Saturday, June 25, 2011

Is Bikram Yoga a Good Idea?

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By Faye Martins

Bikram Yoga is a type of yoga in which 26 poses and two breathing exercises are done in a room heated to 105 degrees Fahrenheit, at 40 percent humidity. Developed in the early 1970s by Bikram Choudhury, Bikram Yoga has gained a lot of popularity in the past few years. Beginner’s classes run for exactly 90 minutes, and each class is performed in exactly the same way, every time. Bikram Yoga is often called “hot yoga.”

There are some definite pros and cons to this type of yoga. Some of the benefits include weight loss due to the large number of calories lost during each session. The profuse sweating that happens with each session helps to cleanse the body of toxins, and the warmth allows for more flexibility and deeper stretching.

Some other pros are that Bikram Yoga offers a great cardiovascular workout that is especially challenging during the first half of the class. Since each session will not vary at all, there can be a certain repetitive comfort to it. Bikram Yoga training is often less expensive than other flavors of yoga as well, because it has many attractive introductory offers.

Since some people don’t enjoy hot temperatures at all there is some controversy that has come out of this style of yoga, which includes the possible safety hazards of doing such strenuous exercise in a hot room. Some practitioners actually have spells of nausea, vomiting, and dizziness, which could be related to a sudden loss of potassium and other electrolytes. If one is taking medication for high blood pressure it would be wise to consult with your doctor prior to practicing yoga in a hot room. Additionally, there is also a component of competition with these classes, which is unheard of in other types of yoga.

Some other cons are that the classes can become quite monotonous as there is never any variation to look forward to, and the 26 poses are done three times through the 90 minutes. The series of poses have been copyrighted by Bikran Choudhury, so deviance from the series is strictly forbidden, and there is also a reputation for Bikram Yoga instructors to be rather draconian. There is little attention given to the upper body with these poses, and there is a lot of standing, especially during the first half of the class.

Bikram Yoga is one of the most controversial styles of yoga in practice. There are those who believe that it is simply unsafe and those who believe that it is more of a brand than something that will bring the body, mind and spirit together as one. Some believe it is a physical style that makes one pay for the sins of bad health. It is certainly not a style of yoga that’s for everyone, but it has a very devoted following. Many loyal practitioners mention how much it has personally done for them. Others mention how a hot asana practice removes toxins from the body.

© Copyright 2011 – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division

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Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Yoga Techniques for Spinal Stenosis

By Dr. Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500

Spinal stenosis is a narrowing of the spinal column that puts pressure on the spinal cord, or narrowing of the openings where spinal nerves leave the spinal column. The condition typically occurs with age, as a person’s spinal discs become drier and begin to shrink. Symptoms include numbness, cramping, or pain in the back, thighs, buttocks or calves, neck, shoulders, or arms.

Unfortunately, arm or leg weakness, and difficulty walking, are common with spinal stenosis. If left untreated, the condition can result in bone spurs and severe debilitation, including complete loss of mobility.

The best possible action for spinal stenosis is, of course, prevention: regular Yoga practice insures continued flexibility and strengthens core muscles, which help reduce pressure on the spine. However, if the condition has already occurred, there are several poses, which are very effective for addressing spinal stenosis.

Hatha Yoga postures (asanas) that lengthen the spine and relieve pressure on the nerves are recommended for pain relief. On the other hand, those asanas that compact the nerves, like backbends, are contraindicated. Some excellent Yoga poses for sufferers of back pain include:

• Mountain pose or Tadasana

• Staff pose or Dandasana

• Downward Dog or Adho Mukha Svanasana

• Happy Baby pose or Ananda Balasana

• Bound Angle pose or Baddha Konasana

• Half Spinal Twist or Ardha Matsyendrasana

Additionally, any Yoga posture that is a form of an active back extension should reduce or eliminate pain. One example is: the Forward Bend (Uttanasana), which can be modified by a competent Yoga teacher.

Warming up the muscles properly is important for people with spinal stenosis. It must be remembered that rushing into exercise can aggravate the condition. Poses should be held for 60-90 seconds, and then the body should gently relax. Spending time in Shavasana, at the conclusion of each practice, is very important, to relax the muscles and allow the spinal column to settle into its increased length. For those following an Ayurvedic diet, pitta-stimulating foods should be avoided, with a condition such as spinal stenosis. These include spicy, pungent, sour, salty, hot, light, or oily foods, and some fruits and vegetables.

