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Dr. James Levine of the Mayo clinic has coined the phrase – “sitting is the new smoking” and people today are doing a lot of it. They are sitting on their commute, sitting all day at work, then sitting on the couch when they get home. How does your day typically look?
Researchers have found that sitting actually increases the risk of certain cancers, heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
Sitting inside all day also restricts our natural source of vitamin D – SUNSHINE!
Lack of sunshine can lead to anxiety, panic disorders and depression. And a busy mind makes it very hard to sleep at night….
Luckily, practicing gentle yoga on a consistent basis has the following 3 great benefits to help you reverse the effect that sitting has on your body.
Increase Flexibility – Motion is Lotion
A fabulous teacher of mine once said: Motion is lotion….. many, many times!
As people sit at a desk during the day, or even if you have a physical job that uses repetitive motions all day long, your muscles and your fascia begin to tighten and shorten as your body “memorizes” the position that you typically hold yourself in. If you have a computer job, maybe you notice that your shoulders round or hunch over as you reach for the keyboard.
Yoga practices encourage your body to move in ways that stretch out your muscles and fascia that have shortened. As you stretch and move, fresh blood, oxygen, and fluids are able to reach cells and joints that may have been cut off from their supply as your day went on. These cells are able to repair themselves more easily as they are provided with nutrients that may not have otherwise reached them.
The best thing about gentle yoga, is that you don’t have to be flexible AT ALL to begin a practice. Everytime you practice, you gradually become more flexible as your body starts to memorize your new patterns. You will notice results as you maintain a consistent practice – in the form of improved posture and less daily aches & pains.
Rounded shoulders and back – bad for her future posture!
Calm Your Mind…. Naturally
Nowadays, doctors tend to over-prescribe antidepressants for people with anxiety and panic disorders, as well as depression. What if the majority of people on antidepressants could get off of them and avoid the side effects that come with SSRIs simply by learning how to do yoga? What if doctors suggested yoga before prescribing antidepressants for people?
I like to think of yoga as a grown up time out – just a break from our endless cycle of thoughts. Scientists say that we have 12-60,000 thoughts per day, 98% of them are the same as the day before, and 80% are negative.
Yoga teaches you to focus on your breath and movement. Yoga is a Sanskrit word that means “to unite” – so, in other words, uniting your inhales with one movement and exhales with another. Most times, concentrating on the movements distract you from the thoughts circling around in your head, and can even make you forget about them or shift the way you are attaching to them.
Yoga Poses Help You Sleep Better
If you are a person who feels completely drained right before you go to bed, but end up lying in bed staring at the ceiling, unable to fall asleep, then maybe yoga can help.
Studies show that people sleep much better having exercised, but sometimes it’s hard to motivate yourself to go to the gym or a class after working full time, taking care of your family, etc. If you’re out of shape, then starting slow, with some gentle yoga, is a great way to break yourself in to a healthier style of living.
Try turning the TV off 10 minutes before you normally would and take some time for much needed self-care. Turn on a soft light in your bedroom and maybe put some calming essential oil into a diffuser.
Feel free to lay down in bed, reach your arms up over your head, and stretch your whole body from the tips of your fingers to the tips of your toes. Take some time to wiggle your toes, flex and point your feet and circle your ankles.
Start to focus on your breath – feel your chest rising and expanding as you inhale, and falling as you exhale.
Here are 3 of my favorite yoga poses that are calming and grounding:
Seated forward fold:
Sit up tall on your bed with your legs out long in front of you. Breathe for a moment and notice how your hamstrings feel. Stay in this position until you feel that you can start to bend forward from your waist. (Try to keep your upper back from rounding.)
You can use your inhales to straighten up, and exhales to fold forward a little more. Stay here for 5 full cycles of your breath. (Please note that your movement may just be a couple millimeters. Your flexibility will increase as you continue to practice.)
Laying down twist:
Lay down on your back with your arms at your sides or stretched out like a “T”. Bend your knees and bring the soles of your feet to the bed. Walk your feet about 2 feet apart.
On your next exhale, slowly drop your knees to the right. After you exhale completely, inhale your knees back up to center. On your next exhale, drop your knees to the left.
Continue side to side for 5 times on each side, or as long as you like. You can add some neck movement as well – turning your face the opposite direction of your knees.
Legs up the wall (or headboard!):
Sit as close as you can to the wall or headboard.
Lay on your back and stretch your legs up long. Your shape should look like an “L”.
If keeping your legs straight is uncomfortable, feel free to bend your knees and place the soles of your feet on the wall. You can stay here for a couple minutes.
When you are finished, bring your legs down and roll over to your side and let everything come back into balance. (In other words… try not to get up too quickly, or it will be a massive headrush!).
Increasing your flexibility, learning to calm your mind, and sleeping better are 3 amazing ways that yoga can help you take care of your body.