By Shameem Akthar
A good yoga practice strengthens the bones and provides a foundation for lifelong good health, says Shameem Akhthar
When you start with a classical yoga practice, you will find out that even seemingly simple poses appear to stress bones in spots that you never knew could be part of physical activity. Imagine, when you feel the body ache at the little finger, the crown, or the edge of the wrists, or shin bone. In fact, it seems as if a good yoga practice chooses to stress all the 206 bones in the human body.
It is wonderful to think how an ancient practice uses what is regarded as medical wisdom today: that a happy stress on the bones are important to ensure that they become denser, bigger and stronger, so they hold the rest of the body up. They are your foundation. Just as a construction depends on a dense and strong foundation, so too the bones need to be dense to be able to act as the perfect bulwark for the entire body.
It was through yoga that I was first introduced to the thrilling idea of the bone containing the qualities of the Trinity in Indian mythology: Shiva the destroyer, Vishnu the preserver and Brahma the creator. The bone creates red blood cells (80 million red blood cells are said to die every second!), immune cells and also releases agents to destroy harmful elements in our body. It is a veritable factory. But when the bone is not used much, it becomes hollow, and eventually enters a slow-death phase. Yoga reverses this death.
Pain is gain
When you start yoga, though some poses may appear to stress the bones in a shocking fashion, if you managed to endure this initial pain, you will soon have made your bones so strong that the pain disappears. This transition phase is difficult for both the teacher and the student, especially if the latter does not grasp the science behind why this happens or quite believes that there is a marvellous transformation, deep inside, where it cannot be seen. When the bones are not stressed (this is also the philosophy behind the modern exercise aspect of resistance training and pilates), they will increasingly become porous. As we age, this porosity makes the bones more hollow progressively. That is when even a small fall could cause an irreversible fracture. So, to commit yourself to a steady practice could mean so many amazing things in terms of health – improved blood flow and cells, more immunity, greater and more efficient disposal of waste, youthfulness and sheer grit of mind and the body.
Prishtasana (Lizard pose): Kneel down, place elbows on the ground; cup either with opposite hands as shown. Place back of the feet onto the floor or place the toes onto the floor. Inhale. Exhaling, tilt torso ahead, leaning face over the folded arms. Continue normal breathing. Hold the pose for ten seconds. Repeat thrice. After a few days/weeks of practice you may increase duration in the final pose for greater impact.
Provides a powerful, happy challenge to the whole body. Core is strengthened. Improves mental stamina. Prepares you for advanced poses, including the headstand and the arm balancers.
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