Inhale 2014 Exhale 2015


Happy New Year!

Yoga Can Detox Your Life

Detox Yoga - Physical benefits of Yoga - Yoga and addictions






Creating a Healthy Mindset

People take up yoga for many different reasons, from wanting to keep fit to trying to improve balance in later life. The physical benefits of yoga have been proven again and again. Yoga can help to improve posture and balance, to strengthen bones, and even to help prevent problems such as high blood pressure, heart disease and lower back pain. However, the impact of practicing yoga often goes far beyond these direct benefits. Yoga can also change our attitudes, inspiring us with the intention to live a healthier lifestyle.
When you start to improve your health by practicing yoga, the benefits that you experience will often go beyond these more obvious physical effects. It is often the case that making one change or decision in our lives can help us to learn about ourselves and to make others, and when that first change is a positive one, the following changes will also tend to be beneficial. For example, when we start to exercise more, our bodies will often start to crave a healthier diet, which can make us start looking for ways to prepare more nutritious meals. Improving our health through yoga can therefore inspire us to make other positive changes, such as choosing a healthier diet, complementing our yoga with other forms of exercise, or even eradicating some of those bad habits that we have been meaning to give up.

Detox Yoga - Physical benefits of Yoga Yoga and addictions

Getting Rid of Bad Habits

One of the best side effects of taking up yoga is that it often motivates us to drink more water and to eat a healthier diet. The importance of keeping well hydrated becomes more apparent when we start exercising, and it is a habit that we often carry over into our everyday lives. Drinking more water can help to stay healthy and cleanse our bodies. We may also start to think more about what we eat. If we want to make the most of our yoga sessions and start improving our abilities, we need to eat well. We might start craving a more nutritious, protein rich diet that will give us the energy and nutrition we need to build stronger bodies, or simply wanting to extend our new, healthier, attitude to our diet.

Detox Yoga - Physical benefits of Yoga Yoga and addictions

As well as giving up the less healthy parts of our diet, we might also be motivated to make the most of our improving fitness by detoxing and eliminating some of our other harmful habits. When you start to take better care of your body, you often gain the motivation you need to give up, or at least to reduce your consumption of, addictive substances such as tobacco and alcohol that are counteracting all of your efforts in class. The importance of breathing in yoga can make it a particularly good incentive to give up smoking, but yoga can also motivate you to give up other addictive substances. In fact, the focus and relaxation techniques that you learn from yoga can prove to be useful if your original goal was to recover from addiction. Some people take up yoga and then give up their bad habits, while others take up yoga because they are trying to cope with an addiction. Yoga is even being encouraged in some rehab programs to help people to develop a healthier mindset.

A Healthy Mind and Body

Giving us the motivation to take care of our bodies and to get rid of those toxic habits that have been holding us back is not the only way in which yoga can change our outlook on life. Yoga has also been proven to have some great mood-boosting abilities that can help to improve our mental wellbeing as much as our physical health. As well as helping us to overcome harmful habits and addictions, yoga can help us to cope with problems such as depression, stress and anxiety.
What sets yoga apart from other forms of exercise is that it can help you to achieve much more than physical fitness. Practicing yoga can help to make you feel happier and more relaxed. It can make your body stronger and suppler, and it can inspire you to start living a healthier lifestyle. The way that you approach life can change when you take up yoga and start to listen to what your mind and body really need.

By Jennifer Byers


Further Information:

1. A Guide to Yoga from the NHS
2. Exercise helps you diet- if it’s the right kind, The Guardian
3. NHS advice on Food and drinks for sport
4. Freedom from Addiction, The Yoga Journal
5. Yoga Protects the Brain from Depression, The Telegraph
6. Spirituality and Mental Health, advice from the Royal College of Psychiatrists




This week Mudra – Prana Mudra Life Mudra

Mudra signifies gesture or even a symbol. Gesture can effectively engages and influences the body and mind  by bending, crossing, extending or touching the fingers with others fingers.

How to do Prana Mudra :  place the tips of the thumb, ring finger, and little finger together. The other fingers remain extended.

This gestures activates the root chakra, in which elemental force of human being is found.

I like to use it while practising Warrior 2 and other asanas (poses)  Its grounds me and sets my intention and integrity towards strength and courage when I need it. 

Prana Mudra generally increases vitality, reduces fatigue and nervousness.  Also improves vision. On a mental-emotional level, it increases our staying power and assertiveness, healthy self-confidence, gives us the courage to start something new and the strength to see things through (clearly structure thoughts and ideas)

The Prana Mudra combined with a conscious, slow and gentle way of breathing has the effect of being a stabilizing and calming as a secure anchor.

Yoga an Allergy Antidote?

Yoga and allergy - healing yoga

So many of u, annually are plagued by seasonal allergic rhinitis, Asthma, and Immunology. And the number of sufferers has doubled in the last 20 years, due to factors such as environmental pollution, poor diet, and increased stress, which make our immune, nervous, and respiratory systems hypersensitive.

Allergies aren’t just annoying; they can affect sleep, concentration, and productivity and put you in a bad mood. Moreover, growing evidence shows that allergies and asthma may be two sides of the same coin, as asthmatics are more likely to be allergy sufferers too and those with allergies have a greater chance of developing asthma.


While people often think of spring as the beginning of “allergy season,” there are actually three separate times of year when seasonal allergies tend to occur: spring (tree pollen), summer (grass pollen), and early fall (ragweed pollen). Allergy shots (immunotherapy), nasal steroid sprays, and over-the-counter antihistamines may work for many, but a more holistic approach can help too. As a lifestyle measure, your yoga practice can help reduce allergy symptoms by tempering your immune system’s response to the perceived offender—pollen.

Yoga and allergy - healing yoga

“Allergies are worsened by a stress reaction, which causes physiological responses, including the release of stress hormones and histamine, and triggers inflammation,” says Jeff Migdow, M.D., director of Prana Yoga Teacher Training through the Open Center in New York as well as a holistic physician at the Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health in Lenox, Massachusetts. “Relaxation diminishes fight-or-flight response, and thereby reduces allergic symptoms.” Through relaxation, the nervous system basically tells the immune system to hold its fire. Once the immune system backs off, the inflammation and mucus decrease, and symptoms diminish.

