So honored to be published today on the Heath Advocate website.
Harnessing Yoga’s Healing Powers Inside and Out by Stephanie Spence
It’s an exciting time in the world of well-being. There is growing medical evidence from numerous respected sources that are studying the benefits of yoga, both physically and mentally.
Yoga is an ancient philosophy of health and well-being. Thousands of years ago when yoga was first conceived and practiced it was shared as a system of healing with special emphasis on the mind.
Today most people identify yoga with asana, the physical practice of yoga. Other tools of yoga including lifestyle and diet changes, meditation, visualization and conscious breathing all are tools to address the many dimensions of the human system; body, breath, mind and emotions.
There are four basic systems:
- The human body is a holistic entity. It is comprised of different dimensions that are interrelated and inseparable from one another. The health or sickness of any dimensions affects the others.
- Each individual is unique. There is no “one-size-fits-all”.
- Yoga is self-empowering. The student is her own healer. The teacher can educate and give guidance, but it is up to the student to do the practice.
- The quality and state of a person’s mind is crucial to healing/personal growth. Yoga cultivates a positive mind.
So how do you begin? First it’s important to find a qualified teacher. You should consider many things. The teacher should have wisdom gathered from study and years of practice. The teacher should be a great communicator and a focused mind. Confidence and honesty are essential. The teacher should also be registered.
The governing body of registered yoga teachers internationally is Yoga Alliance. They have a list of teachers that you can search for by area. Their web site is www.yogaalliance.org. Go to their site and click on “Find A Teacher or School.” The teachers have met their standards of training and teaching experience.
The yogic path to holistic well-being is comprehensive and highly specific to each person. A teacher can be a valuable guide.
Teachers use techniques such as visualization are used to cultivate positive attitudes including compassion, courage and stability. Meditation refines the mind, giving us focus and calm. When we cultivate confidence, which yoga does, the brain send signals to the body, which has a placebo effect. Ritual creates calm. The mind responds to repeated health movements, asana. The whole yogic system works together to enhance mental alertness while at the same time creating a sense of calm.
Silvia Mordini, global yoga expert, puts it this way: “Yoga Inspires Change. The most important Yogic lesson I have learned is: To Create a Change we have to Change Something. Yoga is the result of a unique personal alchemy. It is about taking the personal growth we experience on the mat into making the changes we want in our lives. Anytime you want to transform and move beyond your limitations, to me, this is the Alchemy of Yoga.”
There are numerous physical benefits gained from practicing yoga – inside and out. Here is an extensive list:
Blood pressure reduces, Breath-holding time goes up, Cardiovascular efficiency rises, Dexterity skills get better, EEG – alpha waves rise, Endocrine function regularizes, Endurance rises, Energy levels go up, Eye-hand coordination gets better, Gastrointestinal function standardizes, Immunity increases, Joint range of motion improves, Muscular flexibility is enhanced, Muscular strength increase, Pains reduce, Posture improves, Pulse rate falls, Reaction time improves, Respiratory amplitude and smoothness rise, Respiratory efficiency gets better, Sleep is enhanced considerably, Stable autonomic nervous system, Weight normalizes
Scaling back from a medical list, what about physical beauty? Beauty inside and out. Skin thrives when physical activity is done in a healthy way.
Yoga in general improves skin health by reducing stress (a common catalyst to breakouts and fine lines) and removes toxins from the body. In fact, there are certain poses that are especially good at this, and therefore especially good for the skin.
- Mountain Pose – rhythmic, conscious breathing brings oxygen to the body keeps vital systems running.
- Standing Forward Bend – fights against gravity. This has been called the fountain of youth in yoga.
- Seated Twist – clears the body of waste.
- Chair pose – makes the heart beat faster. Circulation improves skin function.
- Legs-Up-The-Wall pose – a less challenging version of shoulder stand, which increases blood flow to the face.