Millennials, also known as Generation Y, are people who represent the generation born between the early 1980s to up to early 2000s. They are also referred to as one of the most ‘health conscious generations’ ever, probably because of the availability and easy access to healthcare related information and solutions such as superfoods, access to free fitness and wellness related videos and articles, access to trainers and teachers globally, advice from nutritionists, etc.
The increase in awareness has also resulted in the majority of them abandoning fast food altogether and switching to organic and natural food choices, participating in marathons, finding inspiration in online fitness and yoga challenges, and taking at least 20 to 30 minutes out regularly for themselves – to improve their physical and mental wellbeing.
Millennials are looked upon as the change makers who are driving this shift from an unhealthy lifestyle to a more mindful way of living. But what is it that is inspiring them to make the change? Just the availability of information and an increase in awareness? No. Unfortunately, it is the increase in lifestyle diseases that is one of the main causes of concern. We are now living in a world where too much time is spent using electronic devices and very little time is spent on physical activities; we spend more hours updating and going through social media feeds and less time on actually being physically present for community and family gatherings, communicating and just being.
Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, obesity, hypertension, colon cancer, infertility, diseases related to drug addictions, excessive smoking and drinking, etc.are all on the rise. Eyestrain, headaches, neck pain, stiffness around shoulders, indigestion, and more serious mental health-related conditions such as social isolation, depression, anxiety or even suicides (due to social media bullying) are all health risks associated with a sedentary lifestyle.
One study with 10,381 participants associated with a sedentary lifestyle and a lack of physical activity with a higher risk of developing a mental health disorder. It is this negative impact on one’s overall well-being, at the body, mind and emotional level that makes a sedentary lifestyle particularly taxing and tricky as one has to make lifestyle changes to deal with or prevent these symptoms.
It is not just cutting down the sitting time or time spent in front of the work desk, it is not just eliminating junk food and sleeping on time, it is not just taking enough time to walk, run, dance or hit the gym, it is not just taking enough time to for recreational activities, family holidays, etc.. it is a combination of all of the above. The solution is to lead a balanced lifestyle that can positively impact your physical, mental and emotional health.
Hitting the gym, dancing, running, swimming, or playing your favorite sports, etc are all great, but what happens when immunity is low? When there is hormonal imbalance? When stress from work results in stiffness around the neck and shoulders? When eye strain causes headaches or when you have ended up with an injury that prevents you from running or playing your sports?
When it comes to a holistic approach to find and maintain the mind, body and emotional balance, is there a better tool than YOGA? Below is a list of some of the most common health, mental and emotional issues from a millennial perspective. Let us look at how a basic and regular yoga practice can help you heal from outside and within.
Is this tech-savvy world turning millennials into a generation of hunchbacks? ‘Tech neck’ is one of the most noticeable effects of using a cell phone for long periods of time. Sitting for several hours and holding the neck in one position can also cause significant postural strain in the neck, back, and shoulders. For example, ‘Mouse shoulder’ is an ailment from aggressively using a computer mouse.
Over time, this poor posture could further result in wear and tear of the spine, which could require corrective surgery sooner or later. Neck pain can also lead to headaches and injuries. While the head remains in a forward position when you are texting or typing, the spine is forced to bear increasing weight. Constant discomfort around the neck and shoulder region can also prevent you from turning your head sideways and up and down. Yoga has been proven to eliminate neck stiffness and pain.
Try these Yoga asanas
One study done over a period of 9 weeks shows that yoga led to superior pain relief and functional improvements in patients suffering from chronic neck pain. Slow range of motion exercises like chin to the chest and back stretch, side to side, ear to ear, with breath awareness can be easily practiced during office hours; giving your neck muscles much-needed relief.
Shoulder rotation, consciously tensing and releasing the muscles around neck and shoulder region are other easy to do stretches you can practice during work hours.
On the mat, you can practice:
Downward Dog (adho mukha svanasana), Fish pose (Salamba Matsyasana with blocks under the shoulder-neck region), Cat and Cow stretch (Marjariasana), Locust pose (Shalabasana) and Supine abdominal twist (Jathara Parivartanasana).
