Written by: Anna Harvey, PTA
With September comes thoughts of fall: hot tea, pumpkins, football….and yoga? Yes! Because September is National Yoga month! We at Nesin Pelvic Health recognize the valuable role yoga plays in pelvic physical therapy and overall patient wellness and want to share that with you. And what better way to do that than with an interview with our newest team member and certified yoga instructor, Anna Harvery, PTA!
Is yoga just fancy stretching?
Yoga is SO much more than that! Yoga is an ancient practice connecting the body and mind. Here in the United States, we commonly think of the physical practice of yoga postures or asanas when we hear about yoga but the physical postures are just one of the 8 limbs of yoga. The practice of yoga also includes breathwork, meditation, concentration and self-insight just to name a few of the other aspects involved in a well-rounded yoga practice.
What are the benefits of yoga, especially as it relates to the pelvic floor?
Yoga cultivates self awareness. It connects you to what is happening inside your body and gives you the ability to play an active role in your own healing. Like most muscles in our body, in order for our pelvic floor to function properly it needs to be both strong and also have the ability to lengthen and be mobile. Sometimes our pelvic floor muscles are restricted, sometimes they are weak, sometimes they are both!* But good news:Yoga can be a tool to STRENGTHEN the pelvic floor! Yoga can be a tool to LENGTHEN the pelvic floor!Yoga can be a tool to help our nervous system! Different pranayama (breathwork) and meditation techniques have been scientifically proven to down regulate the sympathetic nervous system and stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system via vagus nerve activation.
*If you aren’t sure what is happening with your pelvic floor muscles it is always good to visit a pelvic health professional before starting any exercise program to find out exactly what your body needs!
What populations would benefit from yoga?
Honestly, I can’t think of a population that would not benefit from yoga! Yoga can be practiced by everyone and can easily be modified by a qualified instructor for all populations.
What if you always feel stiff and tight, can you do yoga?
Absolutely! Social media has pushed an image of a very specific body type doing advanced postures which makes people think that is what is expected when they begin a yoga practice. That is just not true. Yoga can be a safe and healthy way to gradually lengthen and strengthen the body and improve flexibility.
What is your favorite pose…and can you walk us through it?
I have quite a few favorites and to be honest it really depends on what my body is needing at the time. One of my favorites is Supta Padangusthasana or Reclined Big Toe Pose which I practice with the aid of a yoga strap. I was a waitress for many years and this pose made a significant difference in my low back pain.
- Lie on your back with both knees bent
- Bring your right knee in toward your chest and place the yoga strap around the base of your toes
- Extend your right leg toward the ceiling, pushing your leg up into the strap. Straighten the leg as much as possible and keep your toes pointing back toward your face.
- Keep pressing your heel toward the ceiling for 1-3 minutes and then switch sides