How to Feel More Calm and Connected Right Now

Originally published here on Yogalicious


To connect and check-in with my students, I have long opened my yoga classes offering the general question,  “How are you today?” Most often, as one student shares an answer, many others agree that they too feel similarly.  With the news reports of the past few weeks, it is no surprise that my inquiry is currently revealing feelings of angst in many of us.

Last week, the first answer to rise from our group was, “My shoulders… they’re so tense. My whole body is so tense.”

Another added, “Me too. And I can’t relax.”

More heads nodded as he continued, “My mind is racing all the time. I just can’t settle down.”

Heads nodded in agreement as a depleted voice rose from the back of the room, “I feel like I’ve been holding my breath…. for months.”

The harder it is to breathe, the more anxious we get. Literally. As our breath grows short and shallow, our fear center is alerted, and our body reacts. We become tighter and more rigid, then breathing becomes harder still. This cycle begins and then feeds on itself, leaving us even more tense and anxious. And when we are in this cycle, it is neurologically impossible to feel “okay”.


When a flight attendant tells us to put on our own oxygen mask before we attend to others, what we’re really being told is that we cannot help someone (or ourselves) in an emergency if we are at the mercy of our own anxiety. We become unable to thoughtfully attend to what’s going on right in front of us.

And the truth is that most of us are in some version of this cycle all day long. In fact, we typically don’t even realize how minimized our breathing is most of the time. We’ve gotten so used to feeling restricted, we don’t have any idea that it’s not the way our body is naturally meant to feel.

We can become “breathless” in the blink of an eye. In fact, the stress response initiates in about one-twentieth of a second—the time between two heartbeats. So if we feel provoked, scared, or humiliated or ashamed, our breath becomes short and shallow instantly, the same way it would if we were frightened and had to sprint from danger.

The less freely we breathe, the more anxious we feel. The good news: Mindful breathing can break this loop.

When we slow down our breath and become present, it’s like we are recharging ourselves. Getting grounded and becoming present are practices we do in tandem.

We practice feeling our body land on the earth. And then we practice paying attention to the single thing that can unfailingly anchor us in the present moment: our breath.


Breathing is not an “activity” we need to accomplish. It is simply a process that we allow to happen. But we can do practices to create conditions for the breath to flow more freely – which allows our body to feel more calm, and  our mind more clear and present.

As we practice letting go of effort and feeling the ground support us, we begin to experience the natural rise and fall of the breath. We notice that after an exhale, our lungs spontaneously and organically fill again with air. The breath is simply waiting for more room so that it can fill us. And we can begin to see how our breath is our life partner, always there for us—without question. Similar to the way we learn to rely on the support of the ground, becoming aware of our partnership with the breath reinforces our experience of connectedness. Of not feeling alone.

Here are three simple ways to pause and reconnect with your breath through out your day:


Experience a 3-minute breathing video-practice that can help to calm your mind and  center you in the present moment.
The video from here

Flow through a simple 3-minute sequence of mindful movement video-practice to expand your breathing, clear your mind, connect you with your body.

Jillian guides listeners through a Three Breath Pause on CBS Radio and shares a bit about how mindful breathing calms us.  (Listen to the Extended Interview here. )

Art becomes means of communication, charity for autistic Knoxville boy

Originally published here on

Soren Fielland has a passion for drawing. In the close to seven years he has been practicing his art, Soren has created thousands of drawings, an impressive feat for any child and even more impressive for a non-verbal, legally blind 12-year-old with autism.

Soren, who attends Bearden Middle School in Knoxville, celebrated his 13th birthday a little bit ahead of schedule on Sunday with a public showing of over 100 pieces of his own original art at the Breezeway Yoga Studio on Kingston Pike. Drawings covered the studio’s walls while friends, family members and visitors admired the massive portfolio of work that Soren created.

Shannon Fielland, Soren’s mother, explained that drawing has become a way for Soren to communicate with those around him and that his subjects have a way of working themselves into his limited vocabulary.

“It helps us to know what’s on his mind, and then it also gives him something that he’s motivated to talk about,” Fielland said.

Soren frequently uses fairy tales and nursery rhymes in his drawings, Fielland said, as those stories have helped him communicate things that might otherwise have been challenging for him to share. She recounted a story in which Soren used a line from a common fairy tale to warn her about a hot cup of tea.

“It’s opening up the door for language, so we can sometimes speak in fairy tale,” she said. “I made him some tea the other day, and, ‘This porridge is too hot,’ from (Goldilocks and) the Three Bears came in, so we use that to bridge some of the communication gap.”

Soren’s passion for art found an altruistic purpose on Sunday as close to 150 of his original drawings were put on offer during the celebratory show with a portion of the proceeds going to support the AfterStars afterschool program at West Park Baptist Church, which helps students with special needs explore their creative potential. Jill Summers, who works for the AfterStars program, explained that the program tries to provide a structure that allows students facing different challenges to grow and explore their interests in their own ways.

“Most of the time we try to embrace what the children like, what their interests are, and his interests are obviously art, so we make sure to have an environment that’s set up for him daily, so that when he comes in he’s happy,” Summers said.

Hope Dunn, who also works with AfterStars, explained her joy in seeing Soren’s art become a vessel for supporting a program that he has thrived in.

