Showing posts with label restorative yoga. Show all posts
Showing posts with label restorative yoga. Show all posts

Yoga - The Antidote to Arthritis and a Key to Healthy Aging

Yoga - The Antidote to Arthritis and a Key to Healthy Aging
Forty years ago, when I first became interested in yoga and therapeutic exercise, I was assisting an older woman who was immobilized in her wheelchair by arthritis. Long before I understood the degree to which yoga can rehabilitate the body, I was helping people who were unable to dress, bathe or feed themselves independently due to the pain and stiffness in their joints. This has helped me understand the extreme suffering that can be inflicted by arthritis.
Back then, people with joint pain and swelling were advised by doctors not to move! The thinking was "If it hurts, don't move it." We now know that inactivity is one of the worst responses for someone with arthritis.
As Loren Fishman, MD, points out in his book, Yoga for Arthritis, "Arthritis restricts movement, yoga increases range of motion-these two were made for each other."
Arthritis is the leading cause of disability in this country, limiting everyday activities for millions of people. Drugs, surgeries, and steroids can alleviate some of the discomforts, but study after study has shown that exercise is most beneficial to most forms of arthritis, specifically low-impact, flexibility-enhancing exercises such as yoga.
Osteoarthritis, a painful and often debilitating condition caused by decades of wear and tear on the joints, is considered to be one the side effects of living longer. By the time we reach age sixty-five, X-rays for at last a third of us will show some signs of osteoarthritis, the most common of a group of diseases collectively referred to as arthritis.
Arthritis in its many forms affects more than seventy million (or one in three) American adults, according to estimates by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
Arthritis is so common in our culture that most people consider the pain and discomfort it brings to be a normal part of aging. Arthritis makes normal activities increasingly painful and difficult and diminishes or destroys the quality of life.

An Overview of Arthritis

The word arthritis means "joint inflammation." Modern medicine recognizes more than a hundred varieties of conditions that produce deterioration in joint structures. The common thread among these conditions is that they all affect the joints-those nearly 150 ingeniously designed structures located where two or more bones come together.
Arthritis-related joint problems may include pain, stiffness, inflammation and damage to joints. Joint weakness, instability and visible deformities may occur, depending on the location of the joint involved.
Arthritis is classified into two main types. Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory disorder, resulting in stiffness in the joints and muscles, joint erosion and pain. Osteoarthritis is a degenerative disorder that erodes the cartilage in joints, which leads to bones rubbing together. Osteoarthritis frequently occurs in people who are overweight or whose joints are painful from extreme overuse.
In spite of the prevalence of arthritis, be careful not to jump to the conclusion that your achy joints are necessarily due to it. Overuse and injuries can also result in tendonitis, bursitis, carpal tunnel syndrome and other fairly common conditions that are unrelated to arthritis.
Arthritis and Exercise
To remain healthy, muscles and joints must move and bear weight or they will lose strength. This weakness, coupled with joint swelling, will make the joints unstable. Joints in this condition are vulnerable to dislocation, increased injury and pain. Thus, regular gentle movement helps to reduce pain and to maintain mobility.
Physical movement promotes health in many systems of the body. It increases circulation, which in turn reduces swelling and promotes delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the tissues. With immobilization, a cycle of deterioration begins.
Because movement is crucial to so many physiological processes, the arthritic person's overall health tends to deteriorate without it. The normal functioning of the immune system declines, infections and illnesses occur, and the person often becomes frustrated and depressed. This cycle is self-perpetuating.
When someone comes to me with arthritis, I teach them how to practice yoga safely with the support of yoga props. For those who are new to yoga, the term "yoga props," simply refers to any object, such as a wall, a sturdy table or a chair, a folded blanket, a firm pillow, a strap or other item that makes practicing yoga safer and easier. Yoga props are especially helpful for older beginners who may have balance problems and are coping with common health issues such as arthritis and osteoporosis. In addition to common household objects that can be used as yoga props, there are professional yoga props such as a sturdy wooden bar known as the "yoga horse," yoga wall ropes, yoga bolsters in many shapes and sizes, yoga straps, special yoga chairs, yoga blocks, firm yoga blankets and more elaborate props like yoga backbenders that give people with arthritis and other common health conditions new hope and confidence.

