots). This causes an ache at the back of the head. Asanas, such as flexibility and neck exercises, involving free movements of the neck, release the tension load in the neck muscles, while Yoga-nidra and Shavasana reduce the levels of psychic and mental tensions. This double-pronged attack on the disease, using somatopsychic and psychosomatic techniques, proves most effective. Tensions in the mind and spasms in the muscles disappear reciprocally. Just as mental tensions lead to muscle spasm, so also by lessening the spasms in the muscles, one can relieve the mind of some of its tensions.

• In the thoracic (chest) region, the spine is bent forward; and if it is excessively bent, congestion of the thoracic nerves, and crowding of the rib cage, result. This reduces the space in which the lungs can expand and respiratory efficiency diminishes. Stooped shoulders and hunched back occur in asthma and chronic bronchitis. These deformities can be removed by practicing Dhanurasana, Chakrasana, Bhujangasana, Matsyasana, and the like. At the same time, the efficiency of the respiratory system increases and the symptoms of respiratory disease diminish.

• The most troublesome area of the spine is the lumbar (lower back) region. Its problems are manifold. The para-vertebral muscles become stiff and painful with build-up of emotional, sexual, and menstrual tensions. They sprain by uncoordinated actions while lifting, bending, or driving. Spinal ligaments are torn by hard pulls or blow received during sports, etc. The muscles are imbalanced if the body weight is not equally divided between both legs due to some disease in the lower limbs. In slipped disc, the cartilaginous ring of one of the shock-absorbing spinal discs ruptures, due to wear and tear, and its nucleus pulpous (the jelly-like substance in the middle of the spinal disc) may pop out and press on a nerve-root, leading to sciatic pain in one or both legs. The most common cause of low back pain is due to bad posture. We are not able to stand or sit properly, due to weakened muscles, lack of exercise, and sedentary life.

• One also suffers from causes in front, when the abdomen becomes obese, flabby, and distended. The lumbar spine acts like the handle of a bag holding the contents of the abdomen. In obesity, the contents of the bag become heavy, due to deposition of extra fat in the mesentery of the intestines. Mesentery is the supporting structure that straps the intestines to the spine. In an obese person, mesentery is one of the major depots of extra fat. The abdominal muscles support the contents in the bag from in front. If they are weak and flabby, the intestines fall forward, causing a pull on the vertebrae behind. This also leads to backache. Excess fat deposition in the abdominal wall also causes a pull on the lumbar vertebrae. In women, if the uterus is not properly placed (retroversion), or if it has adhesions, low back pain may result. Pelvic infections are another cause.

• Major organic diseases of the bones of the vertebral column, such as tuberculosis, cancer, and osteomyelitis are rare causes of spinal pain. There are many other common causes of pain in the spine, which can definitely be successfully managed and corrected by Yoga techniques.

• The forward, backward, and sideward bending Asanas, mobilize the inter-vertebral joints, develop the supporting musculature of the spine, strengthen the ligaments, and massage the nerves and blood vessels. These are essential if proper spinal health is to be maintained, especially in middle and later life. Because this development and maintenance occurs equally on each side, the possibility of unequal tensions on the spine is reduced. In the so-called ‘slipped disc syndrome’, including sciatica, the backward bending Asanas of the lower spine, e.g. Shalabhasana, Ushtrasana, Dhanurasana, and Bhujangasana are akin to the extension exercises given by the physiotherapist. Shavasana relaxes the entire musculature. Tadasana stretches the spinal ligaments, relieves pressure on the inter-vertebral discs, and lessens wear and tear. Similarly, the inverted Asanas (Sirshasana, Sarvangasana, Vipareet karani mudra) change the pressure points, where the body weight is brought to bear on the lumbar vertebrae. This reduces strain on the lower back. Bhastrika pranayama, Uddiyana bandha, Agnisar, and Nauli Kriya develop the abdominal musculature, remove obesity, and resulting spinal strain.

LEARN RELAXING IN A STANDING POSITION WITH CORRECTLY ALIGNED POSITION

• Bring the feet a few inches apart (10 cm) and parallel to each other. Then bring the awareness into the soles of the feet, and gently rock backwards and forwards, coming up onto the toes and back onto the heels. Then, return to a standstill position and feel the contact with the floor through both feet. The body sways, and the weight moves forwards and back and left and right quite naturally. Be grounded through the feet, and allow them to take the weight evenly.

