Your health is your wealth, guard it with knowledge, understanding, and wisdom. Home  |  Site Map 
Holistic Medical Massage Clinic Logo

Home  arrow  Holistic Healing  arrow  Yoga  arrow 


Table of Contents


Yoga is a science of life that originated in India several thousands of years ago. It involves much more than the asanas (postures) and pranayama (breathing exercises) that most people are familiar with. For this chapter, however, I will limit my discussion of yoga to those aspects -- asanas and pranayama -- also known as Hatha Yoga.

Yoga is enjoying growing popularity in Western countries. Most of you reading this are aware of its use as a powerful stress reduction technique. A quick review of my New England (US) Holistic Health Directory shows that as of 1990 yoga classes are being offered at five area hospitals. Yoga is quickly becoming a mainstream tool for stress reduction.

While it is exciting that yoga is quickly is becoming synonymous with "stress reduction," it is that and so much more. Practiced regularly, over an extended period of time, it is a very powerful healing and transformational tool.

Yoga is only just beginning to be studied by the Western scientific community. Below are a selection of findings from a few of the completed scientific studies.

  • Several studies have shown that yoga significantly improves the condition of bronchial asthmatics, even patients who were childhood asthmatics. Many subjects eventually reduced or eliminated their need for medication.

  • Yoga has been shown to significantly decrease hyperglycemia in non-insulin dependent diabetics.

  • Yoga has been shown to significantly improve mental and physical energy levels and alertness as compared to relaxation exercises and visualization.

  • One study showed that yoga produced and gradual, significant decrease in body weight. In addition there was an increase in alpha wave activity in parts of the brain which corresponds to an increase in patient calmness.

  • Yoga has been shown to produce a significant increase in serum LDH levels (the enzyme which provides energy to contracting muscles during exercise).

  • Other studies have shown that yoga can help conditions of arthritis, arteriosclerosis, chronic fatigue, varicose veins, and heart ailments.

  • Specific yoga breathing postures and breathing exercises have been led to significant improvements in patients with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD).
Yoga stretches and tones the muscles and joints, has a positive effect on the entire skeletal system including the spine, and has a postive effect on all of the organs, glands, and nerves. Many of the yogic postures and breathing exercises bring much needed blood and oxygen to bodily tissues and organs which speeds the healing of the practitioner. Releasing built up physical and emotional tension slowly liberates vast resources of energy. Finally, and not to be underestimated in importance, a regular yoga practice can gradually and significantly increase a person's sense of self-acceptance and inner peace.

Techniques & Resources

    Criteria For A Yoga Class

    It is difficult to overemphasize the important of learning yoga in a class. Experienced yoga teachers can help with the correct postures and breathing techniques. More importantly, it is usually much easier to keep a regular practice over the long-term when attending a regular class and practice sessions.

    Please look for a yoga class that meets the following criteria:

    • Located close to your home or work if possible.

    • Taught by a certified yoga instructor, not by a health club instructor teaching glorified stretching exercises that they decide to call "yoga" or teaching "relaxation exercises."

    • The yoga instructor is willing to adjust the routine to to your abilities. The instructor should help you develop a routine that will improve your overall wellbeing without injuring or frustrating you. Speak with the yoga instructor on this subject before starting classes.

    • I feel that it is best to start with a form of yoga that emphasizes the asanas (postures), includes a "final relaxation" pose and over time begins to add a couple of breathing exercises (pranayama). For many people, it is best to leave meditation and the spiritual aspects of yoga until later. (On the other hand, I know several people who have gotten enormous benefits from meditation without first practicing yoga postures or breathing. So, you will have to find what works for you with a little experimentation.)

    • If possible, locate a yoga instructor who has several low-cost practice sessions per week. This way, it will be easier to perform short yoga routines regularly.

    • As you become more experienced, the yoga instructor should be able to teach you yogic cleansing exercises.

    • Some very experienced yoga teachers may be able to customize treatment routines for persons with a chronic illness. Some of the research mentioned earlier included customized yoga exercises.

    Where To Find Information on Different Styles of Yoga

    Information on various yoga styles can be found at the Yoga Research & Education Center, the Yoga Movement web page, and at the Yoga Paths web page.

    Where To Find A Yoga Class

    • Look at the various online databases listed on the Holistic Healing Web Page:

      Yoga Practitioners

    • Ask at your local natural food store(s).

