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In this technological maelstrom of fast food and even quicker fixes, the growing practice of yoga continues to offer shelter from the constant barrage of hustle and bustle. Even those who don’t practice yoga, have at least heard that it may be good for them; whether or not they have the energy or believe enough to commit to laying on a mat once a week is a whole seperate matter. Our Western medicine, has yet to fully incorporate yoga and other alternative therapies for that matter including pilates, acupuncture, aromatherapy etc. and the beliefs in treating the symptom rather than the human being and popping pills as a cure-all continues to prevail. Despite this there have been studies conducted that have affirmed the viability of yoga as a healing mechanism that can assist with terminal diseases, psychological issues, depression, anxiety, reducing blood pressure, arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome, fatigue, cholesterol, maintaining blood sugar levels, insomnia, increasing muscle strength and respiratory endurance, and the list goes on.
Some of these studies were chronicled in a Time Magazine article I stumbled upon “The Power of Yoga”:
- 2009 a study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health studied a group of adolescent girls, some with bulimia and others with anorexia; one group had regular treatment, and the other treatment and regular yoga. The findings showed that the girls not in the yoga group were more likely to have symptoms return at the end of the treatment period.
- 1998 Dr. Ralph Schumacher at UPENN School of Medicine along with yoga instructor Marian Garfield published their findings on the study of patients with carpal tunnel syndrome in the Journal of American Medical Association basically summing up that ” a yoga regimen is more effective than wrist splinting or no treatment in relieving signs and symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome.”
- 1990 patients with heart disease were prescribed a vegetarian low fat diet and yoga regimen. At the completion of the study it was found that their cholesterol levels were about the same as if they had taken cholesterol lowering drugs. A follow up report was published in 1998 in the American Journal of Cardiology showing that 80% of the patients were able to avoid bypass by maintaining their prescribed lifestyle changes.
As much as the Western medical world tends to avoid prescription of yoga, for now the testimonies of regular practitioners continue to point to yoga as a viable option. Tonya Zavasta, one of my Anti-aging Sheroes has two titanium hips and through the regular practice of hot yoga and consumption of raw foods, she not only healed herself, she’s also more flexible than the average person with hip bones in tact.
Hot yoga has a long list of benefits, many of which perfectly compliment a raw or vegan lifestyle, because of course all true “yogis” are vegetarians and observe nonviolence and incorporate all five principles of yoga into their lifestyle including proper diet. Some of these benefits include:
- Release of built up bodily toxins. Yoga practice stimulates and promotes the drainage of our lymphatic system which carries the waste from cellular activities.
- Improvement of flexibility and range of motion.
- Increased weight loss and muscle toning. (One of the only workouts that makes me believe attaining Michelle Obama arms is possible.)
- Builds up the immune system and reduces the symptoms of chronic illness.
- Improves blood circulation.
- Promotes healing through relaxing and centering of the mind or mental chatter. As our heart beat slows, and we breathe at a slower rate, our blood pressure also drops, and the body literally goes into healing mode. Not to mention it’s also easier to be warriors in our daily lives when our minds aren’t going helter-skelter.
So why isn’t the use of yoga as a healing modality studied more or prescribed for that matter? There’s no money in it. At least not for the insurance companies or the pharmaceutical industry that usually profits from studies that confirm viable use of a range of medications. These days, it is up to us, the consumers, to take ownership of our health before we become a part of the machine that continues to feed the greed of capitalists who have no concern for America’s well being.
Last year I took on the regular practice of hot yoga in a big way, and then unfortunately I was in a car accident that led me to go through physical therapy pretty much the last half of the year. To my dismay, part of my prescription was absolutely no yoga, because it could aggravate the healing of my neck and back. With the help of ongoing pilates classes and physical therapy sessions, raindrop therapy sessions, and advice from holistic practitioners for natural alternatives to taking my prescribed blood thinning medications (ew), I am ecstatic to say that my back is finally healed! During that time I did visit my doctor, but when I mentioned some of the alternative therapies to him, I remember him actually chuckling to himself and saying some version of “Yea, whatever…” and then handing me a prescription for a high dose of pain killers. Thank heavens, I stuck to my guns and followed my instincts.
