The Force Within You: Yoga

Yoga silhouette

By Jasmine Moreno 

There is a strength hidden inside every individual, but finding that strength can be emerged through connecting one’s self through yoga. If you’re new to yoga, its style of exercise may seem a little out of the ordinary. Although the development of Yoga started thousands of years ago in India, its popularity in the United States as a form of exercise has increased significantly in the past couple of years. Whether it is due to the trendsetters in Hollywood or the increased levels of stress, depression and anxiety, yoga is now becoming a cultural occurrence that brings many benefits both mentally and physically. Throughout this article there will be simple beginner’s poses to help you get a feel on the holistic benefits.

“Yoga is a healing system of theory and practice. The purpose of yoga is to create strength, awareness and harmony in both the mind and body,” explains Natalie Nevins, Do

Natalie Nevins is a board-certified osteopathic family physician and certified Kundalini Yoga instructor in Hollywood, California. She is medical director of the Amrit Davaa Wellness Center in Hollywood and goes to Care Harbor to help put on four-day clinics providing free medical, dental and vision care to thousands of people at the L.A Sports Arena. Not only a doctor, but a humanitarian, Dr. Nevins has more than enough credibility within the health world to be able to share valuable knowledge on our bodies and exercises that not only heals, but creates preventative medicines and practices.

Childs Pose (Balasana):

Start in a kneeling position. Drop your butt towards your heels as you stretch the upper torso and arms down and forward. After taking a few breaths, allow your body to be in a fully stretched position. Rest your arms in front of you.  Rest your stomach on the top of your thighs, and continue to breathe while placing forehead on the mat.

*focus on breath

childs pose

Benefits from pose:

  • Helps alleviate stress, anxiety and fatigue
  • Releases tension in the back, shoulders, chest and flexes the body’s internal organs
  • Normalizes circulation throughout the body
  • Stretches the hips, thighs, ankles, spine, and muscles, tendons and ligaments in the knee
  • Calms the mind and body
  • Encourages strong and constant breathing

The Benefits

This incredibly phenomenon has over two hundred different poses and schools that typically encompass postures (also known as asana), meditation and breathing exercises. Yoga is known to not only build and tone muscle, but to also stretch and flex various muscle groups. Even some of the considered “simplest” Poses in Yoga can lessens chronic pain, including arthritis, lower back pains, headaches, and even help with carpal tunnel syndrome. It can also help with the lowering of blood pressure and restless nights (insomnia).

Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana):

Begin on your hands and knees, making sure your shoulders are lined up with wrists and your hips are lined up with your knees. Press firmly through your palms and knuckles while spreading your fingers apart. Exhale as you lift your knees off the floor and tuck your toes. Press the floor away from yourself as you lift the pelvis. Keep your back straight and don’t worry about heals touching the ground. You can also bend knees one at a time while in pose.

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Benefits from pose:

  • Energizes the body
  • Helps relieve menstrual discomfort
  • Helps prevent osteoporosis
  • Strengthens the arms and legs
  • Stretches the hamstrings, calves, arches, hands, and shoulders
  • Calms the brain and relieves mild depression
  • Eliminates stiffness and back pain
  • Decreases anxiety
  • Strengthens abdominal muscles

Physical

Yoga also increases flexibility, vitality, energy and improved respiration. Yoga can also improve and maintain a balanced metabolism, cardio and circulatory health, athletic performance, weight reduction, prevention and protection from injury. Yoga’s holistic benefits have even captivated some the top athletes in the United States. Athletes like Russell Wilson, Lebron James, Stephen Curry, Russel Okung, and Kevin Love are prime examples of avid yogis. Russell Okung saying,

“Meditation is as important as lifting weights and being out here on the field for practice. It’s about quieting your mind and getting into certain states where everything outside of you doesn’t matter in that moment. There are so many things telling you that you can’t do something, but you take those thoughts captive, take power over them and change them.”

They all use the benefits of yoga to excel in there sports and acquire positive life long skills.

