Posted by: Joe Nuss on Oct 03, 2011
Diane Cevallos opened Charlotte Family Yoga Center in October 2010 with a mission of improving not only the lives of students but the community as a whole.
Benefits of a Consistent Yoga Practice
By Kristen Behlke
My yoga practice began shortly after the birth of my second child. I strained my back during labor and suffered with tremendous pain even after the postpartum period. I took my first yoga class with hopes of alleviating my back pain and strengthening my core.
Yoga, for me, was very different from the routine gym and cardio I’d experienced. I’ve trained and competed in sprint triathlons and half-marathons and didn’t expect to get an intense physical workout from an hour-long yoga class. My mind and body proved me wrong.
In addition to alleviating some of my back pain, the following day all of my muscles were sore. Soon after I began a consistent yoga practice (two to three times per week), I was amazed by the physical benefits of yoga, including increased flexibility, strength and muscle tone. As a result of my practice, I noticed my abdominals are much stronger and my muscles appear longer and leaner.
“Yoga involves almost every muscle in the body and challenges the body to work in a different and often more passive way,” says Diane Cevallos, yoga instructor and owner of a Charlotte-based studio. “Since the limbs function as free weights, resistance is created by moving the body's center of gravity. This strengthens the muscles, eventually giving way to endurance as poses are held for longer periods of time.”
Tree Pose (balancing on one leg) and Downward Facing Dog (supporting yourself with your arms) are examples of two poses that require you to support the weight of your own body, building strength in your core, legs and upper body. Some yoga styles require you to move slowly in and out of poses or to hold them for five to eight deep breaths, which also increases strength and endurance.
“To gain strength, endurance or flexibility we must challenge the body, but not to a point where there is discomfort or pain, just enough to enable growth,” adds Diane.
The many benefits to the body are found in a variety of yoga methods taught, as well as the diversity of the poses. A distinct series of poses known as sun salutations specifically warms up the body, increases flexibility and quiets the mind, preparing one for a focused, injury-free practice. Sun salutations are a great way to increase the heart rate and get the blood pumping at the beginning of a yoga workout.
Hot yoga classes are held in heated rooms that are approximately 95 degrees, another great way to increase your heart rate. Flowing in the heat gives the cardiovascular system a thorough workout, while tissues, muscles, glands and organs get more oxygen, aiding in the removal of toxins. The heat also allows for better movement among ligaments, joints, muscles and the body’s supporting structures. Hot yoga is also said to improve metabolism, which aids in weight loss, nervous system function and flexibility.
In addition to increased strength, flexibility and muscle tone, a consistent yoga practice can quiet the mind and refresh the body, bringing health, relaxation and happiness. As a full-time working mother of two, my yoga practice provides me a much-needed break from my stressors, as well as helping me to put issues or challenges into perspective. The emphasis yoga places on being in the moment helps relieve stress as I learn not to dwell on past events or anticipate the future.
Yoga also introduces meditation techniques such as observing your breath and disengaging your thoughts, thereby calming the mind. Because of the concentration yoga requires, daily concerns (both large and small) seem to melt away. I always leave a yoga class feeling less stressed than when the class started.
After practicing yoga for two years, I’ve begun implementing these techniques off the mat, in my everyday life. Yoga helps me breathe a little deeper during times of stress, and I find myself with more patience with my kids and a renewed confidence in myself.
Yoga is one of the best things that has become a part of my life. I hope to enjoy its vast array of benefits for many years to come and I challenge others to also try yoga and open themselves to a new way of life.
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Kristen Behlke is a freelance writer based in Charlotte and the mother of two children, ages 2 and 5.