• Make sure that the knees are unlocked and pull up the kneecaps. If they point in towards the center, then rotate the thighs outwards, and tighten the buttocks.

The following exercise can also be practiced in sitting posture.

• Now, tilt the pelvis backwards and forwards, finding the balance so that the spine can grow comfortably upwards out of the hips.

• Bring the shoulders up and back, and let them go wide, with the arms hanging loosely.

• Hold the head and neck upright, so that the ears are above the tops of the shoulders, and the head feels lightly balanced on top of the neck.

• Imagine that a string is attached to the top of the head and that someone is lifting the head up and out of the shoulders. Feel how your posture alters when you ‘let go’ of this imaginary string.

In fact, over 80% of all cases of backache can be prevented, or alleviated, by the correct application of simple Yogic methods.

AUM SHANTI

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Courtesy: Dr. Rita Khanna’s Yogashaastra Studio.

A popular studio that helps you find natural solutions for complete health.

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Dr. Rita Khanna

Dr. Rita Khanna is a well-known name in the field of Yoga and Naturopathy. She was initiated into this discipline over 25 years ago by world famous Swami Adyatmananda of Sivananda Ashram in Rishikesh (India).

She believes firmly that Yoga is a scientific process, which helps us to lead a healthy and disease-free life. She is also actively involved in practicing alternative medicines like Naturopathy. Over the years, she has been successfully practicing these therapies and providing succour to several chronic and terminally ill patients through Yoga, Diet and Naturopathy. She is also imparting Yoga Teachers Training.

At present, Dr. Rita Khanna is running a Yoga Studio in Secunderabad (Hyderabad, India).

Therapeutic Hatha Yoga for Scoliosis

Friday, March 11th, 2011

therapeutic hatha yoga teacher trainingBy Bhavan Kumar

Some people are under the impression that they cannot practice Yoga if they suffer from scoliosis. However, Yogic postures can actually improve posture, and many have even chosen Hatha Yoga for scoliosis as opposed to possible surgery or drugs. If this is something you are considering, make sure you consult your doctor before beginning a new regimen as each scoliosis patient and each student is unique.

What many students experience is that beginning Yoga poses require you to fold from the hips and not the waist. This helps the spine stay in a neutral position. Two basic principles can help you to guide your Yoga practice. First, work on elongating the spine, and stretch the muscles that have been made imbalanced. Second, practice the Yoga poses that help strengthen the spine and back. Proper alignment and modifying your posture can help with spinal imbalances caused by scoliosis.

Therapeutic Hatha Yoga for scoliosis can help address these imbalances because, even though each scoliosis patient is unique, there are common patterns. The spine often moves to the side and rotates. This shift creates a rounded back, the ribs compress toward the front, while the pelvis and lower back rotate toward the back. Yoga can help to relieve the discomfort brought on by the results of the curving spine. For example, compression in the vertebrae can cause one hip to be raised. This imbalance can find balance with the breath awareness and postures that emphasize hip alignment.

Beginners often wonder if practicing Yoga for scoliosis will relieve their pain. While you may feel a small amount of discomfort when you begin, it is only because your body needs time to adjust to the new sense of balance and alignment. Over time, this pain diminishes, and Yoga can be practiced to control the pain you would normally feel.

Yoga poses and breathing techniques help to release painful muscle tension and relax the mind. In addition, as the body is strengthened, extra burden is taken off the muscles throughout the day. As the spine is lengthened, less pain is created. While pain can occur when beginning classes, you should be aware that if it remains over an extended period of time, it is important to make your Yoga instructor and doctor aware of the issue.

While Hatha Yoga can be therapeutic, if you have scoliosis you need to pay extra attention to your unique needs. If you ignore what your body is telling you, there is a chance that the practice could actually be counterproductive. This is why it is vital that you study with an experienced Yoga instructor, who will be able to make the necessary adjustments and modifications. With the right instructor, therapeutic Hatha Yoga can improve your mind and body, while relieving some of the stress associated with scoliosis.

© Copyright 2011 – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division

Bhavan Kumar is a certified Yoga teacher and an exclusive author for Aura Wellness Center.

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