“You cannot do yoga. Yoga is your natural state. What you can do are yoga exercises, which may reveal to you where you are resisting your natural state.” ~ Sharon Gannon
“One becomes firmly established in practice only after attending to it for a long time, without interruption and with an attitude of devotion.” ~ Yoga Sutra I.14
“Yoga is the unifying art of transforming dharma into action, be it through inspired thought, properly nurturing our children, a painting, a kindness or an act of peace that forever moves humanity forward. “
“Yoga is not a work-out, it is a work-in. And this is the point of spiritual practice; to make us teachable; to open up our hearts and focus our awareness so that we can know what we already know and be who we already are.”
— Rolf Gates
“True yoga is not about the shape of your body, but the shape of your life. Yoga is not to be performed; yoga is to be lived. Yoga doesn’t care about what you have been; yoga cares about the person you are becoming. Yoga is designed for a vast and profound purpose, and for it to be truly called yoga, its essence must be embodied.” — Aadil Palkhivala
Seventeen years ago I had a conversation with my alternative medical doctor about tangible evidence that would be recognized by the medical community that alternative treatments and preventative measures actually do work. He said, “It is coming. I believe we will see it in our lifetime.” Unfortunately the doctor died unexpectedly a few short months after making that comment. However, I am beginning to see it come to pass. Last year I participated in an “evidence based” Tai Chi class to help prevent falls in seniors. I am reading increasing numbers of controlled medical studies that tend to support the effectiveness of alternative medical treatments and lifestyle practices.
While researching this series I have run across studies that suggest that in addition to the stretching that most people associate with yoga, there may also be heart health benefits to the practice. I am including links to summaries and literature reviews of some of these at the bottom of this post if you want to check these out. What they are finding in a nutshell is that:
- The deep breathing and mental focus of yoga practice can help reduce stress and thereby reducing the accompanying physical effects of stress such as narrowing of arteries and elevated blood pressure.
- Yoga may help lower blood pressure, blood cholesterol and blood glucose levels, as well as heart rate.
- Yoga may help some people stop smoking which is a major risk factor for heart disease.
- Yoga combines physical activity, breathing, and meditation, which have each been shown to positively affect cardiovascular risk factors.
Yoga however does not count toward the recommended amount of “moderate to vigorous exercise” for heart health. There are studies that are examining this, so we will see where they lead. I do both, practicing yoga as well as walking up and down the hills in my neighborhood.
Yoga is included in the Ornish program to reverse heart disease. It will be interesting to follow as medical science finally “discovers” what yogis have known all along.
Growing up I was always told to “stand up straight.” Like most teenagers I had a tendency to slouch. But as an adult of short stature I stood up straight to get every inch out of my height. Or so I thought.
That is until the first physically obvious benefit of yoga for me appeared. I could tell I was standing straighter and taller. Bob even commented on my posture.
In a world where we spend so much time driving, sitting at a computer, slumped over our cell phones and other devices we need a counterpose to life. Instead of sinking downward and forward we need something that will move us upward and back.
Backbends will help with this, but one often overlooked pose for posture is Tadasana (tah-DAHS-uh-nuh) or Mountain Pose. If you think Mountain Pose is just standing there and a waste of time, think again. It is an active pose that is the foundation of all standing poses. Take the time to learn proper alignment in Mountain Pose and alignment in all other standing poses will be easier. In addition to improving posture, this pose can decrease back pain and help focus and calm the mind.
A good yoga practice has many benefits, including better posture. Mom would be so proud.