By Dr. Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500, YACEP
How can we stop numbness? Everybody knows what it feels like to sit too long in one position and have a foot “fall asleep” or become numb. This tingling, or loss of feeling, may occur anywhere on the body, and can result from a variety of causes. However, it is most commonly found in the extremities – the hands, feet, toes, and fingers. Numbness is usually caused by nerve damage, or a lack of blood supply to a part of the body, but it may also result from inflammation, injuries, infections, strokes, diabetes, and tumors.
Seeing a doctor to rule out life-threatening illnesses, and prevent further damage, is especially important when dealing with numbness. However, the everyday problems that result from poor posture or a lack of blood supply may be managed through a good program of Hatha Yoga. Numbness in the neck, feet, and hands is often accompanied by anxiety or muscle spasms and often responds well to the gentle stretches and relaxation that Yoga offers.
Numbness in the hands and arms is frequently the result of bad posture or sleeping in a less than optimum position. When muscles that support the head become tight and contract, blood flow to the hands and arms slows down, causing tingling and loss of sensation. Repetitive stress injuries, and carpal tunnel syndrome, can occur as a result. Through Yoga poses – such as neck stretches, chin tucks, pelvic tilts, and back stretches – help to reduce numbness and restore the blood supply. Downward Facing Dog, a posture that lengthens the neck and spine, is especially effective.
A loss of feeling in the feet and legs is common after getting out of bed in the morning, or after being seated for long periods of time, and plantar fasciitis – or inflammation of the foot’s arch – is often a culprit. To counteract the loss of feeling in the feet and legs, poses that stretch the feet and legs, the hands and feet, and the top of the foot are beneficial. Postures that lengthen the back, and strengthen the legs and abdominal muscles, help to prevent sciatica and piriformis syndrome, as well as help to relieve numbness in the lower body.
Although Yoga is a powerful ally in the fight against numbness, it is important to remember that bulging disks or impinged nerves can be made worse by the wrong movements or exercises. If a posture causes numbness, it should be discontinued immediately. It is also a good idea to work with a competent Yoga instructor who has experience, in order to develop a program to address specific needs. Flexible muscles and a healthy lymphatic system can prevent many cases of numbness before they start.
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