Practice Yoga- It’s More Than A Trend

by Nicole DiBenedetto

Yoga is everywhere. We see it in commercials, movies, and television shows. We see people walking down the street carrying yoga mats slung over their shoulder. It seems like everyone is practicing yoga. What is all the hype about? Is it just the current trend for exercise these days? As the studio owner of The Yoga Nook in Great Kills, I would like to help shine a light on the benefits of yoga.

Why Practice Yoga?

Although any form of exercise can bring tremendous health benefits, yoga is highly
recommended because it not only stimulates the body, it supports our mental and emotional
health as well. There are three aspects of a well-rounded yoga practice.

Asana

The asana practice is the practice of physical movement. It is what you generally think of when you think of practicing yoga. We use it to release unwanted tension, gain flexibility, stimulate blood flow, build stamina, improve balance, and increase strength.

Pranayama

In a yoga class, there is much emphasis on the practice of breathing, known as pranayama. By learning different breathing techniques we learn how to use the breath as a reliable tool. It helps lower our blood pressure, improves the oxygen levels in our bloodstream, and helps find grounding and calmness.

Meditation

Meditation practice is also a vital part of yoga. We use many different methods to help find peace, clarity, and openness in the mind and heart.

The yoga practice as a whole helps us to make better lifestyle choices. These include the promotion of better nutrition and overcoming negative habits. The yoga practice is more than just exercise, it is an experience.

Who Should Practice Yoga?

Yoga is made for everyone. There are many different styles and levels a practitioner can choose from according to their specific needs and preferences. Be mindful that there is no such thing as a “one size fits all” yoga class. It is important to understand why you are choosing to take part in the practice.

“My mind is too scattered.” “It’s hard for me to sit still.” “I’m not flexible enough.”

Those that resist yoga practice with these types of excuses are exactly the people who should be taking part in yoga. Yoga helps us to reset ourselves and work through any of our imbalances on a physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual level.

We ALL can benefit from the gifts of this ancient practice.

Where Should You Start Your Yoga Practice?

Due to Covid-19, studios in the New York City area are forced to remain closed until further
notice and are now sharing the practice of yoga by teaching virtually. This has opened the
opportunity for new students to get a taste of what the practice is all about in the comfort of
their own home and on their own time. You can find countless studios and independent instructors offering online sessions for you to try. You can find both live stream classes and recorded sessions to fit yoga into your personal schedule.

Start your journey by tuning in to a 10-minute recording of a guided meditation. Ten minutes is all it takes to get yourself into a better frame of mind and to switch your mood for the rest of the day! If you have more time to dedicate to your practice, try to tune in to a short beginner or gentle class to start introducing the fundamental poses to your body.

As an instructor, I find it important to teach yoga at different intensity levels so that the participant gets the opportunity to learn the practice in stages rather than getting thrown straight into a power flow class. Building your foundation is key to growing into more advanced practice. After you get familiar with the basics, you can always move further by trying longer and harder classes. Once you get comfortable with the practice, a good next step is to sign up for a local class held in your area. Practicing in a group setting is the greatest way of connecting with others’ energy and raising your own vibrations by feeding off of the other students in the class.

Conclusion

Those who say they do not have time for yoga are the ones who need it the most. Some of us
may not have the luxury of attending an hour-long yoga class at a local studio daily, yet that
does not mean you cannot still practice.

Can you find 10 to 15 minutes in your day to set aside to take a few deep breaths, to clear your mind and to stretch your body? If yes, then you can do this! Yoga is more than wearing fashionable yoga clothes or going along with the popular fad.

The reason why yoga is so popular is because of how amazing it makes you feel. It
changes the way you look at yourself and the world. It changes the way you care for yourself
and the world. It makes you realize that you and the world are connected as one.

Yoga Exercises to Practice on Your Own

If you would like to try some small exercises on your own, below are two samples you can
follow:

Meditation to Clear the Mind

Try recording yourself reading the guided meditation below so you can follow along.

Take a moment to find a comfortable seat. Be mindful to hold good postural alignment yet still be able to soften and relax. Allow your hands to rest on the knees with the palms down. Let the eyes drift closed or keep them gently open with a soft gaze towards the earth. Begin to breathe slowly and softly in and out through the nose. Notice any thoughts that are running through the mind. Be a witness to these thoughts, yet try not to develop the thoughts any further than what they already are. As a new thought comes to mind, envision the thought transforming into a fluffy white cloud and the cloud floats up to the sky and gently drifts away from you. With every thought that comes to mind, let’s continue in the same way:

Turn the thought into a cloud.
Let the cloud float to the sky.
Let the cloud drift away.

Thought after thought we continue with this method, choosing to let thoughts drift away so we can find some peace. Continue this exercise for a few more moments, enjoying the relief of letting go of all thought.
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Begin to deepen the breath, bringing awareness back to your body and back into the space
you are in. When you are ready, flutter your eyes open. Take one more long deep breath in
through the nose and open your mouth and sigh out your exhale. ◆︎

Pranayama – Alternate Nostril Breathing

Try recording yourself reading the guided breathing exercise below so you can follow along.

Take a moment to find a comfortable seat. Be mindful to hold good postural alignment yet still be able to soften and relax. Bring your right hand to your face. Place your two peace fingers (pointer finger and middle finger) on your third eye, the open space between your eyebrows, to help connect more deeply with your intuition.

Your thumb will be used to control the right nostril and the ring finger and pinky finger will be used to control the left nostril.

Let the eyes close and take a long deep breath in through the nose, then press your thumb against the right nostril and exhale only through your left nostril. Take a deep breath through your left nostril, then close off the left nostril and open the right nostril and exhale.
Inhale through the right, exhale through the left.
Inhale through the left, exhale through the right.
Inhale through the right, exhale through the left.
Inhale through the left, exhale through the right.
Continue this rhythm of breath for a few more moments at your own pace.
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Drawing the exercise to a close, when you find yourself exhaling through the right nostril again,
complete the exhale and bring both hands to rest on your knees with the palms down.
Take a few moments with your eyes closed to connect with how you feel.
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Begin to bring awareness back to your body and back into the space you are in. When you are ready, flutter your eyes open. Take one more long deep breath in through the nose and open your mouth and sigh out your exhale. ◆︎

If you would like to join The Yoga Nook community, please tune in to our live stream classes on
Facebook and Instagram. Join us at our weekly Outdoor Yoga Class every Saturday morning at 8am-9am at The Seaside Wildlife Nature Park in Great Kills (class level: gentle/meditation). Please visit our website for updates on our class schedule, our reopening guidelines and our studio information.

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