My beautiful Grandson Beau copycatting his gorgeous Mum who also loves yoga
When I realized my dream of setting up a pelvic floor safe exercise studio, I definitely wanted to offer yoga in the range of classes available. Over the past 25 years of seeing patients with pelvic floor dysfunction, some of them have presented with their first awareness of prolapse six months after commencing yoga …..and they haven’t been happy. Here are some statistics involving yoga. 95% of attendees at yoga are women; the average age of women attending yoga is 42 years; they have had 2 children; yoga was designed by men. That is why we must be mindful of what yoga is doing to our bodies, particularly our pelvic floors and why it is important to modify some of the poses. If you feel too much downward in your Downward Dog then modify how you are doing the particular pose (I couldn’t the miss that opportunity!).
Yoga is very addictive – once patients start yoga they definitely can’t let it go. So my dream was to offer yoga that is safe for the pelvic floor; builds strength and includes stretches whilst modifying the more risky poses; and concentrates on the mindfulness, meditative and relaxation benefits of yoga. So we offer modified classes which do concentrate on the important stress relieving components so vital in managing the hurley burley life in which we live.
One of my very articulate patients shared with me what yoga means to her and I do appreciate, as usual, the time she has taken to write this to share on my blog.
Yoga is my anti-stress, anxiety and pain medication. Anxiety and stress is something most of us will or have already experienced at some point in our lives – myself included. When things deviate from my comfort zone – like starting a new job, giving presentations, being overwhelmed with a thousands things to do at work and home or feeling pain – my mind will often zigzag from one stressful thought to the next. This typically amplifies for me as soon as I hit the pillow. I sometimes lie awake at night worrying about whatever was worrying me, then I worry about not sleeping, then I worry about the worrying of not sleeping.
While experts will tell you some level of stress is good for optimal functioning, too much is not good. To stop me getting to this point where it affects my sleep, I need to eat well, I need to avoid being too overstimulated before bed, and I need to do yoga.
So how does yoga help me? We know exercise is good for mental wellbeing. We know that meditation and mindfulness is also good for mental wellbeing. So combining the two through doing yoga makes logical sense. Research continues to grow on the benefits of yoga for stress and anxiety. British Psychological Society research shows concentration on the breath and body soothes a person’s mind and relieves worries (here are some other stress relievers.
For me, the simple act of focusing on my breath during the class keeps me centred and mindful. It takes me away from wherever my mind was off the mat, to right here on the mat. The breathing techniques taught in yoga like ujjayi breath or pranayama (a yoga term to describe many simple and complex breathing practices) are wonderful for transforming the breath and state of mind in class or in the real world. It can be as simple as gentle diaphragmatic breathing with long exhales – and it’s one I use regularly if I’m struggling to fall asleep.
It can certainly be confronting and not easy to stay focused during the class. When you’re holding a warrior two pose for minutes on end or doing countless bridge poses, all you can think about is how painful it is and how much you want it to end. Or when sitting still for five minutes in stretch poses like pigeon, my mind often wanders back to whatever may be plaguing me at the moment. But the majority of the time, the instructor’s cues are all that’s needed to bring your focus back to the breath. And it’s all ‘training’ for managing stress, anxiety and pain off the mat.
There are countless physiological and psychological benefits that I’ve gained since starting practicing four years ago. As someone who was skeptical of yoga before trying it, I can safely now say I am a yogi convert.
Thank you for that wonderful insight into yoga and stress management. Come along to www.studio194.com.au and see if yoga teaches you to deal better with your stress and anxiety!