Stay Healthy with Yoga
Poses and Breathing Can Be Adapted to Suit Anyone
Too often, caregivers get so absorbed in caring for others, you neglect to take care of yourselves. It is essential to make time to rejuvenate, center and keep your body healthy. Yoga provides a wonderful antidote to stress.
Hatha yoga, one of several types of yoga, is the practice of physical postures (asanas), breathing techniques (pranyama) and relaxation (sivasana). It was developed to relax, detoxify, strengthen and stretch the body. Many Americans have found this Eastern practice balances a high-speed, stressful lifestyle. The best part is anyone, regardless of age, health or lifestyle, can practice yoga.
Yoga helps by:
Providing customized poses for different kinds of stress. Depending on the type of stress you have, you can do active, rigorous poses as well as gentle, restorative ones. You can tailor all poses to your abilities. At the end of a session you have a relaxation period called sivasana when you lie flat, all limbs relaxed and eyes closed.
Focusing on breathing. This brings your attention to the present moment, shedding concerns about the past or future, a relief when you're overwhelmed or anxious.
Allowing time solely for you. Everything seems to simplify when you stop and listen to your body.
The physical benefits of yoga include:
Improved posture. Yoga teaches correct spinal alignment, which helps protect your back when you perform caregiving tasks.
Relief of asthma, arthritis and carpal tunnel syndrome.
Toning of organs and glands and improved circulation through deep breathing and practicing the twists and inverted poses.
Lower blood pressure and prevention of heart disease.
Greater flexibility and muscle tone.
Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D., founder and director of the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center, routinely uses yoga to help people with stress-related disorders and chronic pain.
"Just being low down in a room tends to clear the mind," he wrote in the book, "Wherever You Go, There You Are" (Hyperion). "Maybe it's because being on the floor is so foreign to us that it breaks up our habitual neurological patterning and invites us to enter into this moment through a sudden opening in what we may call the body door."
Take a few minutes to try the exercises below. You have nothing to lose but stress.
For more information, e-mail the author at Bekahdodd@hotmail.com
Yoga classes range from gentle, meditative yoga to intense and challenging "power yoga." Find a style or a class right for your body and level of ability. Whatever you choose, tune in to your body and do only what feels supportive and beneficial.
One of the simplest yoga poses is called "Savasana," the corpse pose. This is a pose of deep relaxation. Consciously bring your attention to each part of your body and relax it completely until you are totally free of tension. Lie comfortably on your back with a pillow under your knees to support your lower back. Throughout this exercise, first tense the muscles to bring your awareness to them and then completely relax the areas.
Begin with your feet. Consciously tense, then relax, all the muscles in your feet and ankles, then tense and relax the muscles in your calves and knees, then in your thighs, hips, buttocks and lower back. Relax your groin, abdomen, ribs, collarbone and upper back. This will help you become conscious of when your muscles are relaxed and when they are tense. We often carry tension in muscles without knowing it.
After you relax the muscles in your chest, arms, shoulders and neck, move on to your head and face. Try clenching your jaw and then releasing it; scowling, then releasing your forehead, even tensing the muscles around your ears. After you have tensed and relaxed every muscle in your body, lie quietly for at least 10 minutes and rest. You will be grateful for the deep relaxation you'll experience.
Relax the muscles in your face by "roaring." Sit comfortably, then open your mouth and eyes wide and raise your hands near the sides of your face with palms out and fingers stretched. Exhale loudly as if you are roaring. This can be great fun, even if it does look a little silly. Not only does it relax your facial muscles, this exercise helps expand your lungs.
Contact your local fitness, community or senior center. In many communities, yoga classes are broadcast on TV.