This book is fantastic! Joan Vernikos, former Director of Life Sciences at NASA, explains in this simple, well-written book how inactivity harms our bodies in a way very similar to the experience of astronauts deprived of the earth’s gravity. What’s cool is that in terms of gravity, yoga is a great form of exercise, and the moves and mindfulness we learn on the mat can also be a key to our health if we practice throughout the day. Vernikos quickly moves from the problems to the solutions, providing detail on many different types of exercise and movements we can do. It turns out that our habits throughout the day impact our health much more than how much time we spend at the gym.
Lessons for Yogis:
1) “Yoga is the only exercise that emphasizes getting blood to the brain through a variety of head-down positions.” Vernikos explains that increased bloodflow provides a variety of benefits to the brain – such as improved memory.
2) The first sign of inactivity or aging is decreased flexibility. “Yoga can restore your flexibility painlessly… this is key because the first step to preventative health care is maintaining or increasing your flexibility.” Cool, huh?
3) Yoga and tai chi target the stabilizers, whereas most exercise classes focus on the mobilizers. The stabilizer system is our foundation: “When stabilizers atrophy, as they frequently do in our modern sedentary lifestyle, mobilizers cannot function properly because they lack a firm base from which to work.” She explains further that yoga is great because good upright posture helps you resist gravity.
4) Gravity can also help us relax – making us sleep better by helping us reduce stress and muscle tension. What we do in shavasana is important – and empowering: “Giving in to gravity with a sense of one’s total body weight, head-to-toe, being drawn with abandon to the center of the Earth, is the only way to achieve total, restorative relaxation. We have yoga to thank for that.”
Here’s a great summary of the book from her website: http://www.joanvernikos.com/sitting-kills-moving-heals-media-kit-v2.pdf
If you’re really interested in this topic, it’s touched on some in The First 20 Minutes and Move A Little, Lose A Lot, other good books that cover inactivity physiology. We explore it further in our infographic on How Yoga Helps You Stay Active – for desk-jockeys!