Approachable Fitness & Physical Therapy

The Science behind Yoga (and other exercise programmes)

The Science behind Yoga (and other exercise programmes)

I recently shared an article about science and yoga.  It was interesting as it focused on changes within the brain brought about through yoga practice.  What I found most interesting was that these changes are brought about by the focusing of the mind rather than the performance or achievement of yoga poses.  This means that the benefits can be gained by any mindful exercise programme which encourages you to focus on breath, link your mind to your body and gain relaxation. 

Much of the benefit yoga is proven to provide is associated with the management of stress.  The article claimed that 90% of all the illness we suffer is stress related.  I haven’t been able to verify that figure but stress certainly has a big impact your health and your ability to recover.

Do you suffer any of these basic symptoms of stress:

  • High resting heart rate.
  • Repeated headaches.
  • Stiffness in your neck and/or tight shoulders.
  • Back pain.
  • Periods of fast shallow breathing.
  • Increased perspiration (e.g. sweaty palms)
  • Repeated stomach upset, nausea and/or diarrhea.
Or any of these which are more likely to develop over a longer period:
 •             You’re often off sick
•              You have high blood pressure
•              You suffer chronic neck, shoulder, or low back pain
•              You suffer reflux disease or IBS
•              You have low fertility, problems during pregnancy, or painful menstrual periods.
•              Your arthritis, asthma or other chronic conditions worsen
•              You have skin problems such as acne and psoriasis.

If any of these sound familiar then the regular practice Yoga, or a programme with the same benefits, could certainly help you to better health.

The main elements in Yoga that have been found to improve a person’s stress levels are: breath, movement, mindful attention and relaxation.

Breath is a particularly powerful tool and can be used to control the stress response of the body. By filling the lungs, taking fewer breaths, making them deeper and longer you control the breath and lower blood pressure and stress response.  By focusing your mind on each breath, you regulate your thoughts, give yourself space and empty your brain.  In research, focus on breathing has been shown to change the way in which the brain (prefrontal cortex) behaves. Particularly in reducing depression and changing behavior to be more positive.  Neurotransmitters work more effectively and the interbrain links are improved giving a variety of benefits to the body.

By combining breath, movement, mindful attention and relaxation we can change how we feel and in time even change how our bodies behave.

In fact you can get all these benefits from most of our classes at the Studio.

·        In IMF Pilates we spend time training our brains to consciously connect to different muscle groups and to identify and engage specific muscles we want to work.  This connects the mind to the body in a practical way.  By having to concentrate on each position the mind is forced to empty other thoughts.  In this way you can achieve relaxation and stress relief through simple movement.

·        In Yoga For Healthy Backs we use the power of breath and relaxation techniques to reduce specific back pain.

·        In All Woman IMF Pilates we additionally focus on the relaxation of each part of the body. This helps you to connect more fully with your body and to enable complete relaxation.  Brilliant for pregnant clients, particularly useful through labour, and menopausal women suffering from stress and anxiety.

·        In Janey’s Yoga, using classic poses, she has an approach she calls ‘help yourself to find yourself’. She positions herself as a facilitator to help you find yourself rather than a teacher of Yoga,  The article I mentioned earlier used the line ‘Use yoga to find out who you really are’, this is clearly aimed at the type of Yoga Janey practices.

The image of yoga, often shown by the media, and presented by Yogis themselves is of skinny flexible, capable people adopting difficult and complicated positions.  In reality, the benefits can be obtained by almost anybody.  If you are busy, stressed, unfit, overweight, inflexible, not used to exercise or not sure about joining a class, whatever your age, we can still help you.  None of these are a valid excuse for doing nothing.  Movement is vital if you are to improve any of the above conditions.


Come into your body and reconnect!

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Exercising with arthritis?


Do you suffer from arthritis?

The first thing to remember is that ‘Exercise is beneficial for people with arthritis’. Arthritis is a very general term which covers a multitude of conditions which affect joints and is frequently (but not always) linked to the body’s aging process.

