Yoga is a powerful practice integrating body, breath, emotions, and mind, creating the internal and external balance that we all require for physical, emotional and mental fitness.
Many people know yoga classes ONLY as a physical ‘work-out’ of poses (asana) with minimal teaching on the breath or the mind. However there are countless ways to practise yoga that don’t require you to be stretchy/bendy. Herein lies the good news for the active adult, Master’s athlete or in fact any-BODY – if you can breathe, you can practise yoga!
A balanced therapeutic yoga practice enhances and tones your muscles, joints, internal organs; influences your respiratory and nervous systems into a calmer state; lowers your blood pressure and heart rate; and slows the mind from endless thoughts. These are just some of the benefits for the active adult.
With any regular sport or repetitive exercise, certain muscle groups and body parts become overloaded, strained, fatigued, and invariably injured. And of course as our body ages we are more prone to injury, illness, chronic health conditions like arthritis. Many people start ‘yoga’ as they feel ‘tight’ and wish to stretch out.
What if I told you that stretching may not reduce chronic muscular tightness?
Stretching a muscle mainly sends ‘information’ to your spine, not to your brain. In other words, only an immediate relief is noticed, not a long-lasting change that brings new information all the way to your brain. In other words, changing your habitual movement patterning to bring relief.
In classical yoga the focus is not necessarily on a certain body region e.g. your shoulders, but in how movement repatterning throughout your whole body will naturally release resistance, create space and reduce pain, discomfort.
Truth = stretching may not reduce your chronic muscular tightness
Practice = Pandiculation is what you practise in this therapeutic video for shoulder/neck relief.
Active adult’s tip = think movement repatterning vs stretching in yoga; think natural pain relief vs pharmacology as an outcome (& a safer option!)
Yogic breathing techniques enhance oxygenation of the blood on inhalation and the removal of waste from carbon dioxide release on exhalation. A focus on depth of breathing in yoga enhances your vital capacity, lung function and natural energy flow bringing vitality and enhancing immunity. You are naturally re-energised and invigorated.
Breathing in and out of the nose, a standard practice in hatha yoga, is a primary defense to airborne viruses. This supports the body’s natural resistance to infection, which research has shown creates anti-viral functions to defend against flu-like illnesses. You are naturally enhancing your health and immunity as you practise.
Truth = yogic breathing techniques optimise lung function, reduce infections and illness, and naturally restore energy. Nasal breathing increases your immunity 6-fold. Read more here
Practice = A breathing practice for enhanced immunity (or for anyone to stay well!) here
Active adult’s tip = enhanced vital lung function from pranayama (yogic breathing practices) translates into any form of aerobic activity (even housework!) and enhances recovery from exercise; nasal breathing in yoga supports your body’s natural resistance, keeping you well.
Most Master’s athletes and active adults are caught in a 24/7 ‘busy’ cycle. It’s healthy to pursue wholesome aims, however overstimulation of your bodily systems brings an overactive ‘stress response’ with unexpected and often unpleasant consequences. These include the release of the hormone cortisol, which increases your blood pressure, blood sugar, and suppresses the immune system.
Subsequent reactions to boost energy cause an increased intensity of your emotional responses, increased production of glucose, over activity of all your physical bodily functions precipitating long term chronic health conditions.
Restorative (or restful) poses in yoga teach constructive guided rest to invite the body to ease up and the mind to let go. You gain calm, clarity and focus again, without effort. Your natural energy is released, your mood naturally lifts and your thoughts are more conducive to an easeful life.
Truth = REST is essential for your ongoing health and well-being.
Practice = notice the effect of this calming practice here
Active adult’s tip = when you don’t rest, you wear out, wear down, and start running on empty. Learn constructive rest to conserve energy in your body, bring an ongoing, mellow state and a sense of contentment.
Whether you are focusing for an event, digging deep to finish a longer walk/workout or simply wishing to switch off at the end of the day, re-patterning your mind-body connection is incredibly supportive.
What if I told you that you can change your habitual thought patterns and experience a natural state of calm?
And that you have a potent drug cabinet in your brain that has no side effects!
Specific relaxation, mindfulness and meditation practices turn your pain responses down and open the natural drug cabinet (endorphins, serotonin) in your brain to support better sleep, thinking and mood.
Research also shows that your brain is constantly changing (neuroplasticity) and that you can change it for the better. The benefits of meditation and mindfulness for mental health and well-being now cannot be ignored.
Truth = the brain protects you by creating pain, but you can learn to naturally reduce this pain by opening your 24-hour pharmacy in your brain! Learn more here
Practice = How to stop my thoughts? Click here
Active adult’s tip = just like improving your technique in sport, art, music comes with consistent practice, it also takes consistent practice to change your brain pathways and mind to have a laser-like focus.
I’d love you to share this article below with other Master’s athletes or active adults.