Thursday, October 20, 2011

Wellness Month: Meet The Experts - A Yogi

Yoga (SanskritPāliयोग yóga) is a physicalmental, and spiritual discipline, originating in ancient India
The goal of yoga, or of the person practicing yoga, is the attainment of a state of perfect spiritual insight and tranquility. The word is associated with meditative practices in HinduismJainism and Buddhism
Yoga came to the attention of an educated western public in the mid 19th century along with other topics of Hindu philosophy. The first Hindu teacher to actively advocate and disseminate aspects of Yoga to a western audience was Swami Vivekananda, who toured Europe and the United States in the 1890s. In the West, the term "yoga" is typically associated with Hatha Yoga and its asanas (postures), or as a form of exercise. Today, there are many different types of Yoga. 

Check out these sites for the different types and descriptions as well as more yoga history. 








There are many health benefits to practicing yoga. The three main focuses of Hatha yoga or any yoga style for that matter (exercise, breathing, and meditation) make it beneficial to those suffering from heart disease. Overall, studies of the effects of yoga on heart disease suggest that yoga may reduce high blood pressure, improve symptoms of heart failure, enhance cardiac rehabilitation, and lower cardiovascular risk factors.
Long-term yoga practitioners in the United States have reported musculoskeletal and mental health improvements, as well reduced symptoms of asthma in asthmatics. Regular yoga practice increases brain GABA levels and is shown to improve mood and anxiety more than other metabolically matched exercises, such as jogging or walking.  
[Source: Wikipedia]


I have recently discovered my inner yogi. She is a new friend- one I had resisted letting into my life for years. We'd met a few times before and didn't like each other. I thought her slow, cruel and unusual. She found me impulsive, fidgety and pertinacious.  Recently though, we have had a meeting of the minds (you could say) and are the best of friends. I mean don't get me wrong, we still don't see eye-to-eye on everything, but I suppose with increased age comes an increased openness and understanding. I have learned to stretch myself (pun intended). My inner yogi and I meet about three times a week. We share a lovely time together, albeit a sweaty, heart thumping, muscle burning experience, but a bonding one nonetheless. By the end of our time together I am energized, relaxed, stronger, receptive and peaceful. I probably would not have found my inner yogi if I wasn't ready to accept her. It also helps to have a great instructor, someone to bridge and help forge the bond. That brings me to our next wellness expert, Amy Beth Dixon, mother of four and my yoga teacher. She was kind enough to answer some questions I had about her practice for the nurturing your whole self for optimal well-being series. 

Amy Beth Dixon,
Certified Yoga Instructor- 250hrs.,
and her crew
How and why did you become a yoga instructor? In other words, what is your story, why did you start teaching yoga?
I became a yoga instructor for three reasons.  Firstly, I had practiced yoga since I was 20 and, although my personal practice began small, it grew and became for me the thing that became the cornerstone of my wellness plan.  Once I really accepted and committed to yoga I noticed immense changes in my life, both physically and mentally/emotionally and spiritually.  My physicality changed, going from a size 8 to a size 4 and as well losing 20 lbs.  It was interesting that during my seemingly fittest time (I taught aerobics in college and was very, very active and fit) that I was somehow holding so much more weight on my frame.  My family suffers from higher cholesterol and I also have hypothyroidism and those two conditions have as well improved since making yoga the focus of my wellness routine.  I am accutely more aware of what I put into my body and I make it a goal from myself to take nothing for granted and truly believe that every breath I take needs to be mindful and taken with gratitude.  So, my love for yoga was my first reason for wanting to teach it.  As well, I like to teach.  I have taught fitness classes since I was in college and I always really enjoyed lesson planning and driving a group toward a goal.  I have danced a lot in my life, so, yoga to me was just a really beautiful artform to teach to others.  Lastly, I have four children, and I was looking for something that could potentially give me an at home business so I would not have to return to the stresses and mania that was, for me, office work.

What is yoga? What type of yoga do you practice and how is it the same/different from other practices.  Please explain.
Yoga is defined as union.  It is this lovely balance of the physical, emotional/mental and universal pressence.  For many this last piece of yoga is a part of one's spirituality.  It is something that helps us stay very present minded and focused on our existence here on this earth.  The type of yoga I practice is called vinyasa or "flow" yoga.  Vinyasa refers to the linkage that one makes with their breath and their movement.  Vinyasa yoga is very akin to Ashtanga yoga but the postures are not performed in the same sequentially as in an Astanga practice.  Vinyasa is a very warm practice that is meant to help a person build heat and break through tensions (emotional and physical), the focus on breath helps us to stay very present minded and to deepen into our awareness of ourselves and our place within the universe around us. 

How does Yoga fit in to a person's overall fitness and/or wellness? You hear these terms health, fitness and wellness a lot - explain how yoga fits in.
There are many different forms of yoga that one can choose from.  If someone is a strong athlete and needs a way to open their bodies from tightness, one might use yoga to lenghthen the muscles that are over-worked.  Someone might simply enjoy the flowing, dance-like nature of a yoga class (vinyasa yoga specifically) and might want yoga to be the sole form of wellness for them.  Yoga should be something that is "practiced" daily.  It is a very unique form of physical wellness that becomes more beneficial to a person if done routinely.  Many yoga practioners recommend one practices at the same time each day in order to establish an ease of fitting yoga into one's daily life.  I recently heard a teacher say that yoga should not be on your to do list, that it is a part of your life.  I whole-heartedly agree with this.  Thinking that yoga is something you have to do, is not going to get you into a deeper, joyful connection with it.

Who does yoga benefit? Explain.
Everyone.  I have students in their early twenties and students in their early 70's coming to my class.  Yoga is one of those physical artforms that is appropriate for everyone.  Modifications can be made for nearly every movement so that the student is always safe and getting what they need from their yoga time.  I hope to practice my yoga as blissfully as I do now, at 39 years old, when I am 85 years old. 

Anything else you'd like to tell our readers?
I love this statement by Shiva Rea. 
Balancing in yoga and life is a reflection of our inner state.  Can we dance with change?  Can we fall and try again with playfullness and verve?  Do we have the focus, skill and attunement to find the still point within it all?  Touching the earth, we remember where we come from.  Yoga connects our body to the earth body, our roots to the soil, our breath to the prana of life.  ~Shiva Rea
Looking for some more yoga resources, check these out:


Thanks Amy for sharing your expertise with us. Next up, we'll learn from an expert on breathwork in our pursuit of nurturing the whole self for optimal well-being.   Shanti.

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