Yoga and allergy - healing yoga

Migdow suggests you make de-stressing your immune system a priority by modifying your yoga practice to be less vigorous and much more calming. “For example, avoid Bikram Yoga or Ashtanga Yoga where there is already heat. Instead, practice asanas in a smooth and relaxing way with lots of slow breathing.”

Gary Kraftsow, the founder of the American Viniyoga Institute and the author of Yoga for Wellness, adds: “When allergies flare up, avoid anything that may add insult to injury and keep energy up, since allergies are also associated with low energy.” Plus he advises against using forceful breathing or any pranayama through the nostrils, as congestion might make this difficult and uncomfortable. “In your breathing, place a greater emphasis on exhalation; a short inhalation followed by a longer one has a calming effect,” he says.


Harriet (Bhumi) Russell, who is a holistic health educator, yoga teacher, and director of Bhumi’s Yoga and Wellness Center in Cleveland, says that inversions can help clear the upper respiratory tract and drain secretions from the nose, allowing freshly oxygenated blood to flow into the oral cavity.

Doing Sarvangasana (Shoulderstand)

Yoga and allergy - healing yoga

Halasana (Plow Pose) can open nasal passages, ensuring proper drainage of sinuses, she says. Yoga and allergy - healing yoga

“But don’t keep your head down too long in poses like Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog) and Sirsasana (Headstand), which can put extra pressure on nasal passages.”

Yoga and allergy - healing yoga

Also I recommend doing more standing poses—forward and backward bends, and twists—in your practice, all of which tend to massage various parts of the spine and the thoracic cage and condition the lungs. “Strong lung meridians help strengthen immune-system functioning,”

Yoga and allergy - healing yoga

Alternate nostril breathing ॐ Purifying breath

Your nose is exceptionally clever. Simply by practising a few rounds of alternate nostril breathing (pranayama) for a few minutes each day, you can help restore imbalances in your brain,  improve sleep, calm your emotional state, boost your thinking. . How impressive is that!

Alternate Nostril breathing healing yoga

Another interesting fact about your nostrils, is that you don’t breathe through them equally all the time. Right now, you will be favoring either your left nostril or your right nostril.

Left nostril for calming – right nostril for energy:

Your nose is directly linked to your brain and nervous system. For thousands of years the Indian yogis believe that many diseases are connected to disturbed nasal breathing.

in through your left nostril will access the right “feeling” hemisphere of your brain, and breathing in through your right nostril, will access the left “thinking” hemisphere of your brain. Consciously alternating your breath between either nostrils will allow you to activate and access your whole brain.

Yogic breathing, the perfect relaxation tool: Alternate nostril breathing is something I first learnt about through yoga, many years ago, and then in more depth from Ayurvedic medicine. It helps greatly to cool a busy mind and calm an over stimulated nervous system.

Alternate Nostril breathing healing yoga

12 benefits of alternate nostril breathing:

1: Revitalizes you:  A few rounds of alternate nostril breathing is a quick pick me up if you are feeling flat, tired or even stressed. It provides your body with a much needed dose of extra energy.

2: Improves brain function:  When you mind is dull – concentration and clarity is poor. Alternate nostril breathing brings equal amounts of oxygen to both sides of the brain for improved brain function. Five minutes of alternate nostril before an exam or interview is a great way to access your whole brain for improved performance.

3: Cleanses your lungs:  A daily five minute practice morning and night of alternate nostril breathing is great way to remove stale air and impurities from the bottom of your lungs.

It wasn’t until I started reading the by Dennis Lewis that I discovered something I did not know. 70% of our air eliminated via our lungs.

4: Calms an agitated mind: I’m prone to worrying. A few minutes of focused alternate nostril breathing is helpful (for me) in calming my “over thinking” mind. The ancient yogis believe that if you can regulate, then you can control your mind.

5: Merges the left “thinking” brain and right “feeling brain:     Alternate nostril breathing optimizes both sides of your brain so you can access your whole brain, and all the benefits that go with it.

The flip side of course is, single nostril breathing can be used to activate, just the left “thinking” or just right “feeling” side of your brain for specific situations.

Try it out next time you need to drive your car. Cover your left nostril with your thumb and breathe only through your right nostril for one minute. This should keep you more alert when driving.

6: Encourage a calmer emotional state:  In times of and upset, a few rounds of mindful nostril breathing will soften the intensity of over reactive emotional states. The longer you practice, the more stable you’re thinking, and the calmer your emotions will become.

7: Improves sleep: If you can’t sleep at night lie on your right hand side, gently close your right nostril with your right thumb and breathe through your left nostril. This will activate your parasympathetic nervous system which will calm you down and slow your heart rate.

8: Great preparation for meditation: Alternate nostril breathing is a simple little trick that can be practiced for a few minutes before you begin your practice. It’s a very easy way to help you find your meditation groove.

9: Soothes your nervous system:  By focusing on your breath and deepening it, your brain will register this message and trigger the parasympathetic nervous system. You have effectively switched your nervous system from a stressed response, into a relaxation response. Single left nostril breathing (by closing your right nostril) will direct the flow of oxygen and energy to the right hemisphere of your brain, allowing once again, for the parasympathetic nervous system to be switched on. Gosh, your breath and nose is very clever.

Alternate Nostril breathing healing yoga

10: Regulates the cooling and warming cycles of the body: Left nostril is feminine, nurturing, calm and cooling. Right nostril is masculine, heat, competitive and force. Favoring one nostril more than the other can affect the heat or coolness of your body.

11: Clears and boosts your energy channels: Slightly forced alternate nostril breathing improves and directs the flow of energy throughout your body – preventing sluggishness. It oxygenates your blood and allows the energy (prana) in your body to be strong and flowing.

12: Enhances rest and relaxation:A restless mind cannot relax. Alternate nostril breathing melts away an imbalance between the right and left hemisphere of your brain and calms your thinking. This is perfect for helping you access rest and relaxation far more efficiently.

Alternate Nostril breathing healing yoga

An alternate nostril breathing exercise – purifying breath:

Step one: Use right thumb to close off right nostril.

Step two: Inhale slowly through left nostril

Step three: Pause for a second

Step four: Now close left nostril with ring finger and release thumb off right nostril

Step five: Exhale through your right nostril

Step six: Now, inhale through right nostril

Step seven: Pause

Step eight: Use thumb to close of right nostril

Step nine: Breathe out through left nostril

Step ten: This is one round. Start slowly with 1 or 2 rounds and gradually increase. Never force your breathing. quietly for a few moments after you have finished.