If you have arthritis follow these simple guidelines to get the most benefit from your exercise:

  • Make sure your warmup is slow and gentle warm up with movement to mobilise your joints encouraging the release of synovial fluid to lubricate the whole joint more effectively.  It’s a bit like warming oil in a pan so it coats the whole pan surface.
  • Choose low impact activities to reduce the stress placed on the joint. Pilates, yoga, walking and swimming are all good.
  • Include strength training as studies have suggested it can decrease pain.  It also works to build bone density which encourages healthy joints. Simple exercises standing up can help build strength so don’t choose classes which are all mat based.
  • Try to maintain the range of movement and flexibility of a joint.  You may not become more flexible but should be able to maintain the movement range that you currently have.  (Without regular exercise you will gradually have less range of movement.)
  • Don’t exercise if you have rheumatoid arthritis and your joints feel warm and swollen. This is an indication of flare up and exercise at this time could worsen your condition.
  • Avoid movements which require extreme flexibility and stretching exercise techniques.
  • Avoid exercises which require kneeling if your knees are affected.
  • Avoid exercises which require repetitive stress or high impact activity such as road running.

By following these simple guidelines you’ll be able to gain all the benefits of regular exercise enabling you to keep ‘fit for life for all of your life’.

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Fitness Trends for 2016

As the New Year approaches we tend to look back and review the past year and also plan ahead to the next one.
2015 saw The Studio develop extra-small classes, enabling clients to enjoy individual tuition within a group format. This makes it affordable, effective and sociable.
I undertook further training to enhance my skills as a fitness professional and soft tissue therapist. My specialist training with an experienced osteopath this year was in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of knee pain. A really useful area in which to have more knowledge. My soft tissue work training was in recognising and releasing the tightness which causes poor posture and gives back pain along with some new techniques to offer sport massage without pain.

So, what underlying trends can we expect to see in 2016? (ref ACSM)
1. Wearable Technology
Trackers, heart rate monitors etc… all helping increase activity levels by constant monitoring.
2. Body Weight Workouts
Taking fitness back to basics by using body weight instead of machines and free weights.
3. HIIT
High Intensity Interval Training used with many forms of fitness to improve performance and shorten the time spent exercising.
4. Strength Training
Both in the gym and in classes for general fitness as well as improved bone density.
5. Fitness Professionals with better training
Improved training leads to better results and more choice for the public in looking to improve their fitness.
6. Personal Training
Including group PT - extra small group exercise classes, perfect for affordable individual tuition
7. Functional Fitness
Fitness which helps activities of everyday life, essential for keeping active for longer.
8. Fitness for Older Adults
Older adults have specific requirements which are now recognised and will be better catered for.
9. Exercise for weight loss
Dieting alone cannot achieve sustainable weight loss and this trend backs the theory that exercise is an essential part of weight loss.
10. Yoga
Yoga has many forms and often includes ‘wellness’ which features lower down the list of fitness trends. I see these combined to offer an exercise based way to cope with the stress of today’s busy lifestyles.
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Why can't I control my weight?

It’s the magic question to which we all wish we had an answer!

New research from a study conducted at the University of Sheffield has addressed the problem of using a single classification of people who have a weight problem. They are suggesting that this restricts the effectiveness of treatment options. They propose a number of classifications each of which will require a different approach.

Below I have taken their classifications, adapted them to reflect the demographic I see in my work as a physical therapist and then suggest solutions:

  1. Young healthy females displaying the most positive health characteristics.
    These are typically called yo-yo dieters, they are interested in health and fitness and follow the latest trends in exercise and popular diets. They are able to lose weight quite quickly but maintaining the weight loss over a long period is harder. They join the gym or a fitness class at the beginning of the year but find it hard to keep attending once ‘life’ gets in the way. It’s not their main priority in a busy life so is easily dropped.

