Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Office Yoga - Practice Yoga in Your Office

By Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500

Office Yoga can improve health and productivity. Constant sitting is not healthy for your circulation or for the skeletal structure. Most of us know that excessive sitting can cause poor circulation in the legs and blood clotting.

Yet, many people do not realize excessive sitting can cause piriformis muscle syndrome (a leading cause of sciatica). Some common long-term problems from sitting too much are neck pain, shoulder pain, and chronic joint pain.

Most office workers feel spinal pain in the back, or neck, as a result of prolonged work at computer stations. This can result in absenteeism, as office help takes time to do anything else, but sitting.

If you look around the average office, it is not hard to find signs of over-stretched and weak back muscles from leaning forward. This also results in posture problems we refer to as dowager's hump, the upper thoracic hump, hunch back (kyphosis), and forward head (hyperkyphotic) posture.

Only a few decades ago, these spinal problems were not so commonly seen among younger office workers, because children had more active physical lives. These days, it is not uncommon for a child to come home and do his or her homework on a laptop or PC.

With nearly two decades of an inactive lifestyle, and poor posture, young adults enter the work force to continue unhealthy diet and posture, which will go unnoticed until they experience chronic pain. The solution is to develop office Yoga programs during the course of a day.

The quickest, and least expensive way, to make this change is to bring in qualified Yoga instructors, who can assess daily posture problems and make recommendations for viable solutions. The primary concern here is proper posture and physical activity.

The choices are simple: Compare the cost of higher health insurance, absenteeism, workers' compensation, and temporary disability, to the cost of an independent contractor. Whether a company is large, or small, the advice a competent Yoga teacher will deliver is cost effective solutions for long-term health.

Alternative solutions are the difference between a company's economic survival and going out of business. With rising energy costs, companies are forced to think "outside the box." How many commercial building owners knew or cared about solar shingles, just a few years ago?

The rising cost of labor is much more than an hourly wage. If companies truly see their employees as an asset, office Yoga can raise the level of morale and create a healthier work force. It is up to employers to find less expensive solutions to existing problems or suffer the consequences.

© Copyright 2008 - Paul Jerard / Aura Publications

Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500, has written many books on the subject of Yoga. He is a co-owner and the Director of Yoga Teacher Training at: Aura Wellness Center, in Attleboro, MA.

He has been a certified Master Yoga Teacher since 1995. To receive Free Yoga videos, Podcasts, e-Books, reports, and articles about Yoga, please visit:

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Teaching Hatha Yoga - Bhastrika, Kapalbhati, and the Fainting Game

By Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500

Recently, a conversation arose about the dangers of prolonged and forceful Pranayama (Yogic breathing techniques). A friend, and colleague, was discussing pushing the limits of Bhastrika and Kapalbhati to the point of neuron damage, within the brain.

It is true that some Yoga teachers and students are unaware of the dangers of prolonged Bhastrika and Kapalbhati. These two Pranayama techniques are classified as hyper-ventilation. If this means nothing, the short example below will open your awareness to the potential hazards.
When I was a child growing up in the United States, my family moved around the country quite a bit. It was not uncommon for children to play fainting or “passing out” games by practicing hyper-ventilation for prolonged periods of time, until they fainted, which is proven to result in neuron damage within the brain.

Children do foolish things. Luckily, we tired of those games and moved on to less dangerous games. Bhastrika and Kapalbhati are therapeutic when performed in moderation; however, there is a “dark side” of forcing these intense methods beyond the maximum limits.

The dark side is to get brain damage from overdoing something that appears harmless. So, what are the limits of Bhastrika and Kapalbhati? In the case of Bhastrika and Kapalbhati, there is a 10 minute maximum time limit, per day, and per technique, for advanced practitioners, of these two forms of Pranayama.
For healthy beginners, it is better to break up their Bhastrika and Kapalbhati practice into one or two minute segments - with the understanding that 10 minutes total is the absolute limit.
However, some Yoga teachers will tell healthy beginners to stop at five minutes; just to be sure they are not tempted to push their natural limits. If a student begins to feel light headed, he, or she, should take a rest. This is not a contest. For most beginners, we start at one minute, and no more.
Later, we gradually build up the time to 3 or 4 minute segments. It is safer to add one minute segments, with a rest in between the segments. For seniors, in good health, we start at 30 seconds and no more. Later, we gradually build up to one minute, only.
Apparently, the ancient Yogis made a few mistakes along the way, and lost a few practitioners, as a result of overdoing it. I personally love Bhastrika and Kapalbhati, but much like the ocean, these two forms of Pranayama deserve respect.

To make it crystal clear: The path of moderation, which is also known as the “Middle Way,” is the safest of all the paths. In Yoga, and in life, there should never be extremes, even when our egos are tempted to push the maximum limits.

© Copyright 2008 – Paul Jerard / Aura Publications

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