New Castle News

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January 3, 2013

Yoga & you: Learn to manage stress in 2013 with gentle stretching and breathing exercises

NEW CASTLE — A new year, a new you!

I would like to offer you an invitation in this New Year, and you won’t have to turn yourself into a pretzel to do it.

Consider learning and gaining ownership of stress management techniques proven to bring you health benefits and a sense of well-being. Make this your time to begin meeting the new you.

The benefits of incorporating yoga-based exercises into your daily routine are numerous. Also referred to as “stress management” in our culture, these ancient techniques have a positive impact on all the systems of the body.

Research shows that when you consistently include gentle stretching and breathing into your daily lifestyle, you will lower you blood pressure and improve your circulation, your sleep patterns, and your strength and flexibility.

Gastrointestinal issues improve in both men and women.

This is due to the massage that you give to your organs and glands from creating a squeeze and soak affect while deeply breathing while holding body “poses” such as the twist.

Cardiovascular disease is greatly improved with increased circulation and increased amounts of oxygen in the body. Another powerful affect, is the regulation and slowing of the heart rate and respiratory rate. Cholesterol levels also improve.

Yoga’s stretching and breathing helps combat aging through a natural detox process, resulting in the release of toxins and tension. Much of the aging process is due to the breakdown of our skin and tissues from toxins that remain trapped in the body.

The physical stretching prepares your body for sitting quietly which can profoundly impact your mental and emotional well-being, creating an awareness of inner peace.

Gaining peace of mind and improving your mood is another advantage of yoga-based stress management. This is the practice of “you meeting you.” It is an inward exploration that many of us, especially men, are not taught to take seriously.

Never being taught to meet your body and mind with awareness, and continuing to not give yourself permission to explore your body and mind patterns, can result in an inability to concentrate, stress, anxiety, depression, or hostility.

Be willing to create some quiet time to relax and breathe.

Turn off the television and phones, make yourself comfortable. Some people use a small blanket around their shoulders to symbolize creating a boundary between the outside world and the time they are taking to go inward.

Then, just be still. Relax and breathe. Close your eyes, or create a soft, relaxed gaze. Relax the muscles of the face and jaw. Relax the shoulders. Sometimes this practice can be done without much preparation.

However, if you are anxious or you hold a lot of tension in your body, you may want to learn the gentle movement and stretching techniques which will help you get more out of your quiet time.

Yoga is all about you. It is a non-competitive, focus on what you feel and how it is impacting you.

Only you know what you are thinking. Only you can feel your own sensations and emotions. Only you can breathe your breath with more awareness.

To seek instruction to learn the physical poses and stretches, look for a gentle movement class or a class that is specifically for beginners. You may also feel more comfortable in a “chair yoga” class.

Be willing to try more than one class and more than one instructor until you find the right fit.

Also, look for the following DVDs for home support: “Yoga For the Rest of Us: Easy Yoga for Arthritis,” with Peggy Cappy, and “Yoga For the Young at Heart,” with Susan Winter Ward.

(Lori Brothers is the director of The Dean Ornish Program For Reversing Heart Disease at Jameson Hospital, www.jamesonhealth.org.)

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