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Yoga Growth in The US

While we’re unsure about the exact origins of yoga, we do know that it has been readily accepted in the U.S. and that its popularity continues to grow. “I think it’s fair to say that yoga is now its own, bona-fide industry,” said Melissa Gutierrez, yoga teacher and co-founder of SMARTer Bodies in New York. “It’s more than a fad now.”

Yoga has numerous benefits and a growing industry suggests more and more people are reaping those benefits. There are ups and downs to that expansion, though, and a big industry means that consumers need to be smarter about identifying true yoga. “Quality is a concern with yoga instructors,” Melissa said. Instructors need only 200 hours of education to teach and the weak job market is encouraging more people to become instructors. “While 200 hours might be enough time to teach a class, it isn’t enough time to work with the human body,” Melissa said.

Melissa completed 200 hours of instruction at the Karuna Center for Yoga & Healing Arts in Northampton, Massachusetts but then decided she wanted to work in the fashion industry with her sister. While she enjoyed that job, she was restless and unsure about where she wanted to be. She eventually left the fashion industry and turned to the Breathing Project, a nonprofit organization that aims to promote the highest possible standards in yoga education. After completing an additional 200 hours there, she said she had a better understanding of the anatomy, breathing therapy and how they relate to yoga.

Today’s yoga market comprises all ages, but Melissa believes the fastest growing group is professionals in their 20s and 30s. She said yoga has helped some people learn how to calm down amid a culture that doesn’t know how to relax. In some cases, yoga has saved the quality of their lives. Industry growth has encouraged the establishment of organizations like Yoga Foster, a nonprofit initiative that brings free yoga classes to kids in New York City communities.

Another benefit of yoga‘s expansion is its increasing availability for children, Melissa said. “With kids, it’s sort of go go go from the start. Kids have their own pressure.” She said most activities today bring with them a performance aspect and expectations that the child will be able to produce something. Yoga, on the other hand, is just for the child to feel good. “It teaches kids that you can control your quality if you can control your breath.”

Yoga’s popularity also means that people can get caught up in the wrong kind of yoga. “Telling people that they will burn calories during a yoga class is the wrong message. Take another class like kick-boxing if you’re looking to burn calories. It’s ok if that’s what you want, but when you add other goals to yoga besides self-exploration, it becomes something else,” Melissa said.

This expansion means that students need to take their yoga practice into their own hands. They need to be able to identify quality teachers who will help them maximize all that yoga has to offer.  If a teacher leads the class into a pose, such as Warrior I, and then tells those students who are unable to complete the pose to just go into Child’s Pose and doesn’t offer modifications and progressions, that instructor might be less experienced, Melissa said. Other red flags include an instructor who doesn’t reference real anatomy during the class or appears afraid of or unsure about a student’s injury.

“Be in a class that’s more about feeling and less about stretching as much as you can,” Melissa said. She emphasized the importance of breathing, saying that during every pose you should be able to focus on your breath. You can use your breath as a measurement of whether you’re taking a pose too far. “The second your breath changes you’re going to a place I can no longer advocate,” she said.

Melissa predicts that the trendiness of yoga will continue for the next decade or so. Then, the demand for higher-quality teachers will move to the forefront. “Consumers will be savvier and it will boil down to those teachers who really make a difference.”

– By Jessica Braun
Jessica Braun is a writer and an editor at WholesomeOne. She can be reached at jessica.braun[at]wholesomeone[dot]com.

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Yoga – A New Way to Treat Irregular Heartbeat

Yoga has long been known to help alleviate stress, improve balance, build strength, and tone muscles, but there is new information that could put yoga at the forefront of treatment for irregular heartbeat.

According to the American Heart Association about 2.7 million people suffer from atrial fibrillation or irregular heartbeat and are in treatment programs to combat it. New studies by W. Todd Cade, a physical therapy researcher from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis has found that patients in the study that participated in group yoga for a period of 3 months showed nearly half as many quivering heartbeat episodes as those that did not participate in yoga. Additionally, their heart rate also decreased from an average of 67 BPM (beats per minute) to between 61 and 62 BPM.

Another benefit to patients incorporating yoga into their treatment plan was the notable lower levels of anxiety that they felt. There is clearly defined link between anxiety and patients with atrial fibrillation and with the integration of yoga – a proven stress and anxiety release – patients can increase their treatment success by utilizing it to reduce their own anxiety and stress.

It is important to note that any person suffering from atrial fibrillation should consult with a physician before introducing any new physical programs to their treatment to ensure that they are healthy enough for the activity. With a doctor’s permission, however, a yoga program could help patients successfully treat irregular heartbeat with less medication and with more long term results with lifestyle change.