Yoga, as an intervention for spinal stenosis, is so effective that in February 2011, Dr. Anand Gandhi, a physician at the Laser Spine Institute in Scottsdale, AZ, published an article on “Yoga and the Aging Spine,” detailing the benefits of Yoga therapy for an aging spine as it “promotes a full range of motion, restores flexibility, and improves circulation.”

Given that surgery for spinal deterioration is the most common treatment for advanced cases, advocacy from a physician in a surgery clinic is praise, indeed. It must be understood that there are times when surgery is the only option. Yet, even in these cases, Yoga can be a good adjunct therapy, before or after, surgery.

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Sunday, June 12, 2011

Research About Breast Cancer and Yoga

By Dr. Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500

Any claim regarding Yoga and specific ailments is subject to medical and scientific scrutiny. It is not enough to know that therapeutic Yoga works. Most of the motivation behind scientific research concerns why therapeutic Yoga works. Once again, the benefits of Yoga regarding cancer recovery are being carefully researched; but this time, two research groups from east and west are working together.

According to University of Texas MD Anderson Center’s new study about breast cancer and Yoga, the practice of this ancient healing art not only increases the quality of life for breast cancer survivors, but it also helps to balance hormones and fight fatigue in women undergoing radiation treatments. In findings to be presented to the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, in June 2011, researchers will attempt to establish the validity of claims that alternative and complementary medicine can benefit the health of cancer patients.

The clinical studies at MD Anderson – in conjunction with the help of Vivekananda Yoga Anusandhana Samsthana (VYASA), a therapeutic Yoga research foundation and university in Bangalore, India, and a well-known organization in India – used a combination of asanas, breathing techniques, meditation, and other methods of relaxation, to create a therapy regimen.

Results included better physical health, improved functioning, and a greater acceptance of the experiences with breast cancer. The program also helped patients gradually transition from close medical supervision to more independent lives. While practicing Yoga, obviously makes breast cancer patients feels better, another study showed that results can last as long as 12 weeks after the exercise program ends.

There are several ways that Yoga benefits breast cancer patients:

• Allows the body to relax (different from sleep)
• Calms parasympathetic nervous system
• Drains stagnant lymphatic fluid
• Regulates glands and releases “good” hormones
• Decreases depression by as much as 50%, based on clinical studies
• Massages organs so that they work more effectively
• Aids in reduction of hot flashes
• Teaches control of the breath, reducing pain, and oxygenating blood
• Reduces fatigue and joint pain
• Improves quality of sleep
• Promotes meditation and visualization techniques

Although Restorative Yoga – a gentle Yoga that relaxes the entire body – is frequently chosen, many Hatha styles can be therapeutically modified to help women during or after treatment. In 2010, researchers at Rochester University Medical Center, tested the results of specific types of Yoga techniques for breast cancer.

These included gentle poses in sitting, standing, reclining, and transitional positions, as well as meditation and visualization. While these are effective, doctors advise against rigorous exercises, or Yoga, done in heated rooms.

© Copyright 2011 – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division

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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

How Can I Improve My Confidence with Yoga?

By Dr. Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500

Confidence is defined as the state of feeling certain about the truth of something. When a person is self-confident, he or she appears calm and at peace, and trusts his or her own decision-making ability, allowing one to deal with stressful situations and difficult interactions. Confidence is a self-fulfilling prophecy: The more confidence one has, the more confident one feels.

Self-confidence and self-esteem are closely linked; and according to the “Harvard Mental Health Letter,” from Harvard Medical School, there is “convincing evidence that people with high self-esteem are happier, as well as more likely to undertake difficult tasks and persevere in the face of failure.” Dr. Michael Miller, Editor in Chief of the publication, has stated that “…self-esteem will come as a result of accurate self-understanding, appreciation of one’s genuine skills, and the satisfaction of helping others.”

Yoga provides an excellent outlet for gaining self-understanding and life skills. Regular Yoga practice gives students many increased physical capabilities and a calmer mental state. The benefits of Yoga are available to anyone who allows time to enjoy them. For Yoga teachers: Sharing some confidence-building asanas with one’s students will inspire them and help them to feel better immediately.