There are many, many different techniques of pranayama such as inhaling for 4, holding for 4 and exhaling for 4.

Alternate Nostril breathing healing yoga


Do not hold your breath if you have high blood pressure. More advanced methods of pranayama (alternate nostril breathing) need to be practiced with an experienced practitioner. Practicing on an empty stomach is preferred.

Yoga for cyclistes

Taking just one weekly yoga class or doing 15 minutes of poses after every bike ride will make you a stronger, faster cyclist. “Yoga is the single best cross-training tool,” says Prisca Boris, Yoga for Athletes instructor in Vail, Colorado. “It gives you everything you want while you’re on your bike: Strength, flexibility, power, and stamina.” Yoga also makes you less injury-prone, promotes speedier recovery, reduces stress, and lengthens muscles to give you a longer, more powerful stride.
Yoga for Cyclistes - healing yoga

 In cycling, the quadriceps, hamstrings, and hips never rest. As a result, riders often have overdeveloped quadriceps and tight hamstrings, which can pull the hips out of alignment. Also, a cyclist’s spine is constantly flexed forward. If proper form isn’t maintained, it can result in muscle pain and strain in the back and shoulders. Yoga helps ease the tightness, creating core strength, and aligning the spine.

Cycling requires not only physical strength, but also intense focus and concentration to succeed on the road. The attention to breath and mind-body connection in yoga can be employed by the cyclist while riding to maintain mental clarity and calmness.

Parsvottanasana (Intense Side Stretch or Pyramid)

Yoga for cyclistes - healing yoga

This pose is excellent for promoting balance and opening up tight hamstrings and the illiotibial bands.

Stand in Mountain pose with your feet together. Step your left foot back about three feet and angle the back foot out slightly. Keep both hips facing front and square your hips. Draw your hands behind your back, bend your arms and clasp your elbows. Inhale as you look up. Open your chest and exhale. Hinging from the hips, keep your spine long as you fold forward over your straight right leg. To modify, slightly bend the front leg, working toward straightening it eventually. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat on second side

Dolphin Pose

Yoga for cyclistes - healing yoga

This pose is excellent for opening up the chest, shoulders and the hamstrings. It also mirrors the proper upper body alignment for cyclists.

Start on your hands and knees, with your knees directly beneath the hips and hands slightly in front of your shoulders. Exhale and tuck your toes under, pressing your tailbone toward the sky. Keep your knees slightly bent to start. Press your heels toward the ground. It is okay if they don’t reach it. Lower down onto your forearms, with your elbows directly beneath your shoulders. Broaden your shoulder blades away from each other. Breathe deeply and hold for one to two minutes.

Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge Pose)

Yoga for cyclistes - healing yoga

This pose is a great counter-pose for your upper body positioning while on your bike. It will open up the front of your body and strengthen your spine.

Start on your back with your knees bent. Position your feet about six inches away from your hips. Make sure that your feet are pointing straight ahead. Inhale and press your feet into the floor and lift your pelvis up as high as you can comfortably. Slide your shoulders underneath you, clasping the hands. Breathe evenly. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds. Slowly lower down, one vertebra at a time

1. Recover without Being Sore

When you finish a ride the two things on your mind aren’t Triangle Pose or Sun Salutations but before you shower and eat, doing at least five minutes of post-ride posture will open your hips, back, and shoulders release lactic acid from your muscles to reduce soreness, says Baxter Bell, M.D., a family practitioner, yoga instructor, and cyclist in Oakland, California. Stiff muscles are dry muscles, so stretching and lubricating them increases recovery speed. This will also increase your stamina during training and guard against saddle-soreness tomorrow.

Yoga for cyclistes - healing yoga

Do Triangle Pose: Stand with your legs 4 feet apart. Raise your arms shoulder-height, parallel to the floor with your palms down. Turn your left foot in about 45 degrees, and your right foot out 90 degrees. Your front heel should bisect the back foot. Bending from your hips, extend your torso to the right directly over your right leg, placing your right arm on a block behind your right foot. Stretch your left arm toward the ceiling, keeping your shoulders stacked in a straight line. Stay in this pose for 30 seconds to one minute. Inhale to come up slowly. Reverse the feet and repeat to the left.

2. Crash Protection
Textbook crash instructions say bring your arms into your chest because using your extremities to break your fall will likely break your arms. So you hope you land on your shoulder. Problem is, shoulders are the most mobile joints in the body, making them the most unstable and prone to dislocation. “ Acing Downward Facing Dog will give you the shoulder strength you need.


Do Downward Facing Dog: Start on your hands and knees, placing your hands directly under your shoulders, spreading fingers wide. Align your knees directly under your hips, and your toes turned under. Exhale and raise your knees and hips away from the floor until your body is in an inverted V position. Press your shoulder blades firmly into your back, then widen and draw them toward your tailbone. Keep your head between your arms. Once you’ve mastered this move on the mat, find this position on the bike (especially in your shoulders and back) for greater stability.

3. Less Pain
Everyone knows that the greater pain threshold you establish, the greater the cyclist you become. “When done deeply and effectively, breathing delivers oxygen to muscles that are straining and cramping,” Boris says. Instead of traditional in-through-the-mouth-out-through-the-nose athletic breathing, pranayama or yoga-breathing increases your tolerance for torture by releasing toxins like lactic acid and carbon dioxide from your muscles. Use the following technique when you are on your bike and need to break the pain barrier.

Do Pranayama: Sit or lie in a comfortable position with your body completely relaxed. Breathe in through your nose. Place your hands around the bottom of your rib cage. This is where your diaphragm is located—the muscle that controls your breathing. Inhale and feel the breath expanding the bottom of your ribcage. You should feel your hands moving away from the center. As you exhale through your nose, gently contract your abdominals, squeeze around your diaphragm, and expel all of the air from your lungs. Again, inhale fully expanding the diaphragm, rib cage, and now take the breath further up and broaden the collarbone. Slowly exhale, gently contract the belly and squeeze the diaphragm as it contracts. Continue this exercise for 3 to 5 minutes until you feel comfortable with it.

