By Faye Martins
Sometimes, students have joint problems and Yoga instructors find solutions to work around an injury. The point is to take a whole body viewpoint, because Hatha Yoga works on the entire being. Some of the asanas are for specific injuries, prevention, and different stages of recovery. At the same time, modification and the use of props are extremely important.
We hear a lot of talk about Yoga poses that focus on the neck and shoulders, but what about the elbows? Probably the most common ailment associated with this area of the body is tennis elbow, a condition that results from repetitive motion or a sudden injury. While tennis elbow affects the outside of the arm, a similar problem called golf elbow causes discomfort on the inside of the elbow.
Symptoms of both include radiating pain that grows worse when lifting, bending the wrists, or repeating the action that caused the inflammation in the first place. Usually the first step is to keep the arm still until the pain subsides and then to gradually introduce exercises that encourage healing.
These ailments may be physical manifestations of a wider problem that affects us all – the need for balance in our lives – and nothing addresses the mind, body, and spirit quite like a regular Yoga training session.
Yoga for the Elbows
• Pawanmuktasana-1 is a series of 17 poses focusing on removing the inflammation from muscle groups and restoring the flow of energy. These simple poses include Base Position, Toe Bending, Ankle Bending, Ankle Crank, Kneecap Contraction, Knee Bending, Knee Crank, Half Butterfly Pose, Hip Rotation, Full Butterfly Pose, Hand Clenching, Wrist Bending, Wrist Joint Rotation, Elbow Bending, Elbow Rotation, Shoulder Socket Rotation and Neck Movement. This series is also known as the anti-rheumatic asana.
• Arm and wrist stretches, such as Extended Mountain Pose or Prayer Pose, increase circulation and restore energy to muscles and tendons in the wrists, fingers and elbows. They also stretch muscles in the neck and open the chest, helping to strengthen joints in the elbow. Seated poses that stretch the back with hands held beneath the soles of the feet also stretch elbow muscles and relieve symptoms of tendinitis. Triangle Pose, Half-Moon Pose, and Extended Side Angle Pose tone the arms and help to prevent injuries. Downward Facing Dog Pose may also be useful if supported by specific props (a chair or a stool) to avoid placing too much weight on the arms. Half Downward Facing Dog is also an option and feels great in the elbows, back and shoulders.
• Asanas that open the chest and shoulders also align the upper spine and stretch the arms and shoulders, easing discomfort in the elbows. These Yoga poses include Camel Pose, Bridge Pose, and Reclining Fixed Angle Pose. Supported Corpse Pose helps to keep chest and shoulders open at the end of your Yoga training session.
What Can We Do?
Practicing modified asanas will not only relieve discomfort in the elbows; it will keep them strong, healthy and less prone to injury. Advise your Yoga students to avoid locking the elbows at all times. One example is Upward Facing Dog: Look around the class and make sure your students are not locking the elbows. The muscles are supposed to do the work, but some people get lazy and let the elbows take a pounding. As Yoga teachers we walk around the room and we must recognize that some students are better off in Cobra than Upward Facing Dog because the elbows are bent in Cobra. Modification and props are the keys to longevity in physical forms of Yoga.
© Copyright 2012 – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division
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