Using Yoga to Heal Body and Mind

The practice of yoga and meditation can be traced back as far as fifth- and sixth-century BCE. It is commonly used for physical, spiritual, and emotional healing. According to Heath Line Newsletter, one study showed that after 10 weeks of practicing yoga and meditation, participants experienced lower levels of anxiety and depression. Yoga also improves heart health, promotes sleep quality, improves balance and flexibility, and promotes healthier eating habits.

Take it from Steven Heddon, who has practiced for the past 43 years. Originally from Florida, Hed- don, owner of Fusion Creative Marketing, moved to Valdosta, Georgia, 30 years ago. He started practicing yoga and meditation at the age of 20 and found that it helped ground him as a young adult. Heddon already had a connection to meditation through his mother and their Chinese heritage, and the passion he felt for yoga was instantaneous. He and his mother practice yoga and meditate together to this day.

Now at 63, Heddon practices yoga and meditates several times a week. “My wife Mary Ann and I have always made exercise an important part of our lives,” Hed- don said. “I swim, lift weights, kickbox, and spin. Yoga helps to keep my body limber and internally strong, and it has a healing effect to offset the stiffness and muscle strain from the other activities.”

The stresses of daily life – like running his own company and household and trying to maintaining a healthy diet – can tax his mind and body. But, practicing yoga and meditation has helped him maintain a well-balanced life.

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With the encouragement of three of his sons who practice yoga too, Heddon wanted to focus on perfecting his headstand technique.

According to Yoga Journal, the supported headstand, or Salamba Sirsasana, is when the body is completely inverted and held upright supported by the forearms, while the crown of the head rests lightly on the floor. The headstand is considered the king of yoga poses because of its many purported benefits, including better mood, improved cognitive function, and increased upper-body strength.

As Heddon was honing his headstand technique, everything came to a halt when he fell off his roof trying to make some repairs. His wife, who is a nurse, examined him, but there were no serious injuries that required hospitalization. Four months after his accident, he developed limited movement and deep pain in his shoulders. Because of this, he could not do a headstand, and any exercise was difficult.

Being an active person, he decided to undergo physical therapy to overcome his injury. He then visited Dr. Eric Sutherland at Sutherland Physical Therapy.

“I was concerned that I may only get back around 80 percent of my previous strength,” Heddon said.

After just four weeks of physical therapy, Heddon felt as if he had regained about 90 percent of his physical capacity. After all his progress through physical therapy, he felt even more motivated to achieve his headstand.

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“I think that a large part of what defines our limitations or what we can achieve physically is mental,” Heddon said. “At my age, I have to approach my exercise routine with caution so I don’t injure myself. Most of yoga is mental, and the goal is integration of the mind and body.”

Little did he know that just three weeks into his physical therapy, he would be able to achieve the goal he placed on himself before his accident. His new goal is to do a side crow, or Parsva Bakasana, which involves balance and arm strength.

“You are only as strong as your mind believes you are,” Heddon said. “Anything can be accomplished in life if we are patient. If we listen to our bodies and minds, we can overcome many obstacles. You just have to be willing to look within yourself to the peace, the will and the grace to break through your personal barriers.”

Better Body Image — Focusing inward during yoga helps you become more satisfied with your body and less critical of it.

Yoga Health Benefits Beyond the Mat

 

Heart Benefits — Yoga can help lower blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar, all of which are good for your heart and blood vessels.

Overall Fitness — Practicing yoga a couple times a week increases muscle strength and flexibility, boosts endurance, and tunes up your heart, lungs, and blood vessels.

Mindful Eating — Being aware of how your body feels carries over to mealtimes as you savor each bite or sip and notice how food smells, tastes, and feels in your mouth.

Weight Control — mindfulness developed through yoga can make you more sensitive to cues of hunger and fullness, which help you develop a more positive relationship with food.

12 Physical Therapy Treatments and Modalities

1. Exercise
2. Ultrasound
3. Electrical stimulation and TENS 4. Traction
5. Joint Mobilization
6. Massage
7. Heat
8. Ice
9. Iontophoresis
10. Laser or Light Therapy
11. Kinesiology Taping
12. Whirlpool


Written by: Kaylee Kopke
Photography courtesy of Steven Heddon

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