Did you know that May is National Physical Fitness and Sports Month? No? Well, it is and its time to get fit! And while May is winding down, its not over yet, so in an effort to promote physical fitness and sports, I wanted to bring some fitness info to the blogosphere! Lucky for me, my amazing sister-in-law Ana Lisa is a yoga instructor and was recently interviewed for CNN's Morning Express show with Robin Meade. So I thought it would be fun to interview her and bring some of her yoga knowledge to you!
(pics from Jai Shanti Yoga in Atlanta - one studio Ana teaches at)
TSAN: So yo, how'd you get into this whole yoga thing?
ANA: I grew up in Los Angeles CA where Yoga was abundant and taking classes from some of the most famous Yoga teachers like Sean Corn and Shiva Rea and I didn’t even know I was in the Yoga mecca at the time. After getting a BA in Child Development in California (CSUN), and a BS in Recreation Therapy (VCU), I became certified in 2004 as a Yoga instructor in Integral Yoga. I immersed myself in the Yoga lifestyle (not just the postures of yoga but LIVING the Yoga) and lived at the Satchidananda Ashram in Buckingham VA, also called, believe it or not, Yogaville!!!! After my experience there, I worked in GA at a Psychiatric Hospital as a Recreation Therapist and started a Yoga healing program for all the variety of patients including those with Schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, post traumatic stress, addictions, eating disorders, Alzheimer’s, those in wheel chairs and those with blindness, all the way from children to elderly. …the list goes on. And let me tell you if you are going to learn about Yoga and how it can help EVERYONE, this is definitely a total experience of that!!
Together the patients and I discovered through the movements and the breath, how to decrease stress, slow down the mind chatter, the worry, increase endorphins and a sense of purpose in life, we explored the possibilities of acceptance, self confidence, and learned how to adjust and modify postures so that all could participate and still feel successful in their practice of Yoga. For example one time a little boy, he must have been only about 8 years old, was having panic attacks that was taking over his life and as part of his therapy he was to participate in Yoga just once a week. During one of his attacks he grabbed the wall and it looked like he wanted to jump out of his own skin and all he could say was take it away and help me. So we focused specifically on the breath and we learned 2 specific Yoga breaths that helped him refocus his attention and take control of his own healing. After a few sessions he was able to calm himself down and even slow his heart rate without any help. I also developed a very successful Yoga program for the staff (Nurses, Drs, Psychologists, Social workers etc.) at the hospital so they could not only see what their patients were doing, but to keep healthy and fit themselves.
I now have taken additional immersion Yoga courses in Vinyasa Yoga, Restorative Yoga, and a teacher training in Hot Core power Yoga and expanded my teaching to instruct more out in Yoga studios across Atlanta and I am teaching 2 elective Yoga classes at Emory University for the undergrad Business department.
So I am a firm believer that Yoga is and can be for anyone that wants to try it!!! My goal is to tear down the perceptual barriers, the inner thinking of anyone reading this that may say that they can’t do yoga for whatever reason.
TSAN: What exactly is yoga?
ANA: Yoga literally means to Yoke or to Unite….and it may be the only “exercise” that integrates the mind body and spirit. And right now surprisingly even in the change in our economy, people are seeking out to live a life more consciously, with more meaning, and with greater empowerment to achieve a sustainable sense of health!
TSAN: But there are different types of yoga, right? What are some of them and the benefits?
All Yoga styles increase flexibility,
Power Yoga to my understanding is a very broad term of Yoga but tends to come from Ashtanga Yoga which is very precise and has a set series of vigorous postures where the student learns at their own pace. But this class is not for beginners. If you enjoy precision, order, and a focus on strengthening postures, this is for you. Most athletes gravitate to these classes.
Restorative Yoga which includes other names such as Yin, Restorative Flow, or even Svaroopa Yoga, include a gentle relaxing experience of Yoga with the use of props such as bolsters and blankets. Each student finds an easeful way to get into the postures. There is also a long Savasana, or restful stillness, at the end of each class.
Integral Yoga, which is where my roots are as a teacher, means to integrate mind body and spirit! The practice includes forward folds, backbends, sun salutations, inversions, inward reflection, meditation, and 15 minutes of Yoga Nidra, a specific type of deep relaxation that asks you to witness your body relax and it is worth 2 hours of deep sleep. Integral accommodates to beginners to advanced practitioners.
There are so many other types of Yoga…its really endless. There are also Yoga classes that do not follow a specific tradition but tailor to the group such as Yoga for foodies, Yoga for the stiff guy, Yoga for the curvy girl, Nude Yoga, Laughter Yoga, there’s even yoga for dogs called Doga yes Doga!!!
TSAN: So you mentioned above that you teach Hot Yoga. Is this the same as the Bikram thing thats all the rave?
Another immediate benefit is that while in the heat, you must breath even if you don’t know the yoga breaths it encourages deep breathing which, with the movements invites for not only a deeper concentration in each posture but a great endorphin release.
The endorphin release has been said to be similar to running or after lifting weights, which are two very different exercises.
Hot Yoga helps to oxygenate the body, removing toxins in glands, organs, and tissues and improves your circulation as well as your immune system. making you look and feel younger and more energized.
Another added bonus is that the heat breaks down fatty acids speeding up your metabolism
ANA: The emotional benefits of the heat include a positive mood, a calm relaxed attitude, clarity in the mind, increased concentration and a greater sense of inner joy.
When people come out of my Hot Core Power Yoga class they say they feel refreshed, energized, high on life, that it’s addictive, and they even feel blissful!