Friday, August 17, 2012

Yoga Teacher Training: Heart Health

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By Faye Martins
Of all the ailments we cover in yoga instructor training, cardiovascular disease and cancer are two that most of us know a little about.  In many families, one of those two ailments has claimed the lives of family members.  You can’t ignore the importance of preventative maintenance, when it comes down to your family medical history.
Yoga is an ancient healing art based on seven major chakras that correspond with various parts of the human body. The fourth chakra, also known as the heart chakra, includes the heart, upper back and upper chest. The middle chakra, it represents love and compassion, acting as the “center” or point of integration for our physical and emotional experiences.

Even medical science now recognizes a condition called stress cardiomyopathy, or “broken heart syndrome,” that stems from sudden, extreme emotional trauma. Other ailments resulting from a blocked heart chakra include feelings of loneliness or the inability to forgive and empathize with other people. Physical manifestations include breathing-related disorders, high blood pressure and heart disease.
Back bending asanas literally “open the heart,” both physically and emotionally. While practitioners teach that self-acceptance and compassion are universal healers, they also recommend asanas to keep the heart healthy. For maximum benefit, any Yoga training session should include pranayama and meditation in addition to physical exercise.
Asanas for a Healthy Heart
• Lying stretches that arch the back over a support, such as a folded blanket
• Arm and shoulder stretches, such as Child’s Pose or Upward Facing Dog
• Backbends that lower the heart and encourage deep breathing, such as Cobra Pose
• Forward bends, such as Big-Toe Bend
• Poses that release pent-up emotions, such as Warrior, Camel or Pigeon Pose
• Seated twists that stretch the spine and rid the body of toxins and tension

In 2004, Yale University School of Medicine released data showing that Yoga lowers pulse rate, blood pressure, and risk of heart disease. Other experts agree. According to authorities at the Institute for Behavioral Medicine at Ohio State University, these benefits may result largely from the meditative component of Yoga.
More recently, however, “Harvard Health Publications” cited evidence that the actual routine of getting in and out of asanas gently exercises the body’s muscles. Anything, they say, that benefits the muscles will also improve the function of the heart and blood vessels and helps to control insulin too. Besides, yogic breathing is deeper and slower than normal breathing rates. As a result, it temporarily lowers blood pressure and halts the release of stress hormones.  While more research is needed, the use of asanas for heart health looks promising.

Side notes for Yoga Teachers
If you didn’t cover this in your yoga teacher training, be prepared for students who have heart conditions to come to your classes.  Many of the precautions are similar to high blood pressure and stroke.  Therefore, make sure your yoga student’s have their physicians approval to begin taking classes.  As a Yoga teacher, you have the right to insist on a doctor’s note.  Make sure you add a warning to your waiver form.  
Some of our students ignore medical advice, but if you decided to become a yoga instructor you want to gently point students with pre-exising medical conditions in the right direction.  As Paul has often mentioned: “We safely guide our students with yoga instruction, but if they don’t want to listen, show them the door.”  That may sound harsh, but who is to blame, if a person with a pre-existing medical condition is hurt in our class?  Do you feel like the law is unclear?  You might think people should be responsible for their own health, but the law is never clear.  Needless to say, heart patients should be in Restorative classes and stay out of the hot Yoga classes.  
© Copyright – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division
If you are a Yoga Teacher, studio manager, 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!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Yoga Teacher Training: Hangovers

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By Gopi Rao
You might wonder what in the world hangovers would have to do with yoga teacher training.  After all, very few people in a yoga certification course would overindulge in alcohol consumption.  In fact, too much of anything tends to be unhealthy.  Paulji once mentioned how too much air (hyperventilating) can cause you to pass out and consuming too much water can cause your potassium levels to drop, which can put you at risk for a stroke.  Obviously, we aren’t going to push the limits, but many people do and alcohol consumption is more rampant than some of us care to admit.
Although I am not an avid drinker and have never personally suffered from a hangover, I have been surprised on occasion by students who regularly attend my classes while struggling through the after effects of a night’s overindulgence. Because I had always believed that physical activity makes hangover symptoms worse, I finally asked one of my students, who I’ll call Jamie, why she still came to class. Her answer surprised me.

