The Yoga Glow
By Cain Carroll
Yoga, the process of harmonizing body, mind and spirit with the goal of realizing one’s highest potential, is one of the most extraordinary systems of human development ever discovered. The word Yoga comes from the Sanskrit root yug meaning to join, unite or connect. In essence, this connection is experienced as serene balance in all aspects of your life – called the Yoga Glow.
Yoga’s history reaches back 5000 years in an unbroken tradition of exploration, discovery and innovation. The ancient sages of India studied the human body and mind with such precision and accuracy that modern scientists are only now beginning to understand their findings.
Current studies are proving the many health-enhancing benefits of regular Yoga practice. Many common health complaints such as depression, low back pain, hypertension, hormone imbalances, digestive distress, weight gain, and thyroid imbalances are successfully addressed by proper Yoga practice. Aside from working internally to promote health and balance systemically, Yoga also provides a great workout for the musculoskeletal system. When your muscles are toned and your organ systems are functioning properly, you look great, feel great, and rarely need to visit your doctor.
If you have ever been to a Yoga class, you know that Yoga movements are done in coordination with specific patterns of breathing. Arms extend up as you inhale, then descend as the breath moves out. This may seem simple, but the premise is quite profound. Unlike most forms of conventional exercise, Yoga works primarily with the endocrine and nervous system. When movements are performed with specific mental focus and breathing patterns, the body naturally increases its production of anti-aging and mood-enhancing hormones. These hormones travel through the blood stream reaching every cell of the body. This is why people look so vibrant after Yoga class. They have literally been rejuvenated from the inside out. So, when beauty and vitality exude from your every pore as you leave the Yoga studio, we say, “She’s got the Yoga Glow!”
The most important factor with Yoga is consistency. Its benefits can be realized in as little as 15 minutes of practice a day. It is much more effective to practice every day for 15 minutes than two days a week for an hour. This is because Yoga’s most powerful benefits come from its effects on the various endocrine glands (pituitary, pineal, adrenals, ovaries, etc.) and the branch of the nervous system called the para-sympathetic response. No gym has a machine that hits these most essential parts of your body. Herein lies the secret of why most Yoga practitioners don’t look their age.
To understand the power of the para-sympathic nervous response, let’s look at its cousin, the sympathetic nervous response. This is commonly known as the “fight or flight” response. That jittery feeling when your mind races, your breathing quickens, and your shoulders tense: that is an indication that you’re in sympathetic mode. Internally, heart rate and blood pressure increase, circulation to skin and vital internal organs comes to a halt, and harmful stress hormones course through your veins, disrupting the delicate balance of brain chemistry. Repeating this pattern daily wreaks havoc on your health.
Fortunately, the para-sympathetic nervous system is a brilliant system aimed at preserving your health and longevity. In Yoga we affectionately call this the “rest and digest” response. By taking a few deep abdominal breaths, or practicing a few Yoga postures, you click on the rest response. The effects can be easily measured with simple equipment at any doctor’s office. Your heart rate and blood pressure decrease; circulation increases to the skin, lips, eyes, and scalp (affecting hair shine); metabolism regulates fat storage; sex drive increases; and brain chemistry returns to balance. The bottom line: you feel serene and look great.
So if you’re busy and looking for a simple method that addresses your desire for holistic wellness, perhaps Yoga is for you. There are Yoga studios popping up on every corner. Most have classes running morning through evening, seven days a week. There are as many styles of Yoga as there are people teaching it: from sweaty Power Yoga to relaxing Restorative Yoga. Try different types until you find one that’s right for you. When it clicks, you’ll know it. And if you’re in my class, I will too. I’ll smile at you and say, “Ah, you caught the Yoga Glow”!”
Cain Carroll has been a devoted student of the Eastern wisdom arts since 1986. He has studied Yoga, Tantra, Taoism, and Buddhism under the guidance of elder teachers in India, Nepal, Thailand, South America, and Hawaii. Cain is the co- author of the internationally acclaimed book, Partner Yoga: Making Contact for Physical, Emotional & Spiritual Growth. He has taught yoga in 13 countries, served for two years as the Director of Yoga Teacher Training at Southwest Institute of Healing Arts (Tempe, AZ), and is the co-owner of Yoga Shala in Prescott, AZ.