Have you ever had something go wrong with your car? You take it to the mechanic only to find out it was something simple that you could have dealt with yourself. Maybe it was just a blown fuse or your coolant was low. Or maybe the fan belt broke—something that could have been prevented by checking under the hood for wear and tear. Yoga gives us a good way to “check under the hood,” as it were. This can sometimes prevent us from having to run to the doctor for a relatively simple health issue. In fact, I like to think of yoga as a kind of toolbox that holds a variety of effective options for creating optimum health.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against doctors or other healthcare practitioners—they are invaluable in so many situations. I’m just talking here about minor ailments that you may be able to deal with at home, or at least try as a first step.
One of the biggest challenges may be finding the time. But when you think about it, finding an extra 15 to 30 minutes to work on your well-being is a wise investment. Even if you go to asana classes regularly, spending a little time practicing at home to focus on your specific needs will help you get the most out of those classes and just requires a little change of focus.
You may already be aware of certain issues in your body that need some extra care. Often, it’s intuitive. So take a moment to think about it—is there a particular part of your body that is weak or painful? Is there some nagging discomfort you’ve been ignoring? If you’re not so sure, practicing a variety of asanas is a good way of looking under the hood and bringing it to light. For example, you might try a yoga pose and realize that your body isn’t responding in quite the way you’d like. Maybe your hamstrings are unusually tight or you discover a kink in your knee or neck. Maybe your lower back is achy or sensitive. Or you might be having a hard time focusing your mind.
Rather than just pushing through a set routine of asanas, delve into your yoga toolbox and see if you can find something that that can help improve your condition. If mental focus is lacking, take a few minutes to practice Yoga Sound Meditation with Breathing. It will help center your mind and make you feel more grounded—and perhaps even give you insight into how to proceed.
Tight muscles generally respond well to asanas. If you woke up with a stiff neck, for example, you’ll want to practice poses that loosen up the area around your neck, shoulders, and upper back. Practice them slowly, do them for longer than usual or repeat them several times. Massage your neck as you do Neck Exercises to help further loosen up tension knots. See if you can feel the release you’re seeking. Don’t be in a hurry—it’s okay if these are the only poses you do today.
If you’ve been sitting hunched over a keyboard the whole week (or for years), you’ll benefit from poses that open the chest like Simple Backbend or Double Angle Pose, our featured pose this week. The flowing arm movements of Energizing Breath are great for easing shoulder and arm tension while opening up the chest and lungs.
If your feet are stiff, tend to cramp, or if you have balance problems, try Toe and Ankle Exercises or some balancing poses, using the wall if you need to. Again, don’t rush through them, do them slowly, with focused awareness to get maximum benefit.
If your legs are weak and you’re finding it harder to squat down and get up these days, practice some standing poses. The Warrior poses, Diving Pose and Imaginary Chair are great for strengthening the quads.
The breath can also be a powerful healer. Even very simple breathing exercises such as abdominal breathing and complete yoga breathing (also called 3-part breathing) help relieve the stress that is at the root of so many health issues. These exercises are an excellent preventative measure for those with asthma and other respiratory ailments.
Yoga goes way beyond the physical and therein lies its greatest value. If you’re depressed, sad, anxious, or your emotions are getting out of hand, please try Yoga Sound Meditation, not just once, but regularly—even if you don’t feel the effects right away. Sincerely immersing your mind and heart in transcendental sound eases the pain, bringing equanimity, comfort and deep spiritual happiness.
These are just a few suggestions to get you thinking about what might work for you. As always, take care not to go beyond your boundaries when practicing asanas or yoga breathing. Notice the effect the techniques you choose are having on your body. If they seem to be working, be sure to do them often—perseverance brings results. Be open to experimenting with different poses that might be helpful, remembering that sometimes the poses we like the least are the ones we need the most!
Above all, be patient. Practicing just a few poses slowly, gently, and with great awareness can at times be more beneficial than doing a long, challenging session that doesn’t address your issues at all, or heaven forbid, makes them worse. Keep in mind that yoga is for you and it’s up to you to discover how to apply the tools it offers for your optimum well-being. I wish you success!