Cure yourself with Yoga

Yoga, one of the world’s oldest forms of exercise, is experiencing a rebirth in our stressful modern world. You wouldn’t think that a 3000-year-old exercise could increase its popularity. But yoga is now being prescribed even by health practitioners for a range of health ailments and illnesses, as a stress reliever and to complement other fitness programs.

Talk to anyone who practises yoga and they will quickly extoll an endless list of benefits. It seems beginners quickly become converts. They believe it is the key to good health and happiness in today’s world _ a common goal for most people. But probably the greatest advertisement for yoga is the fact that it seems to have graduated from the weird and alternative ranks into a position of fairly wide community acceptance.

Housewives, businessmen, sportspeople, teenagers and the aged are all practising a variety of yoga positions, meditation and associated breathing exercises. For many, yoga becomes a way of life _ often giving a more spiritual side to people’s lives, although not necessarily linked to religion. One school of belief maintains that chronic and accumulated stress is the reason for many of our modern illnesses.

Proponents of yoga argue that it has a multiplicity of techniques to counter that cause and, unlike drug therapy, attack the cause, not just the symptoms. It offers, they say, a holistic approach to health and fitness. Many professional athletes, looking for the edge have turned to yoga as a supplementary form of training. They have found that yoga aids their state of mental and physical relaxation between training sessions, and their crucial build-up to big meets, where a competition is usually won or lost in the mind.

Perhaps one of yoga’s major attractions is that it combines physical and mental exercise. It is excellent for posture and flexibility, both key physical elements for most sports-people, and in some respects, there are strength benefits to be gained. Yoga teachers say that the approach of yoga therapy is one of the most effective ways of achieving the mental edge that athletes seek.

Marian Fenlon, one of Brisbane’s leading yoga teachers of the past 20 years, is the author of two books on the subject and has had thousands of yoga pupils. Many of them have, in turn, become teachers. Believe it or not, she has even taught yoga to footballers. Many years ago, she took Brisbane Souths rugby league team for an eight-week course and, amazingly, it was well-received. She says there are eight components to yoga therapy – attitudes, disciplines, posture and flexibility, breathing, sensory awareness, concentration, contemplation and meditation. Yoga can play a substantial supporting role to modern medicine, and complement other fitness and exercise programs. While there is no great component of aerobic fitness in yoga therapy, it complements aerobic exercise because of breathing techniques that can be learned. So there are advantages for even the most demanding of aerobic sports – swimming, cycling and running. There are numerous documented cases of yoga relieving or curing serious illnesses – such as Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, heart disease, and respiratory illnesses like asthma and emphysema.

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Posted in Yoga for Health

Can Yoga help Diabetes?

Diabetes is everywhere in the news today. More and more peoples are being stricken with the desease. Of the different ways in which diabetes presents, noninsulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM) is probably the most commonly encountered genetic disease. NIDDM or Type II diabetes is multifactorial, depending also on environmental factors including obesity, sedentary lifestyles and nutritional imbalances.

Yoga has shown some beneficial results in curing diabetes. The yoga exercises that are prescribed for curing diabetes is different from hatha yoga exercise because it involves positions tailored to treat certain conditions, as well as meditation, relaxation and stretching exercises.

One of the studies conducted to cure diabetes was the one set up by the Yoga Biomedical Trust, founded in 1982 by biochemist Dr Robin Monro, and an Indian yoga research foundation which discovered that practicing yoga for 30 minutes a day for one month helped reduce blood glucose levels in some diabetics.

The yoga patients took part in one or two 90-minute sessions a week and were asked to practice at home. The classes included the specific yoga exercises of the spinal twist, the bow and abdominal breathing.

At the end of the 12 weeks blood sugar levels fell significantly in all patients in the group and were slightly raised in a control group which had not joined in the yoga sessions. Three yoga students managed to reduce their medication, including one man who had not changed his drug regime for 20 years.

It has been known for a long time that exercise is helpful for diabetics. Yoga therapy may help reduce stress levels which could play a part in maturity onset diabetes. But one drawback is that some patients would find it hard to keep up the regular sessions needed to sustain the benefit. All the patients said they would like to see these classes set up on a permanent basis but we don’t have the money.

It is not necessarily the exercise component of the yoga therapy package which is most important, because there is not enough physical exercise to account for the changes, but stress reduction has a lot to do with it. Stress hormones increase sugar levels in the blood. People also benefit from the stabilization of their moods which yoga brings, an increased feeling of well-being and a feeling of being more in control, which may help with their diet control.

Posted in Yoga for Health

Basic Yoga Tips

Yoga is a challenging discipline for the beginning to the advanced person. The asanas, or postures are slow and steady and are not meant to be painful, but this does not mean that they are not challenging. Never extend yourself too much to cause discomfort. With practice, you should see yourself relaxing into the stretches with ease.

Nevertheless, for beginners there are a few tips when practicing yoga. Release all thoughts, good or bad before you begin. Turn off your phone and don’t answer the door, you need peace and quiet. Make sure you take a warm, relaxing shower and that you wear comfortable clothes that will allow you to stretch easily. You can use aromatherapy that will relax and help to clear you thoughts. You will want to purchase a yoga mat so you can rest on the pad and not slip and slide on the floor. Make sure your shoes and socks are off and that your hair is either comfortable pulled back or no, whatever feels better. Turn the lights low (or you can do it in the sunlight), whatever suits you. You may want to turn some relaxing music of nature, perhaps the beach. Belts or ropes are used to grab your legs and pull them into a better stretch, which should feel delicious. Blocks are used to prop yourself up and sit better or for standing postures.

