YOGA – IS IT RIGHT FOR YOU?
BY MACY GRAHAM
Teaching yoga in the South Denver Metro for over 6 years, I have witnessed several transformational stories.
I have taught for assisted living communities, a physical therapy clinic, employee wellness programs, yoga studios, outdoor spaces, community centers, and even at clients’ homes. One thing I know for sure is that yoga has improved my overall health and well-being, along with all of my long-term clients who practice at least twice per week. No matter your age, physical shape, spiritual beliefs, or socioeconomic status, you can reap all the benefits of the ancient practice of yoga.
Let’s begin like we would in a yoga class, from the physical to subtler benefits of yoga.
The physical layer of yoga, anna-maya kosha, can have many benefits including weight loss, pain management, muscle strengthening, better balance, improved posture, and proper body mechanics. I’ve worked with women who could feel and see relief from scoliosis, Lyme disease, and auto-immune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis. I also taught a couple in their home who consistently practiced Hatha Yoga, the classical system of yoga postures and breathing techniques, two times per week for a year and lost a combined total of 90 pounds.
Yoga can be described as a gateway to feel better in the bodies we have right now, which allows physical results to come more naturally and easefully. When a person thinks of the physical benefits of yoga, they can envision the actual yoga postures and sequences that allow the body to shape-shift.
The next ring of yoga would be the energetic layer, also known as prana-maya kosha.
Benefits could include simply feeling more vibrant, energetic, and aligned with the human circadian rhythm. We focus on improving our energetic layer through different breathing techniques, known as pranayama, that allow energy to flow in the body more freely.
One of my favorites that anyone can do is Alternate Nostril Breathing, Nadi Shodhana. With your right hand, use your thumb and ring finger while folding your pointer and middle fingers into your palm. Close your right nostril off with your thumb and inhale through the left nostril. At the top of the inhale, close your left nostril off with your ring finger and exhale out the right nostril. Breathe in through the right nostril and at the top of the inhale, close off the right nostril and exhale out the left. Repeat the process for 3-5 minutes, and sit for a few moments after you complete the cycle. Notice a sense of calm as this breath balances both sides of the brain and puts the nervous system into a relaxation response.
We begin to get into the subtler benefits of yoga with the most inner rings that address strengthening the mental, intellectual, and spiritual self within.
The whole point of moving the physical body in yoga postures and using breathing techniques is to eventually find a place of stillness and to observe the chattering of the mind. Research shows that yoga helps those that struggle with depression, anxiety, mental illness, focus, and concentration because they begin to feel a deep sense of connection to themselves. Yoga personally helped me overcome binge and emotional eating because it taught me to not be so reactive when tough emotions and stress happen in life. Instead, being able to sit with the uncomfortable feelings and allowing them to be seen will eventually let them pass without needing anything outside of yourself.
Yoga is not intended to replace any medication or therapy that your doctor prescribes, but instead is a tool for you to build self-awareness and mindfulness about who you really are, what’s important to you, and to eventually be of service to help others do the same.
Roxborough has several yoga resources available to its community, and I encourage you to try them all out and see what feels best for you.
Roxborough Academy of Martial Arts has yoga on Tuesday evenings at 7:00 pm. Over the summer Kristin Scott and Barbara Meadows are teaching yoga at Seven Stones Garden on Mondays and Thursdays at 6:00 pm. Macy Graham is available for private sessions either at your home or hers, and will be starting a new Yoga Class at the Roxborough Park Community Center on Wednesday evenings at 6:00 pm beginning August 28.