meditation

December Student of the Month: Katie VanderVelde

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Katie has just celebrated her 10-year anniversary of practicing Bikram yoga! She started her practice at a small studio in Lawrence, KS (the only studio in the whole state!) and it has traveled with her to all of the cities she has lived in since - San Francisco, Aspen, Kansas City, and now Phoenix for the past two years. Katie found Bikram Yoga when she was looking for an exercise where she could sweat and get a good workout in. She has since stuck with the practice because “I found something that taught me how to breathe, to cultivate peace of mind, and to let go just enough to unveil my own physical, mental, and spiritual potential,” she says.

Although she does enjoy other types of yoga and exercise classes, she has not found one that has made her feel quite like Bikram Yoga does. “The ‘feeling’ is hard to describe,” she says. She goes on to say, “I enjoy the sweat and the challenge, but I also love the hour and a half of silence. It's my meditation, exercise, detoxification, and therapy session all rolled into one - and there is no other way to get that all in 90 minutes!”

Katie has just recently given birth to a beautiful baby girl, Anna, on September 26th and practiced Bikram Yoga regularly (at least three times a week) throughout her entire pregnancy! She says, “Yoga helped me through all the aches and pains (both musculoskeletal and mental) from hormonal changes and a growing baby.”

Katie recently returned to Bikram yoga after taking two months off following the birth of her daughter. She says that her first class back after her birth was more challenging than her first ever Bikram yoga class stating, “my legs shook in every posture and my mind was racing the entire time... but as always, I left feeling better then I did before I got there!”

When asked what advice she would give to a new student, Katie says, “Follow the words. The words are designed for everyone. If you ever fall out of a posture or your mind falls off track, just listen and try to follow the words! You never know what your body is capable of.”

5 Benefits of Bikram Yoga:

5) You learn to love water - you will have a moment when you think "this water is the best tasting water I have ever had in my life!"

4) You don't get bothered by a little sweat (great benefit when you live in the desert)

3) Your muscles and joints are more mobile... and you can do more of the other things you love like hiking, running, biking, etc.

2) You learn to love yourself... when you spend 90 minutes staring at yourself in a mirror.

1) People want to be around you (after class). You always leave the room a better person, calmer with a clearer mind.

November Student of the month Christine Haryasz

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Christine has been practicing Bikram Yoga for three years! She used to be an avid runner but got a stress fracture in her hip and needed something more low impact but that still gave her a good workout, so she decided to try Bikram Yoga. It was the first kind of yoga she had ever done! She says, “I remember calling the studio and Steve answered and offered some kind of 30 day challenge or deal so I signed up. I came as much as I could in those 30 days and by the end I was hooked!” Christine said she ended up loving the classes and has been hooked ever since.

Before her yoga journey began, Christine used to have a lot more stressful and chaotic life. She attributes her newfound sense of calm and centeredness to her consistent Bikram Yoga practice. If she takes time off of yoga, a week or a month, she can feel it! She says, “I not only feel it physically, but I feel it in how I react to situations, how I eat- it affects everything!”

Christine’s favorite posture is Pranayama Breathing because “it gets my mind set and ready for class. It gets me focused. Most of my day is going and going, so it gets me really focused to start my class.”

When asked what Bikram Yoga has done for her, Christine says, “It has completely changed my life! I know people say that and you think- no it didn’t- but it really did! I had never done any form of meditation ever in my life, it changes you a lot.”

Top tips for new yogis:

  1. Listen to the instructors/teachers. Really. They are a fountain of knowledge.
     
  2. Your mindset is the difference between a good and bad class. But, if that fails, just think about the ice cream you will eat afterwards (this always gets me through a tough class/challenging posture)
     
  3. This yoga will change all aspects of your life (mental, physical, emotional, spiritual). Be consistent and stick with it!
     
  4. It will be the best 90 minutes of your day and nothing compares to the feeling you have when you are finished with a class.
     
  5. Relax!!  It's just yoga :)

3 Reasons Why Yoga Is Great For Your Heart: A Cardiologist Explains

By Dr. Joel Kahn

The practice of yoga is growing in popularity but it is still rare to see yoga classes incorporated into hospital programming or office based clinics. There are obvious mental and physical benefits to the combination of physical exercises, breathing and meditation.
Recent scientific studies have documented benefits of a yoga practice on important heart functions and a wider use of yoga in therapy of heart patients should follow.
1. Yoga reduces the frequency of atrial fibrillation (AF).  
Atrial fibrillation is the most common cardiac rhythm disturbance and leads to frequent office and hospital visits, costing millions (if not billions) of health care dollars.
 
It's an unpredictable disorder of the heart rhythm and can interfere with work, vacations and family gatherings when out of control.
Recently patients with intermittent AF were studied for three months as a baseline and then followed for three more months while practicing yoga twice a week for 60 minutes.
During the three months of yoga practice, episodes of AF dropped in frequency and patients rated their quality of life as better.  There were also decreases in blood pressure and resting heart rate. Patients up to age 80 were studied.
2. Yoga is good for people with high blood pressure. 
High blood pressure or hypertension (HTN) effects millions of people worldwide and can result in heart disease, stroke, and kidney failure. The usual therapy is medication and dietary.  Recently 50 patients with HTN participated in a yoga practice for 15 days lasting 2 hours each session. Cardiac function was assessed before and after this training.
After practicing yoga for two weeks the resting heart rate, systolic and diastolic blood pressures were significantly reduced.  A comparison group that did not do the training did not experience these beneficial trends.
3. It reduces stress. 
The autonomic nervous system (ANS) controls silently controls the function of the heart rate and blood pressure. A heart that is healthy demonstrates a wide swing in heart rate and blood pressure during inspiration and expiration and a disease heart shows little of this variability, a measurement called heart rate variability (HRV). HRV is influenced by the two parts of the ANS: the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous system.
Scientists compared HRV in long term practitioners of yoga compared to matched controls who did not practice yoga. The HRV was increased in the yoga practitioners and they showed less sympathetic tone (stress, adrenaline) and more parasympathetic tone (relaxation, vagal) of their ANS. Their cardiac response to day-to-day stress was improved with yoga.
Yoga should be considered by patients and practitioners as another "tool" in the tool box of controlling stress, HTN, and heart rhythm disorders. As many cardiac patients are elderly, modifications such as chair yoga and predominantly pranayama breathing exercises may be necessary, but are still beneficial.
Namaste.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com

About Dr. Joel KahnDr. Kahn is a Clinical Professor of Medicine at Wayne State University School of Medicine and Medical Director of Preventive Cardiology at the Detroit Medical Center. He is a graduate Summa Cum Laude of the University of Michigan School of Medicine. He lectures widely on the cardiac benefits of vegan nutrition and mind body practices.Connect with Dr. Joel Kahn: drjkahn.comMore from Dr. Joel Kahn on MindBodyGreen