Yoga Over 45

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One of the most common things I notice in my yoga students who are experiencing pain when they move, is that there is a tendency to keep still, and move less, in order to avoid the pain. There is also a natural fear that a particular move is going to make them wince, so they sometimes avoid movement altogether and resort to taking painkillers such as paracetamol.

A recent study, carried out by researchers from the University of Sydney, looked at the benefit of taking painkillers such as paracetamol for people with arthritis, and concluded paracetamol may not be effective for some people with lower back pain and of limited help to people with osteoarthritis of the hip and knee.

As with all research - there are caveats and exceptions. If you currently take paracetamol and find it helps reduce the pain then clearly continuing to take it would seem a wise thing to do.

But the one thing which DOES have universal backing from ALL quarters of the medical profession for helping improve the quality of life for anyone with arthritis - is exercise.

3 benefits to practising yoga exercises on a regular basis:

  1. Yoga's gentle movement helps to reduce pain with less risk of causing further damage.

    When we don't move, we literally, seize up! Instead of making the stiffness and pain better - we make it worse.

    Yoga movements teach you to really ease into the postures, and if you attend a suitable class, you can learn how to use props such as cushions, straps and blocks to help you ensure you don't overdo the stretch, but you do move the affected areas. You don't need fancy equipment - just a few cushions, a blanket and a chair or table can make really great props which help you move safely and allow you to relax in the stretch.

    With my own students, I emphasise the benefits of doing this daily if possible. Ten minutes, gently easing out your muscles and joints in a morning in particular, will significantly increase the benefits you feel - and may even reduce your dependency on painkillers.

    Isn't that worth it?

  2. Yoga can help you become aware of bad habits in your movement or posture which make your condition worse.

    One of the things I love about yoga the most is how it teaches us to be more aware of our bodies. Instead of watching TV or listening to our i-pods while we mindlessly pump away at exercise, yoga brings our attention to our body as it moves, so we can tell the vital difference between a stretch which feels like a stretch but feels good and a move which hurts!

    Quick movement doesn't help us notice when we go too far. By then - it's too late - the damage is done. Yoga's deliberate, and mindful movements ensure you stretch, but in a way which supports your body and respects where it's at.

    Within a few weeks of practising yoga you will find yourself noticing when you've been hunching your shoulders, or standing with your spine out of neutral alignment - and you'll automatically find those bad habits becoming less frequent, and being replaced by more graceful and thoughtful posture.
  3. Yoga reduces the stress which often accompanies being in constant pain.

    I call this the hidden gem of yoga. Pain causes stress and anxiety. Stress and anxiety causes us to tense our muscles - which simply exacerbates the pain!

    Learning how to breathe in a way which is aligned to the slow movements of yoga aids in a feeling of deep relaxation in the stretches, and restorative poses such as those in Yin yoga - where the body deeply relaxes into a stretch for a longer period, can prove to be really beneficial in helping students reduce the anxiety and tension they feel.

    Again - I want to stress, even 10 minutes, practised regularly, can make a real difference.

So - what are you waiting for?

There is NO doubt that living with pain and an inability to move can prove to be one of the most depressing and debilitating experiences for any of us.

Making a 10 minute yoga practise a part of your daily routine could have a massive positive impact on the quality of your life. Make that commitment to yourself today!

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Shona Garner

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