“It’s just as fulfilling for us as the families,” Dunn said. “We’re building community, and that’s something that they didn’t really have an opportunity to do before.”




For Fielland, the support that her son has enjoyed and the passion he brings to drawing offer a lesson on confidence and the creative spirit for everyone.

“We’re all so very lucky to know this little guy,” she said. “He teaches all of us as much as anybody can possibly teach anyone. He tells us a lot about what it is to just be unabashedly yourself and encourages everyone to be just a little bit more creative.”

18 Amazing Benefits of Yoga, According to Science

Originally published here:

Yoga is becoming more mainstream in western cultures as those who practice it realize the numerous physical, mental, and emotional benefits that come with the ancient art.

Science has proven that yoga can have a transformative effect on the body, resulting in everything from lowered blood pressure to disease prevention. Here are some of the many health benefits of yoga, as proven by science.


1. Regular Yoga Practice Relieves Stress and Anxiety

Almost every benefit that comes from regularly practicing yoga stems from the activity’s proven stress-reducing properties.

Stress has become the norm in our everyday society. With high-pressure careers, children’s demanding schedules, and little time to focus on self-care, more adults than ever are experiencing dangerously high levels of stress.

Those who experience frequent stress and anxiety are at a higher risk for clinical depression, high blood pressure, chronic disease, insomnia, and a host of other problems. When the body becomes regularly anxious or stressed, it may never get the signal to return to normal functioning.

This can lead to a prolonged ‘fight or flight’ response that is incredibly draining on the body and the mind.

Preliminary research shows that practicing yoga can have the same stress-reducing effects as exercise and relaxation techniques, which makes sense because it is essentially the combination of the two.

The controlled breathing that is inherent in practicing yoga is probably the biggest factor in reducing stress. When focused on breathing, participants have little room to engage in irrational fear, worry, or other obsessive thoughts, many of which are contributing to their stress levels.

Yoga also helps increase mindfulness and the focus on gratitude, both of which help to ease anxiety.

When we take the time to practice yoga, we are taking time to care for ourselves. This has taken a back seat in our current culture, and yoga can teach us to get back to basics.

Focusing just 20 to 30 minutes a day on the self-healing practice of yoga can then lead to other beneficial activities. It can be a gateway to a more calm, focused life.

Bottom Line: Yoga can help reduce stress and anxiety by focusing on breathing and increasing mindfulness and focus on gratitude.

2. Practicing Yoga Improves Cardiovascular Health

Heart health is crucial to our overall wellness. Hypertension and coronary blockage leads to hundreds of thousands of deaths every year.

Relaxation is incredibly helpful when it comes to heart health as it relaxes the blood vessels and reduces blood pressure while increasing blood flow to the heart. Because of its combination of breathing, meditation, and slow controlled movement, yoga is one of the most relaxing exercises on the planet.

Yoga, especially the more energetic forms, also increases the heart rate. This makes it as beneficial to your heart as any other form of exercise. In fact, yoga may actually lower the risk of heart disease as much as traditional exercise such as brisk walking.

Those who are interested in the cardio benefits of yoga should try out the more active forms such as ashtanga yoga, which provide more of a bump in heart rate than other forms. They might also consider pairing a vigorous form of yoga in the morning with a relaxing form in the evening to provide more stress-reducing and sleep benefits.

Individuals who have suffered a heart attack or are recovering from other heart-related issues also benefit from yoga. Because they are unable to perform more strenuous exercises such as jogging or bicycling, the low-key and less strenuous poses of yoga give them the exercise they need without taxing their already strained heart muscle.

In addition, those who have suffered a cardiac event also benefit from the stress-reducing effects of yoga. Having a life-threatening heart attack or stroke can induce acute emotional stress, which continues to have a negative effect on the heart even after the event is over.

Those who have heart-related illnesses often have to face the fact that they have a life-altering condition. This can often cause grief or depression, both of which are proven to be eased by yoga.

Bottom Line: Yoga improves cardiovascular health by lowering blood pressure, offering relaxation benefits, and increasing blood flow to the heart. It’s also beneficial for those recovering from a heart attack.

3. Yoga Strengthens Brain Activity

As we age, our brains change. Certain parts, such as the prefrontal cortex and hippocampus, shrink. Because these areas are crucial to our learning, memory, planning and other mental activities,

This can lead to frustrating memory lapses, inability to focus, and a struggle to retain new information. In extreme cases, in can even lead to neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s or dementia.

Not surprisingly, yoga promotes a more focused, calmer mind through its controlled breathing and focus on relaxation. What may come as a surprise, though, is that yoga can actually change the physical makeup of your brain matter.

Using MRI scans, scientists have detected more cells in certain brain areas of those who practiced yoga regularly. Yoga practitioners had larger brain volume in their somatosensory cortex, visual cortex, hippocampus, precuneus and posterior cingulate cortex. These areas are in charge of visualization, concept of self, and directing attention.

Scientists attribute these benefits to the focused breathing in yoga, which maximizes oxygenation and blood flow to the brain. These benefits also led to fewer depressive symptoms and increased memory performance in practitioners.

The happier and more positive thoughts that flow from yoga can also help change the chemical composition of the brain and ‘rewire’ it to focus more on positive thoughts.

When we break the habit of reacting to stressful events with anxiety and negative thoughts, which yoga helps us do, we encourage the mind to embrace more beneficial thinking. This helps us embrace the present moment and let go of harmful anxiety.