2. Eye strain
Eye strain may not be a result of any underlying disease but could be caused due to prolonged screen time, prolonged driving, incorrect eyeglass prescription, reading without pause, extreme fatigue or lack of sleep. Eye Strain can be easily healed with frequent breaks to rest the eyes. However, in a few cases, it may indicate an underlying eye condition that needs treatment.
Some of the common symptoms include sore, tired or itching eyes, watery or dry eyes, headache, blurred vision, sore neck and shoulders, difficulty in concentrating and sensitivity to light.
Try these Yoga tips
Rubbing your palms together for 30 seconds to one minute (till they are warm) and placing your palms over your eyes (gently) is not something you have to do only at the end of your yoga session. You can do this throughout the day and as many times as you want. With breath awareness, this is an excellent way to rest the eyes.
The eyes need some stretching too. Take breaks in between to look at a distant object (preferably look outside at a distant tree or something and then at your nose tip. You can also use your thumb (focus on the tip of the thumb) as you move it away and then bring it closer to the tip of your nose. Repeat this for a few counts. Likewise look left to right, up and down and circle your eyes in clockwise direction … all without moving your head. Intentional blinking and resting your eyes with the palming technique during these exercises will help.
On the mat, try balancing postures like Tree pose (Vrksasana) and relax in
Savasana or Yoga Nidra with an eye pillow (try flaxseed eye pillow which puts gentle pressure to relax your eyes completely).
3. Long hours of sitting
Any extended sitting, either due to long screen time, desk time, driving, etc., can be harmful. Sitting uses less energy as compared to when you are standing or walking. Despite recreational activities at workplaces that encourage people to take breaks to play, read, relax or hit the gym, scientists believe many desk jockeys will have already done lasting damage to their bodies as a result of sitting down all day.
Research has linked sitting for long periods of time with a number of health concerns such as obesity, increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist and abnormal cholesterol levels and prolonged periods of sitting also seem to increase the risk of death from cardiovascular disease and cancer.
Try these Yoga poses
Before anything else, develop a habit of taking a break from sitting every 30 minutes. Stand and walk around when on the phone or chatting with your colleagues. Stand in Tadasana, do some side stretches and forward folds.
On the mat, you can try Mountain Pose (Tadasana), Standing Forward Fold (Uttanasana), Cat and Cow pose (Marijariasana), Butterfly pose (Baddhakonasa), Cobra pose (Bhujangasana), Child’s pose (Balasana) and Happy Baby pose (Ananda Balasana).
4. Emotional stress
Most of the above-mentioned conditions such as neck stiffness, hunched back, eye stain, etc also cause blockages in your subtle body which can further lead to emotional stress, anxiety or even depression.
The American Psychology Association (APA) has reported in their annual Stress in America survey that millennials are the most stressed generation. A survey conducted by Cigna TTK Health Insurance Company has revealed that 95% of Indian millennials, between age group 18-34, are stressed, as compared to the global average of 86%.
Studies suggest that work is the main trigger for emotional stress; long hours, financial stress, no vacation, workload and deadlines, lack of work-life balance, all lead to high levels of stress.
Depression, anxiety, irritability, low sex drive, compulsive behavior, memory and concentration problems, mood swings, rapid heartbeat, headaches, nervousness and shaking, fever and cold, indigestion, grinding teeth, etc are few of the most common mental and physical symptoms of daily stress levels.
Try these Yoga poses
When you feel stress and anxiety levels are on the rise, remember to take a few deep breaths and if possible keep your eyes closed for a few seconds. This instantly helps calm the body and mind and brings you to the present moment.
On the mat you can try Easy pose (Sukhasana) and practice Bee breath (Bhramari pranayama), Tree pose (Vrksasana), Standing Forward Fold (Utthanasana), Wide-legged Standing forward fold (Prasarita Padottanasana), Eagle pose (Garudasana), Cow-face pose (Gaumukhasana), Gate pose (Parighasana), Plough pose (Halasana), Corpse pose (Savasana).
