“Yoga practice can make us more and more sensitive to subtler and subtler sensations in the body. Paying attention to and staying with finer and finer sensations within the body is one of the surest ways to steady the wandering mind. ”
― Ravi Ravindra
In searching for greater and greater health, nothing is quite so beneficial as developing greater self-awareness, both physically and mentally. Nothing physically seems quite so valuable as constantly improving strength and flexibility. Today, we peel back the surface and look at some of the incredible benefits of practicing yoga and Pilates.
Around the time I lost one hundred pounds, I began to experience massively painful instability in my spine. I was confounded; I simply could not understand how it could have been that while I was drastically improving my health, it seemed to be rapidly declining. I would wake up and suddenly be bent and cramped into some debilitating position that made everyday actions impossible; breathing was often limited and difficult. Mid back, upper back, and neck problems were literally constantly disrupting and disturbing my life. Pain and discomfort became the constant.
So the search for relief began.
I was going to a chain chiropractor weekly. I was taking pain pills. I was gifted massages for Christmas to help with pain management (which ended up changing my life, actually) I began focusing much more heavily on strength and flexibility vs strictly weight lifting.
I got into it. I never watched a yoga video. I never took a class. But I began stretching in new ways, testing new angles, pushing myself past pain thresholds. I dived deeper and deeper into myself, finding new limits and pushing past them. Every night I reached a new limit for my body, and I slowly began to realize I was finding new limits in my mind.
Finding greater peace of mind came as I pushed myself out of chronic pain. Finding and understanding myself in new ways is a direct result. I couldn’t make it through this year without the incredible stress (and pain) relief that has come from finding yoga and Pilates. Every night, this self-care brings me greater self-awareness. I have had emotional break throughs, mental break throughs, physical break throughs, epiphanies, you name it. I have had nothing short of religious experiences with myself.
The benefits of pushing myself into yoga and Pilates have been both numerous and incredible.
Let me give you my personal testament – besides changing my diet to real, nutritious foods, yoga has been the second most influential component I’ve taken to change my life for the better. I feel happier. I manage (incredible amounts of) stress in a much more peaceful manner. I perform better physically.
And, very importantly, I am no longer in constant pain.
Maybe it’s all mental. I’ll take it. It works, and it’s not an opioid. I still have not taken a class. I still have not followed along with a video. I’m not sure if the structure will work for me, it is such a personal thing – but I am so excited to keep pushing my limits. I am so excited to keep learning more about myself, and hitting new goals. I highly recommend a strength and flexibility regimen for literally everyone.
How does Yoga and Pilates Help Manage Pain?
According to this lovely article (Go read it!!!!) by Christopher Bergland of Psychology Today, yoga can be more effective than pharmaceutical treatments in regards to chronic pain. He references the research of Catherine Bushnell, PhD, stating,
“Yoga appears to bulk up gray matter through neurogenesis and strengthen white matter connectivity through neuroplasticity. After assessing the impact of brain anatomy on pain reduction, Bushnell believes that gray matter changes in the insula or internal structures of the cerebral cortex are the most significant players involved in chronic pain.”
The Harvard School of Health has indeed also touched on the matter. Their brief article on yoga for pain relief is short and sweet, and states that,
“A study published in Annals of Internal Medicine found that among 313 people with chronic low back pain, a weekly yoga class increased mobility more than standard medical care for the condition.”
This is not news.
We know that water is a necessity. We know that poor nutrition leads to poor health. We know that we will die without oxygen. We know that we are healthier with physical activity.
Try it. Really. Dive into yourself, pain or no pain, and see where it takes you.
The Myofascial Theory
Fascia is the connective tissue that covers every muscle spindle in your body. It attaches your skin to your body, your muscles to your muscles, everything to everything really. This is not to say that all connective tissue is considered fascia; take for example ligaments, tendons, skin itself, even blood is considered a connective tissue.
The concept here is that fascia and fascial binding cause enormous amounts of pressure and strain on the muscles, bones, and other structures of the body. It is thought that this may often be the cause of muscular pain and structural problems.
Theoretically, releasing these bindings through pressure and heat, facilitated by proper hydration, may resolve the tension and pull that causes pain associated with bound muscles and stresses on boney structures.
Myofascial Yoga is implementing this practice manually on the self through prolonged stretching. The science behind this is weak – properly studying these theories is incredibly difficult on a living person.
From my experience, both through yoga and Neuromuscular Therapy, I am a believer. I, however, will not state that this is a problem I have fixed within myself, because there is no way to prove it.
You will have to decide for yourself.
How to Get Started
However the finer details hash out, yoga and Pilates are going to help you improve your life. There are several ways you can begin to implement these practices into your life. The internet contains an incredible wealth of knowledge, inspiration, and how to’s. If you belong to a gym, it is likely that they host beginner’s classes. If you can remain accountable to yourself, simply feeling yourself out and pushing yourself into new stretches will get the ball rolling.
Search YouTube for beginner’s yoga video’s to follow along to.
Search Pinterest for pose inspiration to help you set some goals.
Follow along with me to help you keep going!
Where I’m Going with it
I mentioned earlier how I haven’t ever taken a class or followed along with a video. That’s about to change.
I’ve been in contact with a friend and yoga teacher, the lovely Elle of Deaf Mountain Yoga.
Elle is an incredible woman, an absolute ray of sunshine. We have agreed to partner up to help each other learn more about each other’s fields of expertise so that we may help to push each other further into knowledge and health.
Where do you think you will start? Has Yoga or Pilates improved your life?
Start a conversation in the comments below! Let me know your thoughts, and of course I’d love to hear from you on any of the following social platforms!
Now, for the disclaimer – I am not a vet, adventure guide, personal trainer, doctor, nutritionist, or medical authority, this is meant to be only a source of information and inspiration, implementing these techniques into your daily life is something you do of your own free will and at your own risk.
Join us for the journey!
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