5. Get Down on Your Knees
Tight hips come from time in the saddle (good) but they off-set your alignment inviting overuse injuries in your ligaments and tendons. “Hip flexors are the main muscle controlling the movement when you pull the pedal up and bring your knee toward your torso,” Baldovin says. Stiff hips translate to a tight iliotibial band, a ligament that runs from the top of your hips to the outside of your knees keeping knees stable as you cycle. Iliotibial band friction syndrome, one of the most common causes of knee pain in cyclists, occurs when the ligament rubs against a projection at the end of your femur causing pain and swelling along the knee. Keep your hips open and knees healthy in Pigeon Pose.

Healing yoga
Do Pigeon Pose: Start on your hands and knees with hands directly below your shoulders and knees directly under your hips.  Slide your right knee forward, placing it between your hands. Lengthen your left leg straight back, and lower your hips toward the ground, keeping both hips facing forward. Press your shoulders back and down. Hold for one minute. Supporting your weight on your hands, return to starting position before repeating on the left.

Ujavi breathing

ujavi breathing - celine gamin - healing yoga

Ujjayibreath (the yogic science of breath) increases your endurance and makes you feel more energetic. It also improves memory and soothes the nerves”

 This particular style of is said to enhance and empower a Yoga practice, with an English translation meaning “to become victorious” or “to gain mastery.”

To create the Ujjayi. breath, one must constrict the back of the throat, similar to the constriction made when speaking in a whisper. Therefore, it is an audible breathe that is often compared to the sound of the ocean. Although there is a constriction of the throat, the Ujjayi. breath flows in and out through the nostrils, with the lips remaining gently closed.

ujavi breathing  - healing yoga

It is important to remember that the key to Ujjayi breathing is relaxation; the action of Ujjayi naturally lengthens the breath. Some small effort is required to produce a pleasing sound, but too much effort creates a grasping quality and a grating sound. Generally, it is the inhalation that presents the greater challenge. So begin by practicing on the exhalation where there is a natural letting go process.

To practice the inhalation, focus on creating a soothing and pleasing sound that is unhurried and unforced. I suggest working on your Ujjayi breathing in a seated, relaxed cross-legged position. Imagine sipping the breath in through a straw. If the suction is too strong the straw collapses and great force is required to suck anything through it. Once Ujjayi breathing is mastered in a seated position, the challenge is to maintain the same quality of breathing throughout your asana practice.

Throughout your practice, try to maintain the length and smoothness of the breath as much as possible. Once you find a baseline Ujjayi breath in a pose that is not too strenuous (Downward Facing Dog for example), endeavor to maintain that quality of breath throughout the practice. Some asanas require great effort, and you may begin to strain in your breath. If you are straining in your breath, you may be pushing yourself too hard in your practice. Use that feedback as a guide throughout your practice—if you start to strain, it may be time to back out of a pose and rest.

ujavi breathing  - healing yoga

Some yogis argue that Ujjayi. should not be practiced in asana (physical postures), and prefer a normal breath. Consequently, some yogis believe the Ujjayi comes natural when the postures are deeply understood, and shouldn’t be focused on until such mastery of asana is attained. Yet, in a Vinyasa style of, the Ujjayi is emphasized as a way to link the breath with the movement, as Vinyasa yoga is based on breath-synchronized. There are several important attributes of this form of pranayama, which declare Why We Ujjayi…

1. Improves concentration in the physical practice. Becoming absorbed in Ujjayi allows the practitioner to remain in poses for longer periods of time.

2. Instills endurance that enhances a flowing practice by lending a meditative quality that maintains the rhythm of the class.

3. It diminishes distractions and allows the practitioner to remain self aware and grounded in the practice.

4. Ujjayi breath regulates heating of the body. The friction of the air passing through the lungs and throat generates internal body heat. It is similar to a massage for the internal organs; as the core becomes warm from the inside, the body becomes prepared for the asana practice. This heat makes stretching safer while the inner organs can be cleansed of any toxins that have accumulated.

5. A focused Ujjayi breath can release tension and tight areas of the body.

6. Additional benefits of Ujjayi pranayama include diminished pain from headaches, relief of sinus pressure, decrease in phlegm, and strengthening of the nervous and digestive systems.

7. Ujjayi tells us when we need to surrender into a resting posture, as the breath should remain as even and smooth in the postures as when we rest. It allows us to practice honesty in our practice, taking a step back to let go of our ego.

8. Ujjayi allows us to practice full deep breaths during the challenges of a physical practice. Therefore, we can stay just as equanimous when faced with the challenges of our daily lives.

ujavi breathing  - healing yoga

When listened to, your breath can be your true teacher, guiding you in a myriad of ways. The ancient yogis realized the intimate connection between the breath and the mind. Hopefully, this makes sense, and you will consider this pranayama in your practice. To better understand and incorporate Ujjayi breathing into your yoga practice, consult an experienced teacher near you.

ujavi breathing  - healing yoga

How to practice :

Ujjayi is especially known for the soft hissing sound the breather makes by directing her inhales and exhales over the back of her throat. To learn how, try this:

1-      Inhale through your nose, then exhale slowly through a wide-open mouth. Direct the out-going breath slowly across the back of your throat with a drawn-out HA sound. Repeat several times, then close your mouth. Now, as you both inhale and exhale through your nose, direct the breath again slowly across the back of your throat. Ideally, this will create, and you should hear, a soft hissing sound.

2-      This sound, called ajapa mantra (pronounced ah-JOP-ah mahn-trah, the “unspoken mantra”), serves three purposes: it helps to slow the breath down (which is exactly what we want for Ujjayi), to focus awareness on the breath and prevent your min “wandering,” and to regulate, by continually monitoring and adjusting the evenness of the sound, the smooth flow of breath (another important element of Ujjayi).

3-      Start with 5 to 8 minutes of practice, gradually increase your time to 10 to 15 minutes. When finished return to normal breathing for a minute or two, then lie down in Shavasana (Corpse Pose) for a few minutes.

ujavi breathing  - healing yoga

 Ujjayi is the foundation of many other techniques listed on this site; e.g., ratio breathing, svara yoga, digital pranayama, retention along with the two bandhas. Note that Ajapa Mantra isn’t used when performing digital pranayama.


Lower back pain and Yoga

back pain healing yoga

Easy on sitting forward bend:

Sitting forward bends are probably the best-known leg stretches, and are therefore likely to be included in a beginning stretch routine, whether in a public yoga or aerobics class, or in a book or video. Surprisingly, there seems to be widespread misunderstanding about the role of stretching in the care of back problems. And the irony is that certain types of stretching can actually worsen some back problems.