Seven Types of Yoga

Seven Types of Yoga
One of the best things about yoga is that it is easy on the body. Anyone, of any fitness level, age or gender can do it. Even those with previous injuries or physical ailments can do yoga. You have the ability to start out slowly performing some of the easier positions and then work your way up to the more difficult stances. For those who are very fit, some yoga offers a much more intensive workout, so there is definitely something for everyone.
How many types of yoga are there?
Contrary to popular belief yoga is not simply one set of poses. There is much more to it than that and a wide variety of different yoga styles that you can choose from, although in the West, the practice is normally referred to as yoga, as Western instructors normally combine a few of the methods and create their own unique styles of yoga to suit their goals.
Traditionally, there are 6 different types of yoga that are practiced around the world, but 7 if you include the new form, Bikram, which has been widely commercialized and is extremely popular.
1. Hatha 
2. Raja 
3. Karma 
4. Bhakti 
5. Jnana 
6. Tantra 
7. Bikram
So let's go into more detail about each type of yoga and what it involves:
Hatha Yoga
Hatha (meaning sun) is the most commonly practiced form of yoga in the Western hemisphere with two important principles that are promoted:
• Meditation 
• Improving Energy Within the Body
The meditation includes finding a position that is the most comfortable for you and as you gain strength and become more advanced you will find the one that is best for you. Most people go with the lotus position. The lotus position is done seated with your legs crossed and intertwined. The left foot is over the right thigh and the right foot is over the left thigh.
Improving energy within the body is done using various poses and focusing on the light energy that travels through your body. It is about bringing positivity and healing into your body.
Raja Yoga
Raja (royal) is slightly more difficult than Hatha, but similar, and requires more control and self discipline, as it aims to achieve awakening and enlightenment. It is also known as Classical yoga or Ashtanga yoga and focuses on the principles of meditation, concentration, and mind/body discipline. As per the eightfold path to enlightenment teachings, there are 8 limbs, or parts, to Raja yoga:
1. Moral discipline 
2. Self restraint 
3. Concentration 
4. Meditation 
5. Breath control 
6. Posture 
7. Sensory inhibition 
8. Ecstasy
Raja yoga aims to control thought waves and calm the mind, allowing you to eventually achieve self awareness.
Karma Yoga
Karma (discipline of action) is generally referred to in the sense of doing good or bad to others will result in the same thing happening to you. In yoga terms, Karma means a selfless action and to perform this kind of yoga, you are supposed to surrender yourself and serve humanity and mankind selflessly.
Karma yoga is based in Hinduism and was founded by Bhagavad Vita. The main aim of this type of yoga is to purify the mind and heart, getting rid of negative energy and negative thinking. The important aspect of Karma yoga that you must understand is that you will learn to have no attachment to the results of your actions, as this will lead you to freedom of fear and sorrow.
Karma yoga as you can see is more spiritually based than physically and there are no specific poses that are linked to this type, but it is more about using the best postures that you are comfortable with, therefore they tend to be simpler.

Yoga Has A Rich History In The US

Yoga Has A Rich History In The US
It might surprise many people to learn that yoga has a long history in the United States. For a lot of Americans, their knowledge of yoga may only date back to the 1960s, when the concepts of spiritualism and meditation were embraced by the country's counterculture.
But it might surprise you to learn that yoga has a far longer history in the U.S., dating back to the late 1800s.
In 1883, Swami Vivekananda made an appearance at the World Parliament of Religions in Chicago where he greeted his "sisters and brothers of America", a salutation that brought a standing ovation from the large audience in attendance. His idea that all of the religions of the world are merely separate parts of a larger religion was a new concept to those hearing him speak about the mind, body and spirit.
Shortly after the arrival of Swami Vivekananda, Yogendra Mastamani also traveled to the U.S. from India and set up a base in Long Island, N.Y. in 1919 and created the American branch of Kaivalyadhama, which is an India-based group that was a leader in the exploration of yoga from a scientific perspective. Mastamani introduced Hatha Yoga to the United States.
One year later, one of the most popular yogis of all time, Paramahansa Yogananda, arrived in Boston to introduce kriya yoga to the U.S. He created the Self-Realization Fellowship, which now has its headquarters in Los Angeles. Yogananda also wrote the world-famous best seller, "Autobiography of a Yogi", a book that is still an inspirational resource for many yoga instructors and students.
Beginning in the 1930s, Jiddu Krishnamurti achieved a new level of notoriety for a yogi when he began giving well-received, eloquent seminars on Jnana-Yoga, or the yoga of discernment. His enlightening talks brought him attention from a number of celebrities, including actors Charlie Chaplin and Greta Garbo and writers Aldous Huxley and George Bernard Shaw.
In 1924, the U.S. imposed a restriction on the number of Indians it would allow to move to the U.S., meaning students who sought the teachings of yogis had to travel to India. One of these students was Theos Bernard, who traveled to India and came back in 1947 to write the book "Hatha Yoga: The Report of a Personal Experience", an influential book which is still widely today.
In that same year, yogi Indra Devi, born in Russia, opened one of the original Hatha Yoga studios in the Los Angeles/Hollywood area and was given the title of "The First Lady of Yoga". Devi was admired by housewives across the U.S., as well as Hollywood stars such as Gloria Swanson, Jennifer Jones and Robert Ryan. Devi passed away in her Buenos Ares home in 2002.
But there is one man who is credited with bringing yoga into the mainstream of America and, ironically, he is not a native of India. While Richard Hittleman did study in India for several years, he came back to the U.S. in 1950 and worked as a yoga instructor in New York, introducing a non-spiritual version of yoga to the country and altered the way yoga is perceived in the U.S. Hittleman emphasized the physical aspects of yoga to a Western audience used to focusing on the body rather than the mind. Hittleman's goal was to teach American students to gradually embrace the spiritual side of yoga, which many people have.