Bottom Line: Yoga helps increase brain matter in various areas of the brain, leading to better memory, less depression and more focus. It also helps rewire the brain for positivity and promotes a calm mind.

4. Practicing Yoga Can Lower the Risk of Cancer

Cancer remains one of the leading causes of death in the United States. In fact, one of four deaths in the U.S. can be attributed to some form of cancer.

Practicing yoga may prevent the genetic mutation from expressing in those who have a family history of cancer. This means that it can have powerful cancer prevention properties. It can also help reduce fat stores in the body, which reduces the likelihood of cancer developing and spreading.

Chronic stress, which yoga helps to reduce, weakens your immune system and leaves you more susceptible to diseases like cancer. It can also enable cancer cells to grow and spread as it increases negative hormones and certain growth factors.

The stress-busting quality of yoga can boost your immune system and regulate hormones, both important cancer-fighting tools.

In addition to cancer prevention, a regular yoga practice with the soothing music from yoga DVDscan also help those who are battling cancer by lowering inflammation, boosting energy, and lifting the mood. One study showed that regularly practicing yoga for three months was effective in improving the negative moods of those undergoing treatment for breast cancer.

Cancer treatments can also cause fatigue and zap strength in those undergoing them. Yoga has proven beneficial in combating these symptoms and can improve range of motion in patients and help them stay limber and active.

Bottom Line: Yoga can help prevent cancer by reducing fat stores and preventing genetic mutation expression. It can also assist those undergoing cancer treatments by keeping them limber and boosting energy.

5. The Deep Breathing and Poses of Yoga Improve Digestion

Devotees of yoga believe that all health begins in the gut. If we are digesting food, air, water, and energy properly, every other part of the body and mind suffer.

Yoga improves our body’s internal rhythms, which assist in how we digest and detoxify. Even if you don’t currently suffer from any outward signs of impaired digestion, increasing our body’s ability to remove toxins is extremely beneficial.

Many people suffer from poor digestion and constipation. Not only is it uncomfortable, but it can also lead to colon cancer and other diseases.

Still others have developed chronic digestion disorders, such as irritable bowel syndrome or Crohn’s disease. These disorders can have a serious impact on our quality of life.

Relying on laxatives or other interventions is not a good way to combat digestive issues, and many find that a high fiber diet is not enough to resolve their issues. That’s where yoga can come in handy.

Deep breathing, the cornerstone of all yoga practices, is like a mild massage for the digestive tract. Breathing brings life force into the body, and helps cleanse it of dangerous toxins.

There are also a number of different poses, such as the peacock and nauli, that are designed specifically to get waste moving through and out of your body. Many of these are best done in the morning on an empty stomach and after a glass of warm water with lemon.

In addition to being helpful for improved digestion on its own, the practice of yoga also encourages individuals to take care of themselves with a healthier diet, more rest, and fewer processed foods and beverages.

The increase in self-care helps not only with digestion, but with feeling good as a whole.

Bottom Line: Yoga helps move toxins through the body with deep breathing and specific poses aimed at improving digestion.

6. Those Who Practice Yoga Are More Aware of What’s Going on in Their Bodies

The term ‘body awareness’ can take many forms, each of which can be enhanced by the practice of yoga.

As we grow into adults, most of us start losing touch with our bodies as matters of the mind take over. We focus so much on our thoughts and feelings, we forget about the mind-body connection and how powerful it is.

This can lead to a reduction in the enjoyment of simple pleasures such as the feel of the sun on our face, or the warm breeze across our skin.

It can also lead to a disconnection between ourselves and our bodies. As we age, this disconnection becomes more pronounced, which is why we often hear of seniors experiencing more falls and accidents than their younger counterparts.

When we’re aware of and connected to our bodies as we step into our yoga pants, we’re able to better enjoy the present moment and understand what impact it has on us both physically and mentally.

Yoga brings body awareness to the forefront. Each pose is focused on one or more body parts and as we breathe in and out, we are only only aware of that breath but also of the part of the body we are currently stretching.

Yoga is also based on being aware of what your body is and is not capable of. Because no pose should be forced, those who are practicing yoga must listen to their body and make adjustments based on what it is telling them.

Bottom Line: Yoga helps increase the mind-body connection. This enhances enjoyment of the present, and also encourages us to be more in tune with how our bodies move.

7. Yoga Practice Lowers Sugar Levels in the Blood, Decreasing Diabetes Symptoms

Diabetes is an epidemic that is becoming quite common in the United States. A condition that is triggered by high blood sugar, either due to lack of insulin production in the body or the body’s lack of response to insulin, diabetes can lead to a dependence on medication, amputations, or even death.

Type 1 diabetes tends to develop in childhood or early adulthood and is usually genetic while type 2 diabetes usually develops in adulthood and is often a product of an unhealthy lifestyle.

Along with lowering blood pressure and keeping weight in check, yoga helps with diabetes by reducing the levels of sugar in the blood, all of which help slow the rate of progression and lessen the severity of complications.

Though it’s a more gentle form of exercise than most people are used to, yoga still provides a workout. The boost in heart rate experienced by yoga practitioners can improve glucose metabolism and increase insulin sensitivity, both beneficial to diabetes sufferers.

