Benefits of private yoga classes
Private yoga classes are highly recommended if you are a beginner, if you are working with injuries or medical conditions, or if you have specific goals in mind. Some reasons to consider private instructions with a trained teacher are:
Begin a healthy practice. By learning the postures correctly with proper alignment you take full advantage of their benefits and avoid injuries.
Develop confidence and gain experience to safely practice in group settings.
Receive one-on-one attention in a safe environment with tailored sessions that address your personal, physical, and emotional needs.
Learn how to modify your practice if you have injuries, medical conditions or health concerns.
Work towards a specific goal, such as increased flexibility, balance or strength.
Focus on specific areas, like tight hips or back.
Learn breathing techniques (pranayama) to reduce anxiety, stress and increase your energy levels.
Learn or deepen your meditation practice.
Benefits of Yoga
Yoga is one of the world’s fastest growing health and fitness activities. Due to the popularity and the impressive results of scientific studies a lot more research is being funded about the benefits of yoga.
In all of the studies about the benefits of yoga, regardless of the focus, the participants reported enhanced sleep, energy, health, endurance and flexibility. They described experiencing a wide range of social benefits, including better sex, social lives and family relationships. Yogis also had better moods, self-confidence, life-satisfaction,and believed they looked better.
Stress Management and Relaxation
Yoga practice with all its components -- meditation, postures, controlled breathing -- reduces the activity of the sympathetic (fight or flight) nervous system and increases the activation of the parasympathetic which brings the body in homeostasis, a relaxed, calmed, balanced state allowing it to repair and restore.
In addition, yoga helps balance the two systems and increases the body’s ability to switch from one to the other as needed without getting “stuck” to one, which can lead to chronic stress or depression. This balance and flexibility of the nervous system leads to greater resilience to stress and allows for stability and calmness to deal with life’s difficulties.
"Over the years, yoga has become one of our primary therapies for stress management"
C. Noel Bairey Merz, M.D., director of the preventive and rehabilitative cardiac center at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center
Reduction of high blood pressure and improvement of cardiovascular health
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the industrialized world. Cardiovascular risk factors like high blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol and levels of fibrinogen (a protein involved in blood clotting) have all been shown to reduce with yoga. There were also reduced signs of atherosclerosis (an underlying factor in heart disease when cholesterol and other fatty deposits clog the arteries) and increased levels of antioxidants in the bloodstream.
Lowered risk factors for cardiovascular diseases, reduced fatigue, anxiety, stress, pain, improvement of mood, sleep and quality of life translate into medical benefits. Patients who practice yoga have fewer hospital visits, less need for drug therapy and smaller number of serious coronary events ranging from heart attacks to death.
The Vagus nerve (often called “the second brain”) which is involved in many functions, including breathing, digestion, heart beat regulation and immunity, is stimulated by yoga.
The Vagus’s involvement in immunity is fighting inflammation, the cause of many autoimmune and chronic inflammatory conditions, like pancreatitis, psoriasis and rheumatoid arthritis. For example, studies on the stimulation of the nerve through yoga have shown improvement in the quality of rheumatoid arthritis patients without the use of drugs.
Balance and Coordination Improvement
Yoga postures improve balance and coordination, reducing the risk of falls in seniors for whom this is the leading cause of death by injury..
Yoga practice has been shown to slow down the deterioration and thinning of the discs between the vertebrae as we age which can cause a number of nerve conditions and severe pain.
Increased flexibility, mobility, strength
Asanas increase strength, range of motion, elasticity and length of soft tissues (i.e. muscles, fascia) thus improving flexibility and mobility.
Yoga improves body alignment resulting in better posture which helps to relieve back, neck, joint and muscle tension.
Mood - Depression
Yoga can significantly improve mood and reduce the symptoms of depression and anxiety by boosting levels of the neurotransmitters GABA and serotonin and decreasing the levels of monoamine oxidase (an enzyme that breaks down neurotransmitters) and cortisol.
“The yoga mat is a good place to turn when talk therapy and antidepressants
Amy Weintraub, director of the LifeForce Yoga Healing Institute
Several studies show that yoga can help people with arthritis, back pain, fibromyalgia, carpal tunnel syndrome, multiple sclerosis and other chronic conditions.
Studies conducted with cancer patients and survivors yielded improvements in sleep quality, mood, stress, cancer-related distress, cancer-related symptoms and overall quality of life.
Mind-Body Connection, Personal Transformation, Creativity
Yoga practice cultivates physical, mental and emotional awareness. Through consistent practice you can experience a greater unity between body, mind and spirit which leads to increased feelings of well-being, compassion, self-acceptance and interconnection.
The release of long suppressed emotions and memories is possible which allows for breakthroughs through mental blockages and habitual patterns of thought that keep that sense of freshness and creativity constricted.
The practice of paying attention to your inner landscape results in an increased ability of concentration and sharpens your focus. Artists, writers, musicians report improvement in handling challenges, increased insight, reflectiveness, intuition and creativity.