    For these people, I would recommend a monthly session with a motivational trainer or nutritionist/exercise professional, booked and paid up well ahead. This will keep interest and motivation levels high by suggesting new exercises, new techniques, and help and encouragement in developing healthy eating habits with recipes and nutritional advice.
  2. Males who are unable to control their weight despite having high levels of physical exercise.
    Lifestyle factors are likely to include high levels of food and alcohol consumption. This group can cover a huge age range from mid-30s to retirement. They may be gym members enjoying a weights based training programme on a regular basis, they may get exercise from dog walking or be golfers. The excess weight comes from the excessive intake of food and/or alcohol and the lack of enough cardiovascular exercise.

    I would recommend completing a food diary to capture exactly what is consumed over a month long period. Alongside this find a nutritionist/personal trainer to review the amount and type of exercise. They can then ensure there is enough cardio work to encourage fat burning rather than developing further muscle mass. A tracker to follow activity and monitor heart rate will check actual activity levels. Looking at portion control, meal content and reducing alcohol intake will ensure the best chance of success.
  3. Middle aged females interested in exercise and weight management, although suffering from anxiety, insomnia, depression and fatigue maybe also with low self-esteem.
    This is another big group, many of whom are somewhere along the menopausal curve. Along with the symptoms listed above, weight gain is common as hormones fluctuate. Previously successful weight and exercise regimes no longer work.

    Support during this time is essential, recognizing that many others feel the same way. Exercise classes with a social element offer enjoyable exercise which is more likely to be continued as the people in the class become as important as the exercise content. Community venues or small private centres, rather than big leisure complexes, are more likely to offer this type of class. Look for pilates, yoga and general exercise to music with instructors specializing in this age group.
  4. The affluent healthy elderly, many of whom have high blood pressure.
    Age was not specified so I’ll assume that they mean 65+ although that’s hardly old these days. I think this group is struggling with their weight as a result of changes in life style and in their body as it ages. Food choices have developed enormously during this group’s lifetime and their affluence can lead to indulgent choices with foods high in fat and sugar. This group of people are at risk, if they do not address their weight issues they will soon find themselves in the next category, ie with chronic health conditions.

    This group needs exercise which takes account of their age and high blood pressure as well as a carefully structured eating plan. They also need encouragement and support in keeping to the life style changes required. Exercise combined with a social element is a good solution in this case. Also look for an instructor specializing and qualified in exercise for older adults.
  5. The physically sick but happy elderly with chronic health conditions such as arthritis, diabetes and high blood pressure but low levels of anxiety.
    This group of people are probably in a vicious circle, the chronic health condition has limited their ability to exercise and this has resulted in weight gain, which in turn adds more chronic health issues.

    It is very difficult for these people to keep doing exercise since they have to endure levels of pain to stay active. Unfortunately, without undertaking some exercise, the situation will get worse faster. Basic mobility exercises will get this group into better health, together with dietary advice to cut calories and look at foods which ease the inflammation of arthritis. Small classes designed for people with painful conditions can be helpful, providing support and encouragement from a position of empathy and understanding. Look for an instructor with a GP referral qualification, and ask for a one to one session first.
  6. The elderly deprived who do not have healthy behaviours and have the highest BMI readings.
    These people are likely to have been overweight with unhealthy diets for their whole life. Exercise will not have featured in their lifestyle, and they may have no desire to change. Any cost of treatment is probably an issue, limiting their choices.

    This group are the hardest to help. Approaching GP surgeries to see what they offer is the best way forward. For example they might hold exercise sessions funded by the NHS, they should at least offer dietary advice.
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Are you still doing sit ups in the hope of achieving a strong core?

Sit ups are often performed as a core muscle exercise. However research continually shows that they are not effective at building core strength. Old habits die hard and in the fitness industry sit ups, crunches, roll ups, roll downs etc… have been around for as long as people have been exercising. But, this doesn’t mean that they are good or effective!

Core muscles are those which hold your body together, giving it strength by binding around your trunk. They support your spine and strengthening them can significantly reduce back pain. I would include in core muscles those around the shoulder girdle. They have a big impact on posture which, if poor, can cause the shoulders to slump forward and eventually result in pain. Recent research has also added new muscles as essential for core stability, known as gluteals. This complex muscle group lies across your butt and holds your pelvis stable.