To celebrate, on New Years Day, I got down and got sweaty with two hours of Hot Yoga, and seriously felt like new money afterwards. For all of you that cringe at the thought of stretching in a sauna-like room, I feel you. I tried Bikram at one point and I used to want to run out of the room screaming. Bikram is however, an entirely different practice. It was founded in 1974 by Bikram Choudhury and classes incorporate specialized breath exercises. Hot yoga is practiced in a heated room, with the temperature set anywhere from 80-105 degrees. Some versions of hot yoga are practiced in the hatha style of yoga, my studio teaches the vinyasa flow style of yoga (my favorite) in a heated room. When I started to practice Hot Yoga, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the room was a little cooler and more manageable for me than Bikram. The temperature was hot enough to get a deeper stretch, but not so hot that you might hurl. Whether you choose to get down with the down dog in a hot room, in your bedroom, or in a quiet studio, the time is now. Everyone can benefit from a little asana in their lives and I hope you will find what works with you and get moving. Namaste. -XoXo Raw Girl
For more on the 5 Principles of Yoga, check out this previous post:
It was definitely a challenge, I was VERY sore for most of the month, but of course inspired, and to make a long story short by the time the challenge was over I was already hooked. I still go at least two times a week and LOVE how it makes me feel. My mind is clearer, moods are even more even kilter, and also I am more productive in general! So, no more challenges, now I am just living la vida yoga. I always thought of yoga as a way of life, and was committed to being a “yogi” in my own way, following a spiritual path. I started doing yoga almost everyday but fell of the wagon, got into raw foods to further purify my diet, and began regularly meditating. Not until recently has it all come together again that my diet, exercise, and meditation have aligned in regular practice. I’ve been falling off the meditation wagon lately, because things are getting busy, but it shows… it’s usually when we are the busiest that contacting stillness does a whole lot of good for us in our daily lives. So, I’m working on carving out time!
Below are the Five Principles of Yoga. They are so simply summed up, but at the end of the day it takes a long-term commitment and consistent effort in all of these areas to attain the goal of true self-realization. Good news is, living La Vida Raw definitely puts you in the game. – XoXo Raw Girl
Most of us go through life not really breathing. In fact a lot of people look like they are holding their breath. Breathing in yoga is deep abdominal breathing which supplies the body with a flood of oxygen, and brings air to the deepest part of the lungs. Yogic breathing or pranyama is a lesson to us on how to recharge our life force using just our breath, and also helps us to calm and control our minds.
Our crazy, toxic, and hurried world, definitely lends itself to being stressed out. The sad thing is the majorities of people are stressed out ALL THE TIME, and have to be taught how to relax. When we try, sometimes we find our minds are racing and we cannot truly be at peace. All of the tension created from bad moods, worry, anger etc. can lead to lethargy, headaches, and even terminal illnesses. In yoga, when your body becomes completely relaxed, no energy is being dissipated. This state of relaxation revitalizes the nervous system and brings an overall feeling of “inner peace” which carries over into your daily activities and helps you easily relinquish worries and fears.
If you’ve ever practiced yoga, you should be able to attest to the fact that it differs from other physical exercises which focus on developing the body through mechanical movements. During yoga, because the body is completely relaxed, there is practically no energy consumed or expended. This means that the body has a chance to recharge on the spiritual, mental and physical level, which in turn leads to more vitality in our daily lives.
The proper diet according to yogic principles is a vegetarian diet consisting of pure, simple, and natural foods which can be digested easily. This diet aligns one with the true purpose of eating, which is to supply the body with the cosmic energy “Prana” or life-force. Eating this highly alkaline diet and avoiding over stimulating and acidic foods like: meat, eggs, fish, coffee, refined sugar and carbohydrates, and free of alcohol and drugs, also assists the yogi in maintaining stellar health. An acidic environment in the body is the root of all disease, so adopting this alkaline diet, minimizes or virtually eliminates toxicity in the body and keeps one dis-ease and ailment-free.
The gift of meditation allows us to easily see through the fog of problems and mental chatter that creates agitation and reactivity. The act of stilling the mind, which in this state has no thoughts or desires, we contact the true Source which is us, and where all answers lie. When the surface of a lake (the mind) is agitated by waves (thoughts) we can’t see the bottom clearly. But when the surface of a lake is still, we can see the bottom easily and all things become clear. Meditation shows us that we all have the inherent ability to contact this stillness, shut out thoughts, and control our minds.
Check out the previous post on my 30 Day Challenge:http://rawgirltoxicworld.com/2010/02/14/raw-girls-30-day-warrior-challenge/
Need inspiration to get started? I was inspired by Tonya Zavasta, one of my anti-aging she-roes (who has fake titatium hips!) and healed herself with raw foods and hot yoga:
7 Days left of my warrior challenge! The goal was to practice hot yoga for an hour and a half three times a week for a month. It really hasn’t been easy people. This past Friday the class was so hard, towards the middle, I wanted to get up like a drama queen and politely explain to the yoga teacher that I didn’t sign up for this level of intensity and slip out the door before she could protest. But I stayed in the room, and emerged sore as heck but triumphant. Last week was the first week that I felt my body was starting to adjust to the challenge of four and a half hours of hot yoga in a week, so I was able to stay active in other ways I am used to and go to my belly dance class and run.
