More studies are beginning to prove a direct link between Yoga and bone health, but what about your teeth? Can exercise really help a part of the body that isn’t even being exercised? The answer is Yes.
Yoga the 1500-year-old practice that combines physical, mental and spiritual aspects. It is comprised of a series of poses, stretches and transition movements focused on increasing strength, flexibility and balance. Yoga includes non-impact combinations, coupled with controlled breathing that complements the body’s motion. Similarly, yoga seeks to bring internal balance and tranquility to the busy, anxious mind that is common in today’s fast-paced world. There are various yoga disciplines or styles, including vinyasa, hatha, ashtanga, and the trendy bikram (or “hot yoga”).
Yoga has been shown to help everything from back pain to diabetes, from digestive issues to stress and anxiety. But really— your teeth? How can breathing, bending and balancing possibly improve oral health? Here are three ways:
Most of us spend much of our time at school, work and home staring at a computer monitor or device screen. Unless you take direct action to sit and look up, our new digital lifestyle leads most of us to slouch or slump— both while sitting in chairs and standing. This creates improper neck/spine alignment, which in turn causes the lower jaw to imperceptibly shift forward. This causes misalignment that between lower and upper teeth, as well as compressing the atlas/axis joint that connects your skull and spine. The resulting tension on the surrounding bones, joints and muscles can cause inflammation and pain in the temporomandibular joint (TMJ). If unchecked, this can lead to serious TMJ disorders that can have negative effects on your overall health.
Yoga naturally improves posture by strengthening the core muscles that hold your torso upright. A consistent, gentle yoga practice can actually help realign the spine after years of improperly sitting at work or at home, and many yoga practitioners have reduced or eliminated chronic back pain without surgical procedures or medication.
The most obvious benefit is less stress. As we noted in a recent post, high levels of anxiety are common among today’s children, youth and adults. Many professionals think that this increase stress may be contributing to a corresponding increase in teeth-grinding and associated jaw disorders.
Yoga has been shown to reduce anxiety by one-third, and cut symptoms of depression by half, according to a study published in the US National Library of Medicine at the National Institutes of Health.
The biochemical balance in your mouth impacts bacteria growth, which plays a critical role in plaque buildup and tooth decay. Certain breathing patterns and mouth positioning techniques in yoga can actually increase saliva production, helping to flush away cavity-causing food particles and maintain a balance of good and bad bacteria in the mouth.
“But I’m too busy for a full hour-long yoga practice!” many of you will say. If you can’t make it to a 60- or 90-minute class, there are other options. Many simple poses can be done anytime— on the couch, at your desk, during stoplights in traffic or really anywhere. Try these desk yoga moves, or discover your own set of poses from Pinterest.