So back to sit ups, what happens to your body during the exercise?

Your shoulders round into a position very similar to that seen in the office chair slump, the slouched driving position or the collapse on the sofa rounding. In other words, good posture across the shoulder girdle is completely lost. When this was first performed I don’t suppose we were living a life of sitting and slouching so possibly the postural issues we see today were not as prevalent.

Your spine is curled forward. For some this may feel good and indeed be beneficial but for many the compressional force on the intervertebral discs will aggravate previous injuries such as herniations (slipped disc) or prolapsed discs. Measuring this compressional force is something we’ve only been able to do in recent years, and it is huge when performing a sit up. When I first taught these exercises the fitness industry was oblivious to these potential dangers.

Once you get almost half way up, your hip flexors become the main workers to stabilise and complete the movement, to bring you up to sitting. These are also shortened by a sedentary lifestyle and if not specifically stretched they pull the pelvis out of alignment causing back pain.

This brings us onto the new core muscles, the gluteals. Generally weak (despite years of tums and bums classes!) and difficult to activate, yet essential for good posture and a strong core. In those who perform lots of crunches the hip flexors, hamstrings and rectus femoris (thighs) tend to be strong but these muscles work in a vertical plane. In these people the gluteals are likely not to work at all, yet they provide all the essential diagonal support for the pelvis.

If you are looking for a strong core, the exercises you need are those which use the gluteals and the stabilizing abdominals, not the sit up muscles.

If you’re tempted to go for a ‘6 pack’, remember that it can only be achieved by over developing the muscles so they push out through the fascia, which is there to hold them together. For a female to develop a 6 pack, as well as the muscle development she also needs a BMI well below that recommended for good health.

For effective exercise advice look for an instructor with a good understanding of spinal load during exercise, preferably with a specific low back qualification and an interest in functional fitness and posture.
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Pain is not as simple as you might think!

Almost everyone will have felt pain at some time in their life. Here at the studio we see a lot of people suffering from pain, mainly associated with movement or a persistent ache. We can usually help to alleviate this either by reducing it or by offering techniques to manage it. What you may not realise is that there may not be a physical reason for the pain.

To get a better insight into what is going on when you hurt, we need to understand how you feel pain.

The ability to feel pain is very important to our wellbeing. It stops us doing things that are damaging to our bodies, and makes us rest to allow our bodies to recover from injury. So you really should not ignore pain, or simply "work through it".
Firstly you should make sure that there is not physical damage causing the pain.

The expected mechanism of pain starts with some physical damage which causes receptors within the nervous system to fire. This action creates minute electrical currents which are passed from nerve cell to nerve cell up to the pain perception center in the brain. It is here that these signals are actually converted into what we know as pain. All along this pathway it is possible for your body to mistakenly trigger, sometimes from a sort of nerve memory. Hence, for example, the site of an old injury can often be painful even though there is no damage or reason for that pain.

The brain itself is quite capable of "making up" pain. If you injure your ankle your brain will avoid movements that cause pain in the damaged area. This is good. However once the damage is repaired, the brain continues to avoid movements that were painful. The fear of pain can cause actual pain. The brain has to be retrained to understand that the pain is no longer there by specific repeated movement patterns.

Often in avoiding pain the body will stress another area and cause a pain there. It doesn't always make the right decisions as to the best way of helping your body.
We see this type of issue often at the studio. A client may have had a small injury to a back muscle lifting something heavy out of a car (shopping or a child are frequent culprits here). The body's defense mechanism leaps into action and activates a range of alternate muscle actions to protect the damaged area. Unfortunately this will usually cause a misalignment, or imbalance in the body, often resulting in the stressing of and possible damage to a whole set of different muscles ranging from shoulders to knees and ankles.

Clients come to us with a problem in their knee. However, when we have taken a holistic review of their gait and completed a range of movement tests we can see that the problem is not in fact in the knee at all, rather it is a bodily imbalance brought about by a completely different issue.

