Modern life is bad for our health – there I have said it. Before I found yoga I really struggled with my own health because of it.
This blog post will look at what I feel are the 3 main reasons for why modern life ruins our health and how yoga can help save the day.
Modern life is ruining our posture
Ok, let us firstly establish the definition of posture. For a start there is no such thing as perfect posture. However, our bodies do have a favoured alignment when sitting, standing and moving which enables them to function efficiently.
When out of alignment, extra demands are placed on our our muscles, bones, joints, ligaments, nervous system, circulatory system and so on. These extra demands can eventually lead to dis-ease in the body.
Poor Posture and Physical health
For example, how are you reading this?
Are you sitting down, looking at your laptop or computer?
Are you reading this from your phone with your head looking down and forward?
Both are very common positions we adopt on a daily basis and for long periods of time.
When we sit down a lot (and slumping while we are at it) we are causing a whole host of problems. The obvious like neck, shoulder and back pain are just the tip of the iceberg. A bit of internet research came up with these related health issues:
- Headaches and jaw pain
- Poor breathing habits (which are not good for long-term health)
- Decreased energy levels (fatique)
- Accelerated aging of our joints (think arthritis)
- Greater injury risk and poorer performance in sport or fitness activities
- Hyper kyphosis and Dowgers hump
- Digestion and circulation problems
- Poor Core strength which will lead to back pain or worse
Poor Posture and Mental Health
On top of that poor postural habits are causing mental health issues like depression and anxiety. When we ‘slump’ about we don’t tend to feel very upbeat or happy. If we are upright and open, we feel the opposite.
Posture also affect how we see others. Think about it. If someone someone passes us in the street looking down at their shoes, with their shoulders rounded forwards, you might not think that they are very happy. If, however, someone walks past us with a wide open chest, facing directly ahead, you might assume the complete opposite. Our attitudes and assumptions about people are based on how they hold themselves up!
So in essence, we can fix so many of our health problems simply by learning how to move and position our bodies more effectively – in other words – improve our postural habits.
Modern Life Makes Us Choose Poorer Lifestyle Choices
We rely on technology
Because modern life is so fast paced and action packed, it is encouraging us to make lifestyle choices which are not supportive to our health. Our technological age for example, is making us lazy. Everything can be achieved without moving a muscle, with the exception of our fingers to touch a screen!
We move less
We have cars as our main form of transport. Gone are the days where we would walk or cycle on a regular basis. Cars make travelling easier and quicker – well unless you are stuck in traffic. The point is, walking and/or cycling is not as appealing for many of us because a) it is more effort and b) it takes longer and we don’t have the time, or c) we have to commute so far that it is impossible.
We like fast living and fast food
We like our food to be quick too. The abundance of processed foods available to us means we don’t need to cook from scratch. Mealtimes can simply mean shoving something in the oven or ringing for a takeaway. We no longer take time to eat and enjoy our food and more importantly, enjoy it with people we love.
The main point I am trying to make is that modern life doesn’t invite us to slow down, rest and take time out to do things which matter. We are a society of achieving and doing – we work long hours and with the invention of tech, we no longer have any clear boundaries on work time and rest time. I cannot count the number of times when I would tell myself that I would stop ‘work’ at 6, to find myself answering messages, emails late into the night.
We don’t switch off and because of this we rush everything else – we eat fast food; we get from a to b as quickly as we can. Then we wonder why we are suffering with our health – why we are tired or can’t sleep well at night; why our digestive system is playing up or why we are getting constant headaches. Our bodies are simply not designed to be permanently on the go and I think we all know this deep down.
Modern Life Affects Our Mental Health
We have never been so stressed as a species; modern life is damaging us. As we have seen above the combination of poor lifestyle choices and body positioning habits (posture) is affecting our mental health. The UK mental health organisation has recognised that ongoing stress is causing insomnia, fatigue, poor eating habits, poor digestion (and even linked to IBS and the formation of stomach ulcers), and more serious illnesses like cardiovascular disease.
Enough of the doom and gloom. There is hope ……..say hello to yoga 😃
How Can Yoga Help?
Body Alignment and ‘posture.’
A smart yoga practice is the perfect system to help improve your posture and body alignment. Yoga allows you to get to know your body intimately. As your mind and body become better connected you are in the perfect position to correct and re-learn better body sitting, standing and moving habits. This was exactly how I was able to get out of pain and improve my posture. I have not found many other exercise system which gives you the tool to achieve this. I know for sure that I am stronger, more mobile and flexible due to yoga.
Creating a Balanced and Healthy Lifestyle
As we have seen, the way we live (including diet, work and social life), our personality, and behavioural traits influence our health on all levels.
A holistic Yoga practise can help us see our lifestyle choices and habits more clearly because, quite simply, it helps us to tune inwards on a pretty deep level. How does yoga do this so well? Yoga is not just about the physical stuff. There are actually 8 limbs of yoga. Each limb is designed to help you live your best life possible on a physical, mental and emotional level. If you are not familiar with the 8 limbs you can find out more here:
Incorporating other holistic tools can help even further. I for one, am a great fan of seasonal living. Our bodies actually do this naturally but we have lost the knack of it because of technology and our fast paced living culture. From a personal perspective, my health changed for the better when I started to live with the seasons and I have never looked back. If you would like to find out more this book is amazing: The Way of the Five Seasons: Living with the Five Elements for Physical, Emotional, and Spiritual Harmony by John Kirkwood
Looking After Your Mind/Mindset
Yoga has the best tools for creating inner ‘zen.’ Not only is there the physical practice of breath and movement (vinyasa) but we also have meditation, pranayama and relaxation too. All of these tools are there to help us learn how to control our minds a little better. When we can do this we are able to cope with life’s stress a little better too.
I truly believe that yoga is the perfect antidote to modern life. It can protect our posture, positively influence our lifestyle habits and promote our resilience to stress. If you are interested in reading more you may find these other blog posts worth dipping into:
You may like these practice videos too: