Yoga

International Yoga for Sight Event Begins in April

Yoga studios can still register to participate in global event to preserve and restore eyesight

Seva’s Fifth Annual Yoga for Sight event will take place throughout the month of April 2018. Registration is still open for yoga studios and instructors around the world to participate. The event raises awareness and support for Seva’s international efforts to preserve and restore sight and provide eye care services in underserved communities.

Yoga studios that engage with Yoga for Sight offer classes or other activities that in some way encourage participants to reflect upon the sense of sight, with the goal of raising funds to support Seva’s sight-saving programs in more than 20 countries around the world. Every $50 raised through Yoga for Sight will restore the sight of a person in need.

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Some studios offer classes in the dark or invite participants to wear blindfolds for the duration of the practice. Others offer a special meditation practice or show a film that profiles Seva’s work around the world to protect and restore eyesight in communities with limited access to medical care.

Funds raised through Yoga for Sight provide eye exams, eyeglasses, medical care and sight restoring surgery to adults and children living in impoverished communities in countries like Bangladesh, Cambodia, Tanzania, Nepal and Guatemala, as well as in Native American communities here in the United States. This past year Seva provided vital eye care services to 1,290,167 people in 21 countries. Nearly 70,000 had their eyesight restored, 118,498 received medical treatments and 105,815 were given glasses.

Around the world, 36 million people are blind, and another 217 million suffer from low vision. The World Health Organization estimates that 75 percent of this blindness and low-vision could be prevented or cured.

Studios big and small take part all over the United States and around the world. Through classes and events, participants get a chance to experience the personal fulfillment of practicing compassion in action. This year, studios from Alabama to New York and even all the way to Portugal have signed up to participate in Yoga for Sight.

“We tend to take for granted the things that are always there for us, and sight is one of those things,” said Grace Edmunds, Yoga Instructor in Berkeley, CA. “Through yoga and through the practice of compassion and empathy, we can open up to seeing people’s struggles and understanding them. That’s why it ties in so well: yoga and Yoga for Sight. I feel incredibly excited to be a participant in Yoga for Sight.”

For more information on Yoga for Sight, and to sign up for the event, please visit www.seva.org/YogaforSight.

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New to Yoga? Five Tips for a Successful Start

By Lara Alexiou

Yoga images bombard us daily. People are stretching, breathing, and meditating across all medias, all day long. While these frequent images provide a casual introduction to yoga, only an intimate personal practice in action reaps the rewards. Use these pointers to get started and discover for yourself how yoga relieves stress, alleviates chronic pain, and amplifies joy.

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Make your first yoga class an authentic experience. With so many online yoga class options available, it’s tempting to hide at home behind your virtual class and shy away from walking into an actual studio surrounded by other people. While many quality online classes are available, find a local class to attend in person. Alignment can be tricky to decipher on your own when you first begin. You’ll maximize your results with a professional instructor’s expert eye on you. Plus, a yoga studio is designed to create a distraction free “zen zone” for everyone, and that’s hard to duplicate at home.

Inform the instructor before class about any injuries or health concerns. Your recent surgery or health diagnosis may be the last topic you want to discuss in a new place while meeting the instructor for the first time. However, this information is invaluable for your instructor to identify your specific needs within the class. Knowing prescribed restrictions ahead of time allows the instructor to discreetly and easily modify the postures to maximize your ease and benefits. Yoga is a rehabilitation tool for the body and the mind; don’t let fear, injuries or chronic conditions hold you back from experiencing yoga’s benefits.

Arrive early. Yoga helps alleviate stress but running late to your first class amplifies the nervous tension before you even begin. Why enter class flustered and distracted? Instead, arrive fifteen minutes early, meet your instructor and settle into the studio.

Ask questions after class. Even a beginner yoga class can challenge you and push you out of your comfort zone. As a result, many first attempts in postures are wobbly, tentative, and even uncomfortable. Since most yoga classes employ a no taking rule during class, after class is the ideal time for questions. Wondering if a particular feeling is normal? Self-reflection and mindfulness are qualities a yoga practice encourages and seeks to develop. Your instructor will welcome your questions, desiring only for you to have the best class experience possible.

Attend three classes before passing judgment. While some of you will float out of your first class glowing and feeling totally renewed, many of you may feel uncertain about your experience. Attend three classes in order to tune into your body, the practice, and the studio. Many postures stretch not only your body, but also your boundaries. While you should not feel acute pain during class (be sure to see the teacher if you do), feeling uncomfortable and challenged is common and expected. Once you have a few classes under your belt, discomfort will transform into accomplishment, enriching your practice and leaving you craving more.

With countless yoga studios, teachers, and classes available today, if the first studio you try doesn’t meet your needs, find another. All studios have their own unique vibe and class offerings. Discover the class that speaks to your body, your mind, and you heart, and experience for yourself yoga’s healing touch.

About the author:

Lara Alexiou is the author of Become the Architect of Your Body, Mind, and Soul and owner of Steamtown Yoga.

She has been helping people transform their lives through the Eastern Healing Arts for nearly two decades. For more information and to read Alexiou’s yoga and wellness blog, visit her online at https://www.steamtownyoga.com/books and follow her on FacebookTwitterPinterest and Instagram.

