Yoga: Factual Information

Wear and Care, by Catherine Guthrie

In 2003, nearly 14 million Americans visited a doctor complaining of a bum shoulder. Joint instability is one of the most common ailments. Others include impingements, rotator cuff tears, and arthritis.

But there’s another factor at play—the natural structure of the joint. “Shoulders are designed for mobility, not stability,” says Roger Cole, Ph.D., an Iyengar-certified teacher in Del Mar, California, who teaches workshops on shoulder safety. The mobility allows for an astonishing range of motion compared to that in the hips—if you have healthy shoulders you can move your arms forward, back, across the body, and in 360-degree circles. But the relatively loose joint relies on a delicate web of soft tissue to hold it together, which makes it more vulnerable to injury. (The soft tissue includes ligaments, which connect bone to bone; tendons, which attach muscle to bone; and muscles, which move and stabilize the bones.)

The best way to stay out of a sling? Be diligent in your quest for proper alignment and build balanced strength around the joint to create stability.

The first step in understanding correct shoulder alignment is to start simply, by exploring Tadasana (Mountain Pose) and Urdhva Hastasana (Upward Salute).

Sweet Slumber, by Nora Isaacs

Insomnia—the inability to get to sleep or to sleep soundly—can be either temporary or chronic, lasting a few days to weeks. It affects a whopping 54 percent of adults in the United States at one time or another, and insomnia that lasts more than six weeks may affect from 10 to 15 percent of adults at some point during their lives. To get a decent night’s sleep, many Americans are turning to pills. Last year in the United States, about 42 million sleeping pill prescriptions were filled, an increase of 60 percent since the year 2000.

“Sleeping pills are not always a cure; they treat the symptom but not the underlying problem,” explains Sat Bir Khalsa, a Kundalini Yoga teacher who’s also an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School and a neuroscientist at the Division of Sleep Medicine of Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. Beneath the symptoms of insomnia are the anxiety, fatigue, and stress that our increasingly fast-paced world seems to be creating. These days, who hasn’t worked long hours without taking a break, binged on too much caffeine, or left the cell phone on 24-7?

“There is very good evidence that people with chronic insomnia have elevated levels of arousal in general,” Khalsa says. “And some insomniacs have higher levels right before they go to sleep.” But Khalsa, who is studying how a form of Kundalini Yoga breathing called Shabad Kriya helps people with insomnia, offers good news: “Treating the arousal should treat the insomnia.” By creating a routine of soothing rituals, you can bring your nervous system back into balance and transform your sleep patterns for good.

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