A yoga practice with too much emphasis on aggressive forward bending can be risky, particularly if the student has tight hamstrings and a flattened curve in the lower back. A well-constructed yoga routine, however, can be an ideal way to learn to stretch without creating or exacerbating back pain, and a chance to practice good alignment and movement patterns which help protect the back from injury.

Under Pressure

To understand how stretching can improve or aggravate disc problems, let’s look at how a disc works and how it gets damaged. Intervertebral discs function as shock absorbers, cushioning the brain from jarring as we walk, run, and jump. Each disc consists of two parts: the inner disc, the nucleus pulposus, made of a shock-absorbing gel-like substance, and the annulus fibrosis, the rings of ligament that surround and support the center.

A normal lumbar spine has a mild curve forward, and in this position, weight is evenly distributed throughout each disc. During toe-touching, the lower back flexes, losing its normal curve, and more weight is put on the front of the discs. The gel-like centres get pushed backward, into the now stretching support ligaments. While this can happen during forward bending even if a person tends to have excessive lumbar curve (“swayback”), it is especially problematic if the spine has lost the normal curve and become flattened.

With repetition, or if great force is applied as in heavy lifting, the ligaments weaken and may “bulge” like a bubble in the wall of a tire. Or the ligaments may tear, allowing the gel-like inner disc to leak out, resulting in a herniated disc. The bulging or herniated disc may cause lower back pain or, if it is pressing on an adjacent nerve, pain can be referred into the hip and leg. Bulging and herniated discs may be treated conservatively, with physical therapy, exercise, and other non-invasive treatments, but a badly herniated disc is a serious medical problem which may require surgery and a lengthy recovery period.

While heavy lifting is a well-known cause of back injuries, disc damage is just as frequently caused by the smaller but repetitious forward-bending movements we make during daily activities at work and at home. For most of us, half of our body weight is above the waist. Just as a child “weighs more” as he or she slides away from the centre to sit at the end of a teeter-totter, our own upper body weight exerts greater force at the disc as we bend farther forward. This tremendous force on the disc, added to the strain on the supporting ligaments, sets the stage for damage.

In our society, opportunities abound for repetitive forward bending: child care, yardwork, housework, shopping. Even sedentary work may exert strain on the lower back; for example, someone bending and twisting from a sitting position to lift a heavy object out of a bottom desk drawer. The greater the weight being lifted (and the weight of one’s own body), the greater the pressure on the disc.

Utthita Parsvakonasana back pain - healing yoga

Forward bending activities, especially combined with lifting, are also the most common cause of back “strain.” While much less serious than disc injuries, back strain is responsible for most of our lower back pain, including the Monday morning ache after weekend gardening.

How Are Your Hamstrings?

Repetitive forward bending may also occur in exercise routines, including yoga. These routines can be particularly risky for people with tight hamstrings, the muscles extending from hip to knee on the back of the thigh that receive much of the stretch in forward bends. The hamstrings attach to the sitting bones—the two large bones at the base of the buttocks (called the ischial tuberosities). In a sitting forward bend, the pull of tight hamstrings keeps the pelvis from rotating forward over the legs. In fact, tight hamstrings encourage the pelvis to rotate backward, in a position called “posterior tilt.” If your pelvis is held in a posterior tilt and you reach toward your toes, all the forward movement occurs by hinging through the lower back.

Doing a series of sitting forward bends, then, can put prolonged or repetitive strain on the disc, causing or contributing to disc bulging or herniation. Ironically, the people who most need to stretch their hamstrings, to help improve posture and movement patterns, are most at risk for injuring their backs practicing forward bends.

Tight hamstrings affect posture and the health of the lower back by exerting a constant pull on the sitting bones, tipping the pelvis posterior and flattening the normal curve of the lumbar spine. Overly strong or tight abdominal muscles may also contribute to a habitually flattened lower back. Tight abdominal muscles pull up on the pubic bones, again contributing to posterior tilt, especially if combined with tight hamstrings. They also pull down on the front rib cage, contributing to forward-slumped posture. This posture, with posterior-tipped pelvis and forward-slumped trunk, puts chronic strain not only on the discs, but also on the lower back muscles.

Many who suffer from lower back pain have heard or read that strong abdominals are the key to pain relief. It is true that the abdominals are important support muscles for the lower back, especially for problems like arthritis and swayback.

Problems arise, however, when the abdominals are strengthened with regular exercises like sit-ups or crunches, but the back extensors—the long muscles running parallel to the spine that support it and maintain and increase the normal lower back curve—are ignored.

Over time, a muscle imbalance develops: The abdominals become stronger and tighter, while the back becomes relatively weaker and overstretched. Unfortunately, many current exercise routines emphasize several types of abdominal strengthening, and a series of sitting forward bends to stretch the legs. The end result of years of this type of exercise will be a rounded, slumped posture with a weak and vulnerable lower back.

When faced with challenging poses, students are likely to fall back on familiar positions and muscle patterns. If your usual posture is rounded forward, with a flattened lower back, posterior-tilted pelvis, and tight hamstrings, you are at risk for back injury in forward bends and need to take special care as you prepare to practice them. Your goal is to be able to stretch the hamstrings without a posterior tilt of the pelvis.

To check your readiness, lie on your back with one leg stretched out flat on the floor. Stretch the other leg up to the ceiling with a straight knee. Look in a mirror or have someone else check to see if you can bring the leg to vertical, perpendicular to the floor.

If you can’t get to vertical, your pelvis will be posterior tilted in a sitting forward bend, and it’s possible that you would strain your back muscles or injure a disc if you reached for your toes. You should avoid sitting forward bends, especially if you have a history of lower back pain or injury, until you can stretch your leg straight up to 90 degrees or more. If you are in a class where forward bends are being taught, you can always substitute some simple leg and hip stretches like Supta Padangusthasana (Reclining Big Toe Pose) and Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclining Bound Angle Pose).

Pass the Test

My plan for building towards safe forward bends involves six basic poses:

1. Modified Supta Padangusthasana (Supine Hand-to-Foot Pose, Variation I) practiced with the raised leg up the wall and the straight leg through a doorway

2. Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana (Extended Hand-to-Foot Pose) practiced with the raised leg on a chair back.