 

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Yoga Science Teaches Us How to Transform Energy

by Leonard Perlmutter

You learned in grade school science class that energy can appear in either the potential or kinetic form. The electricity in the wiring of your home is available for any use you choose. When you turn a light switch to the “on” position, energy appears in the form of light. This is the kinetic state because the energy is being used or expended. However, when you turn the light switch to the “off” position, the energy remains in the potential state–ready to be used at the flick of a switch.

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The inherent power of fear, anger and self-willed desire can also be stored potentially or expended kinetically, and it is your personal attention that determines in which state the energy resides. If the mind’s conscience, known as buddhi in Sanskrit, defines a particular thought as a form of energy that will enable you to fulfill the purpose of your life (a shreya), it is suggesting that you transform the state of that thought energy from the potential into the kinetic by taking some appropriate action. In other words, you are encouraged to think about the shreya, speak in service to the shreya, and take some physical action in service to the shreya.

Such emotions as fear, anger and greed are not inherently bad or negative, for if they’re handled skillfully, they can become helpful resources. If the conscience (buddhi) recognizes them as merely an ego or sense gratification that conflicts with your own Inner Wisdom, (known as preya), you are being asked to renounce your attachment to them so that their intrinsic power can be transformed and stored for your future use.

The laws of physical science state that energy cannot be created nor destroyed, but it can be transformed. Viewing Yoga as a sister science, the ancients experimented with controlling, conserving and transforming the energy of thought. Through trial and error they realized that when they renounced a single preya desire-what could be seen as a momentary temptation or a negative thought — the energy of that desire manifested in a different form.

Recognizing this process, imagine what would happen if, instead of gasoline, twenty gallons of crude oil directly from the fields of Saudi Arabia were pumped into your car’s gas tank. It would wreck your engine. Crude oil is simply of no use in a combustion engine. To become an appropriate fuel for your automobile, the raw oil must first be refined.

Each of us has the capacity to employ a refining process that can transform the raw, inherent power of every thought, desire and emotion. When the mind’s conscience, the buddhi, intuitively advises that the unusable, destructive and constrictive power of a particular fear, anger or self-willed desire is appearing in your awareness in the form of preya, you, as a Yoga scientist, have access to a mechanism for capturing and transforming that power. This refinement process is accomplished by consciously and willingly renouncing your attachment to the preya.

Remember, in every moment, the buddhi is always present to advise you that it’s not in your best long-term interest to give the preya your continued attention. If you consciously or unconsciously choose to serve the preya in thought, word or deed, you will experience some form of physical, mental, emotional or spiritual dis-ease.

Every thought, word and deed is a means for spiritual unfoldment. Recognizing that desire is the fuel for human action, the ancient sages conceived a scientific formula that might well be called the spiritual equivalent of Albert Einstein’s E=MC2. The formula they discerned was D = E + W + C.

Every desire is composed of three basic components: energy, will power and creativity (consciousness). When you align every thought, word and action with the wise and good counsel of the buddhi by serving the shreya, you’ll be led for your highest and greatest good. When you willingly and consciously surrender your attachment to the merely pleasant, comfortable, familiar and attractive preya, you really give up nothing of value. The intrinsic power of the preya is not lost to you. Instead, your voluntary act of sacrifice automatically transforms the preya into internal reserves of energy and will power, and opens the doorway to the superconscious mind–your access to the Divine source of intuitive wisdom and creativity.

Conversely, when you go against the advice of the mind’s conscience (buddhi) by serving the ego or sense gratification that conflicts with Inner Wisdom in thought, word and deed, your internal strategic reserves of energy, will power and creativity are diminished.

The major crisis of our culture today is not one of IQ–intelligence quotient. Rather, the problem we face individually and collectively is one of WQ–will quotient. In twenty-first century America, countless people possess the intellectual capacity to make brilliant decisions, but because they are habituated to serving the limited perspective of the ego, senses and unconscious mind, their reserves of will power have become bankrupt. Without sufficient will power to exercise discrimination, their reserves of energy and creativity are similarly diminished. The more these reserves are depleted, the more frequent and severe the tension, stress, anxiety, burnout and pain.

As in banking, our personal balance sheet always reflects whether deposits or withdrawals have been made. The choice of solvency or bankruptcy is up to each individual.

In modern life, you need plentiful reserves of energy, will power and creativity to fulfill your many duties and responsibilities. You have obligations to yourself, your family, friends, business associates, society, the animal kingdom and the good earth Herself. Yoga Science teaches that everything you need for a happy, healthy and secure life is always available in the form of your thoughts, desires and emotions. A ready supply of power arises within you daily in the form of fear, anger and selfish desires. If you do not expend this power kinetically in the present moment, you can consciously conserve and transform it for use at another time. Yoga Science offers a systematic, practical method for conserving and transforming energy. It’s very simple, and all it takes is knowing how to direct your attention appropriately, based on the intuitive wisdom already within you.