Without the prop support, you may not be able to attain some postures. Just remember that although the postures are important, performing them absolutely perfectly is not the goal. Yoga is not just an exercise; it includes the mind and intelligence and the reflection in action. These tools make it easier for you as a beginner in yoga, but you will find that eventually you will not need them. Some people prefer taking a yoga class so they are guided properly. There is nothing wrong with this, but keep in mind that only you can take your mind and spirit as far as it was meant to go, alone.

Posted in Yoga Asana

Yoga Basics

Yoga exercises strengthen your body and make it more flexible. Yoga also calms your mind and gives you energy. In active sports or strenuous exercises, you use up energy. In yoga classes, students report that they feel tranquil after a class, yet have more energy. Slow and steady motion is the key to going into or coming out of the postures. You hold a yoga pose for several seconds or even minutes and give attention to full, quiet breath. Your yoga instructor will always encourage you to relax as the exercises are being done.

You gently place your body into yoga postures. Done correctly, there’s very little chance of injury or muscle stress. A particular asana is not repeated dozens of times, nor are you ever encouraged to push yourself too much.

A yoga session is designed for balance. You stretch to the right and then to the left. You bend back and then forward. You learn to recognize when one side is stronger or more flexible than the other. Thus harmony and balance are achieved with yoga practice.

People of all ages can practice yoga exercises. They are easily modified to meet your needs and physical condition. Don’t be put off by the difficult looking postures you may see in a yoga book. A skilled teacher can adapt most asanas by using chairs, cushions, even a wall or other props. A yoga practice can be tailor-made just for you. If something is really impossible for you to do, just forget it. Never compete with yourself or others. Yoga is a stress-free but powerful way to exercise.

Yoga is good for increasing your flexibility and relieving stress, but it doesn’t take the place of aerobic exercise. You should still do regular, aerobic exercise, which increases your cardiovascular fitness, helps you lose weight, and, for people with non-insulin-dependent (type II) diabetes at least, improves blood glucose control.

Posted in Yoga Asana

Two Asana’s Explained

SWAYING PALM TREE POSE (Tiryaka Tadasana)
Streamlines the waist and develops balance. Stand with feet 8 inch apart and fix eyes on a point directly in front of you. Interlock fingers and turn palms outward. Inhale deeply as you raise arms over your head. As you breathe out, bend from your waist to your left side, taking care not to reach forwards or backwards. Hold for a few seconds, then inhale deeply and slowly return to the upright position.

Repeat 5 times to each side.

CAT-STRETCH POSE (Marjari-asana)
Kneel and lean forward to place hands on floor below your shoulders, fingers facing forward, hands in line with knees. Arms and thighs should be at right angles to the floor; knees may be slightly separated.

Inhale deeply, raise head and drop spine so your back is concave. Fill your lungs and hold for three seconds. As you exhale, lower your head and stretch your spine upwards. At the end of the breath, pull in your buttocks, contract stomach muscles and place head between arms.

Repeat 5 times.

Posted in Yoga Asana

Two More Asana Explained

POSE OF THE MOON (Shashankasa)
Sit on your knees with palms on thighs. Close eyes and relax, but keep spine and head straight.

Inhale deeply and lift arms above head, keeping them straight and shoulder-width apart. As you breathe out, bend forward from the hips, keeping arms and head in a straight line. Hands and forehead should eventually rest on the floor in front of your knees. Bend your elbows, so that arms are fully relaxed and hold for five seconds.

Then breathe in and slowly raise arms and body back to the upright position.

Exhale and return your palms to the top of your thighs. Repeat 3-5 times.

MOUNTAIN POSE (Parvatasana)
Strengthens nerves and muscles in the arms and legs, and stimulates the circulation in the upper spine.

Kneel on raised heels and stretch your arms forward so your forehead is on the floor. Breathe deeply and relax for a few seconds. Raise yourself on to your hands and knees, keeping your toes tucked under and your back flat.

Inhale and push up onto your toes. Raise your buttocks and lower your head between your arms. Your back and legs should form two sides of a triangle.

Exhale, rest your feet on the floor and try to touch the floor with the top of your head. Hold the position for 10 seconds.

Posted in Yoga Asana

The Seven Chakras

The Sanskrit word meaning spinning wheel is Chakra. These are a system of seven energy centers located along the spine. Each chakra corresponds to an area of the body, a set of behavioral characteristics and stages of spiritual growth. Practicing yoga and focusing your energies during different postures can help you to align your chakras and get all the wheels spinning in the same direction and speed. Understanding how to fine tune and control your chakras through yoga and meditation can help bring balance and peace to your mind, body and spirit.

There are seven chakras, each associated with a different part of the body along the spine from the perineum to the crown of your head. Each chakra is associated with a particular body location, a color, a central emotional/behavioral issue, as well as many other personal aspects including identity, goals, rights, etc.

The seven chakras are: Muladhara- base of the spine; Svadhisthana- abdomen, genitals, lower back/hip; Manipura- solar plexus; Anahata- heart area; Visshudha- throat; Ajna- brow; Sahasrara- top of head, cerebral cortex.

Through the movements and postures of yoga, you can learn to focus your concentration and energy to and from the various chakras in your body. This can allow you to compensate for areas that may be out of synch with the rest of your body or not active at all. By balancing the energy among all seven of the chakras, balance can be achieved. This spiritual energy is known as Kundalini energy. In its dormant state, it can be visualized as a coiled up snake resting at the base of your spine, the Muladhara chakra. Since the chakras act as valves or pumps regulating the flow of energy through your system, controlled and purposeful movements such as yoga can be extremely beneficial in realigning your chakras in a way that can cause great benefits to you in your physical and emotional wellbeing.

Posted in Yoga Energy Systems