Cravings for sweets is a common symptom of diabetes, and the ensuing consumption of sweets only aggravates the problem. Deep breathing, yoga positions, and meditation can help reduce these cravings.

When we become more aware of the mind-body connection through the practice of yoga, we can identify what our bodies really need and make healthy decisions about what we put in our body.

Bottom Line: Regular practice of yoga can decrease blood sugar levels, keep weight in check, and reduce stress, all of which help improve diabetes symptoms.

8. The Practice of Yoga Can Help Regulate Your Adrenal Glands

Adrenal fatigue syndrome can cause lack of energy, disrupted sleep, anxiety, and a number of other symptoms that are triggered by a sustained ‘fight or flight’ response in the body. This can result from prolonged levels of stress, a traumatic event, or a stressful living situation.

When your adrenal glands are not functioning correctly, too much cortisol is released into your body and it compromises your immune function. Those who have adrenal fatigue syndrome get sick more often and have a lowered level of energy to deal with the sickness. They are also more susceptible to osteoporosis and high blood pressure, and tend to gain more fat in the abdomen area.

Mastering the breathing that is the center of all yoga practices is a key element in managing stress levels. Because high stress is the main contributing factor to adrenal issues, it makes sense that this type of breathing will lower cortisol levels and lessen the symptoms of adrenal fatigue syndrome.

When we practice yoga, we also give our minds a chance to quiet down and take a break from any negative our repetitive thoughts that often take over when our adrenal glands are overwhelmed.

This can be a beneficial time to check in with ourselves and identify how we’re feeling. Those experiencing high stress often put themselves last, which only leads to more stress.

Yoga encourages us to to take some time for ourselves. When we look deep, breathe, and practice self-care, we can often deal with negative emotions and the situations that are causing them.

Bottom Line: The regular practice of yoga can reduce stress and lessen the release of cortisol, helping to combat the symptoms of adrenal fatigue syndrome.

9. Yoga Strengthens Bones

Weight-bearing activities have long been known to strengthen bones, which is why many of those who are at risk for osteoporosis are encouraged to begin a strength-training workout regimen. Yoga training, with its many positions that  put pressure on different body parts, can be considered weight-bearing and has shown the ability to build bone mass in scientific studies.

In contrast to other, more intense cardio exercises like jogging or weight training, yoga does not damage cartilage or stress the joints. Instead, it lengthens and holds muscles, which creates tension on the bone. This helps to build bone strength.

The release of cortisol, the hormone triggered by stress, is another factor in osteoporosis. Yoga, with its relaxing and stress-calming nature, can reduce the amount of cortisol that is released and therefore lessen the impact it has on the bones.

As few as a dozen yoga poses held for 30 seconds each, if done on a daily basis, can be enough to ward off osteoporosis and strengthen bones in the spine, arms, and legs.

Bottom Line: Performing weight-bearing exercises, including various yoga poses, can reduce calcium-destroying cortisol and build bone density.

10. The Healing Powers of the Breath Aid in Improved Respiration

Yoga is all about harnessing the healing powers of the breath. Though all of us must breathe to live, most of us do not breathe efficiently.

Experts agree that to feel your best, you should breathe approximately 5 to 6 breaths per minute. However, most of us take anywhere from 14 to 20 breaths per minute, which is three times faster than what is healthy.

Breath changes depending on emotion, and vice versa. When we get panicked, upset, or angry, we tend to breath more shallowly and at a faster rate. When we get used to breathing this way because of chronic stress, our body gets used to it and we develop the habit of breathing quickly even in normal circumstances.

When we breathe at a slow and relaxed pace, we are signaling to the brain that it can rest and that no dangers are present. This reduces stress hormones, turns off danger warnings, and allows our body to recover.

Not only do we turn off the ‘fight or flight’ response of our nervous system when we breathe deeply, but we also increase chest wall expansion and lung volumes. This is beneficial to all who practice yoga, but can be especially important for those dealing with a respiratory illness or condition such as asthma.

Everything in yoga is based on the breath. Pranayamic breathing exercises can be performed anywhere when you are in need of stress relief or relaxation. Make sure the air quality in your practice environment is good, however – consider getting an air purifier if that is not the case.

All other forms of yoga, from the extremely gentle restorative yoga to the more intense vinyasa and ashtanga practices, also rely on a basis of breathing deeply and being aware of how your breathing affects every part of your body and mind.

Bottom Line: All forms of yoga are based on breathing. The regular practice of yoga teaches us how to pay attention to the breath and can improve lung volume and chest capacity, helping those who deal with respiratory issues.

11. Chronic Pain Can Often Be Managed Effectively with Yoga

Chronic pain, whether caused by a disease like fibromyalgia, an accident, or a side effect of treatments for other conditions, can easily impair quality of life. If bad enough, it can also trigger brain structure changes that are linked to impaired cognition, anxiety, and depression.

The regular practice of yoga can help those with chronic pain manage it on a number of levels. If pain is due to muscle or joint issues, such as the case with arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome, or back pain, the simple act of regular stretching with a yoga ball chair and range of motion exercises can be enough to significantly reduce pain.

The increased flow of oxygen to brain and muscle tissues that results from the breathing and movement of yoga also help improve energy levels and general feelings of well-being, making it easier to deal with physical pain.

This breathing, combined with the physical movements of yoga, can help release muscle tension held in your body. This often decreases pain or, in some cases, relieves it entirely.

