I’m a girl on the move. I love hiking mountains and snowshoeing through forests. So when I had a chance to take a yoga class at Miles Perret Cancer Services, it stopped me in my tracks.
They had just dimmed the lights and told us to sit cross-legged on our mats, when my foot started to go numb. I was three seconds into my first yoga class and I was ready to leave. The thing is, I’m competitive, so I couldn’t just quit. (More on that later!)
Even with a numb foot and a racing mind, I knew yoga was good for me.
· By reducing stress and anxiety, yoga appears to modulate stress response systems, in turn reducing heart rate and lowering blood pressure (Harvard Health Publications)
· Eight weeks of yoga training improved muscular strength, muscular endurance and flexibility according to researchers at the University of California at Davis
· Studies show yoga has been associated with decreased cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and improved immune system function (WebMD)
· Yoga poses stretch your muscles, which releases lactic acid that builds up and causes stiffness, tension, pain and fatigue (WebMD)
Michael and Lydia Morton are the owners of Lafayette Center For Yoga. They volunteer their time to teach classes to cancer survivors at Miles Perret. They also have a yoga studio downtown. They introduced me to this new form of exercise.
A lot of people think you have to be super flexible to do yoga, but it’s not true. I’m living proof of it. Anyone can do yoga. My first class included a woman who had just had a mastectomy and was in treatment for breast cancer. Everything is at your own pace. Of course, that got me into trouble during my first class at the Morton’s downtown studio!
Yoga is about "reaching your edge”, not checking out the person next to you and trying to do what they’re doing. It’s a hard concept to embrace when you are brought up to compete with other people. It took one very exhausting class (let’s just say, I fell over the edge) for me to "get it”. Once I did, I felt so free. Yoga became all about how I felt and how much I could challenge myself.
When you go to a yoga class, the first thing they say is, "just breathe”. They want you to take deep, long breaths.
· Deepening and lengthening your breath stimulates the relaxation response in your body (WebMD)
· Studies show that controlled breathing shows promise in providing relief for depression (Harvard Health Publications)
These days, I find myself breathing deeply when I need to make a decision or when I’m stuck in traffic. In some ways I feel like yoga found me, which may sound hokey until you try it!
To watch a video about the benefits of yoga featuring local teacher Michael Morton, log on to milesperret.org and click on the events page.