Many people shy away from yoga due to its reputation of getting into awkward positions, standing on your head, and generally needing to be “flexible”. But what if we viewed yoga as an attitude, rather than a singular way of exercising? The true definition of yoga is to unite the mind, body and breath in the pursuit of good health and relaxation. Through that lens, we can then start to consider the benefits of yoga and how they might be applied to everyone, regardless of experience and health status. 

 

Benefits of yoga 

Research investigating the relationship between yoga and joint pain has shown that with regular practice, the following is possible: 

  • Reduce pain, stiffness and the impact in those who had osteoarthritis of the knees 

  • Decreased insomnia and increased sleep efficiency in older women who had osteoarthritis 

  • Decreased pain and tenderness, and increased finger range of motion, in those with osteoarthritis of the hands 

These studies had a few key features in common: the yoga was always adapted to meet the needs of the individual, the minimum length of the program was 8 weeks, and between 2-3 classes per week were completed. In the research around sleep, a home yoga program was also provided to help with night time relaxation. 

 

What are the different types of yoga? 

Looking up yoga in your local area can literally feel like you’re trying to learn a new language - because you are! The traditional language of yoga is sanskrit which comes from ancient India, where yoga first began. Here is a breakdown of the most common styles you may come across. 

 

Best for beginners: 

  • Hatha yoga – Hatha is an umbrella term for all other styles of yoga other than vinyasa (see below). In Australia, hatha classes are considered best for beginners due to their slower pace and introduction to breath and movement. 
  • Yin yoga – A gentle, slow pace of yoga with seated postures that are held for long periods of time. Bolsters and blocks can help you to get into comfortable positions. Yin yoga is considered more of a meditative practice to help calm the mind. 

  • Restorative yoga – Even deeper relaxation than a yin yoga class. More time is spent in fewer poses, and it is not uncommon to “drift off” in each position. Don’t worry - the instructor will always guide you back to consciousness! 

  • Chair yoga – Essentially any yoga practice can be modified to include a supportive chair. This can help people with balance and mobility issues or significant pain/surgical considerations to access all of the wonderful benefits on offer without creating undue stress on the body. You can search “chair yoga <your area>” online, or even have a go on your own at home with the help of YouTube. 

 

For the more advanced: 

  • Lyengar yoga – Think longer, slower holds with high precision and a strong focus on the breath. Props are used such as yoga straps and blocks to ensure that the correct technique is achieved. Can be easily adapted for injuries and conditions.  

  • Vinyasa yoga – Often considered the most athletic style of yoga, moving with breath from one pose to another in a choreographed series. This style can be fast paced - not for the faint hearted! 

  • Ashtanga yoga – A known and repeated series of asanas (postures) which can be physically demanding, and require an in depth knowledge of what comes next. 

  • Hot yoga – can also be known as Bikram yoga. The heat in the room helps with cardiovascular fitness and joint mobility due to the ease of warming up, however those with pre-existing medical conditions are advised to seek the guidance of a health professional or a more gentle hot yoga class due to the additional risks that the heat and humidity can bring.  

One thing that I love about yoga is that we can truly do it anywhere, anytime, when we choose to unite the body, mind and breath. By sitting and reading this article, placing both feet on the floor, closing your eyes and taking a deep breath in and out, you are doing yoga! Congratulations and namaste. 

 

 

References: 

Cheung, C., Park, J. and Wyman, J.F., 2016. Effects of yoga on symptoms, physical function, and psychosocial outcomes in adults with osteoarthritis: a focused review. American journal of physical medicine & rehabilitation, 95(2), pp.139-151. 

Garfinkel, M.S., Schumacher Jr, H.R., Husain, A.B.I.D., Levy, M. and Reshetar, R.A., 1994. Evaluation of a yoga based regimen for treatment of osteoarthritis of the hands. The Journal of rheumatology, 21(12), pp.2341-2343. 

Kolasinski, S.L., Garfinkel, M., Tsai, A.G., Matz, W., Dyke, A.V. and Schumacher Jr, H.R., 2005. Iyengar yoga for treating symptoms of osteoarthritis of the knees: a pilot study. Journal of Alternative & Complementary Medicine, 11(4), pp.689-693. 

Previous Article Next Article