Here are three Yoga asanas to improve self-confidence:

1) Vrksasana, or Tree pose. Balance poses provide a challenge that can be adjusted to every skill level. Students build skill by bringing the foot higher and higher up the leg, or by closing the eyes, or bringing the arms overhead. The totality of balancing should banish negative thoughts and allow the practitioner to experience clarity of attention.

2) Ardha Chandrasana, or Half-moon pose. This side stretch and balancing pose literally opens up the body to the room, and gives students practice with feeling self-confident, while holding an open posture. The pose can be done against a wall or with a block if the student feels unstable.

3) Virabhadrasana I, or Warrior 1. Standing poses also inspire self-confidence, and this pose is named after an incarnation of Shiva. Standing tall, and feeling muscles at the ready, should help practitioners feel assured in the physical self.

After practice, reviewing the bodily sensations experienced during the different movements can be productive. For those of us who struggle with self-image, we may feel uncomfortable during poses that draw attention to our midsections or areas we might regard as less attractive.

Unlike many forms of exercise, Yoga is not focused on improving appearance. Practitioners enjoy a healthier body and appearance, of course, but the major benefits of Yoga practice relate to internal, rather than external changes. This can be a new and constructive change for practitioners.

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Saturday, April 30, 2011

Dedication to the Art of Yoga

By Faye Martins

Dedication to the art of Yoga is one of the most important keys to realizing the fruits of your practice. Traditionally, a Yoga student or aspirant was required to do selfless service for a decade or longer, before being offered Yogic teachings and techniques from a Guru. In today’s world, these teachings and techniques are readily available to any interested student.

Yoga practices will bear the most fruit if a student receives Shakipat or spiritual initiation from his or her Guru prior to beginning Yogic practices. There are a few living Yoga masters who are available to students today. Spending time with an enlightened master will ignite and nourish your Yoga practice.

The art and practice of Yoga is a life-long journey of awakening, exploration, discovery, healing, and divine joy. The art of Yoga consists of a variety of different practices such as selfless service, study of the scriptures, asanas, meditation, pranayama, self-inquiry, and mantra. As a student engages with the practices on a regular basis, the inner energy of meditation will become stronger and will begin to permeate his or her life.

As the energy awakens and ascends up through the chakras, many different thoughts, emotions, and experiences will rise to the surface. This will give the student an opportunity to process and integrate these different experiences and thoughts from a place of compassion and love.

In order to complete the path of Yoga and become united with the divine energy residing within one’s own heart, the student must be dedicated and steadfast in his or her practices. The Yogic path is not always easy or fun. It can be very difficult and painful as all sorts of memories, thoughts, and emotions are stirred up by the increasing inner fire (tapas). We also may be challenged to let go of unhealthy behaviors and attachments as our vibration level is raised higher. This inner fire or tapas can be daunting and requires true dedication on the part of the student.

After some time dedicated to the art of Yoga, a student will experience the fruits of his or her ardent study. These “fruits” can range from a stronger body to a clearer mind, all the way to experience the feeling of, or vision of, the essence of God within each of us. It is said that when we are able to behold Divine love within our own being and focus on it, great knowledge and bliss will arise. This is the greatest fruit of a steady dedication to the art of Yoga.

© Copyright 2011 – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division

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Friday, April 29, 2011

The Origin of Hot Yoga

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By Amruta Kulkarni, CYT 250

The original creator of Hot Yoga is a great Yogi by the name of Bikram Choudhary. Bikram Choudhary is an Olympic champion in weight-lifting. In the 1960′s, he won Olympic Gold in his class. For personal health reasons, Bikram sequenced traditional Yoga poses in a very specific way, in order to promote the health and healing of the physical body and mind.

One of the main aspects of Hot Yoga is that the Yoga asana sequence is performed in a very hot and humid room. Ideally, the temperature is to be set at 105 degrees and the humidity level between 40-50 percent. Performing Yoga asanas in a heated room helps the elasticity of the muscles and ligaments and also enhances the detoxification process.

