Friday, September 26, 2014

Doing Yoga For Heart Health Provides Impressive Results

risk of blood clots
By Faye Martins
In the United States 1 in every 4 deaths result from heart disease. Every year over 700,000 people have a heart attack. Coronary heart disease is estimated to cost over $100 billion every year. This amount includes lost productivity, health care services, medications and more. Medical experts are realizing the many heart health benefits associated with doing yoga. When combined with a healthy lifestyle doing yoga for heart health has provided impressive results.


It is accepted that yoga can be utilized as a tool to improve heart health. It can also be used as a preventative measure with people who are at a high risk for a cardiac event. People who regularly do yoga have experienced lower blood pressure, improvement in their respiratory abilities, heart rate and more. Individuals have experienced an overall better sense of well-being, as well as developing more strength in their bodies.

Decrease Emotional Stress

Experiencing regular emotional stress will cause plaque to build up much faster in a heart's coronary arteries. A person's coronary arteries will also constrict in reaction to stress. This decreases the flow of blood to a person's heart. The platelets in a person's blood will also become stickier. This increases the risk of blood clots forming and causing a heart attack. When a person does yoga, it will relax them and increase their ability to handle stress. Individuals are better able to diffuse their negative emotions such as anger, impatience, hostility and more. This helps to improve their heart function.

Heart Healthy Workout

There is evidence that an exercise program consisting of low intense workouts can provide major cardiac benefits. The exercises that involve deep-breathing are able to decrease a person's breathing rate. Taking fewer breaths that are deeper can temporarily lower blood pressure. This has been shown to calm the sympathetic nervous system. This is a system in the body designed to create stress hormones. Yoga poses and meditations provide a heart healthy exercise for many people with cardiovascular disease.

Cardiac Yoga

The goal of this type of yoga is to develop a balance between a person's body and mind. Meditation as well as breathing exercises will be utilized. This is considered a natural way to heal a body that has heart disease. The poses used for cardiac yoga are called asanas. They are slightly modified and work better with people who have cardiac issues. It is designed to help a person focus on their breathing techniques and developing flexibility in certain areas of their body. With cardiac yoga, a person can do the sun salutation as they sit in a chair if necessary. In time, a person can advance to using the back of the chair for doing cardiac yoga. Eventually, an individual will no longer need support to perform a yoga pose.

Inflammation Reduction

A study conducted at Ohio State University included men and women with little experience practicing yoga, and others who were considered experts. Cytokines are proteins produced by the cells in a body. They help regulate the body's response to disease. Increased levels of cytoking IL-6 elevates inflammation in a person's body. Inflammation contributes to a variety of age-related diseases such as heart disease. The study demonstrated that practicing yoga on a regular basis reduces a person's level of cytokine IL-6. This decreases the amount of inflammation in a person's body. Yoga was shown to improve heart rate variability and increase heart health.
Faye Martins, is a Yoga teacher and a graduate of the Yoga teacher training program at: Aura Wellness Center in, Attleboro, MA. 

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Yoga for Sleep: The Importance of Pranayama

nervous system
By: Virginia Iversen, M.Ed

With the Autumn Equinox only a few days away, the warmth of the sun’s rays are beginning to cool as the seasons are shifting. During the mid-afternoon, the temperatures are warm enough to enjoy a quick swim. Towards the evening, the temperatures are dropping significantly and indicate the imminent arrival of much colder temperatures. During this time of the year, many Yogis and Yoginis find themselves busily savoring the final warm days of summer by participating in many of their favorite warm-weather activities, such as sailing, swimming and or practicing Yoga on a paddle-board. 

Additionally, many students and Yoga teachers are busy during the fall season beginning a new school year or Yoga teacher training program. The combination of squeezing in every last ounce of summer with a new course of study or professional development program can create a hectic pace of life, which can increase persistent feelings of pressure, stress and anxiety. When stress and anxiety levels are heightened, difficulty sleeping often develops at the same time. The physiological reason for this is that when anxiety and stress levels are high, your sympathetic nervous system, also known as the “fight or flight” nervous system, is stuck on overdrive! 