3. Prasarita Padottanasana (Wide-Legged Forward Bend)

4. Supta Baddha Konasana (Supine Bound Angle Pose) practiced with the pelvis against a wall and the feet up on the wall, pressing gently on the thighs.

5. Modified Supta Padangusthasana (Supine Hand-to-Foot Pose, Variation II) practiced with the raised leg extended to the side and the foot on a wall

6. Savasana (Corpse Pose) practiced with blanket support for the spine.

Taking only 10 to 15 minutes daily, these poses will begin to reshape your body by lengthening your hamstrings without compromising a normal lumbar curve. Included in the sequence are two poses that stretch the inner thigh muscles, the adductors, which can also factor into forward bends.

These gentle poses will help you progress toward forward bends. If, however, you have a history of lower back pain, known disc damage, or a recent lower back injury, it may not be safe to begin forward bends even after working with these preparations for some time. Check with your physician or other health care provider before starting. Remember, sitting forward bends put the spine into flexion, reversing the normal curve, and some lower backs will not tolerate that position without pain or strain.

Additionally, you may want to take instruction in forward bends from a teacher experienced in working with back problems who can give you expert guidance and feedback.

When you are ready to start, I suggest you begin with standing forward bends. The transition from neutral-spine Prasarita Padottanasana (Widespread Forward Bend) to the version with the head hanging down towards the floor (or on the floor) is a good trial. Next try Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend). In both of these poses, gravity helps to take the weight of the upper body off the lower back, decompressing the discs.

If you have passed the 90-degree test and can practice these hanging forward bends without back pain, you may be ready to begin practicing sitting forward bends safely and reap their restorative benefits of introspection, relaxation, and flexibility.

 Poses to relieve lower back pain:

Tight hamstrings can pull the pelvis from its normal position, which in turn pulls the spine from its, causing back muscles to fatigue quickly and pain to flair. Back pain can also originate in the spine itself, through poor posture or weakened unstable back muscles. Using yoga to strengthen your core, leg and back muscles can help cure and prevent chronic lower back pain.

There are many yoga poses that target these key areas, strengthening the muscles and allowing the body, and the back, to move freely without pain.

Use the following 2 yoga poses to stretch the hamstrings and ease tension on the pelvis and back.

Touch your toes like you did in grade school with a forward bend (Uttanasana). A forward bend will stretch the entire back side of your body, including your shoulders, hamstrings, and lower back. It is a very popular yoga pose, and is often used outside of yoga for warm-ups before exercise, or simple, daily stretching.

Seated forward bend (Paschimottanasana) is an alternative to the forward bend. Uttanasana relies on gravity to induce the stretching, and because of this, it may be better to use Paschimottanasana. Paschimottanasana forces your body to rely on its natural elasticity, not the tug of gravity to extend the pose, preventing over-stretching often associated with Uttanasana. You may not be able to stretch as far on the floor, but neither will you risk injury. [Exercises That Could Be Harmful]

Use the following 5 yoga poses that specifically target the lower back to strengthen muscle and increase flexibility.

cobra back pain - healing yoga

Cobra pose (Bhujangasana) stretches the spine, especially at the base of the pelvis. Bhujangasana is an effective stretch for the lower back, and can also be done by itself as a stand-alone exercise for pain relief.

Child pose (Balasana) is one of only a few completely stationary poses in yoga. It requires no movement, or balance, and can be used as a soothing relaxant for achy back muscles. Balasana is a great pose for cooling down after your yoga routine, or as a warm-up to focus your mind.

child pose - back pain healing yoga

Cat pose and cow pose (Marjaryasana and Bitilasana) are often done together. Standing on your hands and knees and alternately arching your spine upward (cat pose) , and downward (cow pose), gives your back two workouts in one. Cat pose is also a good substitution for the more difficult cobra pose.

cow-cat-pose back pain healing yoga

If you’ve tried the above poses and would like a greater challenge, try an extended side-angle pose (Utthita Parsvakonasana). Side-angle poses’ twisting motion loosens the back muscles. The concentration needed to balance can also help relieve stress. Side-angle pose also strengthens leg muscles, including the hamstrings, and increases overall balance, giving extra support to your back.

Try combining cobra pose with extended side-angle pose for a deeper stretch. When you lunge, standing with your front leg bent at the knee, your back leg stretched behind you, reach your arms into the air and back, arching your spine.

 Restorative pose for ease lower back pain:

Discomfort in the lower back is no fun and is definitely one of the most common complaints out there. Since massages are expensive and aren’t always convenient, here are some yoga poses you can do at home or anywhere that you have a space to yourself in order to get some relief.

Hamstring_stretch back pain - healing yoga

 1. Hamstring Stretches. Using a strap (or, if you don’t have one, use a regular towel or belt from home), lasso the right foot with your strap while extending the left leg down in the opposite direction. Take advantage of these forces of opposition: flexing the bottom heel, driving it away from the body, and “kicking” the top heel towards the sky. Put as much bend in the top knee as necessary to prevent tugging in the lower back. You want to feel the stretch in the meat of the leg, not the tendons behind the knee. Repeat on both sides, holding for about a minute on each.

Why this works: Let’s talk fascia. The fascia is everywhere, but on the back of the body it’s continuous from the head to heel, covering the calf, hamstring, sacrum, and the erectors, all the way up to the back of the head, like a stocking. With this stretch, you’ll loosen that portion of the fascia, which will put some slack on the lower back to relieve some of that discomfort. By releasing the back and spine here, we can allow the discs to reset.

2. Low Bridge. From lying down flat, bring the feet hip-width apart, as close to the butt as possible as long as it’s comfortable to do so. Place a block width-wise between the upper thighs near the pelvis, and squeeze the block hard. Place the arms down at the sides, pressing the palms into the floor. Lift the hips off the floor and avoid putting pressure on the neck. Keep your bridge low, so the ribcage remains pretty low. Relax the upper glutes near the sacrum and engage the lower glutes, which feels like squeezing your sit bones together.

low bridge back pain - healing yoga

Why this works: By engaging the lower glutes (think of squeezing the area that granny panties would go to!) and releasing the area around the sacrum, you allow the lower back to open up and unravel all the muscles that are usually tight in that area. It’s not going to feel like the deepest bridge you’ve ever done and will be more subtle than you might be used to. Remember, this is about feeding the back so we can do more rigorous practices that serve us.

