Why yoga is the best medicine

by Lucy Fry - Read the original article here

Far from a celebrity fad, yoga can help ease back pain and arthritis. We present our guide to the most effective poses

Sometimes I think everyone must be doing yoga. From Demi Moore to Madonna, no celebrity seems too busy to roll out their mat and move into downward dog. But I know that some people still need persuading of its benefits. By following this advice, you can solve (almost) any health problem, from poor posture to a bad back.

Posture

Regular yoga sessions helped me move my hips and shoulders more easily – they had been chronicallytightened by long periods of sitting. Yoga also improved my posture and made me less achey. Stewart Heffernan, a yoga teacher, says: “With regular practice we become aware of when we are out of alignment. Along with the many postures that open the shoulders and hips, this helps us to improve posture and body awareness.”

  • Best yoga pose for better posture: downward dog. This stretches out the middle back, shoulders and the back of the thighs, all of which, when tight, can contribute to slumped posture. Begin on all fours with your knees directly below your hips and your hands just in front of your shoulders. Turn your toes under and spread your palms, then push your knees away from the floor. Bend your knees as much as you need to and gaze down at the mat or towards your feet.

Downward Dog

Anxiety

Yoga also made me feel more relaxed. It has been brilliant this year. In September, I returned from a two-week yoga retreat in Morocco to find my London life calmer and more appealing. I didn’t mind slowfooted tourists or late-running trains. Studies suggest that yoga can even reduce the level of stress hormones in those with depression – more so than those just using antidepressant medication.

  • Best yoga pose for relaxation: child’s pose. Kneel on a mat with your bottom on your heels and your forehead on the floor. Place your arms alongside and behind you for total relaxation or outstretched ahead for an extra back stretch.

Child's Pose

Back problems

Yoga can also help prevent back problems. Ali Hill, founder of yogahaven (yogahaven.com), says that when people start yoga any back problems often improve. “Yoga poses involve twisting, bending the
arms and legs, and extending the spine, which means you are constantly opening up and creating space in up to 26 joints in or near your back. Poses also open up your hips and hamstrings, which can
relieve tightness across the lower back,” she says.

  • Best yoga pose for back problems: spinal twist. Lie on your back with your bent knees to one side, touching the mat and level with your navel. Your arms should be outstretched either side. Look in the opposite direction of your bent knees.

Spinal Twist

Improved concentration

Heffernan says: “Yoga helps us to focus our attention on one point, whether it be the breath or the gaze, or our conscious placement of the body. These practices help us to be more focused, mindful
and clear the chatter that normally stops us from concentrating.”

  • Best yoga pose for concentration: sit with crossed legs, focus on breathing.

Joint pain

Research suggests that hatha yoga (one of the more gentle types) can help arthritis sufferers, too. Jess Lee, 31, was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis seven years ago. She was regularly seeing
physiotherapists, swimming and taking painkillers. “Some days I couldn’t get out of bed,” she says. “I could barely walk to the bathroom, and struggled to get in and out of a car or sit down. Within
five months of doing yoga five times a week, the pain had pretty much disappeared. I feel like I have a new back and hardly ever need medication.”

  • Best yoga pose for joint pain: eagle pose reduces tightness, and loosens your ankles, hips and shoulders. Bend your knees slightly, wrap your right leg over your left, and with your arms directly out in front, place your right elbow over your left, and squeeze. Five years on from my first class, my big question is no longer why are so many people doing yoga? It’s why isn’t everyone?

Eagle

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