What is Yoga?
“In today’s world many people think of advanced yoga as being able to perform complex physical postures; often with a misguided understanding that something is to be gained from this. Rather, the essence of practice and its power to transform is taking a back seat, as more attention is placed on the external form than the inner journey. How centered and balanced we
are during our practice, along with the level of control we have over our breath and our minds is what determines our progress on this path. It has nothing to do with physical prowess or the ability to perform fancy postures and lengthy, complicated sequences. From deep study of the many texts on yoga and experiential knowledge gained through his own practice, Krishnamacharya clearly defined the necessary components of asana (yoga poses) practice:
- It brings balance and cultivates a state of calm and clarity (sattva)
- It has purpose
- It involves proper breathing
- It is done in conjunction with the yamas and niyamas (teachings on how to take yoga into the world – compassion, healthy lifestyle, balance, etc.)
- It is learned from a proper (trained) teacher
- It is a practice of ‘minding the mind’
- If these components are not present, it is not yoga! “
Notes on Yoga by Svastha Yoga New Zealand
Svaroopa® Yoga meets all of these components. Though all of the yoga taught in the US is based on Hatha Yoga, Svaroopa® is the only style that focuses on precise alignment with timed sequences for optimum release of the compression of the muscular and skeletal systems of the human body. While other yoga and exercise styles specifically focus on ‘core strengthening’, Svaroopa® Yoga focuses on ‘Core release’, starting at the tailbone and moving up the spine to release the tension. Our theory is that ‘tight’ muscles are weak muscles as oxygen and blood flow is restricted which in turn strengthens and lengthens muscles. Over stretched joints cause instability and lack of balance, Svaroopa helps you find the proper alignment for stable hips, knees, ankles, elbows, shoulders, in all the working parts of your body. In fact, a weekly practice of yoga, on days off from other exercise, can balance your lifestyle for optimum health.
Maintaining Our Health at Any Age
A regular practice of Svaroopa® Yoga can maintain your health and even reverse the aging process. This sounds like a big promise but let’s look at the facts of what causes health issues with aging. “Our musculoskeletal system hits its peak at the age of 20, and while it maintains its peak for an additional 20 years, the reality is that it begins to break down at age 40. This includes muscles becoming less flexible. Once we pass into the fourth decade of life, it is critical we play an active role in stretching and strengthening our bodies to maintain appropriate, maximal health.” physical therapist Matthew Hyland, president of the New York Physical Therapy Association. Svaroopa® Yoga uniquely focuses on the release of tension and decompression of the musculoskeletal system that has happened over a lifetime of living. Svaroopa® Yoga lengthens and strengthens your body though a series of low impact poses that you can even do at home to build a lifelong practice of yoga.
Excerpt from Mayo Clinic: How your body responds to aerobic exercise
“During aerobic activity, you repeatedly move large muscles in your arms, legs and hips. You'll notice your body's responses quickly. You'll breathe faster and more deeply. This maximizes the amount of oxygen in your blood. Your heart will beat faster, which increases blood flow to your muscles and back to your lungs. Your small blood vessels (capillaries) will widen to deliver more oxygen to your muscles and carry away waste products, such as carbon dioxide and lactic acid. Your body will even release endorphins, natural painkillers that promote an increased sense of well-being.”
Based on this description from Mayo Clinic, Svaroopa® Yoga is an aerobic exercise. Svaroopa® Yoga moves large muscles and bones in your arms, legs, and hips into precise poses that release tension to open and lengthen the body. You will notice your body’s response immediately.
In Svaroopa® Yoga while learning Ujjayi breathing, your breath is slow and steady so that you can deepen and lengthen your breathing into all parts of your body – belly up through the lungs on the inhale and exhale. The sequencing of the breath is an aerobic exercise as Ujjayi maximizes the amount of oxygen in your blood intentionally and increases the flow of blood through the full musculoskeletal system and back to the lungs again.
As the muscles release and open, the blood vessels are no longer restricted and widen to flow blood to the muscles and bones – removing inflammation caused by a buildup of carbon dioxide and lactic acid.
More blood and oxygen flow to the whole body, created through a regular Ujjayi breathing practice, including to the head and brain, releases endorphins that create a sense of bliss and well-being. Svaroopa means bliss in sanskirt.
Back Pain Relief and Yoga
Yoga helps release the chronic muscle tightness that lies at the root of much back pain and counteracts faulty muscular holding patterns. A mounting body of studies has shown yoga to be effective for back pain. Most recently a review of studies on the effects of yoga for back pain found consistent improvements across the ten high-quality studies reviewed. Studies highlight the importance of emphasizing alternatives to surgery, such as yoga, as therapy for chronic back pain.
As always, however, prevention is better than cure. Studies on yoga for back pain cannot gauge the considerable preventive effects from a regular yoga practice. By keeping the muscles strong and flexible, facilitating proper posture, and creating greater awareness of the body’s inherent signals of discomfort and overuse, yoga’s preventive effects for back pain are likely to far
exceed the effects picked up by studies on chronic back pain sufferers. Source: Xia, Xiao-Peng MD; Chen, Hong-Lin MM; Cheng, Hong-Bin MM. (2013). Prevalence of Adjacent Segment Degeneration After Spine Surgery: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. Spine: 01 April 2013 – Volume 38 – Issue 7 – p 597–608.
Stress and Your Body
We live in a ‘stressful’ world, won’t you agree? We spend long hours at work, meeting expectations for achieving our goals and those from other people, taking care of others, and drive hours daily in our cars to destinations on the Shore.
We live in fear – of crime, of accidents, safety for our family, and of keeping our jobs and financial security in a tough economy. Adding to this fear may be the trauma we have experienced, either personally or through loved ones, from accidents/threatening health issues, military service, or abusive relationships.
