Yoga for your health

It’s that time of year again. As our plates become filled with demanding expectations, the whirlwind of stress and chaos inevitably invades our lives. Frequent last minute shopping excursions at crowded malls and unfinished “to-do” lists can drive us to sheer exhaustion and leave us desperate for a moment of solitude.
 
To alleviate tensions brought on by the holidays, yoga provides the optimal therapeutic retreat for rejuvenation of the mind, body, and soul. Centered on breathing, posture, and meditation, the art of yoga stretches beyond physical exercise and welcomes clarity and peace into our busy lives.
 
Rachel Lawrence Mor and Sara Alavi are among the many dynamic instructors at 3rd Street Yoga Studio. Mor, an attorney by day, has been practicing yoga for years. “The situation around the holidays is a microcosm – an exaggerated version of the rest of our fast paced lives,” she said. “So many of our diseases doctors will say are stress related. From fibromyalgia to lupus to auto-immune and heart diseases – anything is made worse, if not caused by stress. I started doing yoga out of need. In my teens, I consistently had panic attacks – I found that doing breathing work was the way to manage the anxiety.”

Alavi found yoga in 1998 when she lost sight in her left eye, endured heart problems, and was diagnosed with MS. Alavi's quest for the meaning of life led her to seek truth and solace in yoga, ultimately restoring and transforming her health and way of living.

"You learn how to get to know your body all over again so that you can do what you need to do everyday," said Alavi. “The average person that comes to yoga is overwhelmed, stressed, and has lower back and shoulder issues.”

In addition to strengthening and toning muscles, increasing spinal flexibility, improving circulation, aiding digestion, and enhancing endurance, various yoga styles are designed to fulfill specific, individual needs and desires.

"The most important aspect of yoga is breathing. Once you control the breath, you learn how to breathe into the postures and stretch into your body. Our bodies are meant to be open and each organ is in a place that we can expand and breathe. The key is to honor your body and where it goes," Mor explained.
 
Hatha yoga, a wondrous remedy for stress-reduction, awakens the basic foundation of being grounded in the asanas (poses) and remaining conscious of the breath. Ashtanga yoga harmonizes motion with breath into a comprehensive cardiovascular workout. To acquire a soothing state of tranquility, restorative yoga engages the body into deep relaxation postures.
 
Certain asanas have the power to channel a natural healing force and cleanse toxins throughout the entire body. "Our bodies are miraculous self-healing machines,” said Mor. “Yoga helps to loosen the blockage that is blocking us from healing and permits the internal healing to take place – it sets it free and unbinds it."

When her mother was diagnosed with lung and liver cancer last year, Mor used restorative yoga techniques to ease her mother's discomfort from chemotherapy and radiation treatments. At the Brain Tumor Foundation, Mor teaches people how to regain focus and achieve balance, energy, and confidence.

Yoga is the absolute spiritual experience for Mor. "It calms the mind and allows you to listen to a deeper level of existence. To receive the guidance and inner peace that we are meant to have comes from stilling the mind and body and listening deeply within. I do yoga because I feel God when I do yoga."
 
Allowing ourselves the space to create balance and define our boundaries and expectations is critical during this time of year. “The holidays should really be about seeking within,” said Alavi. “Ask yourself what is really important. Is it about the gifts or is it about celebrating life?”
 
Yoga encompasses the values of respect, compassion, discipline, patience, and acceptance. The essence of yoga is applying knowledge obtained through regular practice to the people and situations in everyday living.

“Yoga is my mission – to help the world become a peaceful place and make a difference," Alavi said.

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