This is the first in a series of posts about the aches and pains that may arise from a regular or daily, physical yoga practice.
Like any other activity where you use your body- sport, working out at the gym, gardening, housework- aches and pains and injury may result. Lack of activity will also cause aches and pains ( think how you feel when you get off a plane, do some long distance driving or after a long day of sitting meditation )
It’s a part of living with a body.
Over the many years of my yoga practice, I have had various aches and pains move about my body as areas opened up, or strength was developed, or indeed if I performed an asana incorrectly or without mindful attention- so I have had much experience experimenting with what works to alleviate these pains.
Yoga is designed to balance the body, and this certainly means that it aims to create balance in flexibility and strength. Areas of the body that are flexible- especially over flexible, need support from muscle and bone strength. Areas of the body that are strong can be tight or blocked, and require flexibility to be efficient and comfortable. Keeping this in mind- and applying it to your own body specifics in a mindful way, can help prevent injury and even everyday aches and pains to a certain extent. Simply put, flexible people coming to yoga needs to work on strength, strong people- especially those with strong or ‘built’ muscles need to work on flexibility. But thats getting off topic a bit…
There are a lot of great things you can do to alleviate aches and pains and minor injuries, so I have split them into various categories over several posts:
Please note that I have only included what has worked for me personally- or my partner ( a tradesman, sportsman and long term yogi himself ) .. so while there are many studies out there, and I have read countless articles ( some shown in the links ) this is largely an anecdotal post.
I would love to hear from you if you have other tips apart from these… please make a comment below.
Supplements, tonics and foods that heal- Internal.
Magnesium– is a vital mineral in which so many people are deficient. Magnesium helps the body repair the muscles, essentially feeding them, so they grow larger and stronger. Magnesium eases muscle cramps and helps you relax, is additionally great for stress relief (which in turn relaxes the muscles) and encourages a good nights sleep. It helps keep the integrity of the bones with a synergy with calcium and Vitamin D, and it suppresses the parathyroid hormone which increases blood calcium levels ( not a good thing ) which will break down bone if in excess.
It is a vital nutrient for the functioning of the heart. It is alkalizing and helps hydrate in its use as an electrolyte.
Magnesium can be found in the diet in nuts- especially almonds, in seaweeds, buckwheat, and whole-grains prepared properly for digestion ( soaked overnight in water with a little yoghurt or lemon juice to help break down the phytates ) and leafy green vegetables.
HOWEVER magnesium is such an important mineral that it is the one nutrient I take as a supplement several times a week to ensure I am getting enough, especially if my muscles are aching.
Vitamin C is essential for the restoration of collagen, which helps to rebuild muscle tissue that has been broken down. This can happens when muscles are not used, or when muscle fibres tear, which happens when muscles ARE used ( strengthening muscles actually requires the muscles to have minute tears which heal, forming a denser stronger muscle).
Citrus fruits, tomatoes, berries, especially super berries like kiwi, goji, goldenberry and amla are high in C, as are many leafy greens and broccoli. Raw milk has vitamin C to some extent.
I tend not to take C as a supplement as it is so easy to find in the diet, and much easier on the stomach when taken as food.
Glucosamine,Chondroitin and Collagen ( Bone Broth or Stock )
Strict vegetarian yogi’s need to be aware this is not vegetarian, though I have heard that vegetarian supplements have been developed. Glucosamine and Chondroitin and Collagen are used for joint pain relief.
Glucosamine and Chondroitin supplements are expensive, however. Making your own stock from organic, free range animal bones is a cheap and highly bioavailable way of including these substances in your diet.
Happy, pastured chicken, cow, lamb or wild game animals (I wont partake of the mammals, personally, but I make them for my family ) OR wild caught fish bones from a non oily fish are all good things in which to make bone broth.
The gelatin found in bone broth is hydrophilic- which means it attracts and holds liquids, including digestive juices in the gut, thereby supporting proper digestion and absorption of the food it is cooked with (such as grains, soups etc) . It also helps with longer term hydration, holding liquid internally for longer. The gelatin in stock has the anti-inflammatory amino acids arginine, glycine and proline. It helps to heal the gut, and of course, the gut and digestion is the centre of all health.
Here is a link on how to make and use bone broth.
Kombucha has much anecdotal evidence supporting its use as a tonic for the body and a liver detox aid. Kombucha is also great for recovery IF you are used to caffeine and sugars, as it does still contain some of both after fermenting. I suggest having water first however, than going straight for the hard stuff, and not relying on Kombucha for energy as some people do with coffee. I find it very useful in relaxing over-used muscles, and give me a pleasant buzz- but I find it too over stimulating if taken after mid afternoon.
Many people have had success drinking kombucha- especially that brewed at home- for muscle pain, joint pain and arthritis, even fibromyalgia symptoms.
Kombucha can contain glucoric acid ( this has both been proven and disproven.. some say it has precursors to help the body produce its own glucoric acid) which is a great liver cleanser and helps with rebuilding the joints. It is full of probiotics, another way help make for a healthy gut.
