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Executive Health

According to yoga, there are basically three types of diseases

  • Adhibhautika roga: diseases due to imbalance of the five elements in the body
  • Adidaivika roga: genetic and allergic diseases
  • Adhyatmika roga: self-inflicted diseases

The executive is prone to suffer from all these types of diseases. Let us analyse the diseases that executives are specially prone to and see how yoga can help in their prevention and cure.

The muscles and joints
Many executives suffer from cervical spondylitis, low backache and knee disorders. 'Executive' chairs push the cervical spine into an awkward position. Premature degeneration of the thoracic spine is caused, resulting in spondylitis of the dorsal (thoracic) spine.

The lumbar spine also suffers. If the executive has to sit for long hours at a 'desk' job, the muscles of the lower lumbar become stiff. Lack of flexibility in this area leads to a chronic low back problem.

To ensure the health of the back, regular exercises for the entire spine and proper maintenance of posture at all times is needed. All the yogic asanas strengthen and tone the joints and muscles very well. The strain of using poorly designed chairs and mattresses is balanced by the standing poses which strengthen the lateral part of the spine and the forward bends which give maximum elasticity to forward movement of the spine. One of the basic prerequisites for spinal health is to be flexible in the act of bending forward. Any mechanical disorder can be prevented or cured by asanas.

The heart and circulation
Excessive nervous discharge from the cerebral cortex raises the tension of the arteries of the body - this is Essential Hypertension.

High levels of stress increase the discharge of chemicals which block the lumen of the coronary arteries and this, when critically narrowed, results in a heart attack.

Irregularity in the rhythm of the heart is a stress-related problem. Unhealthy habits of drinking and smoking thicken the arteries of the body, leading to elevated blood pressure.

Many executives work on the treadmill and the stationary bicycle in the mistaken belief that, by boosting the heart rate and pulse beat, the cardiovascular system remains healthy. This is erroneous. Jogging is another inappropriate exercise to the already hyper-stressed system of the executive.

What is needed is a procedure to soothe the mind and body of the person and for this, yoga is most ideally suited. It establishes quietitude, the heart is energised. In the usual exercises the system is only exhausted. Waste products are built up. In yoga there is no accumulation of waste ; rather, the body's daily production of toxins and those acquired due to stress are efficiently removed.

In this process, energy is built up. Yoga is `restful exercise' which refreshes the body. This is precisely what the executive needs. The massaging action of the asanas on the blood vessels prevents blockage of the arteries. It maintains a state of healthy circulation even at the age of seventy-five. The greatest advantage of asanas is that any defective part of the heart and the circulatory system can be tackled, as they have a precisely directed action on the body. They tone up the circulation to the bone marrow, thus improving the supply of healthy blood cells.

The skin is exposed to varying temperatures. Asanas maintain healthy blood flow to the skin, tone up the tissues and prevent the effects of climatic changes. Asanas improve the blood flow to different parts of the body and prevent blockages in the circulation. Thus, the heart is kept free of obstruction. Fluctuations in blood pressure are prevented, as the asanas reduce the stress on the nerves.

All asanas are useful for cardiac toning, particularly the back bending asanas like urdhva dhanurasana, viparita dandasana and kapotasana. These can be done with props to make it easy and save time for the busy executive. Regularity of practice can thus be maintained.

The lungs
The lungs are well toned up by asanas. Asanas hasten the excretion of smoke and other pollutants that weaken the lungs. Back bending and inverted asanas are invaluable for this purpose. Standing poses elasticise all parts of the lungs. The practice of pranayama is useful to prevent allergic disorders. Pranayama tones up the functions of the heart and lungs together. It also protects the lungs against the harmful effects of passive smoking.

Pranayama, even more than asanas, is valuable in harnessing the large amount of energy the executive's -lifestyle needs, as it works on the mind and the senses. A minimum of fifteen minutes of practice will suffice.

The digestive and excretory systems
Unhealthy eating habits affect the metabolism of the body, the results being diabetes, hypertension, problems of weight regulation and so on. Eating late in the night affects the digestive organs, as the nervous system, which is supposed to rest, continues to regulate the flow of digestive juices. Headaches on arising in the morning, or indigestion, is the outcome. Smoking, alcohol, and a faulty diet high in fat and protein can cause an overload in the cells of the kidneys and lead to premature deterioration.

For the executive, the most common problem in the digestive system is peptic ulcer. This is due to either a bacterial infection or excessive stress, promoting excessive hydrochloric acid and pepsin secretion which irritate the stomach wall and create an area of inflammation. Pain occurs.

The drugs used to treat peptic ulcer inhibit acid secretion in the cells of the stomach. It is possible to live without drugs if a basic change is made in one's lifestyle. This should include enough time every day for adequate relaxation of the mind, not just by playing golf or listening to music, but by -exercise which is more concrete in improving the health of the inner organs.

