All Stressed Up and No Place to Go

Stress is a physiological response to what your mind perceives as a threat. For us, this would be ranging from meeting statutes of limitations and unique judicial rulings to dealing with uncooperative opposing counsel, to name but a few. The antidote to stress is simply relaxation. I have found that yoga is a holistic lifestyle that can combat stress by interweaving fitness, wellness, and consciousness-raising.

There is a myriad types of yoga, including Ashtanga, also referred to as Power Yoga, which offers a brisk cardiovascular workout; Iyengar, which focuses attention on proper bodily alignment and posture; and Kundalini, which emphasizes deep breathing and relaxation. Through breathing techniques and various yoga poses and sequences, you will gain strength, flexibility, and resilience in your muscles, as well as improve overall stamina and endurance. Soon, this workout will provide energy to your body and relaxation for your mind.

It seems rather unique that a workout system that is over six thousand years old has recently become chic and hip. Due to the entrance of high profile practitioners of yoga, such as Madonna, Oprah, Woody Harrelson, Jeff Goldblum; and my favorite, Raquel Welch; there has been a great deal of press attention on this workout. In the last few years that I have been teaching exercise classes, I have seen the rise and fall of many fads which include sliding, trekking, aerobic kickboxing, and Marine bootcamp style workouts. Notwithstanding its recent surge in popularity, yoga is a time-tested discipline. Since yoga has been around for centuries, there have been a number of empirical and scientific research studies that have shown its effectiveness on sciatica relief, kyphosis, ruptured disks, degenerative arthritis and chronic pain.

There are many misconceptions associated with yoga. Many think that they could not achieve a strenuous workout. In reality, yoga is quite demanding and requires tremendous concentration, stamina, strength, and determination. Yoga engages you physically, emotionally, mentally; and demands great strength. There are several types of yoga, as described, and I am certain that there is a style and instructor that would be suitable for your personal needs and requirements. As a member of the Suncoast Yoga Teacher's Association, I would be happy to recommend some instructors that I believe to have the proper training and background. I can be reached at my office (727)545-3636, or by e-mail, jeff@jefflebo.com.

The physical aspects of yoga help to relieve stress in several ways. The utilization of proper technique and the use of props provide a supportive environment for relaxation and personal growth. Also, yoga focuses on release of pressure on the back and hips, which provides a natural self massage experience. Personally, I have found that the latter stages of class, which incorporate meditation into the workout, to be extremely rewarding. An example of such a meditation is taken from the Twin Cities Wellness Newsletter:

Imagine you are walking on a quiet beach. As

you walk, you feel the warm sand on the soles

of your feet, a gentle breeze brushing through

your hair. As you enjoy the smell of the fresh

ocean air, you hear a seagull squawking in the

distance, as though it were calling to you.

Your eyes take in the beautiful sunset. Then,

as you watch the waves roll onto the sand, you

throw all your troubles into the water, letting

them be washed out to sea. A feeling of peace

and calm washes over you, allowing you to come

back to reality feeling relaxed, yet refreshed

and energized.

Once you have begun your yoga practice, you will take charge by setting your own goals and developing at your own pace in a non-competitive setting. Soon, you will realize the many benefits that people for centuries have experienced -- improved muscle tone and alignment, better digestion, greater alertness throughout the day, strengthened immune system, and an ability to become and stay relaxed.

Last weekend, I went to a yoga seminar and after paying, asked, "Don't I get change from that?" The instructor looked up and said, "Change must come from within."

Ohhhmmmmmm