Taking Your Yoga Off the Mat

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We’ve got another new voice this week on A Weight Lifted. Lori Wright, who was part of our Fitness staff a few years ago, recently rejoined us to lead our Fitness team.  We’re thrilled to have her back as well as excited that she developed a passion for teaching yoga and now is a certified yoga specialist. A yoga practice can be so valuable in helping a woman connect with her body, which is key to overcoming eating and weight struggles. Today Lori talks about what yoga has meant to her life, and it sounds valuable indeed!

Yoga – A Path for Living A Less Stressful and Healthier Life

yoga-breathe-oprah-winfrey-quoteWhen I first began my yoga practice six years ago, I began to notice some very interesting changes in my life within the first three months.  Of course, I became more flexible, but what I didn’t expect was what happened to my mind.

I first noticed it during a trip down to Boston to a yoga conference.  I was late and ran into some road construction and the next thing I knew I was traveling down a road that did not look familiar and I had no way of turning around.  I needed to get to the road “way over there” and I couldn’t get over.  People in other cars were honking their horns, giving me dirty looks and – gasp! – certain hand gestures.  My chest became tight and I began to blink tears away.

Then I remembered.  Breathe.

I took a nice deep yoga breath, right down to my belly.  A slow, complete exhale.  I stopped crying.  Another breath.  My shoulders began to relax away from my ears.  I began to realize how tight I was gripping the steering wheel.

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It’s a weird feeling when you get that “Ah Ha Moment” as Oprah likes to call it.  It’s like you separate yourself from your body and your soul approvingly says, “Yes.  That’s it.  You got it.”  A smile sprang from my lips as I realized I did not have to get stressed out.  I could do this!  And even if I was lost, I will eventually find my way to the conference.

During times of stress I remind myself of that moment driving in the car. All I need to do is to take a deep belly breath, so that I can calm myself down and receive clarity.  Perspective.

Ahhh…. Just Breathe

Clinical studies have actually proven the power of deep breathing will stimulate your parasympathetic nervous system (the opposite of the “fight or flight” mode), reduce depression and stress, improve circulation, and restore feel good hormones in the brain.

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I had never been aware of pranayama (breath work) until yoga came into my life.  Pranayama is typically done at the beginning of class, to calm and center you, helping to get rid of all the stuff you carried around before class.  It can look like basic deep breathing to your belly and filling up your lungs in three parts:  the bottom, the middle, and the top of the lungs.

Other breathing exercises include alternate nostril breathing, breath of fire, or ujjayi breathing (making a Darth Vader sound but keeping your mouth closed).  During class, you are reminded to remain present in the moment, and if your mind drifts to thoughts of the outside world, just return your awareness to your breath.

Breathing is a tool that I use not only on my yoga mat, but also when dealing with that crabby checkout person or my over-tired eight-year-old.

As the Anna Nalick song goes, “Just Breathe…”


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