One of the propelling forces of an overactive sympathetic nervous system is high cortisol levels. When cortisol levels remain consistently high, it is very difficult to unwind, calm down and fall asleep. In addition, unremittingly high cortisol levels raise inflammatory markers in the body and lower the functioning of the immune system. High levels of cortisol are also linked to unbalanced blood sugar levels, hormonal disruption, depression, and gastrointestinal problems. None of these conditions are optimal for your physical or emotional well-being. 

Cortisol levels and the balance between your sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems can be optimized by a healthy diet, regular exercise and healthy sleeping patterns. One of the primary ways of enhancing your ability to sleep deeply and restoratively is to exercise moderately at least five times a week, spend an adequate amount of time in the sun daily and to keep a regular bedtime schedule. Practicing Yoga asanas, Yogic breathing exercises and mediation techniques several times a week will further support you in creating a state of optimal physical and mental health. 

The breathing exercises of Yoga are known as pranayama practices. The term “prana” in Sanskrit refers to the breath of life, and the term “yama” is translated as restraint. So the term pranayama refers to the control of the breath through restraint. There are a wide variety of pranayama techniques in the Yoga toolbox. Some pranayama exercises are very detoxifying and increase heat or tapas in the body. Other pranayama exercises cool and relax the body and the mind. If you find that your are struggling to fall asleep at night because you are so wired you cannot relax, practicing cooling and soothing Yogic pranayama exercises prior to going to bed will calm down the flight or fight response as it turns on the relaxation response by enhancing the functioning of your parasympathetic nervous system. 

In Pantanjali’s Yoga Sutras, he describes the process of practicing pranayama exercises as making the breath long and smooth by breaking the unconscious shallow breathing patterns related to stress and anxiety. Take the example of finding a snake slithering in the grass just outside your front door. What is your first response? For many of us it would be to gasp and hold our breath in anticipation of the snake’s next move. This unconscious response to something that creates fear is the same response many of us have to situations that upset us, such as a traffic jam when we are late for work or a long line at the bank if we are late for a doctor’s appointment. The list of situations that can cause stress and anxiety are almost endless.

Of course, our own individual response to these situations also determines the effect these situations have on our physical and emotional health and well-being. By recalibrating the balance between the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems, through a steady and regular practice of Yoga poses and pranayama exercises, you will help to nourish the health of your body and mind. In turn, this balance will help to nourish your entire being by generating a state of equipoise, lightness and energy. Releasing tension and stress through a daily Yoga practice, including breathing exercises, will allow you to fall asleep with less difficulty and to sleep more restoratively.   

© Copyright 2014 – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division

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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

How to Handle Yoga Student Complaints?

being prepared
By Eleanor Bartel

Complaints are a part of life – everyone will have to deal with them at some point, and yoga instructors are no exception. Although the yoga community tends to be relaxed and laid-back, situations will arise where students may have a problem or complaint with your teaching style, the yoga studio, or another issue. It's going to be up to you to handle student complaints in a calm and diplomatic manner. Yoga instructors can benefit from being prepared to deal with these situations ahead of time. Teacher trainings will often help teachers find ways to deal with student complaints, but instructors should also come up with their own personal plans to cope with student complaints and concerns in the studio.

Privacy Matters

One of the first things to remember is to treat a student complaint with the ultimate privacy. Making an issue public will only add to the stress and resentment that can build in this type of situation. Hopefully, if a student has a complaint about your teaching style or your class, they will approach you privately, after class or during a quiet time at the studio. However, even if they don't, it's your responsibility to direct the conversation to a private location. Tell your student you will be happy to address their concerns at a time when all your attention isn't devoted to teaching. This is not only important to keep their privacy intact, but also to keep their complaints and concerns from damaging your reputation and reaching and affecting the practice of your other students.

