I am always saying to my yoga students that you can tell how old someone was when they took up the practice.
That’s because I feel that when you begin this ancient discipline, if you keep it up every week, you can continue to look the way you look the age you were when you started.
I stumbled upon yoga at the age of 34.
I remember a friend of mine who was also Phi Beta Kappa and a fitness trainer said to me, “Catherine, you would love yoga!”
My famous retort to him was, “Yoga is for wimps.”
My friend went on to study naturopathy and has long since moved away. I wish I could track him down to thank him personally for encouraging me to do something outside my usual expectations.
I feel that practicing yoga has made it possible for me to be a medical intuitive in a very practical, grounded way. Not only do I have the insights and the perceptions that I do, I am able to keep myself balanced on all levels while receiving a tremendous amount of information.
I used to say that being me felt like receiving 1,000 volts of electricity through an ordinary light socket.
It wasn’t always easy for me to be this sensitive. Yoga has made me strong enough to handle my level of sensitivity, and in the process has made me very healthy and kept me feeling very young.
If I go to a convention with other yogis, I can expect to be taught by yogis who may be 70 years old but whose bodies look like they are actually 30.
How does this happen?
All exercise is beneficial for 100 different reasons, but why does yoga keep us looking and feeling so young?
Here are my observations on the specific benefits of yoga:
- Muscular. Yoga not only develops strength, it also corrects muscle imbalances brought on by doing one-sided sports like golf or tennis. When we work out on weight machines, we develop our muscles in very isolated ways. When we strengthen our body by practicing yoga, we strengthen ourselves in very practical ways because we strengthen chains of muscles, getting all our muscles working together, making our body work better in normal life.
- Skeletal. Yogis measure age by the flexibility of a person’s spine. The practice stretches every joint in your body and has been proven to reverse even bone diseases such as osteoporosis and osteopenia. Even if you do not have degenerative bone disease, yoga can help you. After age 23, the venous supply to the disks naturally atrophies. Yoga pumps fluids to the spine and can help you save thousands of dollars in chiropractic and medical visits for back care.
- Circulatory. If you don’t think you can get an aerobic workout doing yoga, come to a flow yoga class! Specific postures actually direct circulation – providing healing benefits for all major organs of the body. Many people who are accustomed to running, jogging or spinning classes would do well starting with a vinyasa yoga class. But even the most basic yoga stretching class can increase your aerobic capacity and improve your heart’s circulation. It’s all due to yogic breathing. Yogis have been found to have the same aerobic capacity as marathon runners. Most exercise that is labelled aerobic is actually anaerobic. Anaerobic exercise literally means exercise without oxygen. Yoga increases the flow of oxygen to every cell in your body.
- Respiratory. Yoga provides probably the most advanced system of breathing in the world. Asthmatics often recover.
- 5. Endocrine. Various yoga postures are designed to stimulate the major glands of the body, balancing hormones. In addition to the action of specific poses, the major endocrine effect of yoga is to lower our stress hormones, adrenalin and cortisol. Our stress hormones have a catabolic effect. That means they break down the body, including breaking down muscle tissue, hair and bone and depleting our brain chemistry and other hormones.
- 6. Mental. Increases concentration and focus. Clears and relaxes the mind, proven to relieve depression more effectively than group therapy. Also proven to raise serotonin, a neurotransmitter that relieves depression and prevents overeating. Yoga has also been proven to raise GABA. People with anxiety and panic attacks are shown to have an average 22 percent lower level of GABA.
- 7. Nervous system. Releases pressure and impingement of the nerves, balances the spinal cord. If I am doing a medical intuitive reading, I can check how well the various organs of your body are receiving information from your nervous system. A nerve is the width of a strand of your hair. Once you understand that, you can understand how easy it is for us to experience nerve impingement. If there is not good nerve communication, you may experience any number of symptoms, such as numbness and tingling in your arms, hands and feet, shoulder or neck problems, or diminished vitality in your organs.
- Digestive and Eliminative. Yoga keeps the body clean through various postures that stimulate the lungs, kidneys, digestive tract, lymph system and skin. The lymph system is twice as large as the circulatory system of the blood. The gentle twisting posture in yoga stimulate the lymph better than many other kinds of exercise. And because the largest concentration of lymph is in our gastrointestinal area, we find ourselves experiencing much improved digestion.
- Connective tissue. The connective tissue system in the body is the only system where every cell is connected literally to every other cell. That is why, when we practice yoga, we literally feel great from our head to our toes. I like to use this example in my yoga classes. If you pick up part of your shirt and tug gently on the fabric in one area, you will notice subtle changes in other parts. The genius inventor Buckminster Fuller coined the term tensegrity. Tensegrity is a contraction of tensional integrity. This, to me, is a very interesting way of thinking about the holographic effect that yoga has on our entire mind-body system, challenging every part of us, making us stronger inside and out.
- Pranic. Increases the flow of prana, or chi, also known as life energy. Energizes while it stretches and relaxes you. There are three specific kinds of exercise that I feel actually increase our chi. These include tai chi, qi gong and yoga. In energy work, what we say is that the slower you go, the faster chi flows. By opening up and balancing the major energy centers in the body, yoga has profound restorative benefits. There is also an energy flow in the body whereby this chi can not only make you feel good temporarily, but heal you at very great depths. The hara line, which is a vertical electrical current, feeds the chakras. The chakras are major energy centers that are opened and balanced by the practice of yoga. The chakras feed the acupuncture meridians. The acupuncture meridians feed the organs. The internal organs actually feed energy to the muscles. So a regular yoga practice can balance the energy system with very profound effects.