Yoga: Tool for balance of mind and body

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Updated: 11/20/2013 7:19 am
From mental balance to physical healing, the practice of yoga could help many obtain better health. And rest assured, the breathing and stretching techniques can be easily modified to fit the needs of many.

Rachelle Atkinson is a yoga therapist who also shares the practice of gentle yoga at The Falls Athletic Club. To explain yoga's healing power, she points to the human nervous system and how stress can lead to illness.

"The imbalance comes when we no longer know how to switch from the stressful, driven, busy aspects of our lives, to a true relaxation," Atkinson said.

The "fight or flight" response, she said, which our ancestors once used to survive day-to-day, is difficult to switch off.

"And yoga is that place where we can train the body and the mind from being flooded with stress hormones and the cascade of detriment to our health, from that constant flooding of stress hormones to the part of the nervous system where we're healing, resting."

On the physical level, yoga can help in the most practical settings like this example of a man who couldn't comfortably sit cross-legged on the floor:

"But just after a few weeks of practicing yoga, his hips have opened, his legs now relax towards the floor. And this is now a position he can sit in with ease."

As long as its OK with your doctor, here are some other poses to try at home:

First, the
tree pose can help with balance and strength.

"If you feel unsteady with balance, you can practice next to a wall and put your hand on a wall or on a chair. So in this pose, we'll bring hands to heart, and shift weight to your right leg and bring the left toes to your ankle and bend the knee. And you can stay right here or you can lift the foot. And you can even cup the knee with the arch of the foot." 

Next, a
seated twist can help detox the body. (Start by sitting on the floor and cross on leg over the other, planting the foot in the ground).

"So with an in breath you lengthen the spine, with an exhale, you are going to rotate the spine to the left here. So moving the belly into the thigh."

Finally,
legs up the wall can help with relaxation. (Sit with your right hip against a wall, then rotate your legs up and your body in a lying position).

"It's an inversion which means that the heart is above the head. This pose is beautiful for slowing down the nervous system. It'd be a great one to practice at the end of the day or before going to bed, just to wind down."

Click on the attached video for the full story and to watch demonstrations.
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