Always Acknowledge

Students may approach you in a variety of ways, depending on their confidence levels and personal communication preference. Studios and instructors should be prepared to receive feedback, complaints, and concerns in a variety of way, including in-person, through mail, on the telephone, and even through social media and email. It's important to regularly check all these methods of communication so that you don't inadvertently miss a message from one of your students. This is one of the easiest ways for a student to feel ignored and disheartened. Whether you teach dozens of classes with hundreds of students or just a few individual clients, always make an effort to ensure each of your students feels heard and appreciated by staying connected.

Be Confident

Unfortunately, you will always come across students who are immature, inappropriate, and just plain rude. At some point, every yoga teacher will experience the student who rolls their eyes at pranayama, someone who scoffs at beginning poses and decides to pop up into a headstand before warming up, or the student who rudely leaves in the middle of savasana. Don’t let these people get you down, and don't let them shake your confidence in your teaching routine. You worked hard to get where you are, and most of your students will recognize that and appreciate that in your classes. However, there are always going to be a few bad apples, no matter where you go in life. The important thing is to keep your head held high and to remember why you wanted to become a teacher in the first place. Don't ever let anyone shake your confidence in yourself.

Remember, having to deal with student complaints from time to time doesn't make you a bad teacher. Everyone will have concerns from time to time. Dealing with them in a positive and diplomatic manner is going to make you a stronger teacher in the long run, and it will ensure your students know they can talk to you about any issue they have in the yoga setting. Be prepared for complaints and you will find that you can have a stronger community by setting a great example for your students.

© Copyright 2014 – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division

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Thursday, September 11, 2014

Learning How To Teach Yoga Students

your yoga studio
By Faye Martins

Over the past decade, yoga has emerged as one of the most popular forms of exercise. Going beyond a regular exercise program, yoga is a great way to learn meditation, relaxation and peace of mind. With so many yoga programs available, it can be difficult to make sure that your yoga studio stands out from the competition. The following guide provides effective tips on how to teach yoga students.

When teaching yoga students, it's important to create a calm, relaxing environment. Excessive noise and distractions should be minimized. If a yoga studio is located next to a noisy road, coffee shop or other location, it may be necessary to put up noise-blocking materials. Many online stores offer special soundproofing materials for walls. These materials can help mask the noises of the outside world.

Instead of outside noises, a yoga session should be accompanied by natural, healing sounds. Gentle, relaxing music is a great way to get students to let go completely.

Scents can also be a great way to create a gentle, warm ambiance for a yoga session. Scents of lilac, rosewood and peppermint can help ensure a welcoming environment for all yoga students in your classroom.

When guiding students through each yoga pose, it's important to make sure that everyone feels welcome. Since most yoga classes comprise people of different skill levels, it's essential to offer poses that work for both beginners and advanced practitioners. For example, a basic downward dog pose will work well for people just learning about yoga. For advanced practitioners, a raised leg downward dog is a good choice. By providing different options for your students, everyone can work at his or her skill level.

Each yoga class should start with at least three minutes of meditation. Starting in mountain pose, everyone should close their eyes and place their hands in prayer position. Once everyone is in position, some gentle music can be added to enhance the experience.

Once this meditation is over, lead your class through several rounds of sun salutations. These can help loosen tight muscles and are a great way to reduce the risk of serious injuries as a class progresses.

It's important to make sure the entire body is adequately supple before starting any strength poses. While warrior poses are a pivotal part of a yoga practice, they can often cause strains in the legs if muscles aren't ready for them. Likewise, a raised leg downward dog can cause high levels of tension in the back and neck. By stretching these areas before going into an advanced pose, yoga teachers can reduce the risk of injuries to their students.

During the practice, it's important to make sure that each part of the body receives the same level of attention. If you're doing warrior poses or pigeon poses, it's essential to ensure that these exercises are completed on both sides of the body.