Here a couple of sites to peruse about the use of Kombucha
MSM is a natural nutrient that needs to be taken as a supplement as it occurs in small amounts in food. It is a type of sulfur, which is a vital building block of joints and cartilage ( as well as skin, hair and nails) and is also a methyl compound- which supports many vital biochemical processes in the body, including production of energy.
It is often taken with glucosamine and chondroitin for joint health.
Here is a link about MSM from a company that produces the stuff and as far as I can tell it is vegan, or vegan options are around.
Coconut water… a glass of coconut water supplies you with the salts, sugars and electrolytes required for hydration. Make sure your choice of coconut water is not from concentrate… better still drink it straight from the nut. Coconut water can hydrate quickly and help prevent muscles from seizing up after use or over use. Remember, dehydration can be the main cause of headaches and muscle aches!
Green foods are seen as anti inflammatory, as they are alkaline forming, not acidifying.
An acidic body- one that has high levels of acid ( in the blood) will have high levels of calcium being leached into the blood from the bones, the teeth and bones will weaken.
I tend to think our diets should be based around vegetables, with a lot of them leafy green vegetables, slightly cooked for better absorption and digestion.
Warm foods tend to be much gentler on the yogi’s body and hence nourishing to the muscles, joints and bones than raw foods… raw foods are best in summer and in the middle of the day- but that is another post altogether. ( yoga and food )
Green food powders are widely available, and often used for their alkalising properties. While I have bought them many times, I have never been able to incorporate them in my daily life, and they end up lurking- far past their use by date- in the back of the fridge. I suppose I’m just more into eating green veggies, personally, than powdered green foods.
Ghee– over the years I have had several Indian Master teachers tell me to ‘Eat more ghee’- usually in a stern and commanding tone. Ghee is a pure oil made from cow butter which has been heated and strained to clarify, removing the milk solids and lactose.
Ghee contains vitamins D, E, K and Omegas 3 and 9- but should always be sourced or made from grass fed butter in order to have good levels of the above.
Ghee is used in Ayurvedic medicine to lubricate the joints and nourish the muscles, amongst many other uses and is highly regarded for its ability to facilitate the absorption of the beneficial substances present in the foods with which it is prepared or served.
The reason yoga and pranayama teachers often recommend eating more ghee is for recovery after strong yoga practices ( and exercise, including childbirth ), building strength and for muscle repair. It also does a great deal towards calming the vata dosha and soothing pitta dosha. I’ve been prescribed 4 tablespoons a day! And although I love the stuff and use it instead of butter on everything, 4 TB’s is quite a feat.
Make ghee yourself! It is a lovely process, and costs far less to buy organic butter to make your own, than to buy the ghee pre-made.
Ghee can also be used externally as a body rub (but that’s for the next post, where I go into detail on the remedies and practices taken externally)
and last, but never least…WATER
The very first thing you should do after practice is drink water- every time, no exceptions.
Quality, purified, alkaline water, served room temperature and drunk in abundance.
Yoga practice releases toxins, and if you are not well hydrated after (and before) your practice you are doing yourself a real disservice. Not only from not allowing the body to flush out the toxins – and built up lactic acid- through the kidneys, but robbing your muscles of the water they need to recover. Fascia needs water to function properly, as does skin- to stretch and remain elastic.
If you find that water sits uncomfortably in your gut, seeming to not be absorbed and leaving you feeling bloated, you need to find better water. It’s quite possible that the water you are drinking is lifeless, and not hydrating to the body- being chlorinated, acidic or stale, or full of impurities such as VOC’s ( volatile organic compounds found in paints, chemicals, plastics and always major components of modern air and water pollution )
I have had many water filters over the years, but the one I have stuck with for the past 10 years is the Nikken PiMag water system. The PiMag filter removes impurities, toxins and chlorines out and, mimicking a natural waterfall, negatively ionises, alkalises and remineralises the water, with silver stones for anti bacterial purposes. Plus it is magnetised on the way out of the spigot. I have heard it referred to as a ‘structured water’ – which is highly absorbable, just like water flowing in a stream ( but in this day and age, quite likely a lot cleaner)
It is sweet and delicious and when you own a PiMag water system you find that you finally begin to drink the amount of water you should ( I also use it in all my cooking ) – and it’s then you begin to notice the benefits of a well hydrated body.
Many yoga and pilates studios and gyms are choosing the Nikken PiMag water filter to provide the best water for their students and themselves, and can write the cost off in their taxes!
One more point about water- it should be room temperature, or warm, never cold or chilled. Cold water on an empty stomach, or for that matter on a belly with digesting food, is not good for anyone, it literally freezes the guts, slowing down absorption and digestion.
To find out about PiMag water click here : http://www.nikken.com/product/technology/piMag-water/
I do sell these water systems ( available to 40 countries ) at a discount for followers of this blog, so if you are interested please contact me on heidi (at sign) yogaguerilla (dot) com
I have no affiliation with any of the products I use above EXCEPT the Nikken magnets (next post) and the PiMag Water filters- which I love and believe in, and have seen so many positive effects through- I decided to sell myself!
Please be sure to follow this blog for the next post on this topic Yoga, Aches and Pain- External and share it with fellow yogi’s and friends.
A comment- or if you have another tip that you favour yourself- is always appreciated.
Heidi – yogaguerillagrrl