The Yogic Prescription

By Urban Bliss Yoga | In YogaCafe | on July 24, 2015

The Yogic Prescription

Let us begin by imagining that we have no preconceived notions about yoga. Drop the dogma, the mysticism and ideology and let us focus on the healing scientific aspects of this wonderful practice. This ancient eastern practice has made its way into the western culture recently during the past 40 years and since has made a tremendous impact on society. Yoga originated in India just a little over 5000 years ago and has come a long way into blossoming to what it is today. Some people use this as a spiritual system and others just as a form of stretching exercises. However when you acknowledge the physiology of the asanas, or postures along with the pranayama or breath work and mindfulness needed for the practice you will realize that it’s more than just exercises. It is a complex system that unites the mind with body bringing self-awareness and internal mindfulness. There are various lineages of yoga all meeting different purposes for different people with different necessities, body types and indispositions. Yoga can help alleviate chronic lower back pain, reduce the effects of stress and bring you an overall sense of well being of body and mind. It is essential that everyone should at least consider adding a regular yoga practice in their routine for long term wellness and happiness.

Chronic back pain seems to be a problem that stagnates most Americans. Do you ever wonder why? Well most of us have a job that requires us to sit down for about eight hours a day. This lack of movement naturally shortens our muscles. To create an image, the hamstring becomes short which then pulls your hips underneath you hence leaving you feeling uncomfortable when you try to sit up straight. Since you have no length in the hamstrings, the uneven hips begin to put strain onto your lower spine, weakening the muscles which then lead to degeneration of the interpretable discs. With all this misalignment happening, when you stand you also stand mechanically imbalanced which causes pain in your neck and knees as well because we are not evenly distributing the weight on our bodies. So then what? You get prescribed pestiferous pain killers, have intricate surgeries or get mediocre massages from a chiropractor. These options will not take away the pain or heal you. They’re just like having one fat band-aid put on. Another approach was immediate bed rest however “doctors now realize that lying around is actually counterproductive, leading to decrease in conditioning and an increase in pain” (McCall). So being lazy and losing muscle mass is clearly not a bright option. There is a program created by Dr Eric Goodman in which he believes that it “is based on the simple unique idea that strengthening the posterior chain allows the strong muscles in your back to do their job of supporting the weight of the upper body and propelling movement”. He prefers the term “Foundation Training” rather than yoga. Why would you prefer to live with debilitating back pain for the rest of your life when you can train your body to break the normal destructive movement patterns with a simple yoga practice? As far as the results go, Dr Goodman states “people were stronger, healthier, and feeling better than ever thought they would again, giving them a new quality of life, hope, and the tools to manage their pain and maximize their energy” .

Another significant reason to bring yoga into your life is to reduce the amount of stress your body endures. Stress is a psychological and physiological endemic that is happening in this country. According to The American Psychological Association, 77% of people are affected by symptoms caused by stress (American Institute of Stress, 2013). Why is stress detrimental to your health? Scientific evidence is showing that stress fuels some of the biggest health problems of our time, including type 2 diabetes, depression, osteoporosis, heart attacks, and strokes, as well as autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis. A regular yoga practice will train your nervous system to keep calm and breathe. In the words of Pantajali, the person who first organized the knowledge of yoga, “yoga slows down the fluctuations of the mind”. During yoga practice you experience what I like to call “moving meditation”. This comes about as you move with your breath. Once you learn how to take deep, slow breaths, it begins to relax your nervous system and finally calming your mind thus bringing peace to your inner and outer space. A calm mind creates space for compassion, healing, creativity and a sense of connection. Just the basic practice of your breath will make a huge difference for your body’s stress levels and help you control any ailments attached to that. Many postures in the practice help with this idea of switching up the nervous system and training it to work for your welfare. My favorite pose for this specific idea is Virabhadrasana II or Warrior II because let’s say you come into a yoga class and you built up to come into this pose and you must hold this pose now for sixty seconds, your sympathetic nervous system commences to kick in. Your heart rate will start to increase and you will start to breathe a bit more rapidly which physiologically this is akin to anxiety or a form of adrenaline coming through. Right before you actually feel like panicking we transition into a restorative posture like child’s pose. In child’s pose you will breathe much more profoundly which switches on the parasympathetic nervous system hence allowing you to relax and bringing your body into a better, calmer state of mind.  This is huge when you suffer depression or anxiety because off the mat and into real life, this will remind you to breathe in tough situations and will naturally aid you into responding in a rational and mindful way.

Above all that I have already mentioned, yoga is an exercise to be taken seriously and practiced with an instructor who has had proper intensive training and is judiciously knowledgeable of the human anatomy and physiology. Preventing injury is equally as important as the practice itself. One of the biggest controversies since yoga became a western fad is the risk of injury. There have been reports of rudimentary injuries such as sprained muscles and torn ligaments. There are also unfathomable cases such as spinal injuries, stroke or foot drop. There are many western physicians who are for, and many who are against this practice. Although injuries are likely to be rare, you must take into serious consideration that “forceful hyperextension of the neck” or “neck movements that exceed physiological tolerance” can push you past your limitations and result in an awful accident (Broad). The main reason why injuries happen is also because westerners always want that push. Some people feel the need to have that “go hard or go home” attitude.  We can also refer to this as some sort of competitive ego. A mindful practice allows you to concentrate and grasp an impression of awareness and attention, or as Glenn Black, a yoga connoisseur says, “you have to set aside your ego and not become obsessive”. Anything in excess can be bad for you. However if you have self-control and confidence in your journey, you may find yourself in an easeful path free of pain and injury.

Yoga is an amazing tool that if used properly can heal debilitating back pain. Maintaining full range of motion is imperative because we are human, we must move and we all want to feel free and comfortable in this meat suit that we have. Yoga increase stress management skills which stops a reacting lethal chain of disease and mental disorder. When the mind works properly we are free to think positively. Positive thoughts lead to healthier habits and a compassionate attitude. Self-control is an essentially dignified quality to have as well. Inadequacy of this quality can direct your life into an awful disposition of bad decisions and in the case of yoga it can direct you into injuries. This practice encourages involvement into your own path of healing. No more prescriptions for cocktails of painkillers, no more surgeries and no more allowing pain to decipher your lifestyle. The more committed you become, the better the results will be. What do you have to lose?

By Pauline Peralta

Pauline Peralta is a yoga teacher training for Urban Bliss Yoga


Work Cited:

McCall, Timothy, and Michal Venera. Yoga as medicine: The yogic prescription for Health and

Healing.  New York: Bantam, 2007. Print.

Broad, William J. The Science of Yoga: The Risks and Rewards. 1st Simon & Schuster

Hardcover ed.  New York: Simon & Shuster, 2012. Print.

Goodman, Eric, Dr, and Peter Park. Foundation: Redefine Your Core, Conquer Back Pain, and Move with Confidence. New York: Rodale, 2011. Print.

“Stress Statistics.” Statistic Brain RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 June 2014.

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