* how to reap the remarkable healing benefits of yoga *
by Timothy McCall, MD, a board-certified internist and medical editor of Yoga Journal.
Yoga is one of the most under-utilized and under-rated medical therapies in the US. It’s extremely rare for American medical doctors to prescribe yoga – most are not knowledgeable about its wide array of health benefits.
What You May Not Know
More than 100 scientific studies show that yoga can improve health problems ranging from heart disease to insomnia…diabetes to arthritis…cancer to bronchitis.
I’m a medical doctor who has practiced yoga for 12 years, and yoga is the most powerful system of health and well-being I have ever seen. By promoting overall health, yoga increases the benefits you may derive from conventional and/or alternative therapies – and may even eliminate your need for medication.
How Yoga Helps
Studies show that virtually all health problems respond positively to yoga. When 2,700 people suffering from a variety of ailments practiced yoga (for at least 2 hours a week for 1 year or longer), it helped 96% of those with back disorders…94% of those with heart disease…90% of those with cancer…90% of those with arthritis…88% of those with bronchitis or asthma…and 86% of those with diabetes.
What’s responsible for these salutary effects? Yoga, which is practiced by children as well as adults well into their 90s, can:
- Increase Flexibility by strengthening muscles that improve posture and balance
- Boost Immunity by reducing levels of the stress hormone cortisol and increasing the circulation of lymph (a fluid rich in immune cells)
- Enhance Lung Function with slower, deeper breathing that promotes oxygenation of tissues
- Strengthen Bones and Joints and nourish the cartilage in spinal discs…improve range of motion and help to deliver nutrients to the bones & cartilage.
- Condition the Heart & Circulatory System by lowering blood sugars and artery-damaging high blood pressure…and improving levels of cholesterol and triglycerides (blood fats).
- Relieve Pain due arthritis, back problems, fibromyalgia and carpal tunnel syndrome, scoliosis, etc. by reducing muscle spasms, improving the alignment of bones in joints and teaching people to separate pain from their emotional response to the pain.
- Improve Brain Function by increasing neurotransmitters (brain chemicals) and activating the left prefrontal cortex in the brain that reduces anxiety and anger.
Getting the Benefits
- Talk To Your Doctor. Some yoga practices are not recommended for people who suffer from specific conditions (for example, people with damaged retinas from diabetes should avoid upside down poses like shoulder stand because these poses can increase pressure in
- Choose the Right Instructor. Large group yoga classes are great preventa tive medicine for people who are relatively fit and flexible. Those with chronic medical conditions are often better off working with a teacher privately or in a small group. Talk to the teacher before you attend and explain your situation. If the class doesn’t fit your needs, ask for a recommendation for another class/teacher.
- Find An Experienced Teacher. Some styles of yoga require teachers to undergo 200-500 hours of training to be certified. Warning: Some yoga teachers may have completed only a weekend training course to become “certified”. Before attending a yoga class ask the instructor how long he/she trained. (200-500 hours is standard.)
- Pay Attention to Your Body. If you experience sharp pain when you do a yoga pose, STOP. If you perform breathing exercises and feel short of breath, STOP. Tell the teacher as soon as possible.
- Practice Regularly. The key to success is steady practice -once a day is ideal, once a week is better than none at all. Yoga works well as part of an overall fitness program that includes aerobic exercise.
- Be Patient. Most drugs work fast but the longer you take them the less effective they become. Yoga is not a quick fix. The longer you practice it, the more effective it becomes. Yoga is slow – but strong – medicine. This doesn’t mean you won’t see immediate results. Just a little bit of added flexibility, strength, and balance can make a huge difference in how you function day to day.
Some yoga techniques can help you instantly in stress-provoking situations such as getting stuck in traffic. Example: counting silently, inhale for 3 seconds and exhale for 6 seconds. Repeat breathing smoothly and gently. In a few breaths you’ll feel calmer.
The Healing Sound Journey starts at 7 pm and finishes at 8:30. Please arrive 10-15 minutes early to settle down in your place. You will sit or lie down on the floor for the journey so please bring pillows and a blanket(s) to make yourself comfortable.
