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Benefits of Yoga

My Yoga Story

To understand the benefits of Yoga in my life,  I’d like to share a story with you. The setting is my all-girl high school gym class at St. Agnes in NY.  We wore a special athletic uniform, a T-shirt and green baggy shorts with elastic on the thighs. By baggy, I mean, imagine what a conquistador wore. Picture a dark green cotton bag that snaps at your waist, poofs out at the hips, coming back in with rubber bands squeezing your thighs.  I’m guessing the schools goal was to get us to focus less on the flesh and more on the spirit.

Our tall German speaking gym teacher barked out the words, “Sit on your mats, we are doing yoga today!”. We all looked at each other wondering, “What the heck is yoga”?  Ms. Gotleib was a tough cookie with a heavy German accent.  She yelled again, “Grab the gym mats and sit like me”. We walked to the wall and peeled off the grey thick mats from the top of the pile, dragged them over.  We imitated her and sat like pretzels. She started to take deep breaths and asked us to breathe deeply with her. Then she asked us, a group of teenage girls, to sit quietly and just breath for the next five minutes. We thought she lost her mind, but you just did what you were told. You don’t want to go to the Principal’s office when the Principal is a Nun.

The first 30 seconds were filled with giggles until she started to say things like: “Let your shoulders drop”, “ Listen to the silence”, “Slow your breathing down”. My friends were fidgeting but for me it was the coolest thing ever! I’d never sat quietly in a cross legged position. Heck! I’d never sat quietly, in complete silence, period. It was so weird yet, it was wonderful at the sametime. It felt like the world stopped turning for those few minutes as we breathed deeply. I remember it was the very first time I was aware of air going in my nostrils and air going out.

Suddenly she proclaimed, “Watch me demonstrate Salute to the sun”. Sounds funnier if you hear it in a german accent.  She stood up, and her arms reached to the sky, then she slowly bent forward with a straight back, arms out like she was flying, and put her hands on the floor, she placed one leg behind her, then the other one, and her butt went up to the sky! It was incredible! How could someone that old do that? ( She was around 45).  Ms. Gotleib asked us to try it with her. I looked around and it was like watching everyone do Twister. Hilarious! We asked her what yoga meant and she said, “To keep it simple, yoga means union”.  We all had a new respect for our gym teacher after that day. As for me, the meditation and yoga seed was planted.


YOGA IS THE SETTLING OF THE MIND INTO SILENCE

~ The Yoga Sutras

My Yoga Story , continued

Yoga has always been a big thing in NYC so I practiced it again for a while in my late 20’s, but then realized it triggered some past dance injuries causing my body to hurt so I stopped.  I didn’t realize at the time that yoga brings an awareness to the areas of the body that have fascial restrictions (areas that are tight). Therefore, yoga brings awareness to areas of the body that need your attention and need to be healed.

Flash forward to 12 years ago when I began to practice yoga again. I entered River Rock Yoga in Ocean Springs, Mississippi, and I fell in love with yoga again. It was now that I would fully appreciate the benefits of Yoga in my own life. The teachers made me aware of a yoga that was not just about forcing my body into poses. They taught me how to use blankets, blocks and bolsters to support my body and make it comfortable. It was a kind and compassionate uplifting life changing feeling. The more I took yoga the calmer and happier I became. Yoga was meditation but I was moving instead of sitting.  For me it was a slow loving meditative dance. Meditation, but moving. Some call it meditation in motion. When I practice yoga everyday in the morning (I don’t get dressed for work until I do yoga). I feel I am connecting to God. It’s the coolest most breathtaking experience. Hehehehe no pun intended. It is even more powerful when I take a class. The energy from the yoga teacher and the students in the class is so loving and kind. I attribute not needing antidepressants to my meditation and yoga practice all these years. I now combine John F. Barnes Myofascial Release self treatment before, during, and after my yoga practice to help release those areas that need to heal. I also teach a myofascialyoga workshop and do ChakraMFR with my patients and teach them to self treat with it as well.

Physical and Mental Benefits of Yoga

According to osteopath Dr. Nivens, here are some of the benefits of Yoga:

  • Lessen chronic pain, such as lower back pain, arthritis, headaches and carpal tunnel syndrome.
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Reduce insomnia
  • Increase flexibility
  • Increase muscle strength and tone
  • Improve respiration, energy and vitality
  • Maintain a balanced metabolism
  • Weight reduction
  • Cardio and circulatory health
  • Improve athletic performance
  • Protection from injury
  • Relieves chronic stress patterns
  • Develops coping skills
  • Creates a positive outlook on life
  • Creates mental clarity and calmness

Emotional Benefits of Yoga

One day, many years ago during my yoga class, the strangest thing started to happen…I began to cry.  I told the yoga teacher afterwards and she said, “You haven’t done true yoga until you’ve cried during your yoga practice”.  Wow! I thought I was revealing a hidden flaw, but I was actually upgrading myself in the yoga world! This was so similar to John F. Barnes’ Myofascial Release (the modality I use in my physical therapy practice) that now when I practice yoga I know why they call it “connecting to your mind, body, spirit and fascia”!  

Learning Yoga

A good nonprofit that will help you find a great school or teacher that is a Registered Yoga school (RYS) is the Yoga Alliance. Nothing replaces a yoga class where you can ask questions, get feedback, share laughter and energy with others. However, if you want to take a class on line check out Gaia.com.

With Love and Health,

Jackie

This blog has been written with love. If it has been of value to you, please share it with all your friends. I am grateful for new subscribers. ❤️ ?

*If you have a story about how Yoga has benefited you, please share below.*

Jackie Castro-Cooper, MPT

I hold a Masters in Physical Therapy and specialize in John F. Barnes' Myofascial Release. My passion is helping patients discover their own path to healing through integrative and holistic therapies.