Yoga is an ancient Indian philosophy that dates back thousands of years. It was designed as a path to spiritual enlightenment, but in modern times the physical aspects of Hatha yoga have found huge popularity as a gentle form of exercise and stress management.
There are many different varieties of Hatha yoga, but each one relies on structured poses (asanas) practiced with breath control.
Researches have discovered (what the sages and yogis have always known) that the regular practice of yoga may produce many health benefits, including increased fitness and normalization of blood pressure. Yoga is a renowned antidote to stress and increased feelings of happiness and wellbeing. This is because concentrating on the postures and the breath acts as a powerful form of meditation. Yoga asanas have tremendous powers of healing. Dr. Mehmet Oz, cardiac surgeon, says that asanas massage the lymph system (filtering system of the body.)
Each posture, or asana, is held for a period of time with focused instructions. Generally, a yoga session begins with gentle asanas and works up to the more vigorous or challenging postures. A full yoga session should exercise every part of the body practiced with awareness and intelligent action, awakening each and every joint and muscle. Yoga begins with the physical practice that leads to a state of harmony and equipoise.
The different postures or asanas include:
- Standing postures
- Seated postures
- Supine postures
- Balanced postures
- Inverted, or upside down postures
A range of benefits from Yoga
The physical building blocks of yoga are the postures (asana) and the breath. Benefits include:
Cardiovascular system (heart and arteries) – asanas are isometric, which means they rely on holding muscle tension for a short period of time. This improves cardiovascular fitness and circulation. Studies show that regular yoga practice may help normalize blood pressure.
Digestive system – improved blood circulation and the massaging effect of surrounding muscles speeds up a sluggish digestion.
Musculo-skeletal – joints are moved through their full range of motion, which encourages mobility and eases pressure. The stretching releases muscle tension and increases flexibility. Maintaining many of the asanas encourages strength and endurance. Weight bearing asanas may help prevent osteoporosis, and may also help those already diagnosed with osteoporosis, practiced with care, under the supervision of a qualified yoga teacher. Long term benefits include reduced back pain and improved posture.
Nervous system – improved blood circulation, easing of muscle tension and the act of focusing the mind on the breath all combine to soothe the nervous system. Long term benefits include reduced stress and anxiety levels, and increased feelings of calm and wellbeing.
Anyone can practice yoga
Yoga is non-competitive and suitable for anyone, regardless of their age or fitness level. Your yoga teacher should carefully guide and observe you and modify postures when necessary. An asana should never cause pain. If it hurts, ease back on the stretch or don’t do it at all. It is important to keep within your physical limits. If you are over 40, haven’t exercised for a long time or have a pre-existing medical condition, you should check with your doctor before starting any regular exercise routine.
There are many different varieties of yoga, each one with a slightly different slant.
Iyengar yoga specifically trains teachers rigorously over many years and has justly earned worldwide respect. The method is systematic, progressive and adheres to principles of alignment. It is a comprehensive, sequential method practiced with precision and awareness. Each pose is approached as a deep exploration and a new experience. The asanas are meant to clean and purify and to integrate body, mind and intelligence – to work on the whole human being. Suited to beginners and experienced practitioners, excellent at any age, addressing each student’s needs. Learn the art of deep relaxation while building strength, flexibility and grace. The discipline of yoga builds confidence and inner peace. The highest aspect of yoga is self-realization
Ongoing general level and private classes are available.
Iyengar yoga is taught in classes, catering for beginners through to advanced practitioners. Suggestions for getting the most out of your class include:
Wear comfortable clothes, but no too baggy, and bare feet, shorts or tights are best.
Allow at least three or four hours since your last meal.
Always tell your yoga teacher if you have a specific complaint, so they can advise against any asanas that may aggravate your problem.
Always tell your yoga teacher if you are pregnant, menstruating, have a recent injury, illness, surgery, high blood pressure, heart problems, or osteoporosis.
Don’t talk during the class because it will disturb your own quiet focus and that of others in the class.
Things to remember
Yoga is an ancient science of living that incorporates postures, breath control (pranayama) and meditation.
The physical foundation of yoga is a series of structured poses (asanas) performed with awareness.
Experienced personalized, one-to-one yoga instruction tailored to your physical abilities and health concerns. A therapeutic yoga session will guide you through a specialized program of yoga postures and breathing practices. Practiced in conjunction with your current medical care and physician’s approval, therapeutic yoga can be a very effective complement to your care.
TAMIR is a certified Iyengar yoga instructor, who has taught at Columbia University for fourteen years as well as privately. She has also taught at the 92nd St. Y, Perry Dance Studio, Parson’s school of Design at the New School and at the Hebrew Home for the Aged in Riverdale for patients and staff. TAMIR has two MA’s and is a graduate of the Rubin Academy of music and dance in Jerusalem, Israel. She is also an actress with several credits, major roles, four one-woman shows and has recorded 26 books.
www.rumi-wayoftheheart.com and www.actresstamir.com
Next Steps in Therapeutic Yoga
Experience personalized, one-to-one yoga instruction tailored to your physical abilities and health concerns. A therapeutic yoga session will guide you through a specialized program of yoga postures, breathing practices and meditations. Practiced in conjunction with your current medical care and physician's approval, therapeutic yoga can be a very effective complement to your care.
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