5 reasons why yoga is good for my (back) health
I want to share with you what yoga has done for my back health. Honestly, I don’t know where to start. There are a lot of aspects that contributed and sometimes I feel like I am still stumbling upon new insights. The priorities to give to these insights also seems to change like the seasons do. Despite the incompleteness and wavering of thoughts, I want to start somewhere in sharing them with you. Isn’t it all about the journey and not the destination?
Yoga is not about pushing yourself to the max or forcing the body. Through gentle movement stamina is challenged and the mind needs to be controlled. In my experience it is best to build up a integer yoga practice first and then increase duration and complexity, than to dive all in from the start. Yoga consists of different exercises and postures that try to stimulates different systems in the body through gentle movement. This, and observation of the body and mind creates the possibility for back health through the development of body awareness.
Body awareness is not about just knowing the body. To me it about developing the ability to tune into the body and listen to signals. Whenever I try to think too much about what my body is saying and try to give meaning to it, I usually don’t do my body justice. Recently, I have been trying to go more with the flow of my body and recognise what my body is ready for or might not yet be. Finding and testing boundaries in order to move forward. Sometimes this can also mean a step back in order to take two steps forward. There is no right or wrong, there is only an ever-changing process.
Integration of the mind
Our mind can be quite strong and tends to tell us a lot of things. But is it always right? And is it always necessary? In yoga we acknowledge the power of the mind and its need for distraction. Therefore we need to challenge it through concentration and try to calm it down in order to regain some sort of control. It is not about thinking nothing. It is about becoming aware of thoughts that arise in order to see our reactions and enable conscious choosing.
Focus on breathing
Breathing is a part of automated action from the body. In the case of scoliosis, the ribs are usually twisted and compressed on one side. By gaining awareness of the automatic movement of the breath, it can be guided in the compressed area. This then creates more space for oxygen in the body, which enables better health. A lot of back pain comes from compression issues, therefore the breath can be a powerful tool to manually manipulate the body to find more space and relieve from pain. If you have scoliosis, like me, it can be interesting to notice how your diaphragm is moving. Sometimes mine can feel lopsided or, worst case, even stuck. See how the body awareness aspect sneaks in again? Besides this physical aspect, controlled breathing also challenges the mind and has the ability to calm it down.
Calming down the nervous system
We tend to be quite familiar with the fight & flight responds of the body. Especially in this day and age, everyone seems to be (chronically) stressed. This is not healthy for the body. Yoga helps to guide the body toward a rest & digest state. At least, if there is enough relaxation incorporated in the practice. To me relaxation is an, read most, important part of my yoga practice. This is where I let my body and mind process all the input it gets throughout the day and it gets the possibility to starts its own inner healing processes to enable proper back health.