    • Ask at your local health clubs.

    • Ask at your hospital's stress reduction clinic.

    • Local community Adult Education classes often ofter yoga classes.

    Books & Magazines

    The following books have helped me over the years.

    • Yoga International Magazine
      Rural Route 1, Box 1130
      Honesdale, Pennsylvania 18431-9718, USA
      570-253-6243 (Subscriptions & Information)

      I find the instructional articles in this magazine to be excellent! A subscription is well worth it in my opinion. I also highly recommend ordering the March 1997 (#34) and the May 1997 (#35) back issues because of the wonderfuly detailed beginner's articles on several very powerful (when practiced regularly) yogic breathing exercises -- Alternate Nostril Breathing and "Skull Shining." Another article in issue #35 entitled "Mastering the Fire" has very important and helpful information about abdominal lifts and other important exercises.

      The Alternate Nostril Breathing and Skull Shining are very effective in strengthening the nervous system and helping to remove toxic substances from the blood. The abdominal lifts and other exercises presented in "Mastering the Fire" are very effectives ways to strengthen the digestive and elimination systems.

    • Yoga Journal
      2054 University Avenue
      Berkely, California 92046-9952

      Another excellent source of quality information about yoga and natural healing for the beginner and advanced student.


    I have never used a yoga video, but you may want to give one a try. Experiment! Adventure!

    Here are some sources for yoga videos:

    When To Practice Yoga

    You can practice whenever you wish. However, some people find themselves energized and have difficulty getting to sleep if they practice immediately before bedtime. Most people practice in the morning or in the early evening before dinner. I find that I enjoy practicing a short 1/2-hour routine during my lunch hour. I feel much more relaxed throughout the afternoon when I do this.

    You may decide to split your routine so that you practice breathing exercises and the sun salutation yoga exercise in the morning and other asanas in the early evening. I find it easier to practice breathing exercises in the morning. In the morning I perform yogic breathing exercises such as "Skull Shining," Alternate Nostril Breathing and a short meditation after the sun salutation and a couple of other stretches. It only takes 10 to 15 minutes.

    Most people have more success if they set aside regular days and times to practice (preferably in an organized class or practice session) rather than haphazardly trying to fit it in. I highly recommending doing this if possible.

    How Often To Practice Yoga

    If you are able, it is preferable to practice at least three times per week. Three to six days per week is fine. Do whatever is comfortable without taking too much time from living your life and enjoying yourself.

    Where To Practice Yoga

    It is preferable to practice in a room that is not cold. If it is warm out, you can practice outside if you like.

    The surface that you practice on should be firm, but soft. You can practice on a folded blanket or you may want to purchase a yoga mat. You can order one through the mail by calling the Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health at (800) 967-7279.

    Yoga Routine Tips

    • Warm-up: I believe that it is generally better to warm up the extremities before stretching the major muscles and the spine. I prefer to start by massaging, twisting and bending my feet, toes and ankles. Then I do the same with my hands, fingers and wrists. Finally, I gently stretch and twist my neck using exercises I learned in yoga classes.

    • Final Relaxation: Please set aside some time to practice the final relaxation pose. It is where much of the healing takes place.

    • Breathing Exercises: Many breathing exercise instructions suggest that you sit cross-legged. If you cannot sit that way _easily_, then try sitting on your heels. If you cannot sit on your heels _easily_, then try the exercise while sitting in a chair or lying down if you cannot sit in a chair.

      Many people find breathing exercises difficult at first. Please feel free to take as many deep breaths between repititions as you need.

    Cultivating Self-Acceptance With Yoga

    Yoga is an excellant way to cultivate self-love and self-acceptance. One day that you practice, you may feel relaxed, happy, and have a deep sense of inner peace. The next day you may feel tense, stressed-out, or sad. Over time, yoga will make you more limber, relaxed, and healthy, but on a day-to-day basis your condition may vary considerably. This variation is part of the process, so expect it.

    As you perform a yoga pose, simply accept whatever you can do and however you feel. Then breathe deeply and fully into your abdomen and chest and feel the energy from that love and acceptance of yourself in the area being stretched. Don't worry if you don't physically feel the energy from the breath in the area being stretched. Simply use your imagination. The love and acceptance will, over time, gradually grow within you. This, in turn, will speed your healing.

