Breath. It is the first thing we do when we are born and it is the last thing we do when we leave. In between that time, we take about half a billion breaths. The mind, body and breath are intimately connected and can influence each other. Our breathing is influenced by our thoughts, and our thoughts and physiology can be influenced by our breath. Learning to breath consciously and with awareness can be a valuable tool to help restore balance in the mind and body. Breathing can have an immediate effect on diffusing emotional energy so there is less reactivity to our emotions.
A simple practice of slow deep breathing has many benefits on our physical body, such as reduced anxiety and depression, lower blood pressure, increased energy levels, muscle relaxation, and decreased feelings of stress and overwhelm. The basis for all deep breathing practices originates in the science of yoga, specifically the branch of yoga known as Pranayama. The word ‘pranayama’ is derived from two Sanskrit words Prana (life force) and yama (control).
By controlling the breath, you can influence every aspect of your life. You can train yourself to breathe in a way that has a positive influence on your health. But what if controlling your breath was not physically possible??
Let me introduce you to two incredible people that I know. John Campbell and his fiancée Katie Nodding. John fights for his breath each and every day – and its not something new to him either. Katie and John graciously allow me to share their heart tugging story below.
John had fought for his breath once before when at 16 years old, he was diagnosed and overcame an extremely rare disease requiring a bone marrow transplant, radiation, and chemotherapy. His recovery was swift and he has enjoyed life to the fullest since as a dedicated electrician, and avid outdoors-man. However, for medically unexplained reasons, he once again must overcome the unthinkable. In May of 2017, John’s lungs began to fail. His pulmonary deterioration was rapid and severe, literally taking his breath away and requiring him to use an oxygen machine 24/7 as of September. Though no official medical diagnosis has been determined, his doctors have been treating him for Graft vs. Host Disease, and the damage to his lungs has been deemed irreversible. He takes bi-weekly trips to New Brunswick for treatment on top of an intense drug prescription regime. He has had to adapt to a major lifestyle changes, he can no longer work, or hike through the forest. The days can be long and tiring – but there is HOPE.
John has been accepted into a transplant program in Toronto, and in the upcoming months he and his fiancée, Katie, will be moving to Ontario to await a double lung transplant. Though the road to recovery may be long they are determined to stay positive and regain their lives. John WILL find his breath once again. Any monetary donations, positive thoughts, prayers, and energies given are graciously accepted as all will help lessen the stress of temporarily moving their lives and starting anew; it will all help strengthen their Prana – their life force – to overcome this illness, and BREATHE again.
Yoga means union, community, oneness with self and others. Sharing my light and reaching out to my community is very important to me and I would love to help Katie and John in any way that I can.
One path of Yoga that I feel very connected to is Karma Yoga. ‘Karma’ means action and ‘yoga’ is to know one’s self. The word “Karma Yoga” therefore, means knowing yourself through work. According to James Lochtefeld, Karma yoga is the spiritual practice of “selfless action preformed for the benefit of others”
Karma Yoga is work done well without any expectations. Its an unselfish action which must be done with dedication, love and care, without expecting any fruits of labour. You must do it only for the pure joy of it and an intention to help others.
FitYoga Windsor will be offering Karma Classes by donation on Friday evenings from 6pm – 7pm. All proceeds from each 60-minute FitYoga Karma class will go directly to helping John and Katie. Friday evening classes will begin on March 23rd. Please note that each Karma Class will be limited to 20 people and you can sign up for this class a head of time online. Donations will be made in cash at the studio. This will be a regular 60 minute FitYoga class with a dynamic power flow sequence, meditation and pranayama exercises – be prepared to sweat with pleasure.
“Healing is every breath” – Thich Nhat Hunh
Yoga is a way of living that aims towards a healthy mind in a healthy body. FitYoga, with its combination of yoga and Pilates-inspired sequences, is an amazing way to gain that healthy lifestyle.
“Health is not a mere absence of disease. It is a dynamic expression of life – in terms of how joyful, loving and enthusiastic you are.” – Sri Sri Ravi Shankar.
This is where yoga helps: postures, pranayama (breathing techniques) and meditation are a holistic fitness package.
Postures or Asanas
Very often, yoga is only partially understood as being limited to asanas (yoga poses). As such, its benefits are only perceived to be at the body level and we fail to realize the immense benefits yoga offers in uniting the body, mind and breath. When you are in harmony, the journey through life is calmer, happier and more fulfilling.
The true essence of yoga revolves around elevating the life force or ‘Kundalini’ at the base of the spine. This is achieved through a series of physical and mental exercises. The physical methods are various yoga postures or ‘asanas’ that aim to keep the body healthy.