As far as the benefits I have noticed thus far: my productivity has pretty much doubled, my moods are on an even more even kilter, and I can definitely say that practicing has helped in a huge way with detox. Then of course, there’s the added benefit of building strength. I may have Michelle Obama arms by the end of next week! This challenge has me feeling like a warrior in my daily activities, perhaps because anything seems possible after you twisted and stretched your body to the point of exhaustion. I may have to extend the challenge for another month. That is…if I can make it through this next week, one glorious asana at a time. Keeping hope alive. Will keep you posted when it’s all said and done.
– XoXo Raw Girl
So today was day one of my 30 Day Warrior Challenge. I have committed to practicing hot yoga, vinyasa flow style three times a week for the next month. About two years ago I practiced bikram yoga while living in Brooklyn and completed a thirty day challenge where I practiced every single day no breaks, no excuses. It was life transforming. Following that, I started to practice vinyasa at home in the mornings almost every day. Somewhere along the line a year later, I fell off the yoga wagon. This challenge is a way to get back on in a serious way. As I walked to class today the lazy voice in my head almost convinced me to take back my commitment but I left the class feeling energized, sweating bullets, and determined to keep going. I had forgotten how amazing yoga is for your mind and spirit, and how incredible it is that no matter how challenging the class, the practice never leaves you feeling tired or lethargic afterwards like regular workouts—you actually feel like a warrior. Really like you could take on the world. Your mind is clearer, your limbs are freer, and your mood is on an even kilter. How could you snap at someone over something insignificant if you just spent two hours aligning your body, mind, and spirit?
This challenge was inspired by Tonya Zavasta, who I highlighted in a recent post as one of my anti-aging she-roes. Tonya has two fake hips made of titanium and could have been disabled for life, but the combination of a raw food diet and hot yoga revitalized her. My sentiments were, if someone with two fake hips can practice like a warrior, can’t I? There are countless others who stress that these two practices are a perfect combination to facilitate overall well-being, while increasing youthfulness and of course toning the body. When you adopt a raw food diet, you begin eating very fresh pure foods, but your body still has a backlog of toxin accumulations. The inversions, stretching, and twisting in yoga help to purify the blood and flush toxins out. Thus, the two incorporated in your lifestyle together greatly enhance one another for long-term detoxification. I really enjoyed hot yoga a lot more than bikram. It was hot enough to allow the body to stretch deeper and to get a great sweat, but not so hot that you wanted to vomit, faint, or run out of the room—which sometimes happens with bikram.
I feel like somebody great somewhere said that on the other end of a challenge is a miracle waiting to happen. If no one said it, I’m taking credit for it! Over and over again, I have experienced that embracing challenges, and cultivating discipline always leads to some unforeseen success. One of my favorite artists, actress/playwright Anna Deveare Smith said in her book , Letters to a Young Artist, (an adapation of the Rilke version: Letters to a Young Poet) that discipline is a form of love. I loved the way she put it. You can think of having to show up everyday as a hassle or a blessing, but by committing to improve your health in any capacity whether through diet or exercise is making the choice to show yourself a little love. Well it’s Valentine’s Day, so I am loving the heck out of my fly self. Starting today.
Anybody out there up for the challenge? If so find a studio, make the commitment, and email firstname.lastname@example.org, lets track our classes, and see what happens on the other end of these thirty days! I’m taking a Raw Girl vacay tomorrow Sunday and Monday, but will reemerge Tuesday with more fuel for your raw fire. – XoXo Raw Girl
As someone who for years thrived on intense and challenging workouts, it has been refreshing in the past few years to explore more low impact exercises that are fun, still challenging, but less strenuous on the joints. Now in between weekly yoga, cardio, and training sessions, belly dancing has become a delightful hour of my life once and sometimes twice a week.
My new interest in belly dance made me very curious about what health and/or physical benefits belly dancing offers the dancer. Was interesting to find that in addition to toning abs of course, the dance can prepare women for pregnancy because the muscles of the pelvis are strengthened. Also, as well as offering some other great physical benefits, many women have healed themselves emotionally through belly dancing. Prior to taking up belly dancing myself, I knew many women that were extremely creative who made belly dancing a regular part of their lives, so I also have this theory, not necessarily supported by scientific evidence that it can stimulate creativity and awaken the inner goddess as well. Even if that isn’t true for all, I can tell you after my first class, walking down the street I don’t think I’ve been cat-called that many times in succession in such a short time frame. My hips were moving freer, and it felt well, good.
Below is a link to my article on Suite 101 that summarizes some of the amazing benefits of moving your belly: