Yoga Part 2:Yoga as a way to reap the health benefits of exercise
Written by Mary Martin PT, DPT
Thanks for checking out part 2 of my yoga blog! Part 1 had information about different types of yoga I’ve personally tried, as well as why I believe in using yoga not only in my life, but for my patient’s treatment as well. Part 3 addresses diaphragmatic breathing, which is an important skill for anyone to master! This blog is all about exercise and why it is so good for us, plus some exercises I put together for you to try at the end.
In essence, when we exercise EVERYTHING gets better. Our brain function improves, anxiety reduces, sleep deepens and healing happens. We improve how our basic bodily functions work like our heart function and ability to metabolize and use food. Our muscles stay strong and so do our bones. Sometimes, people with type two diabetes mellitus can even get off insulin entirely by managing their diabetes through exercise! What this should tell you is that if you want to enjoy living in your body, you should probably MOVE. This blog series addresses yoga both for exercise and physical therapy purposes, but your body will be happy if you just find something that keeps you moving 30 minutes or more a day safely and in as little pain as possible.
I’d like to include some exercises and cueing I use the most for core activation in the clinic, which is the foundation of my clinical practice. Also, my colleagues have addressed chronic pain in several posts on our website that I highly recommend checking out! They’ve done a ton of research and condensed it to make it patient friendly and easy to apply.
To learn more about the benefits of exercise, check out this website I reference often for my patients: Benefits of Physical Activity | Physical Activity
Yoga Exercises to Try Today
Diaphragmatic breathing: Either sitting or laying down, place one hand on your chest and one on your belly. Breathe all your air OUT. When you inhale, allow the belly to expand and keep your chest low (no shoulders to your ears). Take in as much air as possible. Slowly breathe out. Repeat! Close your eyes and use essential oils or soft music to add to the relaxation. This can be done anywhere! (I have a post on diaphragmatic breathing in part 3 of my yoga blog)
Bridges: Laying on your back, with knees bent, lift your hips up off the mat. Notice if you are able to keep your hips level, if you use one side more than the other. Keep your belly button toward your spine for improved core activation (you can check this by gently squeezing the side of your trunk with your hands just above your hips). Slowly, inch by inch, smoothly lower down.
Lumbar rotation with yoga ball: Very gentle way to get your core working and introduce some rotation to your spine. You can do the same thing without a ball with your feet on the mat and knees bent. Gently let your knees roll side to side, only going as far as you can control and feels good to you.
Cat/Cow: Most of the time, we see the version where you bend your whole spine and invert the U in one motion. I modify this to more of a wave. Think of a wave at a sporting event, where the motion starts at one end of the arena and continues to travel all the way around. Same thing with your spine! Start at one end (I usually start with the head), and slowly complete the motion until you are arched like a cat through your whole spine (you should be able to see your knees). Slowly reverse until your belly is hanging down and your head raises up last to almost look toward the ceiling.
Child’s pose: this is a great way to stretch your low back! Easy to transition to this from cat/cow. Sink your bottom back toward your heels, arms forward. You can bend your elbows to put weight through your arms more comfortably. Play with this pose and move your arms to one side or the other to get a side body stretch.
Pictures: Medbridge Education
Give some of these poses a try and, as always, contact us with any questions on progression of exercises or any issues/pain you may be experiencing!