Yoga has been around for 5,000 years. Having started in India with Hindu and Buddhist roots, it became more popular in the United States in the late ‘60s, and its popularity has continued to grow. According to David Surrenda, chief executive officer of the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health, “The original context of yoga was spiritual development practices to train the body and mind to self-observe and become aware of their own nature. The purposes of yoga were to cultivate discernment, awareness, self-regulation and higher consciousness in the individual.”
The question for some is whether or not yoga is a religious thing. And the answer is, well, that depends. The meaning of the word yoga is “union with God” so for some this is soothing and sacred and has a very positive feel about it. For others, they prefer to think of it as just exercise. For yet others who might feel that there is a religious conflict with doing yoga, there is a Christian version called “Praise Moves” which correspond to bible verses (www.praisemoves.com). However you look at it, yoga has been studied and there are several wonderful health benefits to it.
What exactly is yoga? Yoga is comprised of different poses that help different parts of the body. There are several types of yoga. The practice of Bikram yoga is done in a heated room, while Hatha yoga is done at room temperature and is generally slow paced and gentle. Vinyasa yoga, also called “flow” yoga, can be intense and each position flows into the next. Yoga involves not only different poses but also breath control. Some yoga includes forms of meditation and is more spiritual and relaxing, while other types are more rigorous and invigorating.
The different poses have names such as downward/upward facing dog, child, cobra and corpse. The corpse pose, for example, is just lying face down as a corpse might do. Not all poses are quite so self-explanatory, so you might want to look at a chart to see what they look like. Also, visit www.top10homeremedies.com and then search “yoga poses” for a bunch of different yoga poses for various personal needs, including “10 Easy Yoga Poses to Undo Damage Caused by a Desk Job” and more! Some poses can be quite challenging for beginners and may take a lot of practice to master. Others are simple and easily done from the get-go. There are somewhere between 10 and 15 types of yoga, but you only need to find the one that works best for you.
How can yoga help you? There have been large-scale analyses looking at several studies done about the health benefits of yoga. Yoga has been shown to decrease the substances in the body that cause inflammation in some diseases like asthma, psoriasis (skin disease) and arthritis. The longer you practice it, the better the effects. Yoga can help people lose weight, lower bad cholesterol and improve good cholesterol, lower blood pressure and may even make it possible to go without smoking cigarettes for a longer period of time for those trying to quit.
Depression and anxiety are also positively affected by doing yoga – feelings of sadness and lack of interest as experienced in depression can be diminished by doing yoga on a regular basis. Anxiety can make you feel worried, jittery and tightly wound, but yoga can help relax you. One of the biggest benefits to yoga is stress reduction – stress from being alone, being in traffic, trying to make a deadline – all those things that are bad for our health, but that stress can be relieved by simple body maneuvers and ways of thinking about our lives that are positive and uplifting. Because there is stretching involved in yoga and core body movements, people who suffer from back and neck pain (like many truckers) often experience pain relief after doing yoga.
But I don’t like to exercise! There is a variety of reasons why people don’t like to exercise, such as embarrassment, discomfort, cost and pain, to name a few. Remember in the first paragraph when I mentioned the word “Kripalu” – it is Sanskrit for “being compassionate,” so be compassionate to yourself by starting out slowly and just doing the best you can. You need not be able to twist yourself into an upside-down pretzel to find health and enlightenment – in fact, you may find it in very uncomplicated ways by following one of the many teachers you can find on the internet or through a phone app.
If you are inclined to think of yoga as a spiritual practice, more power to you! Spirituality is intrinsically related to our health. If you want more of a workout, treat it like a workout. If you want both, take a little of both from the practice.
But, seriously – truckers doing yoga? Yes, seriously. While you can buy all sorts of fancy clothes to dress for yoga and special mats, none of it is really absolutely necessary. Loose, comfortable clothing is all you need. Even small spaces can work well for yoga, like the cab or sleeper of your truck, as one example. For some ideas on how yoga can help truckers specifically, visit the website www.mothertruckeryoga.com. There are several mobile phone apps you can download to get you started. Some are free, some have 30-day free trials, but the most expensive I saw was $3.99.
Enlighten yourself by learning a bit more about yoga – and then ease on down the road to lower blood pressure and less pain. Once you get over the initial stigma of yoga, it can be quite relaxing and helpful. Yoga is not just for Buddhist Monks or the Hollywood elite anymore – it’s for truckers now, too!