As the class progresses, you can increase the number of poses you do each minute. This provides a great cardiovascular workout for students. At the end of each session, students should remain in corpse pose for at least five minutes. This gives the body time to regenerate and allows students to reflect on the yoga session.
Faye Martins, is a Yoga teacher and a graduate of the Yoga teacher training program at: Aura Wellness Center in, Attleboro, MA. 
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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Yoga Studio Accidents Waiting To Happen

By Kimaya Singh

Yoga studios are places of meditation, spirituality and fitness. They are places where people can feel safe, and where the fundamentals of yoga can be taught. They can also be places were accidents are waiting to happen. It can be tough to know where exactly an accident is going to happen, or what part of your studio is unsafe, but there are some signs that you can look for.

It is important to make sure that your yoga studio is safe, because if someone is seriously hurt, you may be liable. That can lead to lawsuits, and the end of your yoga studio. Having everyone sign a waiver that clears you of any wrongdoing can prevent this, but you shouldn’t just rely on that. You need to make sure your yoga studio is safe, and that those doing exercises in the yoga studio are safe.

The first thing you need to do is to make sure the yoga area is clear. The mats and equipment should be stored away until they are being used. If water or a liquid falls anywhere on the floor, clean it up immediately to prevent any falls. A good rule of thumb is to prevent anyone from having any liquid to drink in the yoga area during a session. There can be a designated area for getting water, away from where people are doing yoga or walking. 

Be Aware of Potential Hazards

On the same topic of liquid, if it is raining outside you don’t want people tracking water into the yoga studio on their shoes. Make sure everyone changes out of his or her outdoor shoes before walking into the studio.

It is important that you maintain your equipment, even if it is just something small, for yoga. If the equipment is no longer in good condition, it should be removed. A yoga mat with a rip in it may not seem like a big deal but if someone is in a pose where they are causing the two ends to pull away from each other, even slightly, it can rip and cause that person to suddenly fall and hit the ground.

Having the proper class size is important as well. You want to make sure that you limit the size of the class based on the number of people an instructor can safely instruct. If you are the only instructor, have a small class, but offer classes on a more frequent basis. This way, you will ensure that everyone is doing a yoga pose properly. If there are too many people, you can’t keep an eye on everyone and that can result in someone doing a pose wrong, and thereby hurting themselves in the process.

Most injuries or accidents in a yoga studio happen during stretches because people try to push themselves too far. This is why it is important that you maintain class levels. Beginners should not be doing advanced poses because of the risk of injury and those in the advanced class should not be doing beginner techniques because they are paying to learn advanced techniques. Talk with the participants in your yoga class to get an idea of their skill level and to prevent anyone from pushing him or herself too far. Managing limitations is one of the most important things for safety in your yoga studio.

The yoga studio is a place of fitness, safety and good feelings. If you are able to prevent yoga studio accidents from happening, you can ensure that everyone begins a life of yoga, which leads them to more happiness, more confidence and better health. Just try these few things, and your yoga studio will be safe for everyone.

The Fine Line Between Fun And Negligence In Yoga Classes

Yoga is meant to be fun. It is meant to be fun because that is what keeps people doing it. The fun aspect of it, the social gathering it creates with friends and the confidence it brings with good health, are all wonderful parts of yoga. As a yoga teacher, you need to make the classes fun, but you have to balance that fine line between fun and negligence. You are still there to be in charge, and you need to make sure that the fun does not become negligence because that can lead to people being injured as a result.

This is especially true when teaching children’s yoga. For children’s yoga, you want to make sure that the kids are having fun because that is what gets them interested in yoga. That being said, you can’t make things so fun that the children forget about safety. If that happens, you move into the area of negligence. You don’t want that to happen because negligence then leads to injuries and if a child is injured at your studio, it can result in a lawsuit against you and possibly the end of your yoga studio or teaching career.

The most important thing to remember when teaching children’s yoga, and keeping things fun, is to provide a great deal of one-on-one instruction. You want to make sure that while the children are having fun playing yoga games, they are doing poses properly and safely. You need to be an authority in your studio, so that the children know when things are getting out of hand. It is not about being mean, it is about making sure everyone is safe. If one child is injured, they may never want to do yoga again and that would be robbing them of something that could benefit them for years to come. You don’t want that to happen.

