Start with the mudra
Place the index and middle fingers on the third eye
Close the right nostril with the thumb
Begin to cycle breath in this pattern:
Perhaps you already know yoga can improve your flexibility, increase your strength, and calm your mind. Are you curious about the other benefits extend beyond your mat?
If you've been practicing Yoga for a while you may already be experiencing the benefits of regular practice. You can touch your toes for the first time since you were 17 years old? Perhaps you're feeling more calm even in traffic.
When you tell your loved one, 'You've got to try Yoga!' they shrug if off as something too esoteric, or far-fetched for them. It's clear they think your methods are out-there. So you back away slowly before word-vomit about your energy centers, oneness, and finding peace during chaos starts to surface!
Wait, don't stop! Western science is starting to catch up with Yoga wisdom. And there are some rock solid ways yoga improves your health and wellbeing. So, pull up a mat and let's dive into some of the amazing benefits of this profound practice!
Yoga Benefits in My Life
Yoga has been source of respite and healing for me since I was 14. It's been my mainstay for exercise and meditation throughout many turbulent times including financial instability from a young age, job loss, tumultuous relationships, the isolation of the pandemic, infertility, and helping me discover the self-confidence to engage in other powerful practices like distance running, weight-lifting, daily meditation and more. All of this helps me show up better in my life, and since I am a work in progress I'm very grateful this is an ongoing, life-long practice.
To be clear Yoga + Meditation were the tools - the healing comes from within. I think this is an important distinction. Yoga is a verb, and it means 'to yoke'. This implies we actually have to :: do :: something, and that the catalyst is not Yoga doing us, but us doing Yoga.
So if you've been far away from your mat... or your practice is feeling oh-so-trendy, and not-so-sacred lately ... here is some inspiration to come back home to a Personal Practice.
10 Ways Your Yoga Practice Helps Your Health
1. Yoga influences your neuromuscular pathways
Range of motion is a more dynamic way of talking about flexility. While some practices like Yin Yoga are more passive (and intentionally so) much of our asana practices work with controlled range of motion. This wires and rewires pathways between your brain and your musculoskeletal tissues that, over time, help us reach and maintain more optimal range of motion. This helps us find more comfort and safety off the mat in other athletics, and in everyday life.
2. Stimulates and Maintains Muscles
Physical strength is more than just having bulging biceps. Healthy muscle tone is important for metabolism, immunity, healthy aging, and even our mood! When you lift weights your body is adapting to the load of the external object and gravity. When you practice yoga your body adapts of the load of the body along with gravity. In both instances when the challenge is progressively increased the body will continue to adapt to the heavier or more difficult loading.
3. Promotes Joint Health
When you couple strength with the range of motion that you also find with Yoga it's a fantastic win-win for happy joints. Unlike blood that is primarily moved by the pumping by the heart (though muscles certainly help too) joint lubrication happens with motion. Motion really is lotion, and when we move our bodies thoroughly our joints are, in a sense, rinsed.
4. Increases Blood Flow
When our body is in a rest state most of the blood flow and work is dedicated to vital processes. When we engage in full-body movement more blood flow is diverting to the skeletal muscles. Increasing the blood flow all the way out to our fingers and toes can help improve total circulation.
5. Regulates Stress Hormones
Stress really gets a bad rap. We're wired to respond to stimulus. But so often we are over-responding. The challenging-yet-doable nature of a dynamic yoga practice coupled with regulated breath can help us find the right amount of response. Overtime our nervous system regulates more and more appropriately to the task at hand which can reduce excess dumps of cortisol.
6. Betters Bone Density
Weight bearing exercise of any kind creates small trauma to our bone, and as a response the body rebuilds the bone stronger. Repeated, controlled breakdown and rebuild repairs the bones to be stronger and healthier. This is one of the best ways to prevent osteopenia and osteoporosis. It is best to start BEFORE you begin to experience bone thinning and loss. And for those who are already prone to bone loss consult your doc, and also modify your practices to apply the appropriate challenge for your bones.
7. Enhances Posture
We spent a zillion hours in tech-neck position. We are slumped, humped, and dumped into our chairs, our cars, our couches, and at our computers. Yoga is the opposite. So much of yoga works at our end-ranges, requires local and global stabilization of the spine, and emphasizes the muscles on the back line of the body, This is is absolutely superb for undoing the screwing of our posture.
8. Boosts Immunity!
When you move your body it helps you drain lymph. Unlike blood, lymph requires movement to move. So, the rising of lymph helps the body's waste systems work properly. This helps us fight diseases!
9. Improves Concentration
We live in a scroll-happy world. Our attention spans have never been worse. Yoga is rooted in the concepts of contemplation and being-ness. The entire point is to bring ourselves into a space of focus and control in the midst of challenge, irritation, and stimulus. After all Asana means 'seat' and the seat is in preparation for meditation. I don't know about you but standing on my head, or twisting up like a rope don't feel like seats. But overtime as the seat becomes more familiar and I get more comfortable with the chaos of being upside down or twists, my capacity to sit still and focus improves.
