How Yoga Heals

This is a re-post for those of you who are interested in exploring yoga for your health and wellbeing.

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yoga for wellbeing

Thanks to Nancy over at Spirit Lights the Way for sparking some yoga inspiration!

I take a therapeutic approach to my Yoga teaching; focusing on body awareness, mindfulness and the breath. To me its more than a physical work out.

I love this quote from Georg Feuerstein taken from Yoga Gems:
“Beginners on the yogic path would do well to understand correctly what Yoga is all about and to then approach it accordingly.
There is a humorous saying in Yoga circles that Yoga has been reduced to the practice of postures, and that postures have been reduced to stretching, and that stretching has been reduced to lengthening the hamstrings. Authentic Yoga is always a spiritual discipline, even when the focus is on the body, as it is in Hatha Yoga.”

The intention of Yoga is the quieten the mind and connect with our inner spirit, consciousness or higher power. Read more about it on my Yoga page.

In his book “Yoga as Medicine” Dr Timothy McCall shares 40 ways that Yoga (Poses, Breathing and Meditation) heals:

  1. Increases flexibility
  2. Strengthen muscles
  3. Improves balance
  4. Improves immune function
  5. Improves posture
  6. Improves lung function
  7. Leads to slower and deeper breathing
  8. Discourages mouth breathing
  9. Increases oxygenation of the tissues
  10. Improves joint health
  11. Nourishes intervertebral discs
  12. Improves return of venous blood
  13. Increases circulation of lymph
  14. Improves circulation of the feet
  15. Improves proprioception (awareness of body in space)
  16. Increases control of bodily functions
  17. Strengthens bones
  18. Conditions the cardiovascular system
  19. Promotes weight loss
  20. Relaxes the nervous system and reduces anxiety
  21. Improves the function of the nervous system
  22. Improves brain function
  23. Activates the left prefrontal cortex
  24. Changes neurotransmitter levels
  25. Lowers levels of the stress hormone cortisol
  26. Lowers blood sugar
  27. Lowers blood pressure
  28. Improves levels of cholesterol and triglycerides
  29. Thins the blood
  30. Improves bowel function
  31. Releases unconscious muscle gripping
  32. Uses imagery to effect change in the body
  33. Relieves pain
  34. Lowers need for medication
  35. Fosters healthier relationships
  36. Improves psychological health and mood
  37. Leads to healthier habits
  38. Fosters spiritual growth
  39. Elicits the placebo effect
  40. Encourages involvement in your own healing

This list still wows me!

If you are young – there is every reason in the world to start now. Do it!

If you are in Mid life – it isn’t too late. I started yoga in my 40’s and it changed my life. This is where I find my middle ground every day.
Find a studio and a teacher that you can relate to and feel supported by. A word of caution here. Not every Yoga offered in classes is the same. Unless you are an athlete, avoid Vinyasa or Power Yoga.

Even if you are elderly and have a number of health and physical issues, finding an experienced trained teacher with a therapeutic approach can lead to a more active and healthy life… and a sense of peace and wellbeing.

yoga heals

So many people try Yoga in gyms these days. Please be careful as the focus is usually on having a physical workout. In my experience the instructors may not be as experienced, there is less personal attention and less time for relaxation and mindfulness.

For me, Yoga is about balance, alignment and inner peace. Finding balance and peace in our lives and alignment of our mind body and spirit… on and off the mat.

Namaste

* Inspiration – Our True Nature

observing ourselves

“We can learn to transcend our ego, gradually, by placing ourselves more and more in the position of the transcendental Self, which knows no likes and dislikes but simply witnesses all experiences and states of existence. As our capacity for witnessing – mindfulness – increases, we automatically slip more and more into our true nature.”

Georg Feuerstein

When we have a mindfulness practice our ego begins to lose its power over us. We start to see ourselves as connected beings rather than separate.

What does this look like? We notice our self reflected in others. We have more compassion for our self as well as others. We become part of  humanity and beingness. We learn to let go of expectations of how things should be and trust in each moment as it unfolds.

The more we practice and connect to our higher Self, the more we let go of the past and our worries about the future.

There is no need to escape, because we are already home.

We learn to trust and live in place of love rather than fear.

This is our true nature.

Some sages say it takes years of practice with discipline and willpower, while other modern sages  say that we are able to open to it in the moment when we live from our true nature. Georg Feuerstein’s words capture both elements of the traditional long path and the modern short path on the spiritual journey.

* Blogging and Serendipity

People sometimes ask how I am able to post so often. They imagine it is somehow hard work or at least requiring will and effort.

