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May 7, 2013 > Yoga Techniques Can Improve Balance and Posture

Yoga Techniques Can Improve Balance and Posture

Washington Women's Center Classes Focus on Preventing Falls and Reducing Neck Pain

When you think of yoga, you may imagine someone sitting quietly in the lotus position and wonder how that could ever help prevent falls or reduce neck and back pain. The fact is there are a number of yoga techniques that can help you do both.

"Yoga is all about the mind-body connection," said Alecia Davis, a certified yoga instructor. "Yoga combines movement with deep breathing to increase flexibility, strength, and stability while reducing muscle tension and stress."

Davis will share some yoga poses and stretches at two upcoming classes offered by the Washington Women's Center. "Fall Prevention and Balance" is scheduled for Friday, May 17, from 12 to 1 p.m. Due to popular demand, a second session will take place from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. the same day. The classes will take place at the Washington Women's Center Conference Room, located in Suite 145, at 2500 Mowry Avenue (Washington West) in Fremont.

The "Fall Prevention and Balance" Lunch and Learn seminar will focus on techniques that can help to improve core strength, which helps with balance. This session is appropriate for all fitness levels, and is specifically geared toward seniors, those recovering from an injury, and others who are concerned about falling.

"This is perfect for older women who aren't feeling as stable as they used to and are afraid of falling," Davis said. "I'll start out by talking about practical ways to prevent a fall, including removing obstacles in your home like throw rugs that are easy to trip over, before walking participants through some exercises they can do at home to heighten body awareness as well as strengthen the stomach, chest, and back muscles, which increases stability.

Studies Show Benefits

Studies are now showing how yoga improves balance. For example, stroke survivors who completed an eight-week course of twice-weekly yoga classes had a 15 percent increase on balance scores, according to a 2012 study by Arlene Schmid, a rehabilitation research scientist at the Roudebush VA Medical Center.

Staying conscious of your body movements is critical to balance and yoga can help you become more aware of your body and how you use it. This awareness is also important for avoiding neck and back pain. Without it you might find yourself hunching forward at your computer or desk, which can increase tension in the neck, shoulders, and back, causing chronic pain.

"Neck, Back and Beyond" will focus on yoga techniques that can help to increase range of motion and reduce tension in your neck, shoulders, and back. The class will begin with a five-minute relaxation exercise to demonstrate how deep breathing can help to release the tension in your muscles.

"I'll demonstrate how hard it is to move when your neck and shoulders are tight after sitting at a computer for hours," Davis said. "Often you aren't even aware that those muscles are tightening up because you are focused on your work, not your body."

She will demonstrate a sequence of poses that you can do, including some you can do right at your desk, to reduce tension and alleviate pain. Davis will also stress the importance of deep breathing.

Take a Deep Breath

Yoga incorporates controlled, slow, deep breathing to center the mind and reduce tension. It teaches you how to inhale slowly and without strain through your abdominal area, then through your chest. You then exhale slowly in a controlled fashion, from your chest and then your abdomen. It allows for full expansion of the diaphragm, Davis explained.

"Breathing is the key to yoga," she added. "Deep, slow breathing stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system and relaxation response, which has a calming effect. It also brings more oxygen into the body, reducing acidity, and helps to improve lung function."

Yoga can lead to better health and an overall sense of well-being, according to Davis.

"It reduces stress and anxiety, lowers blood pressure, improves sleep, improves range of motion, and brings a sense of calmness, allowing you to feel more at ease in your body," she said. "These classes are a great way to get a sense of how yoga can work for you."

Learn Yoga Techniques to Incorporate Into Your Life

"Neck, Back and Beyond" will be offered on Monday, June 10, from 6 to 8 p.m. The class will be held in the Washington Women's Center Conference Room, located in Suite 145, at 2500 Mowry Avenue (Washington West) in Fremont. The fee for this class is $15. Space is limited. Reserve your space by calling (510) 608-1301. For more information or to learn about other services offered at the Washington Women's Center, visit www.whhs.com/womenscenter.

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