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Ask the Doctor: Yoga Anyone?

Aside from contorting you into weird positions, yoga can be really beneficial.

This week's question focuses on yoga:

I don't really have much pain, but just some occasional tightness. Can yoga help with that? Could doing yoga hurt me?

I'm a fan of yoga, so I do think yoga can help with tightness and has many other health benefits as well. In fact, I usually give my patients a variety of yoga poses to do depending on their main complaint. I even recommend some of my power lifters and bodybuilders do yoga at least once a week to ease some of the muscle tension in their body. 

With that said, yoga isn't a quick fix. It does take time to develop flexibility, especially if you've had any injuries. So I always tell people to be patient— it takes time to change your body. My husband, for example, probably had some of the tightest hamstrings ever known to man. After about three years of doing yoga three times a week, he's almost as flexible as me. 

Yoga has a lot of other health benefits as well - like many forms of exercise, it can help reduce body fat, improve cardiovascular performance, and prevent diabetes just to name a couple benefits. Daily yoga practice can also reduce anxiety and stress, which will also help ease muscle tension. A natural response to stress is our shoulders and neck tighten up (it's a natural reflex to protect the body, whether from a physical or emotional stressor). 

And like any other physical exercise, yoga can cause injury or delay healing if done improperly or too intense. Sometimes I've gotten into a great yoga pose and I really feel like I can just get a little further, get a little more stretch. That isn't always a good thing, especially if you're healing from an injury. I tore my hamstring a couple years ago after some martial arts training (it was about the fourth time I've torn the same hamstring). I was doing yoga about three times a week, and I pushed the stretching too far, thinking it would help. The more stretch, the better, right? Wrong. It delayed my healing. So I backed off the poses that stretched my hamstrings out a little too much, and it got better. I was also seeing my Active Release Techniques chiropractor as well.

It's important to find the right yoga studio, teacher, and style for you.  Everybody is a little different, and people are going to respond to different teachers and styles of yoga. 

And if you'd like a little inspiration, here is a great video that was passed along to me by a chiropractor friend of mine. This guy went from an inability to walk without assistance and had a pretty amazing transformation.

Thanks for reading and stay cool out there. Drink plenty of water!

If you'd like your question featured next week, please email me directly at QureshiDC@gmail.com.

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