The Types of Yoga

The Types of Yoga
The term "yoga" is applied to an assortment of practices and methods that also include Hindu, Jain and Buddhist practices. In Hinduism these practices include Jnana Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Laya Yoga and Hatha Yoga.
Ashtanga Yoga
Yoga Sutras of Pantajali, which are the oldest known written compilation about yoga, include the Raja Yoga or the Ashtanga Yoga, (the eight limbs to be practiced to attain Samadhi). The ultimate aim of the yoga practice is to obtain Samadhi or unity of the individual self with the Supreme Being. Patanjali states that one can achieve this supreme union by elimination the 'vruttis' or the different modifications of the mind. The mind can in turn be controlled by right discipline and training of the body. The Yoga-Sutra of Patanjali comprise of:
Yama: Social restraints or ethical values for living. They include: Ahimsa (Non-violence), Satya (truthfulness) Asteya (non-stealing), Brahmacharya (celibacy, fidelity to one's partner) and Aparigraha (non-possessiveness).
Niyama - They include the personal observances of - Sauca (clarity of mind, speech and body), Santosha (contentment), Tapas (perseverance). Svadhyaya (study of self, self-reflection, study of Vedas), and Ishvara-Pranidhana (contemplation of God/Supreme Being/True Self)
Asana: Literally means "seat", and in Patanjali's Sutras refers to the seated position used for meditation.
Pranayama -Prana, breath, "ayama", to restrain or stop i.e., regulation of breath
Pratyahara - Withdrawal of the sense in preparation to meditation.
Dharana - Concentration
Dhyana - Meditation.
Samadhi - Liberating one's body to attain ecstasy.
Moreover, Patanjali has identified some basic obstacles that do not allow the mind from practicing yoga. He has divided them into 2 classes:
Antarayas (intruders in the path of yoga)
Viksepasahabhuvah (co-existing with mental distraction)
There are 9 Antarayas:
Vyadhi (physical illness) - If a body is suffering from some disease, it needs to be cured and restored to a healthy state. Disease causes disorder of the mind and makes it difficult to practice yoga or any other form of physical discipline
Styana (mental laziness) - The human desire to reap the fruits of action without any effort is not conducive to mental health. Strong will power needs to be employed to do away with this ailment.
Samshaya (doubt) - Faith is the only cure to dispel all arising doubts.
Pramada (heedlessness) - If one is oblivious to cultivate virtues, Yoga cannot be practiced.
Alasya (physical laziness) - Involving in healthy activities helps overcome this laziness
Avirati (detachment) - The mind needs to be detached from material objects to attain Yoga
Bhrantidarsana (false perception) - leads to self-conceit and needs to be kept away.
Alabdha- bhumikatva (non-attainment of yogic states) - Recognizing the evil traits in our personality and banishing them would help in the long run
Anavasthitatva (falling away from yogic states attained)
There are 4 Viksepasahabhuvah
Dukha - sorrow and suffering inflicting the human mind.
Daurmanasya - disappointment due to non-fulfillment of desires and ambition.
Angamejayatva - restlessness of the limbs due to mental agitation.
Shvasa and prashvasa - forced inhalation and exhalation. Controlled breathing or a balance in breathing exerts a calming influence in the mind.
Patanjali states that these impediments can be removed through meditation and devotion to God; which will pave the way for self-realization.