Take Control of Your Life – Facilitated by Judy Kovatch, RYT, Certified Hypnotist
It’s possible to hypnotize yourself! You can learn self hypnosis quickly and easily in a few simple steps. Self-hypnosis is a natural state of awareness where a person can access their subconscious and give themselves suggestions for personal change. Self-hypnosis can be effectively used for Stress Reduction, Weight Control, Pain Management, Sports Improvement and Better Sleep.
Side Effects? Self-Hypnosis is totally safe. There are no known side effects other than improved health, intuition, memory concentration and sleep.
Why Attend a Self-Hypnosis class? You have a right to a happy, prosperous life. Have you ever heard the average person uses only 10% of their mind? What could you accomplish by learning to use 100% Anyone can learn Self-Hypnosis and reap the benefits. It’s an effective technique you can use for the rest of your life.
Discover How to Take Control of Every Aspect of Your Life. In this self-hypnosis instruction Class you will learn how to:
- Tap into your full potential, how easily it is to enter a hypnotic state
- Use self-hypnosis to recall important information
- Program your subconscious mind for success
Facilitator: Judy Kovatch is a certified hypnotist with the National Guild of Hypnotists. Judy draws from a tradition that is non-dogmatic and open to all. She encourages her students to enter a space of graceful self-inquiry, helping them access their own potential for creativity to achieve total wellness of body, mind and spirit.
Learn to play and apply these instruments
Learn the tools of yoga and establish a personal yoga practice
This program introduces the concepts of stress reduction and wellness from a whole-body perspective. It presents basic information on the link between stress and illness, and introduces participants to concrete and specific yoga-based tools to cope with stress and to promote healing. Students will leave this program with an understanding of how yoga helps maintain health. They will learn how to use yoga tools in their daily lives, to deal effectively with stress and promote wellness.
Week 1: “What will I learn?” Yoga, Stress Reduction and the Body Systems
Week 2: Core Postures and Importance of Breathing
Week 3: Healthy Bones, Joints and Muscles
Week 4: Healthy Immune System
Week 5: Opening to Life: Integrating the course
Class description: Each week explore a core posture in-depth, and then continue through a soft flowing practice. There is a strong emphasis on linking breath and movement. Classes conclude with breathing practice and a guided meditation period. These classes are appropriate for beginners and intermediate yoga practitioners.
By Mark Halpern
Have you ever wondered why some yoga poses seem to leave you calm, centered, and balanced, while others make you agitated, sore, and off center? Or why your best friend flourishes in a rousing “Power Yoga” workout, while you do best on a regimen of slow, gentle, stretching?
The ancient Indian healing system known as Ayurveda can help you answer such questions. According to Ayurveda, different people require very different yoga practices. As a yoga teacher and doctor practicing Ayurvedic medicine, I’ve experienced firsthand how Ayurveda—in addition to the dietary and lifestyle advice that it is best known for—can shed light on the practice of yoga.
Yoga and Ayurveda are two paths intertwined in such a close relationship that it is hard to imagine traveling down one of these paths without knowledge of the other. Ayurveda, which means “knowledge of life,” is the ancient art and science of keeping the body and mind balanced and healthy. Yoga is the ancient art and science of preparing the body and mind for the eventual liberation and enlightenment of the soul.
Like hatha yoga, Ayurveda teaches how to keep the physical body healthy, and how this health relates to our spiritual journey. Both yoga and Ayurveda spring from the ancient Sanskrit texts called the Vedas. According to Vedic scholar David Frawley, "Yoga is the practical side of the Vedic teachings, while Ayurveda is the healing side." In practice, both paths overlap.
In fact, Ayurveda and yoga are so closely related that some people argue that Patanjali, the first codifier of yoga, and Caraka, the first codifier of Ayurveda, may have in fact been one and the same person. Philosophically, both yoga and Ayurveda are rooted in Samkhya, one of six schools of classical Indian thought. The foundation of this philosophy can be described as follows:
- There exists a fundamental state of pure being that is beyond intellectual understanding and which all life consciously strives for. This is the state of enlightenment or self-liberation.
- Suffering is a part of our lives because of our attachment to our ego or self-identity (ahamkara).
- The path toward ending suffering is the path of dissolving or transcending the ego. In doing so, all fear, anger, and attachment are eradicated.
- To achieve this goal, we must live a purely ethical life. (Ethical guidelines are listed as the yamas and niyamas in the Yoga Sutra of Patanjali.)
- Any disturbance within the mind or body interferes with this path. Ayurveda is the science of keeping the biological forces in balance so that the mind and body may be healthy.
