Yes, you know that yoga is a great way to workout, lose weight, calm your mind, and get super flexible, but there’s a lot more to it. Yoga offers such a wide range of health benefits that it is no longer just in the realms of alternative medicine. Even conventional health care providers recommend yoga routines for rehabilitation, management of lifestyle diseases, and coping with mental health disorders. While any yoga routine will give you benefits, there are specific yoga poses that can address your health concerns. So, here are some of the best yoga poses for common health problems that could be affecting your quality of life on a daily basis.
Joint Stiffness & Pain
Gentle yoga poses like the Staff Pose that loosen the joints can bring significant relief to individuals who suffer from joint stiffness or degenerative joint diseases like arthritis. Some studies have shown that these practices can significantly improve joint function even in arthritic patients. As an added benefit, the Staff Pose is also great for improving posture, spine alignment, and strengthening the hamstrings.
To learn the basics, check out this Dandasana Workshop from yoga teacher Tim Senesi.
Alternate Nostril Breathing is not your typical yoga pose but is part of yoga’s breathing exercises. It’s one of the best practices for respiratory health, improving lung function and reducing the risk of respiratory disease. These benefits were confirmed in a study that showed improvements in respiratory rate, as well as blood pressure, heart rate, and stress levels.
Whether it’s the common cold or the flu, minor infections threaten us from time to time. While they may not be life threatening, frequent illnesses can be disruptive and leave you feeling drained. Strengthening your immunity can help to lower the risk of such infections and there’s a yoga pose to help do just that. The Tortoise Pose stimulates and massages the organs including the thymus gland, which is important for immunity. If you have a problem with weakened immunity and frequent infections, this is one pose you should add to your repertoire.
The Seated Spinal Twist is an excellent yoga pose for indigestion as it gently massages and stimulates the internal organs. The compression of the twist, followed by the release as you come out of the pose, stimulates the digestive organs to relieve indigestion, bloating, gas, and other gastric problems. Studies show that yoga routines that include twisting poses can even help cope with chronic gastrointestinal disorders like irritable bowel syndrome. Additionally, the relaxing effect of yoga practice also lowers the risk of indigestion, which has increasingly been linked to stress.
Despite its clockwork like regularity, menstrual pain is hard to bear and no woman should just have to endure it. If you frequently have problems with painful periods and cramping, it may be a good idea to include the Cobra Pose in your daily routine. Studies suggest that the regular practice of yoga can reduce the intensity and duration of menstrual pain, with the Cobra Pose being one of the most effective.
Stress & Anxiety Disorders
Yoga is known to be one of the best practices for promoting relaxation and lowering stress levels in general, but some poses are just more effective than others. In addition to breathing exercises like Alternate Nostril Breathing, consider adding poses that require focus and concentration while passively stretching the body. One such pose is the Tree Pose, which can be incredibly calming and helps you focus your mind. It’s also a great way to improve your balance and strengthen the leg muscles.
If you aren’t familiar with the Tree Pose, take a look at this instructional video from Yoga teacher Adriene.
The Seated Forward Bend or Intense Dorsal Stretch offers significant health benefits and should be part of any yoga routine for pre-diabetes or diabetes. The abdominal compression and stimulation may benefit the pancreas, improving glucose metabolism. A study of diabetic patients who practiced a yoga routine that included the pose found improvements in insulin levels and a reduction in waist to hip ratio. You can also consider using other poses from the study, such as the Seated Spinal Twist, Corpse Pose, and Easy Pose.
The heart health benefits of yoga are obvious when you consider its efficacy for weight reduction, stress reduction, and blood pressure regulation, but there’s one yoga sequence that is particularly effective. It’s the Surya Namaskar or Sun Salutation. Research published in the Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies found that the practice brought about improvements in heart rate and oxygen intake, which can improve heart health and lower the risk of cardiac disease.
Here’s a beginner’s instructional video of the Sun Salutation Pose from Brett Larkin that should help you get started.
Once associated with old age, back pain has now become the norm even affecting young adults. Because of the varied causes and types of back pain, it’s important to take a cautious approach to avoid further injury. Keeping this in mind, the Mountain Pose is an excellent exercise that is easy to practice and puts little strain on the back. It’s so relaxing that you might wonder if it does anything, but the pose does strengthen the spinal muscles and torso, while also improving posture and balance.
Be warned that you may actually fall asleep while you’re practicing this pose! Forward bending poses are known for their relaxing effect, but the Child Pose takes relaxation to a whole new level. Practice it for a few minutes just before bed time with your eyes closed and focus on your breathing. It promotes deep relaxation, both physically and mentally, preparing your body for sleep.