About the author:

Leonard Perlmutter, founder of the American Meditation Institute (AMI), is the author of an acclaimed book The Heart and Science of Yoga: The American Meditation Institute’s Empowering Self-Care Program for a Happy, Healthy, Joyful Life, an encyclopedic guide to meditation and the Yoga Science that supports it. Praised by such international medical luminaries as Drs. Dean Ornish, Mehmet Oz, Bernie Siegel and Larry Dossey, this ultimate guidebook not only explains what to do, BUT WHY TO DO IT. It delves into Yoga Science, the eight-step method for managing the life force energy that propels us and connects us to the infinite power and creativity that is within and without us all. And the result of mastering it is the bliss and daily joy that comes from the realization of our connection. For more information, visit www.americanmeditation.org

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Six Ways Yoga Is Good For Athletes

Athletes have trainers who prepare weight-training regimens and stretching exercises, coaches who observe and correct their every movement, and physicians who check them for injuries. So do they really need one more way to train? The answer is yes, at least for athletes who want an extra advantage when it comes to balance, flexibility, breath, and mental sharpness.

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Yoga for Athletes (Human Kinetics, December 2016), yoga can bring a special edge to the performance of everyone from amateurs striving to improve their lives to professionals competing against elite athletes. Cunningham operates Flow Yoga Studio in Green Bay, Wisconsin, where she has instructed former Packers players B.J. Raji, Andy Mulumba, Tramon Williams, Mike Neal, and Jarrett Bush, as well as current Packer Randall Cobb and athletes from many other sports.

“Athletic careers are characterized by a chase for a better time, a stronger body, better split-second decisions, the ability to take a harder hit, and other ways of advancing,” Cunningham says. “Each athlete has unique needs, and a yoga practice benefits everyone in a special way.” She pinpoints six benefits of yoga for athletic performance:

1. Aid in muscle recovery. The deep breathing in yoga helps bring much-needed oxygen to muscles, helping them create energy to burn. The goal of recovery is to clear the muscles of the waste products resulting from muscle contraction, including lactic acid, to allow the fibers to fire again. While proper hydration helps by flushing those waste products out of the body, proper stretching of muscles more rapidly restores function. And yoga practitioners have always known the best way to stretch. “The more quickly your muscles bounce back, the sooner you can get back to training so that you will gain a competitive edge,” Cunningham explains.

2. Prevent injuries. The five main causes of sports injuries are lack of a careful warm-up, quick motions and twisting motions that stress joints, imbalance that trains one part of the body over others, tightness of highly trained muscles that lose flexibility, and overuse of the muscles. Yoga practice can help prevent injuries from the first four causes since yoga poses emphasize strengthening, stretching, and balance among all parts of the body. In sports like tennis, golf, and baseball pitching, imbalanced training is a serious problem. But yoga can bring the parts of the body back into balance, reducing the probability of injuries. It can also restore and preserve the flexibility that is often sacrificed by strength-building exercises by allowing the connective tissue to be restored through its emphasis on lengthening the muscles.

3. Reduce stress, increase focus, and relieve tension. When working out is a major part of training, exercise can actually create stress instead of alleviating it. Yoga can help athletes work through those stresses. During taxing times the stress hormone cortisol is carried in the body. Practicing a series of movements, poses, and deep breathing as part of a yoga sequence, however, decreases the levels of cortisol, helping an athlete feel more relaxed. “Another way yoga can help an athlete reduce stress is to require focusing on the pose, which means staying in the present instead of thinking about the past or the future,” Cunningham points out. Yoga can also help athletes practice living in the moment through concentrated breathing, creating a calming, quiet moment of meditation.

4. Strengthen underused muscles. It’s easy for athletes to fall into a training routine to strengthen areas that are most important for their sports. But they must remember that neglecting one area of the body can create weakness and imbalance, triggering discomfort and leading to more serious injuries. Yoga teaches poses that focus on all areas of the body, including small muscles like those in the wrist that actually take most of the weight and do most of the work.

5. Build your core. Yoga has always emphasized the central muscles that are the foundation of the entire trunk, helping protect the lower back and reducing injuries. Cunningham says a full yoga practice builds all the core muscles because the balance needed for holding the poses and stretches involves the deepest muscles of the body. All three layers of the core must be strong and work together to provide a balanced, effective yoga practice.

6. Improve sleep. Finally, yoga can train the body to relax. “While sleepless nights can be troubling to everyone, they are particularly damaging to athletes who are preparing to perform,” Cunningham stresses. “Relaxing is as much a skill as exerting your muscles.” Yoga helps athletes learn to relax by teaching them to concentrate on poses, which leads to the mind and body learning to understand the difference between effort and relaxation. Later, when focusing on relaxation, the muscles will be able to respond to the command to relax, translating to the bed for restful sleep. Yoga improves sleep with breathing since athletes consciously use breath to help them get into poses and then calm down at the end of practice, which also works before sleep as well.

Featuring sequences for popular team and individuals, Yoga for Athletes will help athletes learn the most useful poses for each body region. It also contains stories from successful professional and competitive athletes about how yoga helps them improve performance and gain an edge on the field, court, or road. For more information on Yoga for Athletes or other yoga books and resources, visit HumanKinetics.com.

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