    Finding Your Own Movement With Yoga

    The somewhat serious method of using yoga to cultivate self-love and self-acceptance needs to be balanced to some extent with not being too strict. Please enjoy yourself during the routine. If you feel a need to sigh or grunt during the routine (and the instructor allows expression), please do so. If you want to stop for a couple minutes and do some dancing, drink some water, cry, sing a song, etc., feel free to be yourself. Yoga can help liberate your true nature. Please don't use yoga to supress it.


    The natural progression in Hatha Yoga study seems to be to begin practicing the postures (asanas) and then adding some breathing exercises (pranayama), and finally adding a short, regular practice of meditation. Meditation can strengthen the mind, deepen the relaxation and inner peace that is felt, and change your health and life significantly for the better. At some point in time, I would strongly recommend adding a regular, short meditation period to your routine.

    It has been widely reported that a very small percentage of people experience adverse psychological reactions to meditation practitice. It seems that some persons get in touch with buried childhood, birth or other traumas while meditating. If the person is not able to embrace and work through these feelings, the constant triggering of these feelings without resolving them can make matters worse. In such cases, transformational and psychological therapies such as Holotropic Breathwork, rebirthing, Hakomi, Bioenergetics, Radix, etc. may be a better way to start until such time as meditation practices can gradually be added.

    Like yoga, I recommend learning meditation in a class.

    Where To Find a Meditation Class

    • Look at the various online databases listed on the Holistic Healing Web Page:

      Meditation Practitioners

    • Ask at your local natural foods / health food store.

    • Ask at your hospital's stress reduction clinic.

    • Local community Adult Education classes often ofter meditation classes.

    • Look in the phone directory under "Meditation Centers."

Actions To Be Taken

  • Locate a yoga classes in your area using the resources listed earlier.

    Once you find a yoga class, talk to the instructor to be certain that he/she can meet your needs. If so, then begin taking classes. Remember to ask the instructor to be taught a few postures or breathing exercises that you can practice between classes.

    Eventually, you will be able to put together your own routines that will significantly contribute to your wellbeing. When you are starting out, long yoga routines can quickly become a pain in the butt. So please start out with short, regular yoga routines.

    If you can't find a yoga class that meets your needs, see the actions below.

  • Breathing Exercises (Pranayama)

    Be sure to gradually incorporate the yoga breathing exercises into your routine. These are very powerful healing tools! In fact, different breathing techniques are used in many of the most powerful holistic healing and transformational practices available (e.g., yoga, qigong, transformational breathwork, etc.). Regularly practicing a short routine of pranayama is well worth the small effort.

  • Books, Magazines and Videos

    If you cannot locate a class that would be satisfactory, you can try learning a few basics from books or videos. While I don't recommend using books or videos, some people have used them successfully.

  • Meditation

    Locate a meditation class in your area using the resources suggested earlier.

    Once you find a meditation class, talk to the instructor to be understand the type of meditation performed. There are many types of meditation. I prefer Insight Meditation. Browse through the links on meditation web page mentioned earlier so that you get a sense of the various types available.

Questions and Answers

    Yawning & Sighing

    Whenever I do yoga or breathing exercises, I seem to need to yawn or sigh. How can I stop from yawning or sighing?

    First let me start by saying that it is very important NOT to supress these actions. Here are Janet Goodrich's views on the benefits of yawning from her book "Natural Vision Improvement":

    • Yawning brings fresh oxygen into body cells including the eyes and brain.

    • Yawning contracts then releases the muscles related to the eyes. A really good yawn will contract and expand muscles from the top of your head to the tips of your toes -- including the should or trapezius muscles, the eyes (orbicularis oculi), the neck (neck flexors), the belly (the abdominals and solar plexus area).

    • Yawning is capable of changing emotional states from negative to positive.

    • Yawning changes the pH of the blood reducing toxicity levels in your whole system.

    • Yawning stimulates the production of refreshing tears that bathe naturally tired eyes and moisten chronically dry eyes.

    • Yawning helps to cleanse the liver and to balance the energy in the liver meridian.

      Here is what to do about yawning.

    • If the urge to yawn comes up during the yoga or deep breathing, DON'T SUPRESS IT. The more yawning that comes up during the yoga and deep breathing, the better.