5. Creative Thinking
All the above take a toll on your creativity, which can further hinder your productivity. What is the point in spending long hours at work? Lack of motivation, fear of uncertainty, fear to think out of the box, can be some side-effects of a 9 to 5 job that does not allow you to take breaks, to express, to contribute, to think and analyze.
Fear of self-expression and lack of confidence and self-esteem can further lead to low energy levels, tiredness, and sleepiness, impaired decision making, moodiness, appetite loss, etc.
Try these Yoga poses
Yoga helps remove blockages at all levels and allows your energy to flow freely. It helps you find your daily dose of inspiration. On the mat try to do a combination of easy as well as challenging poses such as Easy pose (Sukhasana), Thunderbolt pose (Vajrasana), Camel pose (Ustrasana), Pigeon pose (Eka Pada Rajkapotasana), Compass pose (Parivrtta Surya Yantrasana), and inversions like Headstand (Sirsasana) and Scorpion pose (Vrischikasana).
6. Glowing and healthy skin
Be it grandparents, parents, you or your children … who doesn’t want a healthy and glowing skin? TV and social media are flooded with ads and promotions on best skin care products to fight aging, acne, suntan, dry skin, etc. Long work hours, staying up late, irregular eating habits, not mindful of the cosmetics and cleaners you apply on your skin, no time for skin care, etc can take a toll on the way you look!
Breakouts due to stress and hormonal imbalance, dark circles, dryness, blackheads, pimples, wrinkles, brown spots, etc can be a cause of worry and may result in low self-esteem and low confidence levels.
Try these Yoga poses
Deep breaths work like magic on your skin. Practice pranayama regularly and when on the mat, practice Sun Salutations (Surya Namaskar), Cobra pose (Bhujangasana), Sirsasana (Headstand), Shoulder stand (Sarvangasana), Fish pose (Matsyasana), Bow pose (Dhanurasana), Sitting Half Spinal Twist (Ardha Matsyendrasaana) and Corpse pose (Savasana).
7. Happiness and good mood
The opposite of happiness is depression, a feeling of loneliness. A recent Cigna survey revealed that nearly half of Americans always or sometimes feel alone (46%). In a nationwide survey released in October from the BBC, a third of Britons said that they often feel lonely. In Japan, there are more than half a million people under 40 who haven’t interacted with anyone for at least six months. In Canada, the share of solo households is now 28%. Across the European Union, it’s 34%.
It is proven that loneliness is emotionally painful and can lead to psychiatric disorders like depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, and even hallucinatory delirium. And recently doctors have also recognized how destructive it is to the body. Social isolation triggers cellular changes in the body that can result in chronic inflammation and trigger heart disease, stroke, metastatic cancer, Alzheimer’s, etc.
Try these Yoga poses
Practicing Yoga is like an affirmation that helps you experience the happiness that lies within, the happiness which is your core being. This attitude makes you less dependent on external factors for happiness and you learn to cultivate your own happiness, every single day. When on the mat, try Warrior Series 1, 2 and 3 (Virabhadrasana), Dancer pose (Natrajasana), Wheel pose (Chakrasana), Wild Thing pose (Camatkarasana), Headstand (Sirsasana) and Reclined Bound Angle pose (Supta Baddhakonasana).
8. Memory boost
Today multitasking at work and personal life are unavoidable. Just as the body needs to be healthy and strong, so does the mind. Studies are showing that multitasking, stress, lack of sleep and 24/7 technology are causing short-term memory issues; “forgetfulness” in millennials and young adults.
The decline in thinking and reasoning skills, dementia-like symptoms, etc. Depression, stress, and anxiety can lead to memory loss.
Try these Yoga poses
Learning something new, reading print media, socializing (offline) with friends and loved ones, getting organized, eating and sleeping well are all great ways to decrease forgetfulness but including at least 30 minutes of Yoga practice daily, can do wonders. Practicing mindfulness daily for 10-15 minutes by bringing your attention to your breath is really helpful not just for memory boost but also to destress and increase focus and concentration. When on the may practice Bees breath (Brahmari pranayama), Lotus pose (Padmasana), Seated Forward Fold (Paschimotthanasana), Tree pose (Vrksasana) and Plough pose (Halasana) are great for memory boost.