3. Lying Supine Twists. Lying down with a long straight posture, stack the knees over the hips. Let them drop to one side, and gradually unfold the opposite shoulder away from the knees. Sometimes it feels better to anchor the knees or shoulders to the mat, but that’s your choice. Gently engage the belly and breathe, switching sides after a minute or so.

Why this works: This twisting action helps to maintain the health of our spinal discs, and the feel of this pose is all about release. The muscles in the lower back are stimulated and lengthened in this pose, which assists us in our ability to move more freely. I’m sure I won’t bring every yoga teacher along with me on this one, but for twists in general, as long as it feels good, keep doing it however you’re doing it. Don’t worry about forcing your knees to the floor or pressing both shoulders into the mat. If you have a gentle, free-feeling twist, you’ve got the right idea.

4. Child’s Pose with Arms Down.  From kneeling, bring your feet together and knees apart. Drop your hips back towards your heels and pitch the chest forward, laying the chest down between the thighs. Bring the forehead down to the floor. Rest the arms down at the sides with the elbows soft and palms facing up. Lengthen the tailbone away from the pelvis and breath, holding the pose as long as you like.

Why this works: Restoring the length in the spine as well as bringing symmetry to all the muscles on both sides of the spine that supports our every day movement. The placement of the arms is a matter of preference and will be totally subjective. In my and many of my students’ cases, the arms being down at the sides’ offers a different release of the spine and low back then with the arms stretched overhead. But, remember, yoga is meant to feel good. So if it feels good for you to have them up, keep them stretched overhead.

****Chiropractors and some osteopathic doctors use spinal manipulation to treat low back pain by applying pressure with their hands to bones and surrounding tissues. This treatment is not appropriate for everyone.

**** A study funded by the government suggests that massage may help relieve chronic low back pain. After 10 weeks, people who had weekly massages had less pain and were better able to go about their daily activities than people who got traditional care. That was true no matter what type of massage they got, and the benefits lasted at least six months.

****** Can acupuncture treat back pain? The evidence is mixed. In 2009, a study of several hundred people with long-lasting back pain found surprising results. Those who had simulated acupuncture (involving toothpicks tapping the skin) got the same benefits as those who had real acupuncture with needles. After eight weeks, both groups had greater relief than people who did not have acupuncture.

***** check for Reiki treatment

***** Preventing Low Back Pain

There’s no sure way to prevent back pain as you age, but there are steps you can take to lower your risk:

Stay at a healthy weight.

Exercise regularly.

Lift with your legs, not your back.

Make sure your work station position isn’t contributing to your pain.

 Restorative class for back pain due to nerve compression:

All yoga is therapeutic and many people will find relief from back pain by attending a Hatha, Vinyasa, or Anusara yoga class.  People with herniated disks and back pain due to nerve compression will in most cases not benefit from a general yoga class, as forward folding and twisting will contribute to the nerve compression, and cause greater pain. Restorative Yoga class will be gentler class than most general classes, so it’s appropriate for people who have never done yoga before and/or have limited mobility, and are not in very good physical shape. The poses in Yoga with Yaga for the Back are safe for most back pain issues and focus on relieving tension in the back, strengthening the core, and releasing tightness in hamstrings and hips. 

back pain 2 healing yoga

Yoga and beauty

yoga and beauty HEALING YOGA rajahiraja yoga classes brighton celine gamenYoga is good for improving your flexibility, muscle tone and stress level, but did you know it also benefits the health of your skin? When exposed to environmental toxins, your skin becomes more vulnerable to the effects of free radicals, a main culprit in premature aging. Your skin detoxifies itself through perspiration and your sweat gland can perform as much detoxification as your liver. Yoga helps this process because it improves your blood circulation and makes you sweat. Through improved blood circulation and sweat, you’re also aiding the effects of any nutritional detoxifying you may be doing. Poses that incorporate sitting twists or forward bends are particularly helpful in engaging the internal organs.

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Yogic breathing also plays an important role in promoting detoxification. Sitting with poor posture impedes lungs from inflating fully, and our chronic state of low-grade stress often leads to a clenched diaphragm. As a result, we don’t take in as much life-sustaining oxygen when we inhale, or expel as much of the potentially hazardous carbon dioxide when we exhale. Yogic breathing helps clear out carbon dioxide from the lung tissue, stimulates the organs of digestion and can, over time, retain the diaphragm to move freely. When the diaphragm moves with its natural fluidity, the abdominal organs are massaged and the lungs are fully emptied with every breathe. not just the ones you take on the yoga mat.

To help your body keep up with the heavy demand of our stressful lives and the nutrient-poor modern diet, yoga can help your body to detox and help your skin stay younger.

Yoga   has the potential to reduce facial wrinkles and produce a natural ‘face-lift’.   This is mainly due to the inverted postures such as the head and handstands.Doing   these postures for a few minutes each day, has the potential to reverse the   effect of gravity and use it to our advantage.

It also increases the circulation to the face that will bring much needed nutrients and oxygen to rejuvenate and remove toxin causing matter. Mentally you will become calmer and your body will not experience stress like effects that will cause you to frown and screw up your face.

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Also   you will sleep a lot better and this always helps in a fresh ready to go   look.
-If you are tired, you definitely aren’t looking your best-
The result is firmer facial muscles,

which cause a reduction in wrinkles, and   a natural face-lift.

The result is firmer facial muscles, which cause a reduction in wrinkles, and a natural face-lift.

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The inverted yoga postures often convert gray hair back to its natural color and they will certainly delay the onset of gray hair. This is due to the inverted postures causing an increase in blood supply to the hair follicles in the scalp.

Increased flexibility of the neck produced by the asanas also helps by removing the pressure on the blood vessels and nerves in the neck, therefore giving the head an even greater blood supply to the scalp.

The   nerves in the neck supply the scalp muscles and the release of pressure on   the nerves in the neck will help the scalp muscles to relax.

This   gives the hair follicles better nourished and thicker healthier hair is the   ongoing result.

Yoga will take years from your face and add years to your life. As you get older, you will take on an ageless appearance. No one will have any idea how old you are, not that it matters.