Fundamentals of Ayurveda
According to Ayurveda, the universal life force manifests as three different energies, or doshas, known as vata, pitta, and kapha. We are all made up of a unique combination of these three forces. This unique combination, determined at the moment of conception, is our constitution, or prakruti. The three doshas constantly fluctuate according to our environment, which includes our diet, the seasons, the climate, our age, and many more factors. The current state of these three doshas most commonly defines our imbalance, or vikruti. Since we all have a unique constitution and unique imbalances, each person’s path toward health will be unique. In addition, what will keep each of us healthy is also unique. Understanding our prakruti and vikruti offers each of us the potential to make correct choices.
The three doshas are generally described in terms of the five elements: earth, air, fire, water, and ether (the subtle energy that connects all things). Vata is said to be made up of air and ether. Likened to the wind, it is said to be light, drying, cooling, and capable of movement. Pitta is said to be made up of fire and water. Considered to be mostly fire, it is hot, light, and neither too dry nor too moist; it does not move on its own, but it can be easily moved by the wind (vata). Kapha is said to be made up of water and earth, which combine like mud. Kapha is heavy, moist, cool, and stable.
The three doshas fluctuate constantly. As they move out of balance, they affect particular areas of our bodies in characteristic ways. When vata is out of balance—typically in excess—we are prone to diseases of the large intestines, like constipation and gas, along with diseases of the nervous system, immune system, and joints. When pitta is in excess, we are prone to diseases of the small intestines, like diarrhea, along with diseases of the liver, spleen, thyroid, blood, skin, and eyes. When kapha is in excess, we are prone to diseases of the stomach and lungs, most notably mucous conditions, along with diseases of water metabolism, such as swelling.
When working with the doshas, remember these basic principles: Like increases like, and opposites balance each other. In other words, foods, weather, and situations that have similar characteristics as the doshas will increase them; those that have opposite characteristics will decrease them. Knowing this, you can adjust your yoga practice, diet, and other environmental factors to affect these forces in ways that create greater balance and harmony. (For example, vata types—who are dry, light, and airy—should avoid foods with similar qualities, like popcorn, and consume foods with opposite qualities, like warm milk).
The Three Gunas
Another fundamental Ayurvedic principle is the idea of the three gunas, or qualities of nature. The three gunas—sattva, rajas, and tamas—are used to describe emotional and spiritual characteristics.
That which is sattvic is light, clear, and stable. Sattva is the state of being which comes from purity of mind, and leads to an awareness of our connectedness to God, a state in which we manifest our most virtuous qualities.
That which is rajasic is active, agitated, or turbulent. Rajas arises when we are distracted from our truest essence, and manifests emotions such as fear, worry, anger, jealously, attachment, and depression.
That which is tamasic is heavy, dull, dark, and inert. Tamasic actions include violent or vindictive behavior, along with self-destructive behaviors such as addiction, depression, and suicide.
All movement or activity is by nature rajasic (agitating) and heating to the body. Yet some movements are more agitating and others less so. Generally speaking, the slower the movement, the less rajasic and the less agitating to the body and mind. The faster the movement, the more rajasic and the more heating it will be.
Any movement practiced with great awareness becomes more sattvic. Movements done with distraction or less attentiveness are more rajasic. Thus, one way to enhance our experience of yoga is to practice slowly and with awareness.
No movement can be purely sattvic. The inherent nature of movement is rajasic, as rajas is the principal of energy, and movement requires energy. Hence our sattvic qualities are most nurtured in meditation and in the stillness of holding a pose, where we can find pure awareness.
The rajasic nature of movement does not necessarily make it bad for us. Rajas serves the useful purpose of stimulating our bodies and minds. We could not function in our world without a part of us being rajasic.
What Sort of Yoga is Right for You?
When determining the kind of yoga practice that is right for you, the most important factor is your vikruti, or imbalance. Your vikruti is, in fact, the single most important determinant of your entire regime. Once you have corrected your imbalance, you can stay in good health by choosing a yoga practice that balances your constitution, or prakruti. (It’s sometimes hard for the lay person to distinguish between characteristics that are inborn, or constitutional, and those that result from an imbalance. For best results, consult a trained Ayurvedic physician.)
This article is an excerpt from Yoga Journal .. www.yogajournal.com