Yoga yields many rewards. People will often start a practice of yoga because they hear it’s good for back pain, insomnia or for postural imbalances. But months down the road, they realize that they no longer get headaches or menstrual cramps, they’ve lost weight, and discover that they are less reactive and hostile. A persistent disciplined practice of any style of yoga reveals unexpected healing.
Practitioners and teachers of every style of yoga broadcast the benefits they feel and see. Thankfully there are researchers and physicians who help quantify yoga’s special gifts. Dr. Tim Mcgall is a yoga instructor and physician whose own thoracic outlet syndrome was healed by yoga. His website is full of studies that cover the above mentioned issues, and dozens more.
Dr. Mcgall and many others are bringing the therapeutic results of yoga into the mainstream so that yoga therapy is taken more seriously and respected as a healing modality along the lines of massage therapy, hypnosis or acupuncture, all of which are covered by some insurance plans. Organizations such as the International Association of Yoga Therapists exist to raise the bar, collect data and serve as a resource for those pursuing the art and science of yoga therapy.
The byproducts of a great yoga practice are not exclusive to those who practice in caves on the top of a mountain, but rather they are felt by anyone who is instructed well, and who practices with purpose. Even children are reaping the benefits. Numerous schools now implement programs for children of every age and the results are astonishing. My friend’s 11 year old daughter Miriam (not her real name) suffered from recurring headaches that have magically “disappeared” since she started practicing yoga in school.
The homework headache
Children are more susceptible than ever to having massive pains in their neck, shoulders and upper back for 3 reasons:
1) Their backpacks are heavier than ever
2) More homework (and recreation) is done staring for hours on end at a computer monitor
3) Cutbacks in physical education programs
Luckily, many volunteer organizations are bringing yoga into kids classrooms around the country to help fill this void. With back-breaking backpacks and weaker children, no wonder they are having neck and shoulder pain. Computer monitors lock the eyes rigidly in place, and the muscles that stabilize the eyeballs (the subocciptals) thread all the way into the back of the neck. Too much tension there leads directly to headaches. Additionally, if their seated posture is a slouch, this will also add to the problem.
Twice a week, Miriam’s school invites a Yoga Ed teacher to make yoga a fun, playful and spirited time. Her classmates’ grades have improved. The Attention Deficit Disorder in the room has been on the wane and most importantly, Miriam is starting to become aware of her physical body and wants to continue to take care of her young mind, body and heart!
Miriam’s favorite poses are:
1) Pose of the East
This pose strengthens the back and reverses “backpack slump.
2) Downward Dog at the Fire Hydrant
Creates the obvious giggles, but it also strengthens and opens her entire body!
3) Child’s Pose
She loves to feel like she’s in a “hiding spot.” And this inwardly folded pose is profoundly relaxing to any nervous system.
What secondary benefits have you noticed from your yoga practice? Share your yoga therapy story!