by Amy Zellmer, Editor-in-chief
Yoga is a powerful tool for recovery after brain injury. Contrary to some beliefs, everyone can do yoga — you don’t need to be super flexible, have great balance, or even be able to stand up. The beauty of yoga is that every pose can be modified to accommodate anyone.
An important aspect of yoga is your breath. Connecting your breath to your body and flow, and getting oxygen flowing to your brain, is what makes yoga so powerful for recovery. Yoga is also a time to quiet the mind by helping anxiety and distracting thoughts drift away.
Side bends help balance your entire body. They lengthen the abdominal muscles while improving flexibility of the spine. They also lengthen the muscles between the ribs and pelvis, including parts of the lower back. They open up the rib cage, improving mobility and expansiveness of the lungs — which makes breathing easier in all situations. They can help reverse the tightness from sitting all day.
Other benefits include aiding in digestion and increasing metabolism. Side bends can also relieve respiratory issues such as asthma, allergies, and colds.
- Begin in a comfortable seated position, either on the floor or in a chair, with arms relaxed at your sides.
- Reach your left arm straight up overhead.
- Slowly lean your torso to the right as you inhale, allowing your right hand/arm to rest wherever feels comfortable.
- Slightly revolve your chest towards the ceiling as you breathe into the right side of your body.
- Slowly lower your left arm back down as you exhale.
- Repeat the pose on the other side.
Adjustments and modifications:
If you are really tight in the midsection, this can be a challenging pose. Lean only as far as feels comfortable, knowing that any bend, no matter how small, is beneficial.
- Never strain or force yourself beyond your current ability.
- If you experience low blood pressure or dizziness, you may wish to avoid bending beyond your heart level (inversion).
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