Acquired diabetes is due to abuse and neglect of the body. A high calorie diet, no exercise, alcohol and smoking are the key factors that irritate the pancreas, destroy the cells and decrease the levels of insulin. Mental and physical stresses increase blood sugar levels. Drugs used to treat diabetes do reduce sugar levels, but unless a parameter like exercise is added, the organs are not protected against microcellular damage.

The gall bladder and the colon suffer if the diet is excessively high in fat, which is a known cause for colon cancer. The digestive organs are massaged by forward bends and twisting asanas. Healthy blood flowing in helps proper digestion. Supta virasana which is one of the few poses that can be done after food, ensures good digestion. Twisting poses correct any defect in absorption and digestion by massaging the intra-abdominal organs, and back bends reduce acidity and wind formation.

Asanas control problems of hyperacidity by soothing the cells in the lining of the stomach. In preventing peptic ulcers, sense control and meditation are highly valuable.

Yoga automatically corrects unhealthy eating habits, as the practitioner progressively finds that he or she prefers a simple diet and cannot tolerate very 'rich' food.

The kidneys are well massaged in back bending asanas and their functions stimulated. Asanas avert cellular malfunction in the kidneys, preventing hypertension. Twisting and back bends, forward bends and inversions are all valuable for this purpose. Pranayama regulates the response of the kidneys to neuro-endocrine messages from the pituitary. Twistings and back bends protect the kidneys against the microcellular damage of diabetes. The arteries in the kidneys are very delicate and the action of the yogic poses is highly suited to maintaining the softness and delicacy of the structures.

The intestines are stimulated and massaged so that absorption and elimination functions are well maintained. The liver, gall bladder and pancreas are toned up by twisting postures and toxins are removed.

The nervous system
The nervous system is most easily affected by hectic lifestyles. Regular, daily exercise provides extra energy to tide over the day's strain, both mentally and physically. The nervous and glandular systems become more resilient. The hormonal discharge in the brain controls ovarian functions in the woman's body. Excess stress changes the rhythm of the menstrual cycle, affects ovulation, and damages the biological functions of the woman. This damage is microcellular, taking years to heal.

The executive is prone to headaches. The only solution for this disorder is to incorporate exercises which calm the nerves. Painkillers are not advisable unless the situation is really out of control.

Yoga is non-stressful. If the brain gets exhausted by overwork, half halasana removes the fatigue

Forward bends prevent fatigue. Viparita karani is excellent for tired executives. Passive back bends and inversions with the facial bandage also relieve exhaustion.

Yoga strengthens immunity, as the nerves are made strong by all asanas. Particularly useful are the forward bends as they remove the sympathetic overdrive.

The Glandular System
Men and women have some common problems in the glandular system. In addition, women suffer disorders in the reproductive system due to high levels of stress. The most common organ to be affected is the adrenal gland which pours out the energy-giving chemicals — the steroid hormones and the catecholamines, adrenaline and noradrenaline. Constant travel and late nights are some of the factors that alter the bio-rhythm of cortisol, which is at the highest level at 8 a.m., and lowest in the evening. Proper rest at the right time rejuvenates the cycle. It is important to retire to bed at around 10 p.m. and rise at about 5:30 a.m. Optimum recharging of energy levels is thus ensured.

Inverted poses refresh the endocrine glands by bathing them in fresh blood. These poses prevent jet lag as extra energy is available to the mind and the brain. Head stand and shoulder stand just before boarding a long distance flight give maximum benefit. The health of the glandular system depends on the nervine stimuli and, if the nervous system is healthy, the glands are stimulated properly. Back bends energise the system in a stimulative manner. Age-related weakening of the endocrine glands does not affect the executive who practises yoga regularly.

The Immune System
The immune system is vulnerable to malfunctioning. Lack of sleep is one of the most potent forces generating stress on the immune system, weakening the functioning of the cells.

Improper diet is another cause for ill-health of the immune system. High polyunsaturated fat content in the diet affects the genesis of the lympho-cytes in the bone marrow. It is preferable to stick to a vegetarian diet as it is low in fat. Studies have shown that, in vegetarians, the killer cell activity of the immune system is twice that of omnivorous controls. Emotions also affect the immune system. High levels of noise are also known to affect the immune system. Nicotine and alcohol hamper the production of healthy cells in the bone marrow, and immature cells that function ineffectively are released into the circulation.

A wave of stress releases large amounts of adrenaline and nor-adrenaline which can either stimulate or inhibit the functions of the immune system. There is a difference between healthy and unhealthy stress. The former is necessary and tones up the immune system, while the latter wears out the immune functions. Such a healthy stimulus is exercise. All asanas are helpful. Pranayama is valuable for the immune system.

Pranayama stimulates and regulates the healthy functioning of all the organs through the nervous system. In pranayama, the facial muscles are relaxed. This pacifies the organs of perception (smell, touch, sight, hearing and taste) and allows the mind to withdraw inward into relaxation.

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