“Postures should embody steadiness and ease. If you can find both elements
in the midst of a stressful arm balance, you’re not just training your mind,
you’re enabling your autonomic nervous system to imprint that response
and therefore allow you to return to it during everyday stress.”
Telomeres, found at the end of each strand of DNA, protect our genetic data and help cells to divide. Like plastic tips on shoelaces, they keep chromosomal ends from fraying. Our cells replenish by copying themselves constantly throughout our lives. Yet, each time a cell divides, the telomeres get shorter. When they get too short, the cell can no longer divide, it becomes inactive or dies. This shortening process is associated with aging, cancer and a higher risk of death. So telomeres serve as an internal clock that determines the cell’s life span.
One of the main reasons for telomere fraying is chronic psychological stress (other factors include diet and infections). Studies suggest that reducing stress can slow down the biological clock and that short telomeres might be coaxed into lengthening. Scientists found that the levels of telomerase (enzyme involved in the formation and repair of telomeres) after practicing yoga and having a healthy diet increased by 30%.
Timothy McCall, MD
"The breath is the intersection of the body and mind."
The mind, body and breath are intimately connected. Our breathing is influenced by our thoughts and our thoughts and physiology can be influenced by our breath. Learning to breathe consciously and with awareness can be a valuable tool in helping to restore balance in the mind and body. Researchers have documented the benefits of a regular practice of simple, deep breathing which include:
Reduced anxiety and depression
Lower/stabilized blood pressure
Increased energy levels
Decreased feelings of stress and overwhelm
During stressful situations your breathing becomes shallow and rapid and your body produces a surge of hormones such as cortisol and epinephrine (adrenaline) which increase your blood pressure and pulse rate. With deep breathing, which stimulates the main nerve in the parasympathetic nervous system—the vagus nerve—slowing down your heart rate and lowering your blood pressure, you can reverse these symptoms instantly and create a sense of calm in your mind and body.
Yoga is considered safe when practiced under the guidance of a trained instructor. Check with your healthcare provider if you have any of the following conditions:
A herniated disk
A risk of blood clots
Eye conditions, glaucoma, detached retina
Pregnancy — yoga is safe for pregnant women but certain poses should be avoided
Severe balance problems
Uncontrolled high or low blood pressure
“The beauty of Kripalu yoga is that postures, pranayama and meditation are happening simultaneously not separately.”
Yoga means ‘union’ in Sanskrit. Yoga unites body and mind and creates strength, awareness and harmony in both.
Elements of Kripalu Yoga:
Asanas (postures), Pranayama ( breathing techniques), Meditation
Yoga traditions vary widely in their approaches but most of them teach the same basic postures. Some attributes of Kripalu yoga are:
Practice begins gently with an emphasis on being present in your body, sustaining a flowing breath and warming up. The overall experience is of learning to love and nurture your body, not to whip it into shape.
Kripalu yoga teaches you to listen to your body and honor its needs by choosing the level of intensity at the particular moment.
It recognizes that every body is different. Postures are tools to release tension, stretch and strengthen the body and increase self-awareness. Rather than forcing the body, postures are modified to meet your individual needs.
It encourages you to create a lifestyle supportive of your health. As you practice you become more sensitive and aware of your needs and you start making healthier choices.
You can practice “off the mat.” When you are connected with your body and breath, life becomes a richer experience. Applying the principles of yoga in your daily life you can meet challenges with a sense of relaxation, self acceptance, strength and openness to change.
“Kripalu Yoga invites you to breathe, feel your body and attune to your inner energy flow. It gives you permission to accept yourself, modifying the posture until it is right for you in the moment. This approach allows you to come home to your body and yourself. Regular practice helps you access and live from a stronger connection to who and what you really are. The hidden power of Kripalu Yoga is that it uses postures as a tool to discover your authentic self.”
Three stages of Kripalu Yoga
Body and Breath Awareness
Learning the postures and exploring your body’s abilities
In the first stage, you practice the classic yoga postures with a flowing breath, proper alignment, a mental focus on sensation and being fully present in your body.It is very common to experience physical limitations and emotional blocks therefore the attitude of compassionate self-acceptance is an essential element of the practice.
Holding postures longer developing concentration and inner awareness
In the second stage, the postures are held longer strengthening the physical body. The mind focuses on the intensified flow of sensation, emotion and thought that results from the physical effort increasing self-awareness and engendering a meditative state. Prolonged holding of the poses can bring buried emotions and experiences to the surface where with your gained experience of open-heartedness, non-judgement and self-compassion you can feel, acknowledge and release them.
With the mind deeply relaxed you allow the body to move spontaneously from one posture to another, guided from within. Kripalu Yoga postures are always performed in coordination with the breath. The synchronization of breath, motion and internal focus creates an experience of moving meditation.
Faulds, Richard. Kripalu Yoga, A guide to practice on and off the mat. Bantam, 2006
Broad, William J. The science of yoga: the risks and the rewards. Simon & Schuster, 2012
Chopra Center. Breathing for Life: The Mind-Body Healing Benefits of Pranayama. Patel, Sheila M.D.