So, if you have pain, my advice is:
Firstly, check with your GP to rule out a structural or other cause which needs medical treatment.
Then, come to The Studio for a half hour one to one consultation so we can assess the best ongoing solution.
Alternately, or in addition, if you have access to a physio ask them for muscle testing and exercises.

Frequently the solution from me (or a physio) will be regular exercise combined with soft tissue treatment and exercises to include in your existing fitness regime or to do at home.

Don't put up with pain, call us, we may well be able to help.
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Back Pain Solutions - The latest research

As a practitioner in the field of back pain and a member of ‘Backcare’ the UK’s national back pain association I receive regular updates on current research and recommendations.  The most recent publication contained several interesting articles which I will summarise and share with you.

Orthopaedic surgeons speak out about what they see as the alarming trend in dangerous and unjustified back surgeries.

To quote George Ampat a consultant orthopaedic surgeon based at Royal Liverpool University Hospital ‘Unfortunately, there is a false belief that surgery or new technology can fix back pain.  This is far from the truth.’  He says that out of 100 patients who see a health professional for back pain 97/98% will get better without surgery through exercise and over the counter medication.

There are many products on the market for the condition known as sciatica, most of which you will see advertised for a while before they disappear – usually because they don’t work.  Sciatica is usually caused by a collapse of the spinal discs pushing the intervertebral cushion out, a bit like squeezing jam out of a doughnut.  Fortunately, with time and stability work this will usually ease within a few weeks.  One research study in the US looked at the results of surgery and showed a benefit for up to 8 years after surgery.  In the same study, those who did not have surgery also continued to improve over the same period.  Another study looked at the return to work ratio of those having surgery v those not having surgery.  The result?  26% of those having surgery returned to work v 67% of those who didn’t.  In addition, there was a 40% increase in the use of painkillers in those who had surgery.

Exercise myth busted - Don't delay, be active:
Nick Sinfield, a chartered physiotherapist says that a common effect of pain is that you become fearful of movement or believe that a certain movement will damage something.  In fact you should be moving and doing physical activities that move the spine normally.  Moving with a rigidly protected back will prevent your recovery not help it.  By not bending and moving correctly strain is placed on already sensitive soft tissues.

In my opinion if your back is sensitive, painful or stiff you should choose your exercises carefully.  Pick those which will reduce stiffness with gentle controlled movement and minimum spinal load on the spinal structure.  This type of exercise will improve the function of the spine, enabling it to cope better with everyday life. The ligaments and muscles which support your back require strengthening and rest will only weaken these leading to more back pain.

Remember the proven benefits of exercise:

Increases blood flow to all muscles which helps the healing process

Reduced muscle spasm, especially with biomechanic based anti-spasm techniques

Increase in your confidence in your body’s ability to move

Reduction in anxiety which helps with soft tissue relaxation.

Improved body awareness enabling you to listen to your body better in the future therefore reducing the likelihood of a recurrence.


Surgeons Speak out - Surgery can't fix all:
David Hanscom an orthopaedic surgeon specialising in complex spinal surgery says that although there is no connection between disc degeneration and pain there are hundreds of thousands of spinal fusion operations being performed for back pain every year based on MRI scans showing disc degeneration.
He says that in the over 60's, disc degeneration is present in 100% of people - most of whom do not suffer from chronic back pain.  This is normal.  Disc degeneration is not a disease, it is a normal part of aging, like grey hair.  Add to this the research that looks at back surgery patients after 2yrs with only a third showing improvement and you can see that it is easy to end up in what he calls the 'failed back surgery syndrome' with crippling pain for ever.

So, why do so many people see surgery as the best solution?

Well, there seems to be a number of factors having an effect.  Firstly, the health industry is increasingly commercialized with huge sums of money to be made from drug development and spinal devices. So it’s no wonder that these are promoted.

Add to this the fact that exercise in the UK is still almost entirely unregulated so usually excluded from being prescribed on the NHS.