Bikram Choudhury was born in Kolkata, India in 1946. He began to learn and practice Yoga asanas at the age of three. When Bikram was five years old, he began studying Yoga techniques with his teacher, Bishnu Ghosh. Bishnu Ghosh is the brother of Paramahansa Yogananda, a beloved Yoga instructor and meditation teacher. This lineage focuses on bringing ancient Indian scriptural wisdom to the Western world, while maintaining the integrity of the original manuscripts.

By the age of 14, Bikram was known as an exemplary practitioner. Within his lineage, he was declared to be a Yoga Raj, or King of Yoga. Unfortunately, or fortunately as the case may be, at age 20, Bikram suffered a severe weightlifting accident that crippled him. Bikram was told that he would never walk again.

With the expert guidance and support of his guru, Bikram created a series of 26 yoga asanas that ultimately restored his health. To the doctors’ amazement, he made a full recovery in six months through the ardent practice of this 26 asana posture series. Several years later, Bikram opened up Yoga schools in Japan and India. In 1972, he traveled to the United States and opened up the Bikram Yoga College of India that is flourishing today.

The practice of Hot Yoga has grown out of Bikram Yoga. Bikram Yoga outlines a set practice of asanas, in a specific order. Hot Yogic styles utilize Bikram Yoga as a framework from which to build a powerful and effective Yoga practice. The use of a heated and humid room is also a core element of any Hot Yoga practice. Truly, Hot Yoga practitioners and teachers owe a debt of gratitude to Bikram Choudhury and his teacher, Bishnu Ghosh, in the creation of such a powerful and healing Yoga practice.

© Copyright 2011 – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division

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Friday, February 18, 2011

Low Cost Yoga Teacher Training Courses

By Sanjeev Patel, CYT 500

Please be prepared to laugh because I call it like I see it. Once in a while, I read an advertisement with a headline that states: "Free Yoga Teacher Training." This makes all of us curious! I'm jumping out of my seat like I drank a quad mocha latte! I teach Yoga classes regularly, but I believe in continuing education for life. Meaning no disrespect to my Guru, I click on Free Yoga teacher training in anticipation.

When reading the small details, I learn that I must spend over three thousand dollars for the course and I have to travel (more money). The lodging is going to cost me another three thousand dollars. When I call up, they tell me I'm going to pay extra for my study materials.

All of this is making a long and expensive flight back to India look really appealing! At least, I can stay with family and friends while I'm there, but where can I find this "FREE" Yoga certification course? I mean, they said, "free" and I really want it. It turns out that most North American ashrams have seva programs and I'm willing to work for free while I learn more about teaching Yoga.

After talking to a dozen of these ashrams, I learn that seva means I work for free, but I can't be accepted into a Yoga teacher training program, while I'm doing seva. Do you see the big picture? I'm a Yoga teacher already, and I'm good enough to sweep the floor, peel potatoes, and clean toilets, but no free yoga instructor course for me.

I didn't like their food anyway. How many days do they expect me to eat kale soup and go without a coffee? It was a five mile ride to the nearest Starbucks and I'd have to do it on a bike through ice, rain, and snow, because I can't afford to keep my car if I'm going to work for free for a whole year.

Uncle! I give up already. There is no free course for continuing education or for somebody who wants to become a Yoga teacher. I fell for the free deception. This is what Paulji meant by "Maya." He talked about how maya is the primary aspect that manifests illusion and duality. So, "free" is an example of the practical application of maya.

Now, I'm willing to go for low cost Yoga certification. There isn't one until I search for online and correspondence Yoga teacher courses. Well, I've come full circle and back to the arms of my Guru. Thank you, Paulji and Aura Wellness Center, for creating a low cost solution to my need for continuing education.

Hari Om Tat Sat

© Copyright 2011 – Sanjeev Patel / Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division

Sanjeev Patel is a certified Yoga teacher and an exclusive author for Aura Wellness Center.

FREE Yoga Report. FREE Yoga Newsletter. FREE Yoga Videos. Free Podcasts. Bonus: Free Yoga e-Book, “Yoga in Practice.”

FREE CONTENT: If you are a Yoga Teacher, Yoga studio, blogger, e-zine, or website publisher, and are in need of quality content, please feel free to use my blog entries (articles). Please be sure to reprint each article, as is, including the resource box above. Namaste!