10. Supports Self-Esteem
Yoga philosophy embraces a mindset of Unity. Our essence is connected to Source. Beginning to associate more with our Soul and less with the temporary nature of our body can be a comfort, especially on days when we are not feeling our best. And on days when we are excited about our beautiful bod, the self-esteem boost can be even more genuine because our appreciation for our body comes from a place of commitment and respect for what our body offers us rather than just how our body looks.
Now, I want to hear from you!
Let me know!
What benefits have you experienced from your practice?
The thing is - we can'y always 'think' our way to confidence. Sometimes the best way to gain new insight, and a sense of empowerment is from ACTION rather than thinking. We have to get into our bodies and create more space for ourselves.
Power is not a dirty word.
In Chakra theory from the Yogic tradition the seat of power is located in our solar plexus. This is the center of action, confidence, free will, and getting 'ish done. It also seems important to point out that this is a significant interchange in our energy system. It's hard to tap into love, truth, intuition, or our higher selves when we are feeling powerless. In exercise science when we take on BIG movement we also know it gets our blood pumping, and when we focus on core work it help support our spine so we stand a little taller, and can feel both stable and dynamic.
In this flow we focus on BIG and powerful postures along with core work to stoke our power center.
Hope you love it! Let me know after class one empowered action you can take today.
A personal practice I love is 3-Part Breath, or Dirga Pranayama, while tuning into my sacred Root.
I am here.
Root Chakra in Yogic traditions connects to our being-ness. It's the base of who we are.
When we are in a heightened state of arousal - and not in the ways that we desire - we sometimes interpret this state as stress or alarm.
Alarm bells can zip us up into our head, into the future, into planning and scheming and doing anything we possibly can to tamp down the threat, or avoid it completely.
The reminder of of the Root Chakra is that we ARE, we exist, we have flesh and matter and consciousness in this moment.
In everyday life we can come into our genuine, ordinary selves and take a very practical approach.
3 Part Breath.
Combine Breath & Mantra
Powerful experiences can come in when we focus our breath - which influences our nervous system and changes our energetic state - and combine it with Mantra. Mantra is a mind-tool. It is used to focus our attention which can be ultra helpful if the mind likes to take a road trip into future disasters.
Follow along to this practice on my podcast Personal Practice
This personal practice is all about acknowledging that you are, in fact, alive and here right now! And guess what?
You're totally allowed to be here and to take up space.
This Personal Practice may feel best if you are laying down on the floor. But if you don't have that option right now seated in a chair or up against a wall so that you have support on your back is great.
I find this Personal Practice powerful because it combines aspects of Yoga that sometimes get ignored. Specifically, this Personal Practice includes an asana (a pose, in this case seated or lying down) along with Pranayama (breathwork), Mudra (an intentional hand gesture), and Mantra (a mind tool, a phrase for focus).
Practices like this incorporate something else we know to be highly valuable for health, and that is somatic experiencing through the skill of interoception. This is one of my favorite concepts in Personal Practices.
Interoception is the skill of sensing what is going on inside the body. Things like hunger, or a sense of heaviness in the legs, or the rhythm of your heart. It is a hallmark skill honed in supportive trauma therapies, and somatic recovery programs.
We spend so much of our life stuck in our head. When we drop into the body, and become aware of all of the sensations, it is easier to feel fully connected to the present moment.
It is 100% possible to do this through a walk, a vigorous Power Yoga practice, or even a weight lifting session. But when we are highly aroused by movement it takes skill to not immediately assess the sensations (am I running fast enough, do I need water, should I stop, Im uncomfortable etc.). That's why simple practices like this can increase our skill in simply becoming aware of sensation, and that's it.
We don't have to assign a value to every itch. And in turn we can learn to approach our thoughts similarly - just as they are without labeling them too fast as true, false, good, or bad. I could obviously write about this all day. But this is a podcast and you're not here to read... you're here to listen :) So follow along and let me know how I can support your Personal Practice.
New things coming your way!
Specifically - a podcast!
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Body. Mind. Spirit.
Hi there! You found me. My name is Julia Marie Lopez. For 20 years I have studied meditation and mindful movement as my primary tools for healing. For the past 10 years I have worked as a wellness business owner, the Founder of Practice Everywhere, and now I am embarking on a new adventure to expand how we define our Personal and Public Practices.
Since I offer you my experience and perspective, share my writing about life, love and wellness, and offer a bit of unsolicited advice, I think you should also know that I do include affiliate links and promotions in some of blogs. If you make an action (such as sign ups, memberships, or purchases) I might earn a commission. I promise to use this income to support my love of coffee, dogs, yoga, and my family (in no particular order).💜