    • Whenever you have to yawn, make it a BIG yawn, opening the mouth wide and making a noise while exhalling. This is very important -- to heck with Ms. Manners. :-) Could you image a big lion starting to yawn, realizing that it is in public, and then supressing the yawn? I don't think so!

    • The same can be said of sighing. Make a big, noisy sigh.

    Too Much Pain

    I'm in too much pain to do many of the exercises. What should I do?

    First of all, don't perform any asana that causes pain.

    Working with an experienced yoga instructor is important because the instructor can draw from hundreds of possible asana variations and pranayama exercises to create a routine which is safe and meets your needs. If you can't get to a class, you may be able to set up one private lesson so that the instructor can create a safe beginner's routine.

    There are almost _always_ a few beneficial exercises that can be done. Unfortunately, most books do not include simplified variations that are easier on the joints. So, please see an experienced instructor.


    I can't do any asanas as I am bedridden and have too much joint pain. It looks like I'm sunk.

    No, you are NOT sunk. You are still a wonderful, beautiful person who can gently begin to cultivate self-love and self-acceptance by very gently taking some actions as outlined below. This can help tremendously in the long run.

    If you cannot do any strethcing exercises in bed, you may still be able to nurture yourself quite effectively. Here are three ideas from which you can create a short routine.

    • Pranayama (Breathing Exercises)
      • Ask a yoga instructor to give you a few simple exercises to practice, or

      • Use the Yoga Internation Magazine back issuees listed above or a video to teach yourself a few of the beginning pranayama exercises.

    • Breathing exercise to relax the body and the diaphram:
    • Get a relaxing (i.e., non-painful) therapeutic massage as often as you can comfortablely afford.

    All of these ideas will be helpful in keeping the lymphatic and digestive system healthy.

    Most people will want to experiment with these ideas eventually, so you're "ahead of the game" if you are starting with them.

    Yoga & Emotions

    When I perform certain asanas and breathing deeply, I begin to feel sad. Is that normal?

    Yes, it does happen and can be healing to feel emotions. Using yoga, not only can we get in touch with the physical tension deep within our body, but with get also get in touch with the emotional tension that is usually very closely tied to the physical tension.

    It is a very good sign that you have found a tool to access and eventually help heal your emotional tension. Feeling and making peace with emotions can have a tremendously beneficial effect on one's health.

    Here are a couple of ideas for working with feeling emotions brought up when doing yoga.

    1. If the emotions are not overwhelming, simply continue the asana, feel and accept the emotion fully while breathing deeply into the abdomen. Remember, it is okay to feel sad or cry or feel joy, etc. as long as it is not overwhelming.

      You should definately talk about these feelings that came up to a close friend, support group, family member, therapist, etc. in order to continue to release the emotions and cultivate self-love and self-acceptance.

    2. Modalities to Help Process:

      • Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy

        There is a form of yoga, Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy which combines assisted yoga postures with elements of comtemporary inner work to assist in releasing emotional tension which is sometimes manifested in the body as aches, pains, or even chronic illnesses. In order to find a practitioner in your area contact the Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy Center at:

        Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy Center
        West Stockbridge, Massachusetts 01266
        800-288-9642 or 415-274-3515

Other Practices Instead of Yoga

I don't want to spend time doing yoga. I would rather do Qigong, Tai Chi, or Aerobics. Is that okay?

Those are all wonderful expercises. Even though it can be very healing, performing a regular yoga routine is not for everyone. There is only so much free time in a day for many people. Some people would rather spend some of that free time relaxing in other ways to exploring other healing techniques such as qigong, tai chi, aerobics, meditation, etc. This is perfectly acceptable.

However, it can still be extremely helpful to take a yoga class and learn some of the postures (asanas) and the breathing exercises (pranayama) because they can be used as a short warm-up and warm-down which significantly enhances the positive effects of other healing practices.

Yoga can also be incorporated into one's daily activities. An excellent book for learning how to successfully incorporate simple yoga exercises into your daily routine is "Yoga For Your Life."

 Site Map  |  Driving Directions  |  Site Map 

Unique Gift Ideas
Unique Gift ideas for any occasion. Birthday gifts, baby gifts, corporate gifts ...

Web Marketing by

Copyright (c) 2005 All Rights Reserved.