Yoga for health

Yoga for healthPic: Getty

Yoga has been practiced since its origination in India some 5,000 years ago for good reason - its focus on strength, flexibility and breathing not only helps to boost mental health, but is also good for physical wellbeing.

As a low-impact form of exercise, it can be beneficial to people of all ages and all abilities, and there is evidence to suggest that it can help to ease aches and pains, including back pain, and benefit those struggling with depression and stress.

Furthermore, by promoting strength and flexibility, some arthritis sufferers find that it eases their symptoms, and along with improved posture and balance, it can help to prevent falls. Those with high blood pressure or who are at risk of heart disease have also seen improvement in their condition after taking up yoga. And better circulation, muscle tone, increased energy levels and improved quality of sleep are some of the added benefits - the list goes on.

While it is always advisable to seek expert advice or instruction when you take up a new activity, here are a few of the poses that could help to heal your health problem.

Wrist and hand pain
With so many of us sitting at computer screens for hours on end, pain in the wrist or hand, caused by conditions such as carpal tunnel syndrome or repetitive strain injury, are becoming more and more commonplace. The simple cow face pose could help.

Sitting cross-legged on the floor, take your right foot under your left knee, so that the foot lies next to your left hip. Do the same with your left leg, but place it on top of your right leg, to create a mirror effect, with the knees lying directly above one another.

Then reach your left arm straight up and drop your right arm down, before bending both elbows and clasping your hands behind your back. Hold the pose for five to ten deep breaths, then repeat on the other side, trying not to tense your fingers as you do so.

Upset tummy
Whether a regular occurrence or the result of a rich or spicy meal, tummy trouble can be eased with the simple reclined twist pose. Lying on your back, extend your arms out to the sides. Then shift your hips slightly to the right, bend your right knee into your chest, and allow it to drop to the left, crossing over your left leg. Five to ten breaths, where you feel your spine lengthen on the inhale, and your twist deepen with each exhale, should help to ease the pain. Repeat on the other side.

A pounding headache can turn an ordinary day into a miserable experience, and if you suffer with migraines, even the simplest of everyday activities turns into a nightmare.

According to researchers at the University of Rajasthan in India, the seated forward fold could not only help to stop an upcoming migraine in its tracks, it could even help to prevent future problems.

Beginning in a seated position with your legs together and extended straight out in front, keep your hips on the floor and lift your chest, before leaning forward to grab the outer edges of your feet, all the while keeping your spine long. Inhale, extend the chest, and exhale, lengthening your torso over the legs, keeping the neck and shoulders relaxed and your back straight. If it helps, use a yoga block or something similar as support for your head. Hold for five to ten deep breaths, and feel the throbbing melt away.

Weary feet
If you have a penchant for vertiginous heels, you will know all too well that once the Louboutins are off, the pain kicks in.

With the standing forward fold, you can ease the cramps and relieve weary muscles. Start by standing straight and bending forward so that your fingertips touch the floor. Then cross your right ankle over your left, with feet flat on the ground (your little toes should touch). With the right knee bent and the left leg straight, you can fold further forward from the waist for a deeper stretch, but be sure to keep the neck relaxed. Hold for five to ten breaths.

If you are interested in the health benefits of yoga, or are desperate to find a solution to your aches and pains, find a local class to suit you via the British Wheel of Yoga.

Do you practice yoga? How has it benefited your health? Leave your comments below...