The benefits of yoga as it relates to pain management do not stop there, however, Yoga also appears to increase gray matter in your brain through a process called neurogenesis. There are also indications that it can strengthen white matter connectivity. Many researchers believe that reduction of gray matter and weak connectivity are the most significant factors in chronic pain.

Yogis dealing with pain can also benefit from the stress reduction and decrease in cortisol release the practice brings. This not only helps with tension, but can also help them cope with the anticipation of pain. Instead of having a ‘fight or flight’ reaction to pain, those who have practiced yoga may be able to form a more gentle reaction that does not trigger additional stress.

Bottom Line: The breathing and movement associated with yoga can help those suffering from muscle or joint pain. Regular yoga practice can also trigger changes in the brain that can help chronic pain sufferers deal with and lessen pain symptoms.

12. Those Who Practice Yoga See Fewer Allergy Symptoms

Do you deal with the misery of itchy eyes, scratchy throat, fatigue, and congestion that comes with allergies? Millions of people suffer from allergies brought on by pollen, grass, dust, pet dander, or other substances to the point that it affects their work, their social life, and their sleep.

How do allergies develop? Many scientists have studied the phenomenon and found that an allergic reaction occurs when your immune system over-responds to an otherwise harmless substance. Your body mistakenly treats this substance like a dangerous invader and releases histamines.

Histamines are a faulty immune response, and they can condition the body to display symptoms that start to resemble a disease. Many argue that, to be susceptible to allergies, sufferers may have a compromised immune system, weak digestive system or be experiencing toxic overload.

Yoga addresses many different levels of wellness that can lead to a reduction in allergy symptoms. Stress is a leading cause of a poor immune system and digestive problems, and can also be a toxin that makes the body weaker.

As we’ve already addressed many times in this article, the regular practice of yoga is one of the best stress reducers on the planet. Of the many benefits of stress reduction, an improvement in allergies is just one.

Kriyas, or cleansing practices, are another element of yoga that can help with allergies. These practices range from rapid breathing exercises to gentle cleansing of the nasal passages with salt water, which can remove viruses and pollen from the nose.

Studies have also found that regular yoga practice may reduce inflammation in the body. Another harmful effect of stress, inflammation can worsen allergies and cause attacks to be more severe.

Bottom Line: Those who practice traditional yoga or engage in cleansing kriyas can reduce their susceptibility to allergies and also improve the symptoms associated with them.

13. The Increased Blood Flow and Reduced Stress Associated with Yoga Can Increase Fertility

Couples who have struggled with conceiving a child often turn to fertility drugs or even more intensive measures of in vitro fertilization to realize their dreams of having a baby. Before turning to costly and sometimes side-effect laden treatments, couples should first explore the more gentle treatment of practicing yoga.

Yoga enhances fertility in the ways one might expect: by reducing stress that can often harm the chances of conceiving. Stress can lead to the release of an enzyme, called alpha amylase, which can impact a woman’s fertility. Many women who have problems conceiving are stressed to begin with, then become more stressed as they fail to conceive. This can lead to a vicious cycle where stress continues to increase each month, making it more and more difficult to get pregnant.

In addition to stress reduction, yoga can also increase blood flow to reproductive organs, which not only improves their function but also improves hormone function.

All regular yoga practices can help with fertility, but those who are actively trying to conceive may benefit from the more targeted fertility yoga practice. This is aimed specifically at nurturing, supporting, and strengthening the endocrine and reproductive system.

Fertility yoga incorporates specific poses that re-balances the system and strengthens muscles and organs that are used during pregnancy and childbirth. This helps make for a healthy pregnancy once a woman conceives.

Bottom Line: The stress reduction and rebalancing benefits of yoga can help women who want to conceive. Those struggling with fertility issues may want to practice targeted fertility yoga that helps with both conception and a healthy pregnancy.

14. A Consistent Yoga Practice Can Lead to a Balanced Metabolism

Your metabolism is the basic biochemical process that converts the food you eat into the energy you need to live. A sluggish metabolism can mean weight gain, low energy, and problems with regularity.

Though long thought to be a practice focused mostly on relaxation and stretching, yoga can actually be a moderately strenuous workout that increases muscle, increases heart rate, and revs up the fire of your metabolism.

In addition to increasing heart rate to boost metabolism, the practice of yoga also affects digestion, circulation, and muscle tone, all of which have an impact on how efficiently your body creates energy.

With the majority of your digestive tract located in your core, the yoga positions that engage the abdomen, especially those that involve twisting or bringing the knees to the chest, can wring out toxins and encourage waste to pass through your body.

Circulation is another factor important to your metabolism. If your body has poor circulation, your organs suffer from a lack of nutrients and oxygen, which slows metabolism. The deep breathing inherent in yoga helps open up arteries and release pressure, all of which help with proper circulation.

Many people make the mistake of thinking yoga is not strenuous enough to build muscle mass. However, the weight bearing features of many of the poses target large and small muscle groups, building them in size and density.

When we build muscle, we not only increase strength, but we also burn more calories. Muscle burns more than fat, and the more calories we burn, the more our metabolism rate increases.

Bottom Line: Yoga has an effect on digestion, circulation, and building muscle, all of which positively affect your metabolism.

15. Practicing Yoga at any Time of Day Helps You Sleep Better

Sleep is crucial to our energy levels, mood, concentration, and ability to be happy and successful in our everyday lives.

