Sit for a living? 5 Ways Yoga can Save your Health and your Sanity

Posted by Hom Yoga on

By Vicky Arundel

There have been some alarming headlines in the media recently about the health risks associated with sitting for prolonged periods of time. Studies are now linking our sedentary lifestyles with increased levels of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, several types of cancer and even premature death.

The reality of our working lives is not helping. In this age of technology and service-based industries, little is demanded of our bodies bar the movement of our fingers over a keyboard, and the occasional saunter over to the water cooler. We go from our desk-bound jobs to a comfortable commute home in the car, bus or train, and find ourselves at the end of the day sitting in front of the TV.

As gloomy as this may sound, there are some powerful actions we can take that don’t require us to give up the sedentary day job. If you’re reading this blog, you’re no doubt aware of the beautiful benefits of a regular yoga practice, and below are even more incentives to practice for those of us chained to our desks!

1) Healthier spine
Sitting for long periods wreaks havoc on our spines. Craning our necks forward to look at a computer screen can lead to extra stress on the cervical vertebrae, and permanent muscle imbalances. As we get tired our shoulders begin to slump forwards, leading to tension and soreness and a semi-permanent rounding of the upper back (called kpyhosis). Our lower back is also at greater risk of herniated discs due to weakening of our abdominals and tighter hip flexors, which put more strain on the discs.
A balanced yoga class will take your spine through all five major movements of the spine: forward bending, back bending, side stretching, twisting and gentle traction (vertical elongation). This improves circulation, nutrition and blood flow to the spongy discs between the vertebrae and restores musculo-skeletal balance.

2) Improved muscle tone
Our sedentary jobs are doing nothing for the strength of our muscles. Sitting leads to mushy abdominals, lazy glutes and weakened back muscles, all of which lead to our bodies having less stability and strength, putting us at a greater risk of injury. Yoga’s emphasis on both stretching and strengthening promotes balanced muscles that are elastic, toned and strong. Some of the best poses for abdominal and upper back strength include plank pose and chaturanga – so make sure you include vinyasa yoga in your weekly practice schedule!

3) Better digestion
The rise of chronic digestive complaints such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) may be explained in part by our sitting habits. Lack of movement leads to poor circulation to the digestive organs and may result in sluggish metabolism, erratic bowel movements, bloating, cramping and constipation. Yoga poses provide an internal massage to the organs, which promotes improved circulation and overall healthy function. Twists are particularly revered for their rinse-and-squeeze effect on the kidneys, liver, stomach and digestive tract.

4) More energy
Sitting for long periods is exhausting for the body. Poor postural habits can cause us to develop shallow breathing patterns, as the lungs struggle to expand enough to bring adequate oxygen in. This can lead to that tired foggy feeling that we often get mid-afternoon when we start feeling sleepy and craving chocolate! Yoga can help in two major ways – first, by improving our posture so that the lungs can fully expand and second, by teaching us to breathe more effectively and fully by using the diaphragm. Several breath techniques (pranayama) are great for boosting our energy, mood and sense of vitality, Try bhastrika which involves rapid exhalations combined with strong abdominal contractions.

5) Develop a clear and calm mind
We live in an information age. A typical Western adult may be exposed to up to 5000 advertisements every day. In just 24 hours, over 100 billion emails are sent. The average American adult watches 5 hours of TV a day. Is it any wonder that we are feeling fragmented and overwhelmed? We live in a world of hyper connectivity and yet more and more people report feeling disconnected and disengaged with others and themselves.
For thousands of years yogis have highlighted the importance of periods of stillness and introspection. Pratyahara is the deliberate removal of external distractions in order to create space for quiet rest. When you step away from your screens, turn off your gadgets and step into the peaceful space of the yoga studio you are consciously practicing pratyahara. Focusing on the inner experience of our body and breath can offer us a moment of sanity in our fast-paced modern world.

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