A little background…
Yoga has become quite a phenomenon in North America over the past 20 years. It was introduced to the west by (what were considered) radical hippies that had studied with Indian gurus in the 1960’s. At that time it was only small peripheral groups of people that practiced. Today it is one of the most popular forms of exercise by people of all ages and backgrounds. There are chains of studios and thousands of teachers being churned out. It’s great to see that such a wonderful system has become a dominant form of exercise. It is disheartening however that yoga has been diluted in our culture as being just “exercise”, when in fact yoga was developed over 2500 years ago as a way of living.
Why should yoga be included in your life?
There are huge benefits from the exercise alone. Each posture in yoga when applied properly is a perfect balance of strength and relaxation. Because of the nature of applying strength and relaxation in all areas of the body, there is a balancing effect on the muscles. Also because each movement is controlled rather than dynamic, the participant can determine the amount of work and stretch being applied. Yoga also emphasizes functional movements and range of motion improving health and movement.
Health and alignment
As a chiropractor, I work with people to get their health in alignment through treating spinal subluxations and muscular imbalances. I love when my patients practice yoga because it helps the muscles and joints to keep their adjustments as they are moved through many different ranges of motion and proper postural ergonomics are applied. I especially notice in people with major postural stress that after a few months of yoga there is a noticeable reduction of dysfunction in their spine.
Promoting the “calm” hormones
During the practice of yoga the focus is on the breath. The breath should be smooth and long which has the effect of bringing the heart rate down even through challenging positions. As the breath and heart rate are being reduced the body is signalled that “all is good” which promotes a release of the parasympathetic hormones (similar to an adjustment!). Parasympathetic hormones help us digest our food easier and feel more calm in general.
By having a consistent practice, the breath is trained to be slower and smoother in any challenging situation.
Decreasing judgement of self and others
Without getting too deep, the principles of yoga are to practice everyday to be a better person to yourself and others. We battle our fiercest adversary (our mind) by focusing on the breath and body with the ultimate goal of eliminating the mind chatter. A strong inward focus is necessary to connect with the breath, which takes the participant away from the endless judgements we create about ourselves in comparison to others. A yoga space should be a sanctuary for everybody.
How do I get started?
Finding a studio
I think it’s important to find a yoga studio with the following qualities:
- they offer a variety of classes and a “foundations” class for beginners
- the teachers are educated in postures, anatomy and philosophy of yoga
- there are blocks and other props to help progress in the practice
- it is located close to work/home so that you can optimally make a commitment of 2 times per week
Golden tips for your first class
- the breath is the most important part of your practice; even if you spend an hour just focusing on a long, smooth even breath you will benefit
- try breathing into your back, imagine the breath moving up the spine towards the head and moving back down on the exhale from head to tailbone
- in each posture identify where you can engage, and where you can relax
- let any judgements come and go
- don’t be shy to ask for an adjustment or modification from your teacher-they will be happy to help
- take rest whenever you need
Yoga is a wonderful investment; your efforts will come back to you tenfold. Please get in touch with me at genieveburley.com if you have any questions!
Dr. Genieve Burley
Dr. Genieve Burley is chiropractor, yoga instructor and dedicated yogi. She has over 11 years in the health and fitness industry. Genieve has extensive experience writing for magazines, journals and television appearances on the topic of rehabilitation, yoga and nutrition. She lives in Vancouver with her family.