Beginning in India, yoga is one of the oldest mind-body exercises which is still practised today. It works your core, enhances flexibility, and relaxes your mind. It’s no surprise that it is so often advised by health-care professionals. Yoga can be exciting and difficult. Here we will share some of our favourite yoga exercises which will help you build core strength and flexibility as well as a few to help you relax.
If you are suffering from lower back pain, core stability muscles can begin to lose strength (a condition known as muscle atrophy). Superficial muscles (muscles which are close to the surface of the body) start to take over and the deeper core muscles either shut off or the sequence of how muscles engage is inappropriate. This sequencing is known as muscle firing in biomechanical terms. To correct both misfiring patterns and muscle atrophy, you need to retrain muscles with mind-body awareness—a hallmark of yoga.
Movement and More
Yoga requests you to “multitask” in a stimulating way. It requires proper focus, breath work, and concentrated precise poses appropriate to your body. Also important in yoga (and in life), we need to relinquish things that we don’t need, including distracting thoughts or tensing muscles that aren’t required for a movement.
Like any physical activity, yoga can make things worse if it is not done carefully and wisely. Do not perform any extreme positions such as back bends, extreme lateral bends, or head stands.
Types of Yoga
There are lots of different types of yoga. Those which are most beneficial for your back include hatha yoga and Iyengar yoga. These classes are more gentle and suitable for beginners. More intense styles of yoga include ashtanga and vinyasa, both of which involve regular movement from position to position and require more strength and body awareness from the start.
Yoga poses in the Asanas school are usually held for several seconds or longer. The goal is to hold the position in order to become more aware of what you’re feeling and adjust your body as required. This is a vital aspect of mind and body exercise.
Mats, Straps, Blocks
Most types of yoga use a mat, and some incorporate straps and blocks. These items, known as props, allow you to get into positions more easily. For instance, if you are sitting and bending forward and can’t reach your feet, the strap acts like an extension of your arms. Place the strap around your feet and you can smoothly pull yourself forward.
Find a Good Teacher
It’s common to feel intimidated by yoga when you see images of people bending themselves into all kinds of strange shapes. This is not the normal person’s goal. The goal is to progress at your own pace and place your body in a position that helps you. A good instructor will never flaunt their ability or create a competition to see which student is the most flexible. Instead, a good instructor is gentle, inviting, and encouraging to all students.
Training and Certifications
Certification is a recent new idea in the yoga world. Traditionally, aspiring teachers trained with those whom inspired them. The majority of which practiced for years prior to teaching others. The training programs often involved an understanding of human anatomy as well as proficiency in personal practice and teaching others. Serious practitioner/teachers make the journey to India to study with masters there. Teachers who are truly into yoga make the practice an integral part of their lives.
The exercises in yoga are just one aspect; yoga is a system for living developed in India thousands of years ago. The system also involves training the mind, body, and spirit. Relaxation, diet, and meditation in addition to daily exercise are all aspects of yoga. It’s not a religion; rather, it’s a philosophy.
Yoga grew in popularity as health clubs started offering classes; as a result it became necessary to ensure that those who said they were yoga teachers were sufficiently educated. Most yoga-certification courses require that prospective teachers have at least a couple of years of practice under prior to starting their training.
Try to find a teacher with a minimum of 200 hours of training and participate in continuing education. Find out about their experience with back pain. They may or may not be a member of the national certifying body, Yoga Alliance. Older yoga teachers may have lots more years’ experience compared to those who just began their careers and are certified through the Alliance. Our advice is to try a class and see if you like their teaching style.
Yoga Alliance is a non-profit organization which established a national Yoga Teachers’ Registry to help and promote teachers with training that meets minimum training standards (200 or 500 hours). The Yoga Alliance also maintains a school registry of those programs that meet its strict standards.
Pranayama Breath of Life
Breathing exercises, known as pranayama, is a vital part of yoga as they connect the body to the mind. There are lots of different breathing practices; all help create mental clarity and emotional tranquillity. Find a comfortable place to sit where you won’t be disturbed for at least five minutes.
During this exercise, you are trying to become aware of your breath by regulating the length of your inhalations and exhalations. In both cases, you are breathing through your nose. The practice itself is rather simple:
- Breathe in slowly for a count of six (let your stomach expand, but don’t push it out).
- Hold for three counts.
- Exhale slowly for a count of six (push all the air out using your abdominals).
- Hold for three counts. Repeat the sequence several times. As your lung capacity increases, you will be able to extend the inhales and exhales for longer. This practice is a great way to reduce stress, , prepare yourself for meetings, and help yourself fall asleep more easily.
Alternate Nostril Breathing
In this breathing exercise, the exhalation should be twice the length of the inhalation. The purpose is to empty the lungs with the belief that you are also removing waste from the body too.
- Using your right thumb, close the right nostril. Exhale out of the left nostril, and then inhale deeply through it for a count of four.
- Close the left nostril with your right ring or little finger and hold for eight counts.
- Release the right nostril and exhale to an eight count.
- With the left nostril now closed, inhale to a four count.
- Close both nostrils and hold for eight counts.
- Release the left nostril and exhale to an eight count. The preceding is considered one cycle. It takes a bit of coordination to get the alternate breathing method down, but like most things in life, with practice it will become easier. Try to complete at least five cycles.