Ashta Anga refers to the eight limbs of Yoga. According to the ancient texts, “The Yoga Sutra of Patanjali,” and “The Hatha Yoga Pradipika,” all eight must be practiced in order for Yoga to occur. Yoga is both the means and the end. It is the combination of the practices of right action, speech and thought. What is right is defined by the eight limbs. When we follow the guidelines provided by the ancient Yogis we are more likely to be upon the right path.
The Right Practice for You
Every body is different and each one of us is unique. Just because all of your friends are taking “Hot Yoga” or “Vinyasa,” style classes that does not mean it is the right practice for you. In fact, it is rare that a hot or active practice is the best place for any of us to begin. The additional stress placed upon your body due to warm temperatures and new, challenging movements can actually hurt you. As with anything new, your first Yoga practice should be slow and well directed. You should be given the opportunity to attempt simple movements, ask questions and provide feedback to your teacher about how you are feeling throughout the session.
Living in Pain
I began practicing Yoga because all of my friends were enrolled in the class and it fulfilled a course requirement. I continued practicing because it initially reduced and then eliminated my debilitating back pain.
My pain had begun in high school as a result of scoliosis and growth spurts while competitively running in track and cross country. I continued to run while in college and continued to damage my back further. Adding insult to injury; my role as a teacher for children with autism required that I lean forward to reach desks and be at eye level with my students. There were days during which, due to the pain, I couldn't stand up straight, sit comfortably or sleep.
Yoga for Healing
Yoga Asana as well as the calming effects of breathing consciously and mindfulness practices helped me to heal. The movement was the perfect prescription for my back. The breathing helped me to remain calm when managing stressful situations and aggressive students. The mindfulness practices helped me learn to slow down and focus so that I could pause before putting my body into an unsafe position or activity.
As I continued to practice I learned the differences between the various modern styles and began to explore the various practices. When I met my teacher, in New York, I was granted access to the lineage of Rajahatha Yoga and began to develop my own practices in a way that best works for my life.
Continuing the Healing
Although I enjoy attending group classes at Yoga studios, my personal practice is what keeps me healthy. I spend less time moving actively and more time slowing down. The more slowly I move, the more awareness I have, and the better I am at addressing whatever issues; physical, emotional, energetic or mindful, that I am dealing with.
If you are ready to begin healing and to feel better through Yoga you might consider seeking out a teacher who has experience in more than just teaching classes. That which you experience physically could be a manifestation of something deeper and vice versa. Seek someone who can offer more than just poses. Find a Guru: a guide who sheds light where it is currently darkness.
Guest Blog: Alyssa Ennis - Community Outreach - Purple.com
The simple act of training our minds is something that yoga practitioners discovered more than 2,000 years ago. Western medicine is only now beginning to catch up.
For insomnia treatment, medical researchers have found that "cognitive behavioral therapy" is a better approach than simply prescribing sleeping pills. Instead of adding chemicals to the body, cognitive behavioral therapy addresses the root causes of sleeplessness.
Mindfulness is a key component of cognitive behavioral therapy. Patients are taught to "challenge negative thoughts and replace them with more accurate, positive sleep thoughts," writes John Cline, Ph.D., in Psychology Today. Patients are also given techniques for "calming an active mind that won’t shut off," according to Stanford University Health Care. The insomnia treatment program of Virginia Runko, Ph.D., CBSM, of the Ross Center for Anxiety and Related Disorders, includes training in diaphragmatic breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, and visualization. Sound familiar? It will if you do yoga.
A recent study randomly assigned two treatment paths to a group of older adults suffering from poor quality sleep. Half of the group received a sleep hygiene education program. They were educated about sleep biology, and told about behaviors to avoid before sleep, such as late-night eating and overconsumption of alcohol.
The other half of the group received training in mindfulness awareness practices. Exercises included different types of meditation, including sitting meditation, and "mindful movement."
After going through their selected training, participants reported their sleep patterns in a questionnaire. Folks who went through the mindfulness training showed significant improvement in sleep quality over the sleep hygiene education group. The mindfulness group also reported fewer insomnia symptoms, fewer depression symptoms, and less fatigue.
Another study showed that cognitive therapy is so powerful, even online training can make a positive difference. More than 8 in 10 people with chronic insomnia who participated in online cognitive behavioral training reported improvement in sleep. Participants rated the cognitive therapy session, where they learned about "coping with an overactive mind and worries," as the most useful part of the training.
Poor sleep quality is a major public health problem. More than half of people 55 and over report some form of sleep disorder. Sleep studies of college-age students show that more than 60 percent suffer from poor quality sleep. The phone and tablet screens that people are increasingly glued to emit damaging rays that suppress melatonin production and disrupt sleep cycles.
Unfortunately, poor sleep quality often goes undiagnosed. People may not even realize that they aren't sleeping well. Losing the regenerative power of sleep can lead to higher levels of anxiety and depression.
By practicing yoga, we help free our minds from thoughts that cause suffering. We expand our consciousness beyond the daily frustrations that can consume us. We're training our bodies and minds to relax—just as we need to do every day to get to sleep.
More than 40 million Americans practiced some form of yoga in 2011—up from just 4 million in 2001. That's a good development for our overall mental health. But we could be doing more. If your friends or neighbors mention sleeping problems, suggest that they consider practicing mindfulness through yoga. It's scientifically proven to work.