Seeking balance and health, we may over extend ourselves in sports, exercise, and work at home – “staying active” is given a high priority in our culture. We may then use substances like alcohol, prescription or recreational drugs to relax and relieve pain. We lose touch with our bodies and control over our minds as we seek comfort.
It is this over active lifestyle that can cause the most stress on our minds and thus our bodies. http://www.yogajournal.com/article/health/this-is-your-body-on-stress/ Americans have a high rate of ‘stress diseases’ – heart, back, mental health and addictions, and digestive issues are all attributed to both physical and mental stress. This stress causes
compression of both the skeletal/muscular system (spine, bones, and muscles attached) and mind. Svaroopa® Yoga focuses on decompression of the body and quieting the mind to release stress and to restore a profound sense of well-being.
Quieting the Mind
Our minds stay busy – ‘monkey’ mind is what we call it in Svaroopa® teacher training – swinging from one idea/thought to the next without pause. Are you:
- Always thinking of the next ‘task’ that must be completed.
- Projecting future ‘to-do’s and focused on future wants and goals.
- Feeling there is never enough – time, money, appreciation for what you do, love, etc…
- Living in the past – mistakes made, regrets, unable to release and move on.
- Uncomfortable with stillness and inactivity.
- Unable to just turn off the mind – for just a moment.
- Cannot sleep as your mind keeps racing.
- Compelled to continue to ‘fill up’ at the computer, TV, etc. – over stimulated by the news.
- Everything just goes blank – from the overload, too much crammed into the memory.
The mind needs to rewind, recharge, and relax the muscles of the brain, just like the body. Svaroopa® Yoga can help you do this in class through guided awareness mediation, focused breathing, and gentle poses. Svaroopa ® Yoga helps you discover ways to take this peace of mind out into the world so you can become serene and calm in facing life’s challenges, be more productive at work and home, and improve both your health and relationships.
Breathing for Health
Ujjayi Pranayama is the breathing practice that Svaroopa® Yoga teaches that can bring oxygen into the body and increase healthy blood circulation throughout the body. It is an easy and gentle practice that everyone can use on a daily practice for prevention of illness as well as a complement to medical treatment and natural healing from injury. The human body is an amazing system that Svaroopa® Yoga supports in promoting breath work and poses to release the stress and strain of daily living on the body. Aerobic exercise has been touted as the cure for heart and lung issues. Proper breathing is important to restoring and recycling oxygen through the heart and lungs into the blood stream that then delivers this ‘breathe’ of life to the muscles and bones. Healthy bones receive oxygen and other nutrients by blood circulation through the muscles. A tight muscle restricts this flow of nourishing blood to the skeletal system. A released muscle supports the skeletal system by allowing the needed flow of oxygen and nutrients to the bones. 20 minutes of Ujjayi breathing has been proven to have the same aerobic effects as a brisk walk and you can do it anywhere, anytime to renew energy and feel refreshed.
Inflammation is one of the most damaging health issues – causing arthritis, joint pain, back issues, and other physical problems. A healthy body removes inflammation from joints and muscles through proper blood circulation and oxygenation. Svaroopa® Yoga through Ujjayi breathing and gentle poses opens the joints and supports the flow of blood through the body to remove inflammation and promote healing.
Can I be injured in Yoga?
In recent years there have been a number of articles in various newspapers, the Boston Globe, New York Times, Washington Post, etc. about injuries from Yoga and how to avoid; I was astounded to read the following in one article: “Yoga is a strength building activity…so you need to give your muscles a chance to recuperate and recover from those microtears that occur after every workout.” The current Western theory of building strength through rigorous exercise – “no pain, no gain” is used in some styles of Yoga which focuses on fast movement between poses, extreme stretches, and sweating. While Yoga is strength-building, there are styles of Yoga out there which are not based on this current exercise model of how to strengthen muscles.
I teach one of those styles, which is called “Svaroopa® Yoga” and which is based on a completely different paradigm of the body. In our classes, we build muscle strength and flexibility by releasing tension in the muscles connected to the spine. This approach does not result in “microtears” – rather it results in an amazing feeling of bliss and well-being. In fact, Svaroopa® teacher training specifically focuses on human anatomy and how the body works to avoid injury from poses as well
as to promote healing from past injury to the body. Your body will lengthen and strengthen through a gentle, simple series of relaxing poses. Though you may work up a sweat, feel an opening and lengthening of your muscles and skeletal structure, and possibly be achy the next day from the changes your body experiences, just like after a ‘good workout’ at the gym – you will not feel pain, only a sense of profound well-being. With a home practice, like one of my students said’ “ it is like
giving yourself an internal massage everyday” to feel happy and relaxed as your normal status.
Do more yoga!
What the Research Shows…
- Two small studies published in the February 2000 issue of the journal Rheumatic Diseases Clinics of
North America found that yoga helps with pain associated with osteoarthritis and carpal tunnel
- A study published in the April 2000 issue of Indian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology showed
that yoga may be as effective as drug therapy in controlling hypertension. (However, until this is
more firmly established by additional research, yoga is better regarded as an adjunct to drug
treatment rather than a replacement. Needless to say, any changes to your drug regimen should be
made in consultation with your doctor.)
- A second study in the same journal documented that a four-month yoga regimen significantly
increased feelings of good health, as rated by a standardized “Subjective Well-Being Inventory.”
- A Stanford University review of the research on complementary treatments found that mind-body
techniques including yoga were efficacious primarily as complementary treatments for
musculoskeletal disease and related disorders.
- Other studies, including one at the Roosevelt University Stress Institute in Chicago, have found that
yoga stretches reduce physical stress while increasing physical relaxation.