The physical form and the most commonly practiced form of yoga, Hatha yoga incorporates a series of poses or Asanas, combining with the breathing techniques or Pranayama. Sometimes by adopting very basic and sometimes very advanced asanas and pranayamas, the goal of yoga is to provide the practitioner a number of physical and mental benefits. This article is aimed at highlighting how yoga improves spinal health.
Yoga helps increase strength in very specific muscles and muscle groups by holding positions. Muscle strength improves by remaining in these yoga positions and incorporating various movements. Many of the postures in yoga gently strengthen the muscles in the back, as well as the abdominal muscles. Back and abdominal muscles are essential components of the muscular network of the spine, helping the body maintain proper upright posture and movement. When these muscles are well conditioned, back pain can be greatly reduced or avoided.
Yoga incorporates stretching and relaxation, which reduces tension in stress-carrying muscles. While holding the poses anywhere from 10 to 60 seconds, certain muscles flex, while others stretch, increasing relaxation and flexibility in muscles and joints. For people with lower back pain, stretching is very important. For example, stretching the hamstring muscles helps expand the motion in the pelvis, decreasing stress across the lower back.
The yoga asanas are meant to train the body to be healthy and supple. Consistent practice and application will result in improved posture, and an increased sense of balance, with head, shoulders, and pelvis in proper alignment. Proper body alignment and proper posture help maintain the natural curvature of the spine which is an important part of reducing or avoiding lower back pain.
Awareness of the body increases with regular practice of yoga. In theory, specific positioning and repositioning not only limber the body but also trains people to understand the limitations of their movements of the body. As a preventative measure, the practitioner will know what types of movements should and should not be avoided or how much one can stretch the body.
Breathing is an important element to be considered during the yoga practice. While holding a position, the tendency is to hold the breath as well. Instead, the intention is to have a deep, free and rhythmic breath through the nose on both the inhale and the exhale. The quality of the breath in many ways determines the quality of the yoga practice. This will emphasize a relaxed body and encourage strong circulation.
In theory, yoga helps people concentrate their energy on breathing and maintaining posture. The methodical breathing increases oxygen flow to the brain and sets a rhythm within the body and mind. This action coupled with the asanas and practice of pranayama and meditation relieves the body and mind from stress and anxiety, therefore, relieving back pain caused by psychological and emotional factors.
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