Yoga Practice Provides Healing Benefits


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Summer Smith teaches yoga and operates Yama Yoga Studio in Canton.

When I tell people I’m a Yoga instructor, the first thing they say to me is, “I can’t do yoga. I’m not flexible.”  My reply? You don’t go to the gym already fit. You go to get fit. The same is true of yoga. But the practice of yoga isn’t just about becoming flexible. Yoga offers so much more, such as:

• Increased muscle strength and tone

• Improved respiration

• Energy and vitality

• Balanced metabolism

• Weight reduction

• Cardio and circulatory health

• Improved athletic performance

• Protection from injury and proper posture

And that’s just the beginning.

Most of my beginner students start their journey believing yoga is about learning to twist and contort their bodies into the many elegant and challenging postures they see on television and in magazine articles. The truth is yoga is about learning to still your mind. The practice helps you relieve discomfort and become more balanced so you can actually begin to get to know your body. Yoga makes you sensitive and aware of your needs so you can better manage yourself.

Yoga links your breath to the postures. This unification brings equilibrium to your mind and calms your body. This is where the true treasure resides. The breathing techniques are meant to oxygenate the body and relieve stress in the mind. Deep breathing quiets your parasympathetic nervous system calming the fight-or-flight effect. It also warms the body from the inside out leaving you less prone to injury while ridding your body of toxins during exhalation.

Finding your path

The type of class in which you choose to participate has much to do with the movements you practice. One class or style is no better than the other, but simply a vehicle to take you to your desired destination.

Yoga Stretch emphasizes slow, deliberate movement meant to deeply stretch the muscles and organs in the body. Yin Yoga is slower paced using less postures but holding them for a longer duration. Vinyasa is more cardiovascular and usually practiced in a warmed room. It seeks to increase the heart rate and challenge the practitioner to a wider variety of postures. Restorative Yoga helps restore your body, mind, and spirit by making use of props like blankets and bolsters, straps and blocks allowing the body to slowly move into stillness while being supported. Yoga Nidra is a deeply relaxing form of creative visualization meant to work deep within the psyche to release past trauma.

According to the Huffington Post, the number of Americans practicing yoga has increased nearly 30 percent in the past four years. A recent survey conducted by Yoga Journal discovered that more than 20 million Americans are avid practitioners. Yoga is an ancient, proven science. More and more people around the world are discovering the healing benefits of a regular practice. Like many things in life, yoga must be experienced. Words just don’t do it justice. Do your research. Try a wide variety of teachers, studios, and classes. Your body, mind, and spirit will thank you.

Summer Smith is an E-RYT yoga teacher and the owner of Yama Yoga Studio in Canton, www.yamayoga.net.

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