Well, I can tell you that it is such a delight to be a blogger! I had no idea when I started that this would be as much fun as it is. It feels as natural as yoga. Yup – its takes practice and you have to engage fully in the process. But when you know the basics, you can let go and go with the flow.

serendipity

“Serendipity” by Josephine Wall at http://www.josephinewall.co.uk

Every day I wake up with ideas and thoughts about people, what I have learned and how I can share it with others. I usually have someone in mind that I am communicating with. (Yes – it could be you). There is inspiration everywhere on the blogosphere … and from the piles of books on my bed side table.

I admit that when it comes to reading books, I am a dipper rather than a “start to finisher”. I believe in serendipity. A part of me wants to believe that the universe will show me what I need when I open to a random page. In my yoga classes I do this with my favorite inspiration “Yoga Gems” by Georg Feuerstein.

And, now that I think about it, its just like in the mornings, when I choose what earrings to wear.
I have a jewellery box with small earrings in it. They are all mixed up. When I reach in, I have in my mind to use the one I find and then pair it up. Every time its partner finds its way quickly between my fingers. It never seizes to delight me! How does it do this?…

In writing this post I decided to share my thoughts as they came up. I was curious about what I would write. I notice that there is some vulnerability when I don’t have a particular thought or idea to build from.

Perhaps the universe gently nudged me so I hit the right spot with you …

May you too have a day filled with serendipity and ease.

* The Quest

everest quest

“The inner meaning of life does not readily reveal itself; it must be searched for. Such a search is the Quest.

When a man begins to seek out his real nature, to find the truth of his real being, he begins to follow the Quest.

The Quest is a veritable re-education of the self, leading in turn to a noble transcendence of the self.

Some come to the truth in a roundabout way.

The Quest is direct.

The Quest is spiritual mountaineering.”

Paul Brunton taken from “Yoga Gems” edited by Georg Feuerstein

When I read this I like the idea of spiritual mountaineering. A direct route for the courageous!

And yet we can also come to the truth in a round about way.

It is there for each and every one of us … one step at a time.

Namaste

* Yoga and Happiness

I am excited to join Kyle Williams tomorrow at Awaken in Media to begin teaching our 200 hour Yoga Teacher Training program.  One of the first questions we will be exploringom symbol is “What is Yoga?” I’ve read many interpretations that have arisen from the original text in The Yoga Sutra of Patanjali.

My favorite interpretation comes from Georg Feuerstein. He has such knowledge of the original texts and philosophy of Yoga and is skillful in bringing yoga from a very different time and culture, and making it meaningful for us today.

“The complex five thousand year old tradition of yoga is about a very simple thing: happiness (ananda). Yoga tells us that in order to realize lasting happiness, we must discover our true spiritual nature. This requires that we commit ourselves to nothing less that self transformation and self transcendence. For although our true nature, or spiritual Self, is always the same, it tends to be obscured by our conventional thoughts, emotions and patterns of behavior. The yoga tradition compares this circumstance to the brightly shining sun, which is ever radiant but periodically hidden from our view by drifting dark clouds.

Yoga Val

Yoga helps us to remove all obstructing (mental) clouds, so that we may come to enjoy the sunshine within. It is an extensive program of reeducation though which we learn, step by step, to live in the light of our true nature. Only when we have truly found ourselves will we be able to live in peace, harmony and happiness in the world. This is what is sometimes called the sacred life….

For many people, practicing yoga means to do yoga postures once or twice a week or even every day. Although this approach can yield many benefits, such as better health and greater vitality, the real power of yoga is unleashed only when we engage in yoga as a way of life, twenty four hours a day. Yoga is universal and applicable in all situations. It is first and foremost a mental or inner discipline. Even the postures (asana) have a spiritual purpose and must be practiced with full awareness. Every single yoga technique is a tool for discovering the abiding happiness of the ultimate Self or Spirit.” 

My gratitude goes to my teachers Nicole and Joe at East Eagle Yoga; to my current teachers at Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health; my Sangha community of fellow teachers and yogis; and to Kyle for being my partner in the continued growth and evolution of our path of yoga and service to support the well being of others.

Namaste

* The Secret of Eternal Youth

“Youth is not a time of life, it is a state of mind.

It is not a matter of ripe cheeks, red lips and supple knees.

It is a temper of the will, a quality of the imagination, a vigor of the emotions.

It is freshness of the deep springs of life.

Nobody grows old by merely living a number of years.

People grow old only by deserting their ideals.

Years wrinkle the skin, but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul.”

                                                   ~ Swami Bua

This is one of my favorite quotes found in “Yoga Gems” by Georg Feuerstein.

Kitty Cohen throws first pitch

Kitty Cohen, age 101 throws the first pitch at the Blue Jays game

Kitty Cohen is a great example of this isn’t she? …  When I saw her on the t.v. she was having so much fun and milking every moment of being in the spotlight. What a fan! What enthusiasm for life! 🙂