Hatha Yoga – Moving into Wellness
Hatha Yoga is the perennial art and science that can be of great benefit to those of us in this culture. Thousands of years ago, it was intended to be a technology into spirituality. Ancient cultures had their own yoga depending on their own belief system about non-ordinary reality, God, divinity. [See History of Yoga article]
In modern times, yoga has many applications into health or well-being. People have realized how the skillful conscious movements of yoga are a way into wellness.
Some people practice hatha yoga as a form of exercise. The styles of hatha yoga, we teach, are precise, biomechanically sound, and therefore, safe. The art of using the entire body in each pose is important in that each body part supports each other. The skill of movement demands an exacting control of the nervous system upon the musculoskeletal system. The use of breath, imagery and sensory feedback are critical in developing motor skill.
Yoga is exercise accessible to everyone in any condition. Physical health is all about balance. Some people are just more out of balance then others. Flexibility is balanced with strength. A flexible person without strength is usually weak with joints compressing. A strong person with flexibility tends to be rigid. Yoga can be very slow and deliberate, and then again fast and furious. We start students out slowly and deliberately so they can learn these skillful movements. Yoga students gradually develop the control to move safely with precision. They learn to eventually build their endurance with steady progress. Cardiovascular tone and weight reduction are very real possibilities with a dedicated yoga practice.
Some people come to yoga because they are in physical pain. As a physical therapist, I have discovered how the practice of hatha yoga is therapeutic. I look at people in pain as unaware and unskillful in movement. This faulty posture and movement can cause abnormal mechanical stresses that lead to or perpetuate inflammation, pain, and dysfunction. Yoga students learn what exact posture of movement inefficiency is causing what specific joint compression, soft tissue strain, or excess muscle tension. Then they can slowly develop the skill of movement that is healing not inflammatory. I have developed a physical therapy practice over the last 35 years using hatha yoga as my main modality. [See Physical Therapy]
Yoga is very effective in the treatment of low back pain from disk [See Low Back Pain -Disks], facet, or sacroiliac dysfunction [See Low Back Pain – facets, S/I], neck pain, shoulder impingement, [See Neck and Shoulder Pain] knee, ankle, and foot pain [See Lower Extremity]. Once one realizes how one’s movement is causing their pain, one can lessen the stress and begin to move skillfully.
Some come to yoga for stress release. In our culture, we are chronically stressed out. Our bodies and minds are out of balance with excessive visual stimulation, busy schedules, inadequate sleep, poor diet, “in our heads”, lack of body awareness. This describes most of our days because this is our culture. Science is concluding that these are the reasons for our many “life-style” diseases. Namely, cancer and heart disease are seen as large contributions to the USA ranking 37th by the World Health Organization [WHO].
Yoga recognizes how the body affects the mind and how the mind affects the body. Our mental and emotional stress can cause muscle tension, nervous system hyperirritability, poor attention and focus, and fatigue. Lack of or poor body activity bring about an imbalance in our whole body-mind system. Yoga is an eastern technology that believes in a holistic paradigm. [See Paradigms] By working on total body movement, the whole of our body-mind is nurtured. A balance of physical exercise to mental exercise is necessary for well-being.
When we are continually “stressed-out” our sympathetic nervous system stays overactive. This keeps us in “fight-flight” mode, constantly draining our body and mind. We need more of the calming relaxing effects of the parasympathetic nervous system that yoga facilitates. We need to get away from our monitors, TV sets, and sofas and breath deeply, move our entire bodies skillfully, and focus with all of our minds on the present moment.
Hatha yoga is meditation. In ancient times, yoga was sitting mediation. Then it was a few poses to help us sit better. Then in the middle ages, hatha yoga evolved. Hatha yoga used the body as a vehicle to enlightenment. The body was considered as another expression of the divine. Hatha yoga was a way we could realize the profundity of consciousness.
Yoga can be practiced by anyone for any of these benefits they may want.
Stan Andrzejewski PT