Fitness Magazine

The Dangers of Being Sedentary: Styana, Alasya, and Yoga

By Ninazolotow @Yoga4HealthyAge
by Ram

The Dangers of Being Sedentary: Styana, Alasya, and Yoga

Dance by Marc Chagall

Yoga and Ayurveda are sister sciences, with Ayurveda being the healing side of Yoga, and Yoga serving as the spiritual side of Ayurveda. Through the practices of Ayurveda and Yoga an individual is able to connect to his/her true nature through direct experience, and live a meaningful and purposeful life. This would mean following stable routines, having a balanced and nourishing timely diet (see You Are When You Eat) and adapting the eight fold yogic path (ashtanga yoga). However, there are a number of obstacles that arise on the journey to a meaningful life that can prove to be a challenge. In the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, verses 1.30-1.32 describe several distractions that serve as obstacles on the journey toward perfect health and enlightenment. 
vyadhi styana samshaya pramada alasyaavirati bhranti-darshana alabdha-bhumikatva
anavasthitatva chitta vikshepa te antarayah

“Nine kinds of distractions that are obstacles naturally encountered on the path are physical illness, tendency of the mind to not work efficiently, doubt or indecision, lack of attention to pursuing the means of samadhi, laziness in mind and body, failure to regulate the desire for worldly objects, incorrect assumptions or thinking, failing to attain stages of the practice, and instability in maintaining a level of practice once attained.”—translation by Swami Jnaneshvara
Sitting for more than three hours, sleeping for extended periods of time, watching long hours of TV or simply idling away the time would qualify as “styana” (inefficiency, idleness, procrastination, dullness) and “alasya” (laziness, sloth), which are now thought to be responsible for decreasing life expectancy in the United States. While technology may have increased our productivity, it has certainly made us lazier. Sitting for long periods, sleeping for more than the required hours and watching TV are the most common activities performed by indolent individuals. That puts these activities up there with smoking as a possible barrier to increasing life expectancy.
Findings from a recent study showed that individuals who sat for more than 11 hours daily were 40 percent more likely to die within the next three years than those who sat for four hours or less daily—even when people’s physical activity at other times of the day was accounted for. Studies have also indicated that sitting daily for less than 3 hours and watching TV for less than 2 hours extends life expectancy by an estimated 1 to 2 years. Studies reported in the prestigious journals Lancet and the British Medical Journal suggest that a sedentary lifestyle is the cause of one in 10 deaths worldwide. It’s now known that Americans are working less (26 minutes a day less compared to Y2007) and idling off more. Adults in the U.S. spend an average of 55 percent of their day engaged in some kind of sedentary behavior (see Sedentary behavior and life expectancy in the USA: a cause-deleted life table analysis).
Data gathered from 33 countries indicate that sedentary lifestyle accounts for six percent of all cases of coronary heart disease, about 7 percent of type 2 diabetes and 10 percent of breast and colon cancers. The findings also suggested that if only 10 percent of those who are currently inactive started to exercise, 533,000 lives would be saved; if 25 percent began moving, 1.3 million deaths could be averted. Studies have also shown that even children are spending more time sitting at home than playing outdoors. Health experts are unanimous in their opinion that an adult requires at least 30 minutes/day of physical activity to stay fit while children require at least 60 minutes of playtime.

The Dangers of Being Sedentary: Styana, Alasya, and Yoga

The Dance by Marc Chagall

Thus, there is no doubt that excessive time spent in sedentary behavior is not only having an impact on public health but also has effects on the life span of the individual. Those who maintain a reasonable amount of activity, particularly across the middle and later years, are twice as likely to avoid early death and serious illness. So take my advice, get off the couch and go to the nearest yoga studio for a yoga asana session or seek some enjoyable activity that involves a lot of movement. However, let me also remind our readers that physical activity need not be yoga asanas alone and neither does it have to be strenuous to achieve health benefits. The US Centers for Disease for Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend the following that constitutes physical activity: walking stairs (instead of taking the elevator), gardening, raking leaves, dancing, walking to different stores in the mall while shopping, carrying a grocery basket rather than pushing a cart (when applicable), parking in the farthest parking spot and walking to the office or store.
People of all ages benefit from doing any one or some or all of the above mentioned daily physical activities. Sedentary people need to start with short sessions (about 10 minutes) and gradually build up to the desired level of physical activity. It appears that it is never too late to make some changes and experience these positive outcomes. The antidote for these obstacles and their consequences are awareness, focus and determination (see Thoughts On Dhyana). Cultivating these qualities can prevent us from getting entangled and lost in the mire of delusion that can come from the above-mentioned obstacles (see Achieving Stillness in Turbulent Situations).

Note from Nina:
Ram recommends getting off the couch and going to a yoga studio for an asana session, but there is no reason you can’t simply get off the couch and do a little bit of yoga, right next to the couch (or anywhere else in your house). We’ve got lots of mini practices on our blog (look on our index for the three “mini” entries) that you can do, try a practice you find in a yoga book or DVD, or just start out with a Reclined Leg Stretch or a Downward-Facing Dog pose and see what happens next. If you skip just one TV program, you can do a half an hour of yoga without even leaving the house. I started my home yoga practice when I was working full time at a software startup company and co-parenting two young children, so I know you can do this! And, of course, if you’ve been following our office yoga series, you’ll know that we’ve got yoga poses you can do at work, at the airport, or anywhere else you can’t roll out a yoga mat (look on our index for the “office yoga” tag).

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