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Roll out the mat: How yoga can help your wellness journey.

On February 23, roaring could be heard from the Sun Devil Downtown Fitness center at Arizona State University. The screams were similar to that of a lion or a gorilla banging on its chest. The source of a group of students. Gloria Rodgers, yoga morning class, trying out the lion's breath.

Lions breath, or simhasana pranayama in Sanskrit, is a loud, powerful breath that makes the whole body shake and should not be tried in public unless you are comfortable with the weird stares. To practice lion’s breath first, you must sit in lion pose. From a kneeling position, you cross your right ankle on top of the left and sit back with your right heel.  

Rodgers says lion's breath can also be done cross-legged, in the lotus or hero’s pose. She asks the students to make it their own. 


The breath consists of opening your mouth wide and sticking your tongue out, letting it curl toward your chin.  


To do the lion's breath, one must exhale with a ha sound, releasing the breath from deep inside your stomach and passing it through the tongue. While practicing the lion's breath, taking a few normal breaths in between is important.


This simple breathing technique aids in the release of emotions. Like yawning, it allows the face and neck to stretch and relieve tension.


Lions' breath helps you to calm down. It’s a release of emotion when we are stressed out. Close to screaming out under a bridge and letting it all go. 


“Yoga teaches you to be in the moment. And when you're in the moment, you tune into what your body needs right then and there. And if we can be aware of that, outside of the yoga class, it helps us to be able to calm down,” said Rodgers. 


Her relationship with yoga started as an accidental encounter. “I actually took my first yoga class at a gym. I had been used to doing weights and cardio. I took a class and was really inspired. It helped me get out of my mind," she said. 


In the United States, yoga is practiced by one out of every ten Americans.  Thirty-six million people in total practice it daily, according to statistics. 


The reason it is accessible and is suitable for all. Seniors, adults and even kids can practice it. Yoga has been shown to improve physical health by lowering blood pressure, aiding digestion, and improving mental health. Reducing stress and anxiety. 


Research suggests it is beneficial to add a daily yoga practice for aging people, as scientists have discovered improvements in cellular aging and specific cognitive abilities.


“Mindfulness allows us to quiet the mind. With the pandemic, it brought a lot of isolation to people and people needed an outlet, they needed to find a way to be comfortable being by themselves. And I believe that yoga has shown that to a lot of people.” said Rodgers.


During the pandemic, four in 10 adults in the US reported symptoms of anxiety or depression, according to a household pulse survey from 2020 to 2023. 


Many yoga studios closed down in Arizona during the pandemic since people couldn’t leave their houses. However, Sedona boasts a popular reputation for wellness and according to a list in Conde Nast Travel magazine. Arizona resorts are a mecca of wellness.  


“Whether you’re heading to the Grand Canyon State for a bit of old-fashioned Sedona mysticism, a yoga-centric digital detox, or simply a rollicking pool scene with an expertly crafted cocktail program, we’ve got the skinny on the best resorts in the business.”


Eight weeks of mindfulness meditation with movement-based yoga. Have produced beneficial structural changes in the brain. Especially in areas focused on stress. According to Harvard Medical School associate professor Sara Lazar. 


Not only have yoga studio memberships increased since the pandemic.  According to a New York Times article, “Rise of Incense” sales have grown steadily with yoga and mindfulness businesses.


Like yoga, incense provides a sense of relaxation and calmness. A release of the daily hassles of life.  Burning incense is a cathartic experience. 



Across the centuries and in the present day, burning incense while practicing yoga has been shown to reduce anxiety and stress, in addition to heightening spiritual practices and bringing people closer to achieving universal consciousness, according to Healthline.


Marton Radics from Little Smoke, a pop-up shop in Los Angeles.  Explains incense burning is like taking a vacation but not quite. He says it’s about finding a relaxed state within you but not trying to escape it. He emphasizes that it is about living in the moment, in a present state. 


“I want people to just for the 10, or 15 minutes that it burns. I want them to just let go of their daily struggles and relax just as you would slide into a hot bath.”


Yoga and incense burning are about staying in the moment, being present and letting go of worries.  


“There's nothing else right now. I'm just going to enjoy this for the time being and that's it, and then it's gone. You're burned away into the air and then that's it.” said Radics.


The wellness concept started in the late 1950s. Dr. Halbert coined the term. It focuses on an active ongoing pursuit to better oneself. Wellness promises greater physical flexibility, shinier hair, better skin, a stronger body and mental clarity. It also assures a life of no more insecurities and anxiety. 


It is essential to set goals for yourself. However, it is straightforward to practice wellness and fall into the trap of setting impossible goals for yourself that are not realistic. Fitness can turn into perfectionism. 


Dr. Tom Curran, assistant professor of psychology at LSE warns others about the effects of perfectionism. 


"The first is an incessant striving or need to be perfect and flawless. And the second is a deep contempt or rage at the self when we haven't lived up to those high expectations."


As the culture continues to push unachievable standards, It is easy for the health aspect to get lost and left behind as many people feel discriminated against in the culture.  


“I was almost always the only fat person, the only Black person, like I'm very physically different from everyone else in the room,” said Jessamyn Stanley to a today article. “It was very alienating.” 


According to the Global Wellness Institute organization, the wellness industry is reported to make  4.5 trillion dollars. The culture has also been stigmatized. With Instagram posts of white women posing with slender torsos, 100 dollar yoga pants and pricey studios. 


Many are left out and unable to enjoy yoga's mental health benefits. Wellness culture also has a bad rep. Many believe it is only for those who want to lose weight or are body obsessed. 


Yogis like Rodgers point out “Yoga Is not about achieving those crazy poses, it's about tuning into your body, and listening to if this feels good, or, this doesn't feel good.”


She says you should feel comfortable while doing yoga. “You need to make an adjustment because it's, it's not you're not going to do it. If it hurts, or if it's uncomfortable.” 


The good news is that there are many different ways to practice yoga. To fit our needs, whether they are flexible or not, athletic or not, they can still achieve their mental health and wellness benefits. People can start with gentle yoga and transition to a different type of yoga. Perhaps a more unconventional one.


Like goat yoga, cat yoga nude yoga, rave yoga, cannabis yoga, tantrum yoga, broga yoga or even acroyoga.


Goat yoga consists of regular yoga. Except goats are present, they may sit on your back while you are in certain poses and wander around the classroom. A bonus for those animal lovers. Some teachers will take breaks in the class and allow students to pet and cuddle with the goats. 


Metal music lovers can also enjoy a loud adrenaline version of yoga with Black Sabbath blasting through the loudspeakers. For this class, it is recommended to unleash your inner beast as you sweat, pound, headbang and practice your air guitar skills. 


Although Rodgers hasn’t tried all of the types of yoga out there she says: “This type of yoga brings people in who may not have been wanting to do yoga. it brings them into that space.”


The best way to practice yoga and wellness for her. Making the practice your own. One of the benefits of Yoga is that it isn't one size fits all. It’s customizable for every one of us. 


“However you can get your yoga  that's great, whatever music you choose to use, whatever way, yoga is good for you. Yoga can also just be conscious breathing.”


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