Those most sleep experts recommend that adults get 7 to 9 hours of quality sleep per night, most of us get far less than this. Even if you are in bed for the necessary hours, inability to get to sleep, waking up frequently, or tossing and turning can turn those hours into less-than-quality rest.

Insomnia or reduced sleep quality can be the product of stress, underlying illness or disease, poor sleeping conditions, vitamin deficiency, or hundreds of other factors. This often makes it difficult to identify what issues are at play.

Though every person may have a different reason for not sleeping well, yoga can have a beneficial effect on everyone’s sleep quality. Because the nervous system is responsible for a restful sleep, yoga’s calming effects are especially helpful.

A calm mind leads to a calm body, both of which play a part in how easy it is to get to sleep and how restful that sleep is. Many people are bothered by a ‘busy mind’ that simply cannot shut off at the end of the day.

Yoga teaches us how to breathe deeply and disconnect from our worries and from those distracting thoughts that tend to keep us up at night. By giving ourselves the tools to put thoughts aside and instead focus on our breath, we give ourselves an excellent tool for the perfect night of sleep.

Although a regular yoga practice done consistently at any time of day will undoubtedly affect your sleep, those who really struggle may benefit from poses done at night that are specifically aimed at helping you sleep more soundly.

These poses include uttasnasana, halasana, and savasana and should be done as close to bedtime as possible.

Others benefit more from a Kundalini yoga sequence before bed that incorporates long, slow breathing and meditation. It’s best to try out both methods to see what leads to a better night of sleep for you.

The Bottom Line: The stress-relieving benefits of a consistent yoga practice can help improve your sleep quality. Those with sleeping problems can also benefit from a bedtime routine that includes specific poses or deep breathing paired with meditation.salutation

16. All Forms of Yoga Work Wonders on Your Range of Motion

Range of motion is important to our overall quality of life, and it decreases as we age. Important for injury prevention as well as as our ability to do daily tasks with minimal discomfort, range of motion can be increased with regular yoga.

Why does range of motion decrease as we age and how can yoga combat this? As we get older, the tissue around joints tend to thicken and cartilage decreases. The knees and hips are especially susceptible to these depletions, making them more prone to injury in older individuals.

As muscle mass decreases, this also affects our range of motion as we age. Our ease of movement decreases, and general fitness levels tend to drop.

When range of motion decreases, it often triggers a snowball effect. Movement becomes more difficult, so individuals tend to move less often. This, in turn, triggers more movement impairment.

Yoga is based on controlled, prolonged stretching. This type of movement is still comfortable for those who are experiencing a lack of flexibility or injury that restricts range of motion.

Not only is yoga a practical exercise for those in this situation, but it also tends to reverse the lack of flexibility that they experience.

A daily practice of prolonged stretching that is inherent in any yoga program elongates the muscles and enables joint flexibility.

The slow, deliberate process of gently stretching muscles over a long period of time is both beneficial and achievable for those of all ages. It can be done throughout the lifetime and rarely needs to be suspended due to injury or other ailments.

Bottom Line: The gentle and prolonged stretching that makes up the core of yoga helps increase range of motion and preserve it throughout the lifetime.

17. Practicing Yoga Can Help Treat Arthritis

Arthritis is an excruciating affliction that severely impacts quality of life. Rheumatoid arthritis, or RA, can occur at any age, and is triggered by a faulty immune system. Osteoarthritis, or OA, is a degenerative disorder that usually takes place as a person ages. It’s estimated that there are over three million cases of OA in the United States per year.

While medication can greatly help both those suffering from RA and OA, exercise is always recommended as well. Because arthritis is characterized by painful swelling in the joints, many forms of traditional exercise may be unbearable.

Yoga is incredibly easy on the joints and is usually a comfortable activity for even the most severe arthritis sufferers. The gentle stretching of yoga can ease joint discomfort and the focused breathing can help those in pain distance deal with the chronic distress.

The muscle-building and energy-boosting effects of yoga can also help those with arthritis. OA and RA tend to zap energy, which leads to a sedentary lifestyle and muscle atrophy. Those who practice yoga tend to be more active, which lessens arthritis symptoms.

The psychological benefits of yoga on those suffering from arthritis are also to be noted. Those with arthritis who regularly practice yoga suffer from less depression, improved coping abilities, stress reduction and an enhanced sense of well-being.

Bottom Line: Yoga is a safe and effective form of exercise for those suffering from both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. It helps ease joint discomfort and boosts energy and a sense of well-being.

18. Practicing Yoga Leads to a Healthy Lifestyle and Enhanced Self-Care

Bad choices lead to more bad choices. A lack of exercise can easily lead into bad eating habits, which leads to weight gain, which leads to even less exercise.

A sedentary and unhealthy lifestyle results in a depressed mood, low energy levels, and an overall pessimistic attitude.

Sometimes, it just takes one thing to start turning it all around. Yoga can be that one thing.

Because it can be practiced by individuals at any age and in any shape, yoga is a practice that can be adopted by virtually everyone.

Yoga increases our awareness, which often leads practitioners to start making changes in every part of their lives. As they develop more self-awareness, they often make changes that include healthier food choices, fewer toxic relationships, and more time to take care of themselves.