9. Overall well-being
There is no doubt that this generation of Millennials values the quality of their lives more than anything else. In a recent study, 79 percent said the family was important in their lives, followed by health and wellness at 53 percent, friends at 39 percent, spirituality at 31 percent and career at 27 percent. Technology has also enabled greater access to wellness information.
Keeping this in mind, you may wonder that for a generation that is aware and keen on maintaining complete physical, mental and social being, why is overall well-being even a problem?
Reports suggest that despite all the awareness and facilities, financial and work stressors remain very high and can stop them from going for regular health check-ups, limit access to good and genuine health and wellness experts and centers, and cut corners when it comes to making conscious health choices such as opting for pesticide-free and organic food, maintain a healthy diet, etc.
Being connected on social media does not mean the person is mentally in a happy place. Constantly checking email, social media, and/or texts, being attached to your devices 24/7, are all negative impacts of technology. Feeling isolated, fear of being judged can lead to loneliness which can affect your health in multiple ways. The quality vs quantity factor of an individuals’ social relationships can put one under immense pressure and can result in an increase in absenteeism and presenteeism in the workplace. Thus corporates are now spending billions of dollars on implementing health and programs in their organizations.
Try the Yoga poses
Yoga is for everyone. Age, weight, flexibility, injuries, etc do not make Yoga inaccessible to anyone. There are many forms and styles of Yoga. From hormonal balance sequences to therapeutic yoga for specific health conditions and injury, this ancient science can be modified to suit your needs and has the ability to heal you from the inside out.
On the mat, practicing a few rounds of Sun Salutation (Surya Namaskar) is highly beneficial. Apart from this yoga poses like Boat pose (Navasana), Chair pose (Uttkatasana), Warrior pose (Virabhadrasana), Cobra pose (Bhujangasana), Vajrasana (Thunderbolt pose), Wind-relieving pose (Pawanmuktasana) and Corpse pose (Savasana).
10. Better sex life
With all the above to worry about, the fact that millennials are having less sex a surprise? Though millennials seem to be more progressive than the generations before about being sex-positive and sexually liberated, stress and anxiety have taken a toll on their relationships. In a new survey of just over 2,000 people for the BBC, 45% of adults said they had experienced a negative impact on their sex life due to stress. Having said this, not having sex is absolutely a personal choice and has to be respected. There is no ‘getting old, lazy or unhealthy’ factor that comes into the picture just because you are not having sex.
While there are many reasons people choose to have sex (pleasure, pleasing others, intimacy, stress relief, escape, or self-validation), there are plenty of other ways to meet these reasons without having sex. However, if you are in a relationship, low sex drive can be a cause of concern as it may make you feel less connected to your partner, affect your self-esteem and may increase stress and anxiety levels.
The relationship between sex, infertility, and sex has been debated for years. Infertility in itself is a silent struggle and can lead to depression, anxiety, loss of control and isolation. Obesity, hormonal imbalance, etc are other factors that can affect your sex life and fertility levels.
Try these Yoga poses
Yoga boasts many benefits, most important being, stress-relieving qualities, which become the root cause of all major lifestyle-related diseases. Yoga practitioners feel that Yoga has helped them improve their relationship at both physical and mental level because it is not just the body that feels balanced and rejuvenated, it is the mind too, which helps them stay in the present moment, express themselves clearly to their partner and become more aware of their emotions. Research also shows that practicing Yoga daily is linked to prolonged ejaculation, enhanced overall sexual performance and there is a possibility of an increase in testosterone.
If you can opt for partner yoga classes or convince your partner to join you in your daily practice, great! If not, just get started with these yoga poses to feel your best daily! On the mat try, Boat pose (Navasana), Cat-cow stretch (Marijariasana), Bridge pose (Sethu Bandha Sarvangasana), Happy Baby pose (Ananda Balasana), Cobra pose (Bhujangasana), Butterfly pose (Baddha Konasana) and Locust pose (Salabhasana).