Health, they say, is wealth. Health could also be said to be fitness because fitness is the state of being physically and mentally healthy and strong and there is no way one can be wealthy when he is not healthy. But how many Nigerians appreciate the need to be fit, let alone a desire to learn how to keep fit? Truhealth features a few tips on Yoga exercises to stretch you to a healthier heart, a better night sleep and a happier outlook.

Lets us begin by understanding the meaning of the word Yoga. According to Oxford advanced Learner’s Dictionary, Yoga is a Hindu Philosophy that teaches you how to control your body and mind in the belief that you can become united with the spirit of the universe in this way. It is also a system of exercise for your body and for controlling your breathing, used by people who want to become fitter or relax.

No doubt, its meaning suggests its purpose, i.e. taking control of our bodies to relax and keep fit. More than any other country, a stress-riddled nation like Nigeria needs to recommend Yoga exercises for her citizens to contain the hassles occasioned by unfavourable socio-economic conditions. We should find some solace in Yoga exercises to stretch our bodies and relax.

The following are a few Yoga exercises for the following conditions:

1.            LOWER BACK PAIN (The Pigeon): Begin in downward- facing dog position, extend right leg behind you, then bend the knee and draw it towards your forehead. Place right knee on floor behind right wrist; extend the left leg behind you on the floor. Inhale and sit up tall. Exhale and bend forward, extend arms, and rest forehead on the flood. Hold for two minutes and switch sides.

                This exercise increases the range of motion in your hips which can reduce lower-back pain, says Loren M. Fishman, MD and co-author of Relief is in the Stretch: End back Pain through Yoga. A study presented at the American College of Sports medicine also suggests that this exercise increases lower-back flexibility and diminishes pain. It warns however that people suffering from persistent lower-back pain need a professional diagnosis before embracing Yoga.

2.            WEIGHT CONTROL: (The Seated Spinal twist)

                Sit on the floor with legs extended. Bend right knee, stepping right foot on floor next to hip. Bend left knee, bring left foot near butt. Place hands on the floor behind you. Sit tall and extend left arm in front of you at shoulder height. Turn torso to right, resting left elbow on the outside of your right knee. Breathe deeply for one minute, twisting deeper on each exhalation. Repeat on opposite side.

This exercise, particularly the twisting, can aid digestion by helping the absorption of nutrients and the elimination of waste. Study shows that people who practise this exercise and watch their diet lose more weight than those who eat healthy diet and skipped Yoga.

3.            HEART HEALTH: (Legs-up-the-wall)

Sit with right hip against a wall i.e. lie back and turn to swing legs up the wall. Allow your chest to gently stretch, increasing the flow of oxygen to your heart. Extend your legs toward the ceiling, keeping them slightly separated. Hold for five minutes, breathing deeply.

Practising this exercise for an hour and a half three times a week can make your heart healthier in just six weeks, says recent research from the Yale University School of Medicine.

4.            ANXIETY AND DEPRESSION: (Head Stand against the Wall)

Come onto your knees facing a wall, interlace your fingers, and place the knuckles against the base. Place your forearms on the floor, elbows shoulder-width apart. Rest crown of head between wrists; tuck toes, and lift hips toward ceiling. Place one foot at a time against the wall and keep thigh together, breathing evenly. Hold for a few minutes, and then draw knees towards chest and lower feet.

Breathing deeply in this pose increases blood flow to the brain and stimulates pituitary gland, which can relieve mild depression. It is a powerful tool for alleviating serious anxiety and depression and neutralizes the negative effects of stress, says a not too recent research in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary medicine.

5.            INSOMNIA: (The Goddess Pose)

Sit on the floor with the soles of feet pressed together, knees out to the sides. Place two pillows on the floor at the base of your spine and lie back. If your knees don’t touch the floor, prop them up with pillows. Close your eyes and rest palms on your belly. Focus on the rise and fall of your breath for five minutes.

This stimulates the vagus nerve, calming the nervous system. It calms the whirling of the mind which is helpful for insomniacs, who often have elevated levels of mental and emotional arousal, says  Dr. Singh khalsa, Ph. D., Division of Sleep at Harvard medical School.

It is no secret that exercises are necessary for healthy living. YOGA is one of such exercises. Learn to do exercises and stay healthy.