Moving on to adults, you need to make the yoga class fun for them as well but at least with adults there is greater restraint and less likely that someone is going to be injured. Nonetheless, you want to make sure that everyone is doing poses properly so that no one is injured.

Negligence can happen when things are not monitored. Now this doesn’t mean you should prevent anything fun from happening in the yoga studio. One of the greatest misconceptions about yoga is that it is all about holding poses for a great deal of time. This isn’t the case, there are many yoga activities that you can enjoy and that your class will enjoy. These games are to be conducted in a safe manner, which teaches students of any age to enjoy yoga while at the same time learning poses. These games are not just for children; adults in family classes can play them as well. They are a great way to really change things up and give everyone a bit of a break from holding poses for an extended period of time. By following these games to the letter, you can prevent anyone from being injured through negligence.

Looking at the word negligence, it essentially means that something bad happened because you were not paying attention. This is why it is so important as a yoga teacher that you pay attention to everyone in the class and provide as much one-on-one instruction as you can. By making things fun, but also keeping an eye on how everyone is doing, you make sure that no one is injured and there are no problems for anyone taking part in the yoga classes.

© Copyright – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division

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Saturday, September 06, 2014

To Assist or Not to Assist

how to assist
By Sangeetha Saran

There are various categories of students. Similarly, there are various kinds of teachers - Teachers who are over-enthusiastic and teachers who hardly pay attention. Neither is an attribute you’d want in your teacher. A teacher needs to make the right decision, which differs, for every student. No single method works on all students, teachers have to get a little creative and find a way to work out with the student in a way the student feels comfortable.

The primary and most basic function of a teacher is to teach. The assistance that a teacher provides is subject to the situation faced by the teacher and at times by the student. Assisting students is not a compulsion for any teacher, it is the teacher’s own passion that makes her assist every student that requires it.

Assistance therefore is a positive attribute in a teacher. But there are two sides to every coin. Overly assisting a student may sometimes lead to lack of confidence. Student may become way too dependent on the teacher for daily yoga practice. The component of “going with the flow” of own body will be absent. Without this yoga loses its effect on the practitioner’s body.

·      Overly enthusiastic teachers: There are teachers who try to assist the students, in good faith of course, since they are very passionate about their profession and they try to teach the student every little step. This works fine unless it becomes a regular practice. If the teacher persists with this method, the student loses the touch of self-learning and becomes more dependent on the teacher than advisable. Student will need assistance more and more frequently as the time passes because yoga is a process of slowly making your body carve its path into positions it wasn’t initially able to get into. The only way to do this is by carving your own path, and with minimum outside help. Sure, teachers are always there to help a student when needed, but getting comfortable with the body yourself is a task only the students can handle. It’s like; a mother can feed a child with her hands, but chewing the food has to be learnt by the child on his own. Hence, avoid assisting the students beyond certain limit.

·      Ignorant teachers: There are teachers who strongly believe that students can't learn yoga if they start teaching every little thing. That any assistance will hold students back from fully benefiting from yoga. These teachers are not lazy; they do this because they feel it is best for the students. But these teachers are sometimes oblivious to the ignorance they display. Students need to start slow and only then fly. Demonstration of asanas is not enough. One look is not enough for students to get the best out of their body. As repeatedly mentioned many times, yoga is a process, and a slow one at that. Here is another example. When a child first starts riding a bicycle, the parent holds it from behind and then sets the child free. If the parent does not hold the bicycle in the beginning the child might fall. This seems like an effective way of learning to some teachers, but it is has some drawbacks. The child will start balancing properly only when there’s enough confidence. Hence, start assisting students when they actually need it because they will hardly ever realize this. Teachers are the experienced ones, not the students.

Teachers always take actions in good faith, of course. But to find out what’s best for the students is necessary. Everybody has a different way of teaching yoga, no doubt about that. But there are things, which are common for all teachers. After all, even teachers have to learn, perpetually! Make the call, to assist or not to assist.

© Copyright 2014 – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division