The mental techniques include breathing exercises or pranayama and meditation or dhyana to discipline the mind.
Breathing or Pranayama
Prana means life force or breath sustaining the body; Ayama translates as “to extend or draw out.” Together the two mean breath extension or control.
Inhale, Exhale, Relax.
Yoga Breathing or Pranayama is the foundation of your yoga practice. It begins with deepening your breathing, then moves into more advanced breathing exercises such as Kapalabhati and the Alternate Nostril Breath.
Pranayama goes hand in hand with the Asanas and is used before, during and after asana practice. These two Yogic Principles together are considered as the highest form of purification and self-discipline, covering both mind and body. Breath practice can help relieve minor fatigue, anxiety, and depression.
Meditation or Dhyana
“Meditation” and “mindfulness” are buzzwords these days for good reason. Yogis have been practicing dhyana (meditation) for millennia. Meditation is the act of focusing your mind.
The first step to successful meditation is practicing it often. But even in a class where the yoga teacher sets time aside for meditation, getting the hang of how to meditate can be quite challenging, whether you’re a beginner to yoga or you’ve been taking yoga classes for a while. Considering that serious yogis spend a lifetime honing the art of meditation, there’s no sense in pressuring yourself to perfect your own meditation technique after just a few sessions.
Mind, Body & Soul
Man is a mental, physical and spiritual being; yoga helps promote a balanced development of all mind, body and soul. Other forms of physical exercises, like aerobics, assure only physical well-being. They have little to do with the development of the spiritual or astral body.
Yoga is not about touching your toes. It’s about what you learn on the way down. – Jigar Gor.
Practicing yoga might seem like just stretching, but it can do much more for your body from the way you feel, look and move. The art of practicing yoga helps in controlling an individual’s mind, body and soul. It brings together physical and mental disciplines to achieve a peaceful body and mind; it helps manage stress and anxiety and keeps you relaxed. It also helps in increasing flexibility, muscle strength and body tone. It improves respiration, energy and vitality.
Yoga is about community and union on a number of levels. First, the union and harmony between your own body, mind and soul. Second, the union between yourself and your yoga teacher, and between yourself and fellow practitioners. On a broader level, the connection between the studio and its community is also important.
Opening a yoga studio in Windsor is a natural step for me, as my family lives here and we are closely connected to the community. As an active supporter of this community and a variety of causes, FitYoga Windsor is a natural extension of my commitment to myself and to my community, as I want to share the beautiful gift of Yoga – along with all of its many benefits – with you all.
Yoga is amazing for everyone. You will get as much out of it as you put into it, and no matter what your physical strengths or weaknesses you can find incredible benefits. This article is from www.osteopathic.org; read the full article here.
The Benefits of Yoga
Like yoga, the osteopathic approach to wellness focuses on your body’s natural tendency toward health and self-healing.
“The purpose of yoga is to create strength, awareness and harmony in both the mind and body,” explains Natalie Nevins, DO, a board-certified osteopathic family physician and certified Kundalini Yoga instructor in Hollywood, California.
While there are more than 100 different types, or schools, of yoga, most sessions are typically include breathing exercises, meditation, and assuming postures (sometimes called asana or poses) that stretch and flex various muscle groups.
“As an osteopathic physician, I focus a lot of my efforts on preventive medicine and practices, and in the body’s ability to heal itself,” says Dr. Nevins. “Yoga is a great tool for staying healthy because it is based on similar principles.”
“The relaxation techniques incorporated in yoga can lessen chronic pain, such as lower back pain, arthritis, headaches and carpal tunnel syndrome,” explains Dr. Nevins. “Yoga can also lower blood pressure and reduce insomnia.”
Other physical benefits of yoga include:
- Increased flexibility
- Increased muscle strength and tone
- Improved respiration, energy and vitality
- Maintaining a balanced metabolism
- Weight reduction
- Cardio and circulatory health
- Improved athletic performance
- Protection from injury
Aside from the physical benefits, one of the best benefits of yoga is how it helps a person manage stress, which is known to have devastating effects on the body and mind. “Stress can reveal itself in many ways, including back or neck pain, sleeping problems, headaches, drug abuse, and an inability to concentrate,” says Dr. Nevins. “Yoga can be very effective in developing coping skills and reaching a more positive outlook on life.”
Yoga’s incorporation of meditation and breathing can help improve a person’s mental well-being. “Regular yoga practice creates mental clarity and calmness; increases body awareness; relieves chronic stress patterns; relaxes the mind; centers attention; and sharpens concentration,” says Dr. Nevins. Body- and self-awareness are particularly beneficial, she adds, “because they can help with early detection of physical problems and allow for early preventive action.”