The Eight Main Branches of Yoga

The Eight Main Branches of Yoga
Yoga may seem like it's a bunch of people stretching, perhaps in a hot room that makes them sweat. So is it only stretching? Is it weight loss, or a set of relaxation techniques? It is much more then these few things. Many people have the misunderstanding that Yoga is only this or that, but in reality it's many different techniques that attempt to pull the mind and the body together in unity.
If you look at the tradition of Yoga, you will see more than a dozen different areas with many sub areas below each area. It's easier if you picture it as a huge tree that has eight main branches. Each big branch is unique and has its own qualities, but is also part of the main tree. With so many different areas, you are guaranteed to find on that suits your personality, lifestyle and goals. We're going to talk about the most popular branch of Yoga, Hatha. We will not make the same mistake a lot of people make, reducing Yoga to a set of fitness training exercises. We also talk about the meditation and spiritual aspects.
Below are the seven principle areas and a short description:
Bhakti Yoga: The Yoga of devotion 
Bhakti Yoga is a belief of a supreme being that transcends their lives. People that follow the belief believe that they can merge with this supreme being by showing devotion. Bhakti Yoga includes making offerings, singing hymns of praise and keeping your mind on the divine, supreme being.
Hatha Yoga: The Yoga of physical discipline 
Hatha Yoga help's to purify and prepare the body for enlightenment. All the areas of Yoga seek reach enlightenment, but this area does it by focusing on the body instead of the mind or emotions.
Jnana Yoga: The Yoga of wisdom 
Jnana Yoga is the teaching of nondualism, which is the belief that reality is singular and that your understanding of certain objects and things is a misconception. Once you reach enlightenment, everything becomes one and you become one with the immortal spirit.
Karma Yoga: The Yoga of self-transcending action 
Karma Yoga teaches followers to act unselfishly, without attachment to any objects and to act with integrity. The teachers of Karma Yoga believe that anything you say or do has consequences which you must take full responsibility for.
Mantra Yoga: The Yoga of potent sound 
Mantra Yoga uses a certain sound to harmonize the body and focus your mind. This can work with a single word, a syllable or a phrase. By humming this "mantra", you bring together your body and mind to form one entity.
Raja Yoga: The Royal Yoga 
Raja Yoga is a tradition approach to enlightenment. It has eight limbs, including moral discipline, self-restraint, posture, breath control, sensory inhibition, concentration, meditation and ecstasy.
Tantra Yoga: The Yoga of continuity 
Tantra Yoga is one of the most misunderstood branches of Yoga. People think that it only has to do with sex and different sexual positions. In reality, it's actually about rituals and visualizations of different deities.

Guru Yoga: The Yoga of dedication to a master 
Guru Yoga is very rare in the west. The goal of Guru Yoga is to become one with your master. Your master, or the teacher has assumedly already reached enlightenment and your goal is to meditate on your guru until you merge with them

Breaking Myths About Yoga

Breaking Myths About Yoga
Yoga and India aren't strangers, yet we find Yoga's popularity suddenly spiking after it's embraced by the west. It has become the thing to do to be fit with celebrities swearing by it. It is as if Yoga is a 'novel' concept or is reinvented by the west. After it has become the 'in' thing, there are two sets of people- the ones who do it and others who don't. Most of people who do it, adopt yoga for life while the others don't want to do it because of the myths around it or don't know how.
Here, we will try to break the common myths about yoga.
Myth no.1: Yoga is only for the young and fit.
"Yoga takes care of the complete well being of a person. It doesn't have an age barrier and can be done by anyone who is over the age of 12" says Meena Joshi, a yoga instructor with degree from Kalidas University. Yoga in fact is good for the problems that come with old age like arthritis, blood pressure; it helps us to age well and improve immunity.
Myth no.2: You have to be really flexible to do Yoga.flexibilty and yoga
Most common images associated with yoga are of people either standing on the head or being fixed in positions you wouldn't dream of reaching. But don't fret, they might be pro at yoga but "one of the basic principle of yoga is 'Shanai, Shanai' or 'take it slowly'. You aren't expected to touch your toes or twist your neck in the beginning. Do only what you are comfortable with. There is no 'ideal' level of flexibility; it differs from person to person" she says.
Myth no.3: Yoga provides magical cures
Just starting yoga and expecting all the ailments to vanish isn't going to work. Yoga is very good for maintaining good health and taking care of the nervous system. But you really have to be consistent to reap all the benefits of yoga. So don't put away your medication as soon as you start yoga, take proper medical guidance before doing so.
Myth no.4: Doing yoga is all about spiritualism
yoga and spiritualismThough Yoga was founded by the rishis, it is not bounded by religion nor has it to be adopted only by those interested in spirituality. Yoga can be adopted by anybody with or without religious inclination. Yoga can provide the much needed relaxation and peace in today's hectic lifestyle. So, yoga is more relevant for you and me than a person already away from every day cares.
Myth no.5: Only women do Yoga
Even though most of the followers of yoga may be the women, yoga is definitely also for men. If you observe, most of the famous practitioners or instructors they all are men. If men feel yoga is only about some postures and for flexibility, they should remember that yoga has so much to offer men like strengthening and toning muscles, relaxing and releasing stress. 
Myth no 6: Yoga should only be done in the morning
You would be able to reap the best results of yoga if you do it in the morning. But if your schedule is what's stopping you from practicing it in the morning, don't worry. You can practice yoga at whatever time of the day as per your convenience but make sure you practice it after at least 2 hours of meals.