Over time, these choices add up to a much healthier and happier lifestyle. The increase in overall quality of life can even equal more years on your life.

Bottom Line: Yoga increases self-awareness, which leads to other healthy choices and overall increase in wellness and happiness.

Hug your mom

Patty loves her beautiful mom, Rose Ann. Here they are at the Soul of Creativity event held recently at Breezeway.


One class and one jog

Just one yoga class and one jogging session a week can HALVE your risk of heart disease

  • Researchers from HG SMS Hospital in Jaipur, India, studied how a combination of yoga and aerobic exercise can impact the health 
  • They tested 750 patients who already had cardiovascular disease 
  • The combination of yoga and aerobic exercise lowered patients’ blood pressure, BMI and cholesterol levels 

girl meditating and doing yoga at sunsetsResearchers from HG SMS Hospital in Jaipur, India, presented the study at the 8th Emirates Cardiac Society Congress in collaboration with the American College of Cardiology Middle East Conference.

The study looked at 750 patients who had previously been diagnosed with coronary heart disease.

One group of 225 patients participated in aerobic exercise, another group of 240 patients participated in yoga, and a third group of 285 participated in both yoga and aerobic exercise.

Each group did three, six-month sessions of their assigned exercises.

Yoga was picked as one the the forms of exercise because of its practice of strengthening the body, mind and soul.

The exercise focuses on connecting the mind to the body through poses and deep breathing, which has found to alleviate heart pressure and stress.

Researchers wanted to see if yoga and aerobic exercise would have an effect on coronary risk factors of obese patients with type 2 diabetes.

The findings showed that aerobic exercise only and yoga only groups showed similar reductions in blood pressure, total cholesterol, triglycerides, LDL, weight and waist circumference.

However, the combined yoga and aerobic exercise group showed a two times greater reduction compared to the other groups.

They also showed significant improvement in left ventricular ejection fraction, diastolic function and exercise capacity.

‘Combined Indian yoga and aerobic exercise reduce mental, physical and vascular stress and can lead to decreased cardiovascular mortality and morbidity,’ said co-authors Dr Sonal Tanwar, a scholar in preventative cardiology, and Dr Naresh Sen, a consultant cardiologist, both with HG SMS Hospital.

‘Heart disease patients could benefit from learning Indian yoga and making it a routine part of daily life.’

Unlocking the Hidden Power of Yoga

If you think Downward Dog is a canine training command, perhaps it’s time for a basic primer on yoga — and its many health benefits.

For centuries yoga has been used to increase strength and flexibility, as well as improve mind/body alignment and reduce stress. Solid benefits all, but they’re just a sampling of how yoga can improve everyday living. Here’s a breakdown:

Injury prevention

Whether you’re 8 years old or 80, a diehard gym-every-day athlete or a weekend warrior looking to up your exercise game, yoga can help. Regular yoga practice gets you in touch with your entire body as you move through the poses and flows. And when you’re more in touch with areas that are tight or sore, it’s more likely you’ll pay attention to what’s hurting before a potential injury becomes a real one.

Gateway back to fitness

In the same way yoga helps prevent injuries, it also can serve as a safe way to get back into a fitness program following time away. For example, if you’ve had to step away from exercise due to injury and aren’t ready for high-impact activity yet or are recovering from illness or surgery — or even just living a busy life — yoga can serve as a fun, low-impact way to ease back into movement.

In particular, look into restorative yoga. There all many types and levels of yoga classes, and restorative is great for beginners and longtime practitioners alike. The focus here is working on basic poses and holding them for enough time to help joints and muscles relax and loosen. It also increases blood flow and improves flexibility.

Age is just a number

At age 89, Dean Stevens credits weekly yoga classesYoga is also a fantastic fitness option as we age. As a low-impact exercise, it’s good for anyone dealing with sore hips, knees or other joints. At the same time, yoga lets you work up enough of a sweat to help ditch those hard-to-shed pounds and build flexibility and strength that we often lose with age.

For 89-year-old Dean Stevens, the free yoga class she attends weekly at the Nashville Public Library, run by Small World Yoga and part of Be Well at NPL, has given her a newfound stability she says her peers are often lacking.

“So many of my friends are falling,” she explains. “I almost fell in the strawberry patch the other day, but because I have better flexibility and control over my body, I was able to recover. And that’s because of yoga.”

There are sound psychological and emotional benefits to yoga as well. This is good news for anyone battling depression, anxiety and other mental-health issues. A low-key, dependable exercise regimen such as yoga can:

• Improve balance and stability
• Strengthen muscles
• Increase flexibility
• Improve joint health
• Support better respiration
• Reduce high blood pressure
• Lower anxiety

Yoga brings all those benefits to anyone who rolls out a mat and starts building a personal practice.

And that’s another beauty of yoga: It’s called “practice” because it’s about being quiet, calm and focused rather than accomplishing a set-lifting goal or number of reps. In that way, yoga encourages mindfulness, so you can connect with your body as you flow your way to better health.

The intent of yoga is to link the body and mind. Yoga instructors cultivate the idea of directing our attention and intention to the body, to its movement in the present moment, and to our breathing. Yoga is also a good way to strengthen attention through mindfulness.

This story is provided and presented by BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee.


