Yoga and Chiropractic – Practicing Balance
Achieving physical, emotional and mental balance through chiropractic and yoga.
Yoga is much more than just a physical practice. It is an art as well as a science, much like chiropractic. The practice of yoga is also backed by holistic philosophic principles.
In yoga, the focus is on the mental and spiritual effects and the improvement of physical health that happens with regular practice. In chiropractic, the focus is on the benefits to the physical body, but anyone who receives regular chiropractic care knows the powerful changes that happen mentally and emotionally when you are moving pain-free. Yoga and chiropractic care are excellent complements to one another.
The History of Yoga
Yoga began as a ritualistic practice in the Vedic Age (1500-500 BC). People were trying to manipulate their external environment to rid themselves of human suffering. In these times, people would offer sacrifices of different kinds – material and non-materialistic in nature to appease their God(s). People soon then realized that despite these ritual sacrifices, suffering continued. These sacrifices were later deemed futile and there came about a need to aspire towards a higher state of being and realization. Consequently, classical yoga was born.
At the heart of yoga practice is the Asana, also known as yoga postures. By definition, the asana is a comfortable or effortless position. Yoga postures approach effortlessness by aligning the spine and bones in the direction of gravity. As chiropractors, much of our work is also dedicated to improving your posture. Good posture is any position that reduces the force on joints, muscles, and tissues within your body to allow everything to work efficiently with minimal stress. Similarly, in yoga, the spine is seen as a central component of the body. Chiropractic improves posture, range of motion, and flexibility. These are all very important parts of a strong yoga practice, so one can see how routine adjustments are beneficial to practice.
Movement and Balance
Motion and balance are two requirements to creating and maintaining a healthy life. Both chiropractic and yoga focus on these. With proper spinal and joint alignment, range of motion increases, as do balance capabilities and efficiency of movement. Balance training is not only good for the body but also the mind. Working on our balance helps stimulate parts of the brain we often neglect and take for granted in our busy day-to-day. The practice of yoga brings focus, calms the mind, and challenges the body’s ability to move and balance.
When recommending yoga to patients, we suggest finding a yoga class you enjoy. There are many different types of yoga out there, so please try a few different classes to find what is best for you.
If you are headed out to your first yoga class, keep these few tips in mind:
Get to know some basic yoga poses–
This will help you to feel more empowered and motivated in class. Take a few minutes to read some material or watch come quick clips online.
Get to class early–
It is very important to be on time for a yoga class. You’ll need extra time to fill out any paperwork if you are new to the class. Getting to class early will allow you to place your yoga mat in a comfortable place in the room without disrupting everyone else. If you are late, be respectful of your fellow classmates and place your mat down gently so you don’t disturb your fellow yogis.
Drink lots of water–
Staying hydrated during any physical activity is important. This is even more evident with the increased amount of sweating that happens in yoga. Start drinking water at least two hours before your class so your body can properly hydrate. Over time, you’ll learn how much water your body needs before and after a class.
Yoga is practiced barefoot, so shoes and socks are a no-go. Going barefoot in the yoga room is not only hygienic but it is also a sign of respect. Being barefoot also allows more grip during poses. If you have any problem being barefoot you can always invest in a pair of yoga socks.
Wear something you feel relaxed and confident in. Also try to avoid clothing that is too loose, which can cause you to find yourself in revealing situations during practice. Remember that unlike running or other exercises, you will be bending and stretching a lot, so loose clothes can fall in your face during a downward pose causing a distraction.
Silence is golden–
Yoga practice is a time for you to unplug and check out from your hectic day-to-day noise and demands. Maintaining silence in the room is difficult when someone is chatting or their phone is ringing. Noises like this are distracting and disrespectful to your fellow yogis. Be mindful of the other students sharing their practice with you.
Don’t forget to breathe–
Learning to connect with your breath is one of the most important things you’ll learn in your practice. Many teachers incorporate a breathing practice (Pranayama) into their class. Instructions are usually given, and if not, just remember to just keep breathing!
It’s all about you–
Yoga is an individual practice. If you are practicing in a place that makes you feel judged, then this is not the right space for you. Yoga practice is not a competition- it doesn’t matter if you haven’t yet mastered a specific pose or you aren’t flexible (yet). Always listen to your body and remember, in yoga less is always more- don’t push or overextend your threshold just to keep up with the rest of the class. If the class gets to be too much, assume child’s pose until you are ready to jump back in.
Yoga is a wonderful activity to help strengthen an individual’s foundation and very complimentary to the wear and tear of physical exercise. If you are feeling challenged in class, speak with your chiropractor about any alignment or balance issues.
In the meantime, keep calm and yoga on!