Yoga for a Healthy Heart

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Heart disease is something that I deal with everyday. It is the #1 killer of both men and women in the modern world. The good news is that heart disease and the many risk factors that lead to heart disease are largely preventable.  The sad news is that most Americans either don’t know this or choose not to make the necessary lifestyle changes, opting instead for a pill or pills that can not reverse heart disease.

Dr. Dean Ornish, well respected doctor, author, and healthcare leader, has shown through scientific research, that COMPREHENSIVE lifestyle changes can REVERSE even severe heart disease. His program combines:

  • low fat, vegetarian whole food nutrition
  • monitored fitness
  • group support
  • stress management

The stress management component, an important component of the program, is a set of YOGA techniques – stretching, meditation, deep breathing, deep relaxation and imagery.

How does yoga contribute to a healthy heart?

  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Lowers cholesterol
  • Improves lung capacity
  • Helps manage stress

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Release your inner child with Yoga

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Your inner child is a part of you, a part of your personality that exhibits childlike behaviors, emotions and thoughts. It is spontaneous, playful, creative, restful. For many of us, it lies buried deeply as a result of unresolved childhood drama, adulthood, society and perceived expectations.

Yoga, on many different levels, allows us to get in touch with and release our inner child – the playful, creative and restful child. The act of stepping onto our mats frees us from our everyday responsibilities, our to-do list, and gives us permission to just be present in the moment and have fun without judgement, much like a child.

We may try to balance on onefoot (Tree Pose) csm_treepose_615025eb0e

or perhaps on our hands (Handstand)  yoga-pose-handstand-3152-1– and when we accomplish it, what ensues (I can personally attest to) is a child’s joy. But you don’t have to do a handstand to release your inner child.  Just revel in Child’s Pose or Happy Baby Pose, the blissful result is the same. yin childs pose jc

Stressed out? Yoga can help.

“Stress” is an undeniable part of our busy every day lives.  Yoga teaches us how to manage it. While the “stressors” exist (work, family, money, health, etc), stress is often fueled by our thoughts. Yoga teaches us how to stop the incessant mind (what we call the monkey mind) from working against us. Yogic tools such as guided imagery, pranayama (breath work) and meditation are used to relax the nervous system, which in turn calms the mind. Simply taking slow, deep breaths has profound effects on calming the mind. Focusing on your breath and alignment during Asana practice has a similar effect, while drawing your attention inward and away from the “stress”. The final pose, Savasana, also called Relaxation pose, is not to be missed

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Yoga for chronic pain

Back-Pain

Millions of people live with chronic pain. Arthritis and back pain are probably the two most common forms, but pain can exist for a multitude of reasons. To name a few – systemic illness such as cancer, migraines, fibromyalgia, depression or obesity. Many people first encounter yoga for pain relief, for good reason. The excessive use of modern technology in our society has led to a rise in chronic pain not only in adults but also in our children. Asana (postures), breath work and meditation are the yogic tools that can help alleviate the burden of chronic pain.

ASANA-The physical postures of yoga can relieve pain in a number of ways, including proper body alignment, proper posture, muscle strengthening , relaxation of tense muscles and stress reduction.

BREATHWORK (Pranayama) is a powerful way to relax the nervous system, shifting from the fight-or-flight Sympathetic nervous system to the more restorative Parasympathetic nervous system. Activating the Parasympathetic nervous system can lead to a more relaxed, less stressed state of mind, which perceives pain differently. Breathing exercises including slowing the breath, lengthening the exhalation relative to the inhalation, and pausing after each inhalation and exhalation.

MEDITATION is the most powerful yogic tool to manage chronic pain.  Many scholarly articles have been written on the effect of meditation on pain, including studies using MRI scans of  the brain. These studies have shown that by activating and reinforcing some areas of the brain used in pain processing, meditation has the overall effect of helping to reduce pain intensity in patients. Meditation also decreases stress, which in turn decreases pain. The pain may still be there but with mindfulness/meditation, it is the perception of pain and the choses we make to manage the pain that make all the difference. 

September is official National Yoga Month

September is the official National Yoga Month!!

young family doing yoga exercise on the beach

Time to learn more about the incredible benefits of yoga. Follow the blog this month for your daily inspirational/educational yoga tip.

But before we discuss the well known benefits of yoga, let’s talk about what yoga really is.   Many/most Westerners think of yoga as a form of stretching and contorting the body into bizarre poses. While stretching and moving the body in certain poses is part of yoga, it is only a small part, in fact 1/8 of what Yoga really is.

Yoga is a way of life.

Yoga is a 5000 year old tradition that provides us with tools or guidelines to achieve that which we all truly desire and deserve in this life – peace, love, happiness and health. In ancient times, the desire for peace, health, longevity and heightened self-understanding gave birth to this practice of physical and mental exercises which has since spread throughout the world.

The word Yoga literally means “to join or yoke together,” and it brings the body, mind and spirit together into one harmonious experience. Some people feel uncomfortable when they hear the word “spirit” – all it is, is your true essence. Whatever you do, whether you are running a half marathon, playing tennis, field hockey, taking a yoga class, teaching your child to ride a bike, closing a business deal, or involved in a conversation, where we all need to be is in that moment (in the zone) – the zone where the body, mind and yes, spirit are aligned to achieve a common goal. Yoga teaches us how to be present in the moment.   Being fully present in each moment will change your life.

The first written description of Yoga comes to us from Patanjali, considered the father of Yoga. In Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra, the eightfold path is called ashtanga, which literally means “eight limbs” (ashta=eight, anga=limb). These eight steps basically act as guidelines on how to live a meaningful and purposeful life. They serve as a prescription for moral and ethical conduct, self-discipline; they direct attention toward one’s health; and they help us to acknowledge the spiritual aspects of our nature. Some like to see it as 8 sequential steps, but you should practice as many limbs concurrently as possible. The three limbs that we work with in our yoga classes are physical movement/postures (Asanas), Breathwork (Pranayama) and Meditation (Dhyana). The rest is up to you.

 Eight Limb Path

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1. Yamas – how we relate to others and our outer environment. The yamas help us maintain our integrity through universal ethical principles – Nonviolence (practicing loving kindness), Truthfulness, Nonstealing (practicing giving), Moderation (practicing balance) and Nonattachment (practicing letting go).

2. Niyamas – how we relate to our inner environment, our self-discipline. The Niyamas remind of the importance of cleanliness of body, mind and heart; contentment, self-discipline and zeal, contemplation and self-study and devotion to a higher power – whatever that is for you – be it God, Allah, Buddha, Spirit or Love.

3. Asanas – the physical postures

4. Pranayama – mindful breathing

5. Pratyahara – turning inward

6. Dhrana – concentration

7. Dhyana – meditation

8. Samadhi- ecstatsy, enlightenment,