First Street Yoga Community News and Blog

coordination makes it happen

After twelve years of working out at the gym, a student recently told me, she can finally use an exercise machine she’s been trying to master. It wasn’t the twelve years of working out, she explained laughing, but the single year of yoga that made the difference. How does yoga do that?

As we struggle to learn the yoga exercises (called asana) we begin to understand that our strengths and weaknesses are so connected they are like flip sides of a single coin. Often, lack of strength is not due to simple weakness (twelve years of working out will improve simple weakness). When we can’t do something that we’ve been trying to master for a long time, it’s usually because something else in us is undermining our efforts. One step up and two steps back.

Muscles in the body are often paired. When one contracts, the other should release to allow movement. One muscle may be very strong but if its antagonist muscle is weak by comparison, the joint will not move well. For healthy movement, coordination trumps brute strength.

The same need for balanced effort is apparent in life as well as in our bodies. For example, an ambitious personality may be good at identifying and moving toward goals but if the skills of focus and determination are not balanced by an equally robust ability to relax and enjoy, they may miss the satisfaction that should come from the achievement.

Yoga asanas are designed to balance the physical body. The equal emphasis on effort and relaxation helps us balance mentally and emotionally as well.

In yoga class, every student may be doing the same asana, but we’re all developing different skills as each individual investigates what they need to be better balanced. Then, almost like magic, the hard things get easier and the easy things get more interesting. You may find yourself wondering why it took so long.

Yoga in the News…

Yoga May Help Cancer Patients’ Fatigue, Insomnia After Treatment

By PAMELA MAZZEO, M.D.
ABC News Medical Unit

May 21, 2010

In the chemotherapy infusion room at the Staten Island University Hospital sit several cancer patients hooked up to IVs. But they aren’t leafing through magazines or staring at a talk show and worrying about their health.

Instead, their right legs are lifted up in the air, and they’re circling their ankles clockwise while breathing deeply under the instruction of their yoga teacher.

“Most people don’t look forward to chemotherapy,” said Kerry Gillespie, director of the hospital’s Center for Complementary Medicine. But he said the patients in this program look forward to the yoga class they take during their chemotherapy infusions every continue reading »

yoga classes help lower back pain

Ancient Discipline Cuts Lower Back Pain by Nearly Half in a
New Study

By Chris Emery
MedPage Today / ABC News
Sept. 6, 2009

Yoga helped people with chronic lower back pain improve their mood and ability to function, and it eased their pain more than conventional treatment alone, according to a new study funded by the National Institutes of Health.

People who were assigned to take yoga for two months experienced a 29 percent reduction in functional disability and a 42 percent reduction in pain, the authors reported in the September 1 edition of the journal Spine. Yoga was also associated with a 45.7 percent decrease in symptoms of depression over conventional therapy alone.

“Yoga improves functional disability, pain intensity, and depression in adults with [chronic lower back pain],” Dr. Kimberly Williams of West Virginia University and colleagues concluded. “There was also a clinically continue reading »

Home Practice Blues? Buy a Book!

If you’re eager to begin a home practice but unsure what to do, it’s time to get a basic practice book. First Street Yoga has several options to choose from depending on your needs and interests. Here are three favorites.

Yoga: The Iyengar Way, Silva Mehta, Mira Mehta, and Shyam Mehta.

Yoga books tend to come and go. This classic, first published in 1990, remains the basic standby for beginners due to clear, accurate instructions coupled with large, detailed photos. The variety of asanas, from beginning to intermediate, means you won’t grow out of this book for years. Basic sequences offer a course of study for structured students as well as remedial courses for specific problems.

The Woman’s Book of Yoga & Health: A Lifelong Guide to Wellness, Linda Sparrowe and Patricia Walden.

This informative book structures asana instruction around the stages of women’s lives, from puberty to menopause and beyond. It has obvious advantages for women dealing with a variety of problems, but it is also an excellent, easy to use reference for any woman who would like to learn basic asana sequences for continue reading »

want to change your body?

Change your mind.

My mother is considering another dalliance with the cabbage soup diet. She does this periodically. She says she doesn’t mind the soup and she always loses a fair amount of weight. After a couple months, the weight comes back, usually with a little bit extra. This fact never enters into her diet considerations. It should. Weight gain after a diet is as common as weight loss during the diet. What we know, scientifically, about diets can be summed up in three words: They Don’t Work. None of them. Most everyone gains the weight back. While a few individuals are successful in maintaining weight loss, they are the exceptions and there is no evidence that dieting was an aid in their success.

The good news is there is a proven method for achieving and maintaining a healthy weight. Better still, it doesn’t involve a lot of self-denial or austerity. You never have to count a calorie. This method has many side effects besides healthy weight: improved mood, increased immunity to disease, and greater physical comfort continue reading »