Yoga, originating in India, has been around for over 5,000 years and has been a way to boost physical and mental health. Yoga is a practice in many different forms including breathing techniques, meditation and poses. Personally, I have practiced yoga for the past 7 years. With my childhood consisting of playing competitive sports, I associated much of my exercise with team practices and games. Much to my surprise, I found the practice of yoga to bring my body and mind relief and strength. Though I am not always consistent with my practice, my enjoyment of the practice is one that I would love to share.
An intimidating aspect of yoga is the special terminology of poses during the class. The first time I heard “pigeon pose” or “cat/cow pose”, I thought the animal names were quite comical. Do not let this be the reason to not participate in yoga. Yoga is a supportive practice, and you will catch on quickly. One word that is said during yoga class that deserves explanation is namaste (pronounced “NUHM-uh-stay”). Namaste is not strictly a word used in yoga, and it is defined as a customary Hindu non-contact manner of respectful greeting and honoring a person or group. When we say things like “Thank you” or “I appreciate you”, we are essentially saying the same things when saying “Namaste”.
Below is a summary of the health benefits of yoga practice- NAMASTE:
New Friends: Whether you practice yoga at home or go to a studio/gym, there are still ways to make new friendships!
Real life examples- There are ways to connect via social media groups for accountability in your practice. Studios or gyms are a great way to connect with others who are also trying to practice self-care. Your new best friend may be waiting for you in child’s pose.
Attention and focus: Slowing your mind and focusing on being present sounds easy, but in the busy world we live in, we often struggle unplugging and focusing on ourselves. The practice of breathing and becoming more mindful can allow for more focus to details and purposeful intention in your everyday life.
Real life example- “Should I sit on the couch scrolling through social media or put the phone down and go outside to clear my mind and make mental space for other important things in my life?”
Muscle tone: Many of the poses in yoga require muscle activation and holding (isometric exercise) which allows the muscle tissue to fill with blood and create metabolic stress on the muscle. This improves strength and endurance.
Real life example- Try holding a Warrior 1 Pose for a minute. You will activate almost every muscle in your body!
Arthritis symptoms: Yoga can relieve physical discomfort due to joint pain. One study showed improved hand pain, tenderness, and finger range of motion in study participants suffering from hand osteoarthritis after an eight-week yoga regimen.
Real life example- If you suffer from arthritis, try looking at poses found on this website to improve pain: Johns Hopkins- Yoga Poses for Arthritis Patients
Stretching, balance and flexibility: Most normal activity of daily life does not push our bodies to stretch and improve flexibility. Flexibility can decrease muscle stiffness and lead to fewer injuries. Balance is improved with yoga practice by activating multiple muscle groups. This is especially important as we age.
Real life example- Keep your legs straight and reach to your toes every day. You will likely feel the lengthening of your back leg muscles, loosening the stiffness in your back and circulating blood to the muscles in the body.
Therapeutic: Studies have shown that yoga can reduce stress, anxiety, depression and enhance overall well-being on top of the other benefits mentioned in this article. Sounds like a well rounded way to take care of your mind and body!
Real Life example- After yoga, reflect on how you are feeling and focus on your breathing. You may feel like you can breathe deeper and conquer the world.
Ease into regular exercise: Yoga is a great first step when starting to exercise as vigorous exercise may not be safe for many starting to exercise regularly. Yoga requires no special equipment, provides different fitness levels, and is easy on the joints!
Real Life examples- The hardest part of exercising has nothing to do with how hard you exert yourself and has a lot to do with the motivation to take care of your body. What will you do today?
So as you bring your folded hands to the heart center, I would like you all to remember what I’ve written in the article, give yoga a try and “namaste”.
About the author:
Jennifer Drum, PharmD, BCPS is a Clinical Pharmacist with 12+ years experience optimizing medication selection, providing direct patient care and working interprofessional with pharmacy students, pharmacy residency and healthcare providers. Previous pharmacy practice includes completion of PGY-1 community pharmacy residency, community pharmacy manager, long term care pharmacist and institutional clinical pharmacist. She is one of six family members with a Doctor of Pharmacy from Purdue University. Jennifer resides in Middleton, WI with her husband Tyler, daughter Allie, son Ben and wheaten terrier Maggie.