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Mental Health / Yoga

Yoga Goes Beyond Health

I felt it in my fingers, the tingling spread throughout my body like a slow wave beginning at my extremities and working inward. The sensation lasted only a moment and made a lifelong impression. Yoga had made it’s first mark.

At 17 I approached yoga cautiously. The trend was beginning to take hold and I experimented with classes at local gyms and casually at home. In my running days, I abandoned it to adrenaline rushes, not yet able to comprehend the necessity of rest and less strenuous  exercise. Running came to a hard stop when I injured my foot and I had no option but to slow my pace. I was still chasing adrenaline though and looked for yoga classes that challenged and resulted in a real sweat.

Bikram yoga was it. My boyfriend (now husband) introduced me to my first class in 2010. We had just begun dating and were still in the phase trying to impress each other. The class was challenging yet I was able to move into all the postures. By the end I had completely sweat through my clothes. One Bikram yoga class had a similar adrenaline rush to running ten miles. I was hooked! 

The most common complaint is the number one reason I love it so much. The heat. Give me a hot, humid day in July everyday please. If New York could have Memphis weather, it would be my perfect place. So yes, if you hate the heat and hate to sweat this is not the thing for you. For me, I come for the heat and stay for the deeper connection of my mind and body.

Photo by Monica Felix

Photo by Monica Felix

Photo by Monica Felix

Photo by Monica Felix

I’ve practiced for almost five years and cannot stay away for more than a day or two. Yoga has affected my life in a multitude of positive ways and in ways I can’t yet name. I know the regular practice is giving me gifts that will extend into all my future years. In the beginning, my practice was focused on fitness. The Type A in me wanted to “win” every class. After a year, my mind finally relaxed and the meditative benefits took hold.

Body Benefits of Yoga
Increases strength and flexibility
►Light-to-moderate intensity exercise for weight maintenance
►May improve glucose tolerance for those with type II diabetes
►Corrects spine alignment
►Similar effects to physical therapy for injuries

Mind Benefits of Yoga
►Lowers perceived stress
►Improves sleep quality
►Enhances social well being through a sense of belonging to others
►Ability to improve depression symptoms and hyperactivity disorders
►Increased brain function

Photo by Monica Felix

Photo by Monica Felix

I’m still learning to apply the lessons of yoga outside the classroom; I remind myself to listen to my body, resist distraction and improve focus, and to relax into my surrounding by staying present. It’s the relaxation response of yoga that leads to many of the physical and mental health improvements.

Yoga is also a place of shared values. My studio has become a place of comfort and community. My husband and I practice together and the studio has become a second home where we feel loved, supported and connected to friends.

At each class, I’m always guaranteed a mental and physical stretch. So I keep coming back.


Resources:

Improvements in glucose tolerance with Bikram Yoga in older obese adults: a pilot study., http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24138995

The physiological responses to Bikram yoga in novice and experienced practitioners., http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25141359

Bikram yoga training and physical fitness in healthy young adults. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22592178

Decreased nocturnal awakenings in young adults performing bikram yoga: a low-constraint home sleep monitoring study. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22577578

Take a Stand for Yoga Today, https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/get-hardy/201305/take-stand-yoga-today

Journal of Yoga & Physical Therapy, http://omicsonline.org/yoga-physical-therapy.php

Yoga, Is Hotter Better? http://www.berkeleywellness.com/fitness/injury-prevention/exercise/article/hot-yoga-scary-or-good-you

An Examination of the Effectiveness of an 8-week Bikram Yoga Program on Mindfulness, Perceived Stress, and Physical Fitness, http://www.e-jesf.com/article/S1728-869X%2812%2960003-3/abstract

Bend Before you Hit the Books: Yoga for Learning, http://karlij.nyc/blog/2015/2/2/bend-before-you-hit-the-books-yoga-for-learning

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