Jamie regularly practiced yoga with me an average of four times a week, and attended my mid-day class on the weekends. More often than not, she’d walk in with her head down and sunglasses on. After awhile, I could tell when she had a hangover by how still she kept her body before we began.
When I asked her why she came to class even though she was clearly afraid her head was going to explode, Jamie laughed, grabbed her head with a cringe, and explained herself by moving her mouth as little as possible to avoid further jarring. “I am almost always tempted to stay in bed the day after,” she said, “but I’ve learned by experience that the hangover lasts much longer if I don’t practice yoga.”
Yoga for Hangovers
There are some excellent ways to use yoga to help relieve hangover symptoms. Although sun salutation series can be a good way to get your body warmed up in a low-impact way, sometimes it can be tough to do. After working with Jamie, I discovered that keeping your head raised above your heart during asana practice will prevent excessive and excessively painful blood flow to the head. Props like bolsters can be an effective way to keep the head raised.
Relaxation poses also tend to go over well for those with hangovers. Seated forward bends or the corpse pose can help relieve some of the symptoms, and there is little movement involved.
Some practitioners also recommend twists, which they say helps wring the poison out of the body a little faster. Twists are also gentle and low impact, which are definitely positives in a hangover situation.
Yoga Practices to Avoid
1. Avoid hot yoga training. When you have a hangover, your body is dehydrated and in need of replenishing fluids. This is why even the most avid Bikram enthusiasts stay away from the heated room after imbibing too much alcohol.
2. Avoid inversions. Lowering your head below your heart can increase throbbing, and inversion poses like head or shoulder stands can make this much worse, even prolonging the hangover’s symptoms.
3. Avoid berating yourself. Mindfulness in yoga necessarily means you have to be present in the present, rather than focused on the past or the future. So hone in on improving your technique or relieving neck tension or keeping your head from falling off, rather than running over last night’s events or making promises to yourself about next Friday night.
Opportunities for Yoga Instructors
Although there isn’t much specialized yoga instructor training for helping people with addictions or overindulgence, many yogic practices can help people recover from negative side effects and addiction.  In every community, there are rehabilitation clinics and the need for compassionate yoga teacher who are willing to help.
© Copyright – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division
If you are a Yoga Teacher, studio manager, 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!

Friday, August 03, 2012

Yoga Instructor Training: Body Image

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By Faye Martins
There is a yogic myth created in commercials about what a practitioners should look like.  People who are blind, obese, in a wheel chair, and have heart conditions practice Yoga, but you’ll never see them in a commercial.  Some people who would be perfect instructors avoid yoga teacher training; even though it is a life-long passion.  I’ve heard, “I’m too old, fat, stiff and tired, to become a yoga instructor,” every week.  However, most of these people criticize themselves worse than anyone ever could.  If the only person who attends yoga instructor training is a retired prima ballerina, who is going to follow her lead?  Will she understand or bother to listen during lectures on modification, props, anatomy and adjusting?  My bet is she puts on a show for students to follow and doesn’t bother to watch their form. 
The way you see yourself affects the way you interact with people on a regular basis. Confident people have an inner calm that shines through when they speak and act with others. How you perceive yourself in relation to others affects your personal beliefs about your body also. Whether they intend to or not, many people compare their selves with others. When you have a poor body image, you find yourself never matching up to others. When you have a positive body image, you are able to feel good and strong in your own body. Yoga training helps instill a positive body image by allowing you to find inner peace while strengthening the entire body.
When you engage in an asana practice, it becomes a quiet time to reflect and get to know your entire body better. You can push yourself to stretch a little deeper, hold the pose a little longer and breathe deeply to release negative thoughts and emotions. Yoga helps you become comfortable with the body that your were given at birth. It allows you to appreciate your body for its positive attributes and to be grateful for health and wellness.
Today’s media bombards us with images of beauty and fitness that many of us strive to achieve. This causes us to feel inferior to the models with perfect bodies and flawless faces. When surrounded by perfection at every turn, it’s not hard to become doubtful about our selves. When you practice yoga, you can remind yourself on a regular basis that those images don’t matter. What matters is what’s inside of each person. A regular yoga training practice gives you the time to sit and reflect on what is truly important in life.
Asanas are designed to stretch and strengthen the entire body. After a vigorous routine of postures, it’s not hard to feel strong and confident about your self. Asana teaches you to reach places you never thought you could go. With practice and determination, you can almost achieve any posture you desire.  With guidance, props, modification and adjustment, you continue with your yoga training, little by little, you begin to realize that whatever body you were given is the perfect body for you.
© Copyright 2012 – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division
To see our selection of Yoga teacher training courses, please visit the following link.
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If you are a Yoga Teacher, studio manager, 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!