Fitness Magazine

Yoga for Real Life

By Ninazolotow @Yoga4HealthyAge
by Nina

Yoga for Real Life

The Gardeners by Gustave Caillebotte

Since we’re all “householders”— the term yogis use for people who live with their families and work during the day at jobs or in the home (as opposed to being monks or hermits)—we’re not doing yoga all day long. Most of our days are taken up with the activities that make up our real life, including both work and play. And many of these activities, whether they entail being sedentary or moving around a lot, can be hard on our bodies. But your yoga practice can help you balance your body from the physical stresses you experience, allowing you to keep up with the physical demands of your real life.

Let’s start by talking about our jobs, which take up so much of our time each day. Having a desk job where you sit for eight hours or more a day can cause physical pain and injuries, including low back and neck problems as well as repetitive stress injuries, such as Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Too much sitting is also associated with obesity, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease, and colorectal cancer, among other problems. However, a well-rounded, active yoga practice will counteract many of the problems caused by hours of being sedentary. A well-rounded yoga practice allows you to stretch tight muscles, strengthen weak muscles and improve your circulation for heart and joint health. You can also target your practice to balance your body from too much sitting by doing shoulder stretches, backbends, leg stretches, and hip openers to keep your back, hips and neck healthy. And upper body strengthening and stretching poses will help protect your hands, wrists, and arms.

For people who work in a standing position, such as restaurant workers, store clerks, or factory workers, being on your feet all day brings its own special problems, including back problems, as well as hip, leg, knee and myriad of foot problems. By getting your body moving with an active asana practice, you’ll release held tension in your muscles and support good circulation. By practicing yoga back care and upper body strengthening poses, you can help keep your back strong and healthy. And by including poses where your legs are inverted, you can rest your feet and legs, and reduce swelling.

More active work, such as construction work or gardening, provides beneficial daily exercise but can also lead to physical imbalances, with some muscles being overdeveloped and tight while others remain weak. A well-rounded yoga practice will help balance your body, stretching tighter muscles and strengthening weaker ones, and you can also target your practice to address specific physical problems you might be experiencing. For example, I spend a lot of time gardening, which involves bending down for hours at a time, which can lead to back strain, and reaching forward, which can lead to a tight neck and shoulders. To balance my body after an intensive gardening weekend, I’ll practice twists to release my back muscles and mild backbends to strengthen over-stretched back muscles, and I release my tight shoulders and neck with upper body stretches.

And what about the fun stuff you do during your time off? Well, the sports and other activities that you do for exercise or pleasure, such as running, hiking, biking, and gardening though excellent forms of exercise can create imbalances in your body because you’re moving your body repeatedly through the same motions. For example, while biking, your legs are cycling over and over as your upper body is hunched over your handlebars. Other favorite forms of exercise, such as tennis or golf, are literally imbalanced, as you do all your hitting or swinging with one arm. But, as you may know, professional athletes from football teams such as the Seattle Seahawks (who won the 2014 Super Bowl, by the way) to Olympic figure skaters practice yoga to balance their muscular systems as well as to stay focused, and you can too. For example, if cycling is your favorite sport or mode of transportation, you can use your yoga practice to release your tight chest muscles and relieve back strain, and to stretch your tight outer hips and calves, as Bridget does (see Yoga and Cycling). See Being Able to Do What You Love for a little more info on this general topic.

How about you? Do you use your yoga practice to balance your body for work or play? Tell us about it!

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