I recommend yoga to my patients regularly. I believe it is one of the most complete forms of exercise for the entire body. It includes the body, mind and spirit.

I get a number of funny looks and responses when I recommend yoga. The most frequent response from patients is “I can’t do yoga because I’m not flexible.” Or I get the look that I’m big and strong, and yoga is for women or sissies.

I tell people yoga is not about being flexible. You don’t need to be flexible to do yoga. You may become more flexible as you do it, but you will learn a lot about how your body works and how to make it work better.

The strong guys will find out they may not be as strong as they think. I’ve found it to be the hardest exercise you can do without lifting a weight.

While I was visiting a friend in Montreal, his 20-year-old son was just coming out of his room all sweaty. He had just finished doing the P90X yoga workout session. He said it was the most physically demanding of all the workouts and the most fun.

One thing I always tell my athletic patients is there’s no finish line or scoreboard in a yoga studio. You aren’t competing with the person on the mat next to you. The only thing that matters is what’s happening on your mat.

This was a lesson I had to learn the hard way. I tried to go as deep into a pose as the woman on the mat next to me. I pulled the middle of my back between my shoulders.

It doesn’t matter if you go as deep as someone else. What counts is that you only do what your body is capable of doing. This way you are doing the pose correctly. Listen to your body.

I also let my patients know that breathing correctly is the foundation to yoga. You need to breathe through your nose slowly and deeply.

I teach them to take in a deep breath and push out their stomach at the same time. This is breathing with your diaphragm and it allows you to completely fill your lungs. This method of breathing will help my patients with their endurance.

If you can’t maintain your breath while in a pose, then you’re working too hard and need to relax in the pose. Don’t worry as you practice, you will improve your breathing while going deeper into the postures.

There are many types of yoga. Some are very gentle and relaxing while others can be very physically demanding. There are several studios that heat the rooms to almost 100 degrees. This allows for the muscles to warm up so you can go deeper into the postures.

One of my patients returned for care. I hadn’t seen him for almost a year. He wasn’t the athletic type. He never competed in sports or exercised regularly and was significantly out of shape.

When I saw him he had lost weight and had some muscular definition. I asked him what he was doing. He was going to Portland Power Yoga. This is a hot room yoga center and he loved it.

He said he never felt better. His energy level had improved and he was sleeping great.

My advice is to try yoga. It will improve your athletic performance and reduce the chances of injury.

You won’t be sorry. 

Dr. Robert Lynch is a former president of the Maine Chiropractic Association and head of the Lynch Chiropractic Center in South Portland. “Staying in the Game” appears every other Thursday in the Press Herald.