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3 Tips for Home Yoga

Many of us struggle with keeping up a consistent home practice. That’s why group classes are so appealing. Particularly at the end of a long day it’s wonderful to be told what to do, what to look for in a posture and what we should be feeling.

But they can also be hard to commit to when we’re tired. Sometimes the most important voice to connect to is our own. Connecting with ourselves in a home yoga practice helps us better hear the wiser teacher within, our more evolved consciousness.

Here’s 3 easy ways to get into a consistent relationship with your mat at home.

1.) Don’t psych yourself out time wise and set a goal that will feel intimidating.

An hour is great, but if you’ve only got 5 minutes then do just 5 minutes.

Find a time you can commit to consistently. Once you clear the air with yourself about setting aside an honest and manageable time you transform the attitude surrounding your practice from a chore to a treat that you can’t wait to do.

Once things start to feel fun and good you’ll be surprised how quickly 5 minutes flies by and you’ll be easily doing way more. Just keep it pressure free.

2.) Don’t confuse a home yoga practice with exercise. Too much baggage!

Don’t make this about burning calories or getting more fit.

You certainly CAN get stronger doing yoga. You can even get yoga-inspired fitness to help you reach certain physical goals. Make this time about a practice that just helps to reconnect you to a calmer place and feel good in the body.

Frame it this way: You do yoga, so you can do other kinds of movement classes better.

3.) Make it about you. NO RULES

(obviously, except for safety rules)!

That means no rules about the kind of movement you want to explore. If you feel like you need to explore forward bends in all their variations do just that. Do movement that doesn’t even “look like yoga postures, but that feels good.

If you bring conscious awareness, attention to the breath and the intention to sense what’s going on with your body and emotions than you’re doing Yoga. Don’t worry about not being able to think of any poses just start moving.

Inspire yourself with music. If you love your studio/gym classes, but never like the music this is your time to do what feels right for you! Play Jazz, Hip Hop, Metal (I, for one, love Pantera while in Down Dog), or…nothing. Do what what you want. This is what this time is for. Light candles, incense or do it in the dark.

Learn about yourself, what you need to feel restored and give yourself the gift of better well-being.

Written by Melissa GutierrezYoga Instructor


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Yoga in the U.S.A.

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Finding Your Breath

Near the end of many yoga classes a student may hear instructions to perform specific breathing patterns.  This is known as Pranayama.  Pranayama is one of the 8 limbs of what creates a complete yoga practice.  It is often taught as part of a class that emphasizes the postures, known as a hatha yoga class. But there is an underestimated value in spending time to focus solely on practicing pranayama.

Breathing is the basis of all we do. The breath allows us to move and engage with the world.  But it also is a reflection of the quality of our interactions with our external environment and relationships.  Cultivating an awareness of the breath that allows one to have conscious and active control over it can be very useful in a myriad of situations. Remember a time you’ve been in stressful situation or even a stressful conversation.  It’s common for out breath to speed up when the body senses we are being stressed. This the body’s way of preparing us to stand our ground for a fight or to save ourselves and flee.

You can control the quality of your experience in most situations by controlling (or not) the quality of your breath.  Breathing is an autonomic physiological process, but can be consciously manipulated. You can change the physiological messages your breath sends to the physical and emotional body.  The physical practice of yoga can teach you to confront discomfort while staying connected to the breath. Pranayama immerses you in the focus of becoming familiar with and manipulating the breath in a myriad of ways. Doing this will prepare you for the next time you find yourself overwhelmed by sensations or emotions. You can feel more grounded by staying connected to your breath and you will be less likely to be thrown off in challenging situations.  You can show up the way you would like to when dealing with your job, your family and any interpersonal relationships.

But it takes more than a 5 minute savasana with some breath focus at the end of your class. Be open to spending a significant amount of time with this profound part of yourself. Doing so will help you to develop a healthier relationship with yourself and better prepare you for whatever comes along in the future.

Written by Melissa Gutierrez, Yoga Instructor

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He Crushes Crohn’s with Diet, Yoga, Supplements and Exercise

Ari Meisel was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease.

Crohn’s is a chronic condition that causes inflammation of one's digestive tract. Symptoms are abdominal cramps, pain after eating, frequent diarrhea, weight loss, and a fever.

With the help of change in diet, yoga, natural supplements and exercise he's been able to stop the prescribed doctor's medication – and be deemed disease free!

He's now also an Ironman and Crossfit competitor!

Hear him tell his story in this TEDx video and read more about Ari on his blog, Less Doing