Ennegram Workshop – October 27-28

Join Sandra Smith, M.Div., and Annie Wills, Ed.D, for a two day workshop starting Friday October 27th at 1:00 – 4:00 PM and continuing on Saturday, October 28th, 9:00AM – 4:30PM. Breakfast and lunch provided on Saturday. $75.00 per participant.

The workshop will be held at Bridgewater Place, 205 Bridgewater Road, Knoxville, TN 37923.

To register, call UT Internal Medicine and Integrative Health: 865-971-3539.

Little ones know

Pilates with paws: Core exercises mix with adorable, adoptable kittens

Holding the proper pose for a plank in Pilates gets tough when a 2-month-old calico kitten named Blondi races under your arms.

Proper breath control easily dissolves into giggles when a pair of gray and white kittens called Angela and Pam race across a yoga studio floor.

This is Pilates with kittens at Breezeway Studios in Knoxville on a Sunday morning. Instructor Susie Kaplar gives her 18 students instructions in stretching, twisting, breathing – and animal contact.

“When a kitten plops on your stomach, you are going to stop and pet a kitten,” she says.

The hourlong session was the fifth in Young-Williams’ summer “Kitten Yoga” series. Held at different exercise studios, the classes teach yoga or Pilates while kittens run, prance, stalk and sit among the exercise mats.

This Pilates class is a combination of stretching your spine and petting a kitten or twisting your torso and cuddling a cat. The humans, including myself, paid $15 each to perform core-strengthening exercises among the free-roaming felines.

Young-Williams volunteer Azura Miller made two trips to the center to bring the agile, adoptable kittens to the studio. The 2- to 3-months-old cats were a silver tabby named Dexter, three nearly identical gray kittens called Pudge, Angela and Pam and the calico trio of Blondi, Yakko and Wakko.

Young-Williams began Kitten Yoga after Development Coordinator Sophie Nguyen heard about a similar class in Louisville, Ky. When the first class sold out quickly, more were added.

Planks, bridges, and kittens

For Sunday’s Pilates, we humans began stretched out on rubber mats on the studio floor, putting us at kitten level. Miller and Young-Williams volunteers Allison Murray and Grace Malone removed the kittens from plastic or cardboard carriers. They scattered ping pong balls and catnip-stuffed mice in the middle of the floor, instantly drawing the cats’ attention.

We humans raised our spines slowly into a Pilates bridge. The felines chased the ping pong balls and batted the toy mice, often more interested in each other and their toys than the humans moving around them.

We humans pushed up on their hands to perform planks. The cats jumped over our outstretched legs and dashed under our raised abdomens. As a row of women bicycled their legs in the air, tiny calico Blondi sat quietly to watch wide eyed.

Mandi Bergeron’s pink sneakers were a kitty magnet. As she exercised, Bergeron sometimes jangled one shoe’s laces in the air as Blondi and gray kitty Pudge took turns swatting at the swinging strings.

Miller, Murphy and Malone got their own cardio workouts as they repeatedly retrieved the kittens when the cats ran into a small back room of the studio.

Kittens ‘extra perk’

Most class participants were familiar with yoga or Pilates, and many were pet owners. “Kittens are the extra perk,” sad Maddie Holtzclaw.

“I love animals and I like to exercise,” said South College student Allie Smith, who owns three dogs. “Put the two together and it’s irresistible.”

‘Kitten Yoga’ raises funds, awareness

Since the classes don’t include on-site adoptions, all the kittens returned at least temporarily to Young-Williams on Sunday. At least two class participants expressed interest in adopting kittens. Cats who participated in the past four sessions have been adopted but Nyugen didn’t know if yoga or Pilates participants adopted the animals.

The next Kitten Yoga sessions are 11:30 a.m. June 17, and Sunday, June 18 at Bullman’s Kickboxing & Krav Maga, 4589 Kingston Pike. Cost is $20. The series also includes two July sessions; those dates aren’t set.

Young-Williams has raised more than $1,000 from the classes, Nguyen said. The classes also raise awareness for the shelter. “They let people know about kitten season in general and that we need supplies and we need people to come and adopt,” she said.








Summer Retreat with Jillian Pransky

Yoga, meditation and nature.
Everything you need for the perfect summer retreat. 

Kripalu Summer Retreat Weekend – Friday, July 14 – Sunday, July 16 2017

Learning to Pause: Relax into Your Life

Summer offers us time to pause, reignite our own glow, and connect more deeply with the life-giving force within and around us. It’s a powerful time for clearing obstacles from the body and mind, a time to move beyond our habitual way of doing things and expand into new space and energy.

Through the practices of yoga, relaxation, meditation, and synchronizing the body and mind with nature, we grow more open and relaxed. Energy flows more easily. As our own energy reserve expands within us, we naturally grow more boundless and bright.

Set in the amazing natural environment of Kripalu, this retreat is the perfect combination of yoga, meditation, and time in nature to revitalize our deepest energy flow. Jillian Pransky artfully weaves slow-flow vinyasa, restorative poses, mindfulness, and walking meditation under the wide-open sky so we can return home expansive, light, and with a deeper connection to ourselves and the world.

Kripalu Yoga | Stockbridge, MA  •  42.3502, -73.3255 Stockbridge, MA  •  (866) 200-5203

  CE Credits

This program is eligible for:

  • 8.5 credits for Yoga Alliance (YA), $20 additional charge
  • 8.5 credits for Athletic Trainers (BOC), $20 additional charge