Also, the training required to be effective as a back specialist forms something of a barrier to many exercise professionals.  As a result only a small number of us are fully aware of all the techniques and therefore the best way to help people with back pain.

Finally, people will always tend to select the solution that requires them to do the least work.  Often the choice will look like a life time of exercise against an operation and a period of recovery followed by a pain free existence.  Unfortunately this view is being called into question more and more.

My opinion?

This situation is a great shame because exercise is a cost effective, less invasive and therefore risky, solution.  However the fix for all this is not easy and probably would involve some form of regulation for those exercise professionals who would like to provide the service for the NHS.  Also doctors and surgeons need to be aware of the success rates of the exercise alternative, and also be directing patients down this course.
You can see from this why I feel so strongly that exercise options should be thoroughly tried before progressing to surgery. 

If you have any questions on this just give me a call
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Pelvic Floor Dysfunction - More common than you might think


 HAVE A LOOK AT THE NEW PELVIC FLOOR WORK - IT
AFFECTS MORE PEOPLE THAN YOU MIGHT THINK

Pelvic Floor Dysfunction: What is it, why do you have it and how can you correct it?

To start with, new research in 2014 shows that 80% of women will have Pelvic Floor Dysfunction (PFD) at some point in their life and 30% will have stress incontinence.  Men are also affected by PFD, frequently as a result of prostrate problems, although this is talked about much less.

What is Pelvic Floor Dysfunction?
A dysfunctional muscle is one which will not contract nor release so it tends to be both tight and weak, and consequently, unable to function correctly.
The pelvic floor is the muscle group which forms the 'under carriage' of your trunk.  It supports your internal organs, includes the "bathroom" muscles and adds support to the sacro-iliac joint. So it is essential that it functions correctly.  If it is dysfunctional it will be tight, short and weak instead of being flexible, long and strong.

Symptoms of PFD may include:
Abdominal separation following pregnancy
Stress incontinence
Pelvic discomfort
Back and Sacro-Iliac joint pain

The contributors to PFD include:
Pregnancy
Crunches and sit ups
Poor posture
Wearing high heels
Sitting for too long 

What is the solution?
New research has identified that the pelvic floor will not work effectively in isolation, it will function up to 75% better through a specific mix of muscle group activation rather than with the traditional 'kegels' exercises (controlled lifting of the pelvic floor in isolation).
In addition, all exercises should be performed with the pelvis in a neutral position, not in the pelvic tilt position.
The specific mix of muscle group activation is to work the Glute (butt) muscles in conjunction with inner, and outer, thigh muscles.  This is the key combination for optimum pelvic floor engagement and improved support to the pelvis.

The best exercises are:
Squats with correct alignment to strengthen yet lengthen the pelvic floor
Shoulder bridge with a small ball between your knees
Curtsey or split squats
Clam type exercise using fast and slow twitch pelvic floor activation
Check with an exercise professional to ensure that your technique is correct as this is essential to gain any PF benefit.  The big benefit of this new approach is that by working this specific group of muscles, correctly, the pelvic floor will activate automatically.

Exercises to avoid
Any exercise with a pelvic tilt as this shortens the pelvic floor muscle, encouraging dysfunction.
Crunches or sit ups, which increase the downward pressure on the pelvic floor.
High impact exercise.
Pilates exercises such as 'the 100'

Would you like to know more?
Just contact Anne by phone or email to discuss your needs. The correct exercises and techniques are taught in 'I Move Freely' Pilates Classes at The Studio
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Risk v Benefit - Keeping your exercise programme safe


Risk v Benefit Keeping your exercise programme safe

 

There is much in the popular press about the benefits of exercise for both physical and mental health.  Many people are encouraged to take up exercise by their doctor or physiotherapist.  On the other hand, there are many articles about the risk of injury from exercise.  For example one study showed that over 60% of runners will pick up an injury in any one year, and another stated that 35% of women exercising on a regular basis will have a musculoskeletal injury.  

