by Fabienne C. Grossman, RD, E-200 RYT
Yoga is a phenomenal, fun way to improve one’s mental, emotional and physical health. Yoga has various postures named after animal forms, such as Cobra (Bahujungasana), Cat/Cow (Marjaryasana/Bitilasana), Camel (Ustrasana), and Rabbit (Shashanka), to name a few. Each of these postures resembles the animal it describes, and each helps with aligning, stretching and strengthening of the spine. In addition to bringing a smile to your face when you think of the poses’ names, once you do them, your mind is occupied with focusing on the postures, thereby negating other thoughts you may have at this time. This temporary clearing of thoughts, even for a few moments, is highly effective at calming the mind and bringing in peace.
As we get older, we gradually do not have as much time to “play”. Yoga gives us the chance to go back to our childhood; we sit on the floor, and sometimes stand on our hands or our heads. These seemingly trivial postures are not simply horseplay. These postures such as easy sitting position (Sukhasana), head stand (Sirsha-asana), and hand-stand (Adho Mukha Vrkasana) all have real physical benefits for our bodies. When we sit on the floor, we are opening our hips. When we stand on our heads or hands we are reversing gravity. Inversions (having the heart higher than the head) are said to be helpful in reversing blood and lymph flow, improving heart function and the immune system. The additional benefit of relieving varicose veins and edema has been reported with inversions that involve the legs being higher than the heart and head.
Yoga also promotes practical fitness. Yoga increases flexibility by stretching the body in new ways, bringing greater range of motion to muscles and joints. Yoga is a low to no impact form of exercise, making it beneficial for those with joint or bone pain. Many yoga postures require you to support your own body weight in new ways, including balancing on one leg such as in Tree Pose (Vrksasana) or supporting yourself with your arms in Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Savasana) which helps increase arm and leg strength. Through experience and research, it is clear that yoga increases strength and muscle tone, giving those who choose to practice increased lean, long muscles.
Furthermore, many people have shallow breathing. Our natural breathing is controlled by the medulla oblongata, the more primitive part of our brain; however, when we use conscious breathing, a part of every yoga practice, we activate the cerebral cortex, a more evolved region of the brain. Yogic breathing increases awareness of breath and some breathing exercises (Pranayama) help increase lung capacity, clear nasal passages and even calm the central nervous system, which has both physical and mental benefits.
Overall, yoga is an effective and deeply enjoyable way to connect and soothe the body and mind. Fitness, flexibility and fun. This is yoga.
Fabienne C. Grossman is a Relax & Renew® Trainer, Registered Yoga Teacher and Owner of Weston Yoga, located at 2600 Glades Circle, Suite 400, offering private and group yoga and meditation instruction on and offsite. Weston Yoga offers a 200 hr RYT Summer Intensive Training, June 13-30, facilitated by Nancy Wile, EdD, E-RYT 500. For information or a class schedule, call 954-349-6868 or visit WestonYoga.com. See ad page 59.