In his book Light on Pranayama, B. K. S. Iyengar writes: “Prana is the breath of life of all beings in the universe.” It’s no surprise, then, that pranayama, or the regulation of breath, is an essential part of yoga practice. In fact, it’s unusual to enter into a yoga class that doesn’t have at […]
Amy Weintraub, MFA, E-RYT 500, is the author of the books Yoga for Depression and Yoga Skills for Therapists, and creator of the award-winning DVD series LifeForce Yoga to Beat the Blues. Founder of the LifeForce Yoga® Healing Institute, she offers professional trainings in LifeForce Yoga for Mood Management, and speaks at medical and psychological conferences internationally. www.yogafordepression.com
Q Describe what you do in 15 words or less.
A I inspire others to use yoga practices to remove whatever blocks them from knowing their true nature.
Q Tell us about a turning point in your life.
A I came to my first yoga teacher training at Kripalu in 1992 to deepen my own sadhana. I left with a passion to share with others the practice that had literally saved my life and had slowly helped me live a life free of medication for depression.
Q What do you love about teaching?
Goddess Pose, or Deviasana, represents the feminine force that created the universe. Hara is a Japanese martial arts term meaning “center of being,” and it refers to the stomach, or solar plexus, where the body’s vital healing energy is generated. Goddess Pose, in combination with breathing from the hara, is a powerful way to revitalize and renew the body, mind, and spirit. When the body’s hara is clear and open, vital energy can freely move down through the pelvis and legs and into the earth for grounding. However, fear, pain, and anxiety can cause this energy to become blocked. Goddess pose with hara breathing opens up the hips and chest so that power, strength, and energy can circulate freely.
Ready to try it out? Here’s how:
I’ve been interviewing healers and spiritual teachers for a while now, and when I ask them how to live a healthier and happier life, many offer the same answer: meditate.
I hate that answer. When I was 19, I attended a 10-day meditation retreat that necessitated giving up my worldly possessions for the length of the stay, not talking, not making eye contact with anyone, and sitting in silence from 6:00 in the morning until 9:00 at night, with short breaks for meals and meditation lectures. By day two, I was like a prisoner of war planning the Great Escape. One morning after breakfast, when no one was looking, I fled the retreat in a frenzy; I just couldn’t sit in silence for 10 days and do nothing. OK, so maybe “fled” is somewhat of an exaggeration, but the bottom line is I couldn’t take it anymore. I’m just not a fan of meditation. An admirer, yes, but not a fan.
But according to Panache Desai, the spiritual teacher and inspirational visionary who chatted with me during our Kripalu Perspectives podcast, you don’t need to meditate to live a healthier and more joyful life—you just need to incorporate one of the essential elements of meditation into your day.
“Watch your breath,” says Desai, “the inhalation and the exhalation.”
Scientists Offer an Explanation of Why Yoga Increases Well-Being
With the ever-growing amount of scientific studies conducted in the field of yoga research, it’s no surprise that we’re starting to get answers to the question: why, exactly, does yoga work? Research has shown that yoga improves symptoms of a variety of conditions, providing relief from depression and anxiety, diabetes, chronic pain, and even epilepsy. Recently, the National Institutes of Health awarded several large grants to the study of yoga.
One such grant, given to Lorenzo Cohen, PhD, director of the Integrative Medicine Program at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, explores the impact of yoga on the health of women with breast cancer. Another grant, awarded to Kripalu-affiliated researcher Sat Bir Khalsa, PhD, assistant professor in the Division of Sleep Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, supports a study to investigate whether Kripalu Yoga prevents or diminishes high school students’ use of illicit substances.
As a yoga girl who’s ever so slightly an introvert on the Myers-Briggs personality scale, I tend to be most comfortable with people one-on-one. In contrast, parties are not my thing: In about 10 minutes, my circuits are usually overwhelmed and I’m ready for a nap and a snack. As one snarky bodyworker once said a few minutes into our session, “I didn’t realize you were such a delicate little flower.” So it’s ironic that someone as energetically sensitive as me lives in a city like New York, where I’m often packed in with every flavor of human—sane, furious, nutso, aggressive, kind—in sardine-like proximity. The good news is that on the subway or in the streets, I don’t have to ask or answer questions for an audience. The bad news is that I have to work hard to not get squished by the enormous, busy humanity of it all.
What I’ve learned over the roughly 30 years I’ve lived in New York (born, raised, left, returned) is that being in a city is one of the best ways to practice energetic boundaries—essentially to not get squished and to not squash. To live in balance no matter how many tourists, artists, fashionistas, hip-hoppers, business dudes, or attack strollers are headed my way. Here are some lessons I’ve learned. I think they’re relevant for many of the spiritually sensitive among us and can be applied to being in crowds anywhere—at the mall, the supermarket, concerts, even while driving.