Yoga Therapy prescribes dynamic breath-based meditations to distribute energy and oxygen throughout the body and brain, to remedy a sedentary lifestyle, and to prevent stagnation and disease.
When you sit for a extended periods of time your body and mind becomes stagnant under the force of inertia (tamas).
To stay healthy you need to become aware of your body and mind, move your muscles from time to time and use the breath to circulate blood and fluids. This avoids stagnation, stiffness and poor function, and promotes vitality and mental focus.
The three major forces of nature are:
- Tamas – inertia and structure
- Rajas – energy and momentum
- Sattwa – balance and health
In excess, Tamas leads to disease and suffering.
Research on prolonged sitting
Recent medical research reveals that sitting for long periods of time without a break increases the risk of metabolic diseases such as heart disease, liver disease and diabetes.
Metabolism is the process your body uses to produce and burn the energy of foods such as protein, sugar and fat. An imbalance in this process results in too much or too little of a substance and becomes the seed of metabolic disease.
While regular physical activity assists in preventing chronic illness, recent studies show that exercising before and after prolonged sitting is not enough to ward off potential disease.
The research concludes that taking short breaks of just 2 minutes every 20 to 30 minutes during your working day is more effective. When combined with a regular exercise routine, it creates optimum health.
Yoga Therapy and Ayurveda perspective
As you sit at your desk each hour, your energy stagnates or becomes imbalanced; it becomes more tamasic. Depending on your Ayurvedic body type and your current condition, the area and the expression of the stagnation varies.
Vata body types (air dominant constitutions) can be prone to imbalance in the head because the air element is light and moves upward. This can cause lack of focus, dizziness, headaches, insomnia and tinnitus. Of course it also dries the body leading to other conditions.
Pitta body types (fire dominant constitutions) may suffer from high blood pressure and various skin disorders if the fire element is in excess, in the same way that fire can create steam and excessive pressure.
Kapha body types (water dominant constitutions) can be prone to stagnation and imbalance in the base of the body because water is heavy and moves downward. This can cause stomach and digestive disorders, and weight gain. (See Different Diets for Different Doshas eBook for more on your body type.)
Over time, stuck and imbalanced energy becomes increasingly difficult to shift. It becomes part of your physical and psychological makeup with moderate to dire health consequences.
Yoga Therapy states that prolonged sedentary work causes metabolic diseases due to:
- Collapsed, rigid or tense posture – hinders blood flow, digestion, respiration and other functions.
- Poor breathing – decreases the oxygen and prana required to fan the metabolic fire, agni.
- Excessive thinking or emotional disturbance – creates mental fatigue.
- Poor lifestyle – lack of exercise, poor diet and sleep quality.
Increase energy and prevent disease while at your desk
Getting up and walking around the workplace every 20 minutes is often impractical. The solution is to perform gentle yoga meditation exercises at your desk as you work.
Yoga meditations can be performed any place, any time. With a little practice, these internal workouts turn into healthy habits that improve all metabolic functions including your energy levels, digestive power, heart and circulation, and respiratory function.
Prana and Pranic Healing circulates stagnant energy, rebalances and revitalises. Particular techniques for quickly generating energy are Track 3: The Two Forces, Track 5: The Gross and Subtle Breath and Track 6: Moving the Prana.
Core Strength Calm Mind strengthens abdominal and spinal muscles, improves circulation, respiration, digestion and mental focus. Particular techniques that can be practiced at your desk are Track 3: Develop Inner Strength – Grounding and Track 4: Connect Inner Strength with Heart – Alignment.
David Dunstan from the Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute, Melbourne, Australia conducted a ten-year study examining what happens to your health when you sit too long. He found that taking regular short breaks is very beneficial irrespective of how much time you remain sedentary.
He studied overweight individuals on three separate days. On each day they were given a high glucose, high fat meal, and their body’s metabolic response was measured.
A good response would indicate that they were able to digest the meal better and therefore were at less risk of heart disease and diabetes.
- Day one they sat for 5 hours without moving.
- Day two they sat for 5 hours but every 20 minutes walked at a slow pace for 2 minutes.
- Day three they repeated day two but increased the walking pace.
They found that the groups that broke up their sitting had an identical 30% improvement in their response to glucose and insulin. This means they are less likely to get heart disease, liver disease and diabetes.
Therefore office workers need to move more – just a couple of minutes every 20 minutes. Gentle movement gives benefits for metabolic health.
Research Study Source: ABC Radio National Health Report 5th March 2012