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Using Yoga To Heal
According to a new study in the Journal of American Medicine (JAMA), your mind may be more powerful than you might think.
The study took 340 people who had regular low back pain and divided them up into three groups. The aim of the study was to see if mindfulness or behavior training would help reduce their low back pain.
Group One: received a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) training that included yoga and meditation two hours a week for two months.
Group Two: received Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for two hours a week for two months. The CBT was taught by psychologists who instructed the participants in guided imagery, abdominal breathing, changing of emotional belief systems and coping skills for pain.
Group Three: received a check for $50, and no training or therapy affiliated with the study.
The three groups were re-evaluated 4 months after the therapies (or non-therapies).
- 44 percent of the mindfulness and CBT groups reported less low back pain (1)
- Only 22 percent of group three experienced less low back pain (1)
In addition, 60 percent of the mindfulness and CBT group experienced better low back function, while 44 percent of the no-therapy group three did. (1)
Yoga as Therapy
Yoga Therapy is an important branch of yoga, and there are thousands of certified yoga therapists in the states. From a purely structural perspective, gentle yoga relaxes, strengthens and lengthens tight muscles, allowing healthy blood flow to better circulate more deeply into the belly of the muscles. Tight muscles lack blood supply and lay down fibrous tissue or scar tissue to protect the muscle from tearing from the lack of blood; blood being the muscle lubricant. (1)
A sedentary lifestyle is a common culprit that causes muscles to lose adequate blood supply, tighten and lay down non-elastic protective scar tissue that renders the muscles rigid, stiff and painful. Yoga is a powerful tool to help reverse this process naturally.
One of my favorite yoga routines is the Sun Salutation, or Surya Namaskara. This sequence has been practiced every morning traditionally by millions of folks in India. >>> Read about the benefits of the Sun Salutation and learn how to do it here.
Meditation as Therapy
In addition to a sedentary lifestyle, stress may be the second most deleterious cause of muscular aches and pains. When we are under stress, cortisol levels rise as part of the body’s fight-or-flight response to stress. These stress-fighting hormones may save your life, but they are extremely degenerative in the long run. They were more designed to flee from a lion rather than be a part of our 24/7 chemistry.
Stress chemistry, whether it be physical, chemical, mental or emotional, produces the same degenerative hormones that, over time, tighten muscles and break the body down. There may be no better way to help the body cope with stress than regular meditation.
The One Minute Meditation
A simple way to start meditation is with my One Minute Meditation – yep… it only takes one minute and it can be done 5-10 times a day for best results. Here are some quick instructions:
Step One: Sit up straight in a chair or in crossed legged position. Breathe deeply in and out through the nose using a breathing technique called bhastrika or bellows breath. Continue this for 30 breaths.
Step Two: sit still with the eyes closed for 30 seconds.