By Valerie Hobson, Co-owner of Lotus Centre
Recent studies show that approximately 20 million North Americans practice yoga. Why? If you’re amongst this group, you will know that put simply, yoga makes you feel better. This ancient practice that has migrated from India seems to be exactly the remedy for our times. If practiced regularly, yoga increases our physical health, emotional well-being, mental clarity and spiritual connection.
A key component to the practice is the attention to breath. In a yoga session we learn to breathe deeply. This goes a long way in making us feel better by improving the intake of oxygen into the cells of the body. Plus the rhythmic deeper movement of the breath itself creates a massaging effect to the inner body which helps improve metabolic activity while improving the function of the detoxifying mechanisms including the lymph system, kidneys, lungs, skin and elimination functions of digestion. There is also a strong correlation between breath and the mind. Slow deep breathing helps to calm the mind and emotions, reducing stress and anxiety. The poses or postures in yoga, combined with deep breathing, help the body by improving circulation, removing waste materials, and both strengthening and stretching the muscles.
The word yoga itself is a Sanskrit word that means “union”. The practice is integrating in that it brings the body, mind and heart together, leaving the practitioner feeling refreshed. And the beauty of it is that virtually anyone can practice no matter the fitness level. There is a yoga practice that is right for everybody at different stages of life. It is just a matter of finding a hatha yoga style that fits and with regular practice people can receive the benefits yoga has to offer.
BENEFITS OF YOGA:
Promotes overall well-being
Improves strength, flexibility and range of motion in joints
Enhances good posture which in turn promotes healthy organ functions
Aids digestion and elimination
Promotes healthier breathing patterns
Stimulates and tones the nervous system, stabilizing emotions
Develops mental acuity, through developing focus
Consider yoga as a way to maintain your good health.
Here follows some simple exercises to introduce yoga into your life. The first is to train the body in deep breathing. This can go a long way in helping a person to feel better and undo some not so good breathing patterns. The second exercise is a great way to take care of the back, maintaining it's suppleness and flexibility. Enjoy!
This can be practiced in a comfortable seated position or laying down on your back.
Relax, close your eyes and bring your awareness to your breath
Exhale completely. Then take a slow deep breath in, drawing the breath into the bottom of the lungs, the middle lungs and then the upper lungs, under the collar bones. Pause.
Then exhale slowly from the top of the lungs, down to the bottom.
When you inhale allow your abdomen, chest and lungs to expand.
Let the breath over time become smooth and even, as you breathe deeper in and out. Repeat for at least 12 complete breaths
Come onto all fours, kneeling, with hands placed directly below shoulders, knees placed directly below hips.
Connect with your breath.
When you exhale, round your back up to the ceiling, like a cat stretching, while dropping your head and drawing the tailbone down toward the floor.
When you inhale move the spine the other way, by arching the back, looking forward with the face, tipping the tailbone up to the ceiling.
Repeat this movement with breath for 5 repetitions.
Sources: Kripalu Magazine Feb./March issue, Yoga Therapy by Stella Weller