Mentality

 One of the best benefits of yoga is how it helps any type of individual to manage stress – which has been known to have devastating effects on the mind and body.

“Stress can reveal itself in many ways, including back or neck pain, sleeping problems, headaches, drug abuse, and an inability to concentrate,” says Dr. Nevins. “Yoga can be very effective in developing coping skills and reaching a more positive outlook on life.”

Unlike the more traditional forms of western exercise, yoga’s combination of meditation and breathing helps individuals improve and train his/her mental well-being. Regular yoga practice creates mental calmness and clarity; relieves chronic stress patterns; increases body awareness; relaxes the mind; centers attention; and sharpen concentration. Yoga mentally also helps for preventative action.

Some of the studies suggested that yoga might affect the body in ways similar to antidepressants and psychotherapy. Yoga may influence an increase in brain chemicals known as neurotransmitters (feel-good agents like serotonin), produce a healthier balance of lipids and growth factors, reduce stress, and lower inflammation. Yoga is also being introduced and studied further as a complementary treatment for mental disorders. Yoga is featured in many veterans’ centers throughout the country for PTSD as well as used to coincide with a variety of therapy groups.

Tree Pose (Vriksasana):

Begin in what is known as Mountain Pose. Your feet should be aligned with the outer hips and spine should be long and straight. Keep hands down and by your side. Then pick a side to shift your weight into. Slowly start to shift all of your weight into right foot and focus your consciousness on your feet. To help your balance, find a gazing point (drishti) in front of you.

Gradually raise your left leg. Keep right leg strong, while left leg allows toes to come off the floor and bend your knee to 90 degrees. Rotate and open the left hip so that your knee is pointing at the left wall. After achieving these steps place the sole of your left foot on your upper right thigh. Use hands to help adjust positioning and make sure left foot is pointing towards the ground. Make sure tailbone is pointing to the floor, spine is long and you’re keeping a consistent breath.

Tree Pose Pic 2

Option #1: Bring your hands to your heart by pressing palms together in a prayer position in front of your chest.

Option #2: If you feel balanced and want to branch out try on an inhale to raise arms above your head. If you are able, open up your chest by squeezing shoulder blades together.

Tree Pose Pic 3

Benefits from pose:

  • Stretches the legs, back, core, arms and butt
  • Helps and creates balance in the body and mind
  • Improves concentration
  • Helps those suffering from sciatica
  • Opens the hips
  • Strengthens the ligaments and tendon of feet
  • Assists in establishing pelvic stability
  • Strengthens the bones
  • Builds self-confidence and esteem

Breathing and Meditation

Complementary to poses, are the different forms of Meditation and Breathing that also contribute highly to the diminishment of stress, anxiety, and depression. Although for beginners, a concentrative meditation technique may be the best type of meditation to start off with. A concentrative meditation technique involves focusing on one point while focusing on slow breathes in and out the nose. This could entail watching the breath, listening to a repetitive gong, staring at a candle, repeating a single word or mantra, or even counting beads on a rosary. Since most of us live lives that are always required to think ahead and be on the go, focusing the mind is challenging.

A beginner might meditate for only a few minutes and then work up to longer durations. In this form of meditation, you simply refocus your awareness on the chosen object of attention each time you notice your mind wandering. Rather than thinking about random thoughts, you simply let them go. Through this process, your ability to concentrate improves.

“Whether you’re a couch potato or a professional athlete, size and fitness levels do not matter because there are modifications for every yoga pose and beginner classes in every style,” says Dr. Nevins. “The idea is to explore your limits, not strive for some pretzel-like perfection.”

Yoga practice can improve balance, strengthen muscles, enhance overall health, heal and prevent injuries, help handle anxiety, stress, depression and open the body for meditation. It is one of the best ways to get in tune with your body and your inner self. Yoga’s popularity is proof that many people understand and are valuing the benefits of an exercise system that engages the mind, body and spirit in equal measure. If you’ve never done yoga before, give it a try and initiate the force within you.

“Namaste, The divine light in me acknowledges the divine light in you.”

 

 

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