By Payge McMahon
The practice of meditation and yoga, a mind-body therapy, slows down the aging process and can help those suffering from traumatic brain injuries, post-traumatic stress disorder, chronic stress, back pain, anxiety and depression.
By linking breath with meditation and movement, yoga connects the physical and mental self. It increases energy, strength, flexibility, agility and balance, while improving mental and cognitive functioning.
While yoga has been around for thousands of years, recent studies from Harvard, the University of California and the University of Maryland have measured the physiological changes of yoga and meditation through neuro-imaging and genomics technology.
“There is a true biological effect,” says John Weber Denninger, M.D.,PH.D., Director of Research at the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital, one of Harvard Medical School’s teaching hospitals. “The kinds of things that happen when you meditate do have effects throughout the body, not just in the brain.”
University of California at Los Angeles and Nobel Prize winner Elizabeth Blackburn found that 12 minutes of daily yoga meditation for eight weeks increased telomerase activity, an anti-aging enzyme, by 43 percent, suggesting an improvement in stress-induced aging.
Benefits – Hormones, Memory & Aging
There are thousands of yoga poses or postures, also known as asanas. Each one has a multitude of benefits. Aside from building strength and flexibility, different poses can also improve the functioning of the endocrine system, which helps the body adapt to hormonal fluctuations, minimize oxidative stress that reduces skin’s elasticity as we age, boost immunity levels, endorphins and blood circulation that can improve mental and cognitive performance.
Ujjayi (Oceans Breath)
Linking breath with mediation and movement is key. The Ujjayi breathing technique invigorates the body while calming the mind. It helps concentration, holding yoga postures and moving from one pose to another.
1. Eyes can be open or closed
2. Place the tongue to the roof of your mouth
3. Through your nose, take a long, smooth inhale
4. Through your nose, take an equally long, smooth exhale
Try These 2 Poses
• Shavasana (Corpse Pose)
The restorative pose of shavasana or savasana is ideal for relaxation and mediation.
It can be done lying down on your back or stomach, with or without a pillow, arms relaxed and legs stretched out or bent with feet together. Engage the Ujjayi breathing technique.
• Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog)
This active, inversion pose is ideal for releasing tension from the spine, building stamina, stretching and strengthening the back, hamstrings, calves, shoulders, arms and hands. It calms the nervous system and can help relieve stress, insomnia, fatigue, headaches and the symptoms of menopause.
1. Start on your hands and knees, knees are hip-width apart, hands are shoulder width apart, fingers spread and along with palms firmly planted on the ground.
2. Curling toes under, lifting the hips, pressing hands into the floor, straighten the arms and legs, flatten the back and your body will come into a ‘V’ shaped pose.
3. Continue pressing yourself back, into your hamstrings, by distributing the weight evenly through your fingers and palms.
4. Squeeze the thigh muscles and turn triceps inward.
5. Let the neck be an extension of your spine. Gaze should rest underneath body.
6. Breathe (Ujjayi)
Payge McMahon is a yoga instructor and journalist. She specializes in training athletes and those recovering from injuries. She combines the best of Vinyasa, Budokon (martial arts influenced) and Iyengar yoga to maximize athletes’ performance and reduce recovery time.
Payge received her yoga teaching certification in 2008, through YogaWorks in Koh
Phangan, Thailand. She has studied in India and Nepal, trained with Shiva Rea, DDP
(Diamond Dallas Page) and Yoga for Athletes author, Sage Rountree. Payge has a B.A. from Pennsylvania State University and an MBA from California Lutheran University.
For more information: http://www.turnthepayge.com