 

As a fitness professional and physical therapist I use a variety of techniques to ensure that my clients gain the benefit and do not suffer any injury:

 

I encourage clients to work at their own level, not keeping up or competing with each other.

I keep a close eye on the posture of each client as they exercise.  If there is a postural fault when a client walks in, they will probably keep that faulty position as they exercise.  This will be a habit that I am keen to discourage and correct with exercise.

When I spot a common postural imbalance within a group I will add exercises to help them correct it.  This could be drawing back rounded shoulders, lengthening the neck or stretching tight hamstrings to encourage better pelvic alignment.

At the beginning of each session I check how everyone is feeling and how long standing injuries are progressing.  I will include the best exercises to help each persons condition.  This could be reducing range of movement to encourage stabilization of a lax joint, work to strengthen a weak joint or stretches to help muscles tightened up by other sports such as running or cycling.

 
Using these methods I aim to help everyone to exercise and gain a benefit whilst not risking an injury.  Remember that your feedback is essential to ensuring a safe effective exercise programme so don’t keep quiet about any pain or discomfort as there is usually a way to manage it, and it is often a good indicator to the types of exercise you need.
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Yoga:- Religion? Life Style? Extreme Exercise, Relaxing Exercise? Just what is Yoga?



In fact it can be any of these things, and more besides.  For an understanding of Yoga it is necessary to look at the history and development of this ancient art.

 

Before we start I must point out that I am not a Hindu, neither do I teach nor practice any of the true forms of Yoga. I am not an expert in this field, but am offering a simplified insight into the many meanings of the statement I do Yoga. and what might be involved in a Yoga session.

 

In the beginning.


We can start with the Vedas.  These are the four collections forming the earliest body of Indian scripture, which codified the ideas and practices of Vedic religion and laid down the basis of classical Hinduism. They were probably composed between 1500 and 700 BC, and contain hymns, philosophy, and guidance on ritual.

 

It is the Vedas that are the common link between Hinduism and Yoga and which form their very foundations. Yoga is in fact one of the 6 main branches of Hindu philosophy.

The word Yoga means Union some say union with God, others union with self. This union can be perceived through a variety of methods including, but not limited to, control of the mind and senses, meditation and caring for the body through asanas, pranayam, cleansings, and detachment from worldly objects. Yoga directs us towards a righteous path of living; it is the remover of our identification with our physical body; and the aid to achieving moksha (liberation) in this lifetime.

 

So Yoga is religious and part of Hinduism?

Yes, but not necessarily!  Even from quite early in the development of Yoga and Hinduism it seems to me that Yoga could and did stand separately from Hinduism, as well as being an intrinsic part of it.  Yoga was originally a way of life but over time, it seems, a variety of elements from the whole have been extracted, each with specific benefits, and each called Yoga.  Confusing isnt it.

 

And now?

There are many forms of Yoga, some are named (e.g.  Hatha, Vinyasa, Kundalini, Ashtanga, Bikram, Iyengar, Anusara, Restorative, Jivamukti, to name but a few) whilst others are just Yoga.  Each focuses on a set of targets or beliefs drawn from the Yogic teachings.

 

What does this mean for me?


When you attend a Yoga class you might find you spend your time relaxing and meditating.  Or, you could find yourself attempting to achieve extreme positions.  The class might be constructed to be accessible for any age or ability, or the session could expect a high level of fitness, stamina, strength and flexibility.

There is no doubt that there can be huge benefits to be gained by the practice of Yoga however it is also clear that Yoga can also be physically detrimental.

When you consider the history of yoga you can see that it was not invented as a remedy for back pain or other injury. If this is your aim you need to seek form of exercise with a more physiological remedial basis.

 

How can I know what I am letting myself in for?


I would strongly advise that you contact the person running the sessions and ask them specifically what the aims of the class are, what their qualifications are, and make sure that their answers match up to your own targets and expectations.  In any case be extremely wary of any class that expects you to push past the pain.  Pain is the bodys protection mechanism and you should only be working through pain in closely controlled circumstances with specific goals.
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