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By Rahel Kay RMT, CR, CYI

My name is Rahel. I am a Massage Therapist here at The Pacific Wellness Institute.

Recently I became a Yoga instructor because Yoga is a field that I have been passionate about since adolescence. Studying to do so was an incredible journey that I will never forget. Yoga is so much more than just the postures (Asanas) that one might practice at a studio, gym or with a video. Yoga is a philosophy. It is a meditation, a healing art, and a lesson in breathing. It is said that if you are not breathing with focus and awareness (Pranayama) during the Yoga practice, you are actually just stretching. How often does one breathe deeply, continuously for at least an hour? Imagine the possibilities related to doing so. In Yoga practice, breath is directed to certain parts of the body depending on the position you are in. On a philosophical level, Prana (or breath) is thought of as an ethereal energy source that flows through all beings.

Yoga originated thousands of years ago in India, and some have speculated that it was being practiced as far back as the time of the Indus Valley. It is interesting to note that the original one was not allowed to practice the postures, or exercise component until he had completed at least 10 years of philosophical study. In this instance I’d like to emphasize the ‘he’; because in fact, until only recently, women were not allowed to practice Yoga. Ironically, and especially in Western culture, the majority of people now practicing are women.

Yoga, as a general practice, has proven it’s staying power on this planet and it’s not hard to see why…

When I first began studying to be a teacher, all the students went around in a circle to talk about how, as well as why, each had come to be in that class. How had we come to this point in our lives where we wanted to have a deeper understanding of Yoga? I was amazed to discover that more than HALF the class had fallen in love with Yoga after it helped them recover from an injury, health condition or even emotional pain. Car and sports-related injuries, arthritis, cancer, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder were just a few of the examples given. Whatever the reason, a common understanding was evident among the students: that breathing deeply, giving oxygen and stretch to your organs, goes a long way in the healing process. This is only one of the many benefits of Yoga – remembering that adequate oxygen supply to the tissue is crucial for healing.

Resultant through Yoga, and also crucial for healing, is relaxation. Relaxation is our power to reduce stress; thereby enabling the body, mind, and the whole being to be balanced and to thrive. It is generally estimated that between 70-80% of disease is related to stress. Reducing stress seems to be a useful priority. Relaxing during a Yoga practice is the meditation component. Usually included in the practice immediately before and also following, meditation is a mostly silent introspective component that is done in either a comfortable seated position or lying down. It can be an excellent method of heightening awareness, relaxing the nervous system, slowing the heart rate, and calming the mind.

Something interesting that I learned during my studies, is how similar all the benefits of yoga are to those of massage therapy. Whether being in a relaxed state on a massage table or in a deep stretching yoga posture, both are equally encouraging of introspection and body awareness. The more aware we are in regards to our body, the more we tend to care for it before it needs to become serious health issues. As in yoga, relaxation and deep breathing during massage therapy help to slow the heart rate, and increase oxygen in the body. Again, oxygen helps our bodies heal. Both massage and yoga also encourage healthy circulation. This stimulates the vital organs to maintain homeostasis or balance in the body. Overall yoga, much like a massage, helps in healing from health conditions and injuries.

Even if I had thousands of pages to fill, I could not fully describe the depth and beauty of Yoga. It is experiential and open to everyone. There are many different forms available to explore including but not limited to “Hatha”, a more creative and sometimes gentle type; “Ashtanga”, a more methodical, rhythmic and intense type; “Bikram”, a type practiced in an extremely heated room to encourage sweating and detoxification as well as gaining more length during stretching; and “Kundalini”, a more spiritually focused type which often includes chanting. I sincerely encourage you to look into this incredible, ancient, healing art form.

Namaste (The light within me, salutes the light within you)

Rahel Kay is a registered massage therapist and certified reflexologist at The Pacific Wellness Institute.