The Fitness Fixer
The Fitness Fixer

Getting the Right Yoga Medicine

In medicine, if someone wants to lose weight, they can do things to lose weight. It wouldn't work as well to "balance" the practice by doing things that both gain and lose. If someone has too high blood cholesterol, they may use foods, medicine, and exercise to lower it. It isn't helpful to do one thing to raise and another to lower the level. There's no need to "balance" the level by doing things to raise the level too.

Yoga has a long tradition to add or restrict specific movements and foods when you have too much or too little of something.

In modern life, it is common to sit too much. The answer is not more sitting, but to get up and stretch the other way. The concept is not just mystic yoga, but common sense.

It is not a mystery that several specific injuries come from too much time spent with the hip and spine bent forward. Hours a day, over months and years of sitting rounded forward, bring vertebrae together toward the front of the spinal column, slowly pressing the discs between them outward to the back, like squeezing the front of an old tube of toothpaste. Disc degeneration and herniation slowly result. The muscles that cross the front of the hip can become shortened until it is uncomfortable to stand or lie flat and straight. The front of the chest can round until round - posture feels normal and the rotator cuff rubs a little more raw with each lift of the arm. These are just three of several injuries from too much forward bending, also called flexion injury.

Someone with disc pain or other flexion injury doesn't need more flexion (forward bending). They need to reduce flexion and stretch the areas the other way. It is not unbalanced to give what is needed, not impose more of the cause of the problem. This becomes even more important with every passing year, as patterns and injuries become deep-rooted.

David Demets of Belgium has been invited to participate as a yoga teacher at a Global Mala event in Bruges. The event takes place September 21 and 22 at many places around the world. David will be one of four yoga teacher to lead people in 27 sun salutations on the 21st, to make a total of 108. The developers of the event say there are many approaches to leading a Yoga Mala and that they are open to any style of basic sun salutation.

One of many different parts of yoga is a short series of movements done in an order, like a dance, called a Salutation. Yoga has many different Salutations - moon salutations, wind salutations, sun salutations among others. They have different purposes, done at different times for different needs. Using all parts of one salutation for all students at all times, for people already loaded heavily with injury or pain from too much sitting does not serve the purpose of yoga.

David writes, "I think this is a great opportunity to introduce yoga without (weighted) forward bending to a large group of people. So I'm working on an adapted sun salutation where I've left out the standing forward bend. I've made a video of this for my blog." For forward range of motion without loading outward pressure on the discs, David retains the lunge with hands forward on the floor and the downward dog.

One year ago in October, David wrote me that he developed a yoga class that does not give more flexion to people with flexion injury. He wrote,
"My mother follows this class as well. She says she hardly ever feels the hernia (herniated disc) in her back anymore since she started following (this new method). And I know she had really painful trouble with her back the past years. This is simply amazing! I'm very grateful."

Part II coming up - what happened when I explained this to one class that I teach.

Tips to reverse flexion pain and injury:


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Bad Posture photo by elle_rigby
BentBack photo by Tavallai
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About the Author


Dr. Bookspan is an award-winning scientist whose goal is to make exercise easier and healthier.