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If there’s one thing seasoned yoga practitioners are known for (other than the impressive and slightly alarming ability to bend their bodies in all manner of directions), it’s great skin. Think of instructors you’ve encountered or enthusiasts you know in real life—it’s likely they all have similarly youthful, radiant skin. Is it the deep, restorative breaths and meditative state that keep wrinkles at bay, or is it the focused flows of movement that challenge the body and increase circulation?

As it turns out, the answer is a little of both. Practicing yoga does wonders for the mind and body. As skin guru Dr. Nicholas Perricone wrote in The Clear Skin Prescription, “It is the perfect exercise for people who lead busy, stress-filled lives who want to look and feel their best.” Yoga in general improves skin health by reducing stress (a common catalyst to breakouts and fine lines) and removing toxins from the body. In fact, there are certain asanas (poses) that are especially good at this, and therefore especially good for the skin. I spoke with two Los Angeles–based yoga instructors, Lisa Paskel and Mary Fanto, to find out the best ways to get a yogic and beauty HEALING YOGA rajahiraja yoga classes brighton celine gamen

Before going into skin-advantageous poses, it’s important to note that these shouldn’t be performed without warming up the body first. “I would never tell anyone who’s not warmed up to go into a spinal twist or an inversion,” warns Lisa Paskel, co-founder of Yoga Shelter. That could cause injury, especially for beginners unfamiliar with the poses in the first place. Even the simpler ones should be done slowly and carefully.

Tadasana (Mountain Pose)
This easy standing pose allows you to focus on deep, rhythmic breathing—an essential element of healthy skin. “Most adult humans barely breathe into their throats,” Paskel explains, “[but] getting oxygen in the body is the number one thing.” Yogis and yoginis believe that drawing oxygen into, through, and out of the body releases harmful toxins and keeps vital systems running optimally.

Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend)
This one is difficult if your hamstrings are especially tight (hence the importance of warming up first), but luckily, you don’t have to touch the ground or keep your legs pin-straight to get the pose’s skin benefits. “Even if you just bend over at the waist, close your eyes, and let your head hang … you’re clearing everything out and your blood is switching directions,” says Mary Fanto, an instructor at U Studio Yoga. She suggests trying that for one minute a day and working up to five.

Because forward-bending poses fight against gravity by turning the head toward the ground instead of toward the sky, Fanto refers to them as fountains of youth. Blood flows into the face faster, bringing with it oxygen and other helpful nutrients that fight free radicals, encourage skin cell renewal, and give the visage a rosy glow. Uttanasana is the easiest of the forward bends; those who practice yoga regularly can also try Downward-Facing Dog and the hip-opening Child’s Pose.

Bharadvaja’s Twist (Seated Twist)
Both Fanto and Paskel say that twisting positions are great for digestive health, which is important for moving toxic properties out of the organs. “Anytime you’re clearing your body of waste, it’s better for your skin,” Fanto says. However, simply twisting isn’t enough—deep, cleansing breaths are a necessary component to the pose. “If you don’t follow up with really good breath and water, then the toxins get released, but then they get trapped,” Paskel points out.

Utkatasana (Chair Pose)
Challenging poses like Chair make the heart beat faster, increasing the circulation of blood flow throughout the body and prompting the skin to sweat out impurities. Chair pose lengthens and strengthens the thigh muscles. Warrior I and Half Moon Pose are more advanced poses that also work the legs.

Viparita Karani (Legs-Up-the-Wall Pose)
Inversion poses include some of the hardest, most advanced postures in yoga and shouldn’t be attempted by anyone who hasn’t been practicing for some time (or any female menstruating, for that matter). Inversions such as Headstand and Shoulderstand (known as the king and queen of asanas, respectively) increase blood flow to the face. They also require clear focus, regular breathing, and a great deal of endurance—all of which help to clean out the body. Viparita Karani is a less challenging version of Shoulderstand that supposedly aids everything from digestion to insomnia.
Doing a forward bend or seated twist once in a while can’t hurt (as long as you’re warmed up and aligning yourself properly, that is), but both Paskel and Fanto emphasize deep breathing, lots of water, and a healthful diet as equally key to youthful, radiant skin as well. And while they agree that certain poses are especially beneficial for the skin, both maintain that regular yoga practice or at least regular exercise of some sort is what it takes to get that coveted glow. A forward bend alone won’t achieve yogic skin—but it’s a good place to start.

Yoga and beauty healing yoga rajadhiraja class brighton celine gamen

Why do I need to open my chest and shoulders?

chest openers pose healing yoga rajadhiraja classes brighton celine gamen

Working at a desk can create extreme stress in the body, especially in the chest and shoulders. Tension in the chest and shoulders not only takes its toll on how you look, but also can cause extreme pain. The muscles in your chest and shoulders when in fixed positions for long periods of time are in constant contraction, and often spasm. Furthermore, the aches navigate their way up to your neck, head, and face, causing even more trouble. The more you practice Yoga, the more you will realize how important it is that you try and keep your chest as open as possible. This will help alleviate pain and bring breath and prana (life force) into these most critical areas of the body.

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Also, you might notice that you will feel more joyful, less in pain, and well, taller! The benefits of yoga chest openers are both physical and psychological. Chest openers, also called heart openers or back bends, counteract the all-too-familiar postures of hunching over a computer or steering wheel. By lifting your heart, moving your shoulders back and lengthening the front and back of your body, you decrease back pain and shoulder tightness, and improve your spirits.

Opening the chest helps to tone the spine and increase the breathing capacity of the lungs. It relieves tightness in the back and shoulders. Chest openers provide extra help for women, according to Sadhana Yoga, including regulating menstrual flow, relieving cramps and preventing prolapsed of the uterus. Men and women will both benefit from increased blood circulation and stimulation of the thyroid, pineal and pituitary glands.

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So why we I have not always been opening my chest as fully as I am able? Well, for example, in some twists my emphasis may have been to try and catch my hands behind my back, even though I could feel it was collapsing one side of my chest. Of course there are a few poses like Malasana (the garland) where the chest will not be fully expanded. But now I feel it is my priority to be able to breathe properly – and that means having an open chest. Our lungs can lose their elasticity if we do not exercise them fully. This brings about fatigue and other health problems.

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I have felt over the years of practicing Yoga my chest opening more and more and I have been taught ways to encourage this. Now I teach this to my students I can see the benefits in their practice and day to day life too.

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Healing Yoga

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