Yoga is a combination of physical, mental and spiritual practices that originated in India thousands of years ago. There is a deep philosophy surrounding the practice of yoga that encourages both physical (stretching and strengthening) and mental (breathing and meditation) disciplines. Yoga focuses on our ‘inner experience’ connecting to our thoughts, feelings, beliefs and core values which opens the door to our true self/ to love/to god/to the universe or whichever word you feel most comfortable using to describe the connectedness of all life on earth.
Physical therapists’ experience
As physical therapists we connect on a daily basis with many people who suffer physical symptoms as a result of mental patterns that lead to emotional blockages in the body. Practicing yoga helps us to become aware of these mental patterns through careful observation of the self so that we become empowered to change our harmful patterns and therefore our pain, both physical and emotional.
Living in a society that is fast paced we often forget to slow down and ask ourselves what we need to feel wellness, taking for granted our own ability to heal ourselves.
When my client enters the room she is talking, she doesn’t stop talking; she doesn’t even stop for a breath between her sentences. Her body is constantly tense she tells me, she always has pain in her neck and lower back, and she doesn’t understand why. Her shoulders are rounded and close to her ears. Her back muscles are solid and on full stretch. I sense her franticness, her need to always be doing, always be moving, stuck in the constant loop of her mental chatter. Not open to receiving information from herself or from those around her.
Using exercise and the breath I guide her through the exercises she needs to release her tension. She slows down; she stops talking; she breathes deeper; and she begins to focus and concentrate on what is happening in her body. To observes what messages her body is trying to give her. She becomes conscious of the change in herself, the release of tension in her mind and then body. She is present in the moment, more peaceful. Her pain is less.
Reasons to practice yoga
Practicing yoga emphasizes the connection between the mind and the body. A yoga practice requires mindful thought, mindful movement and increased awareness. This union of both mind and body has a powerful impact on both mental and physical well-being.
Apart from the mental and spiritual elements of yoga practice – the asanas/yoga postures have powerful physical benefits. Each yoga asana has its own specific benefits for the body, some of these include: regulation of hormones, reduce fatigue, reduce inflammation, lower blood pressure, improved respiration, weight loss, improved balance, improved muscle strength and improved flexibility. For these reasons yoga is a fantastic technique for treating physical conditions.