“My name is Sara and I started the yoga three months ago to help me lose weight, and while I have already lost 15 lbs, I am getting so much more out of it.“
“My name is Joe and my daughter who lives in Hawaii told me about this yoga. She convinced me to try it. I feel younger than ever and now when she visits we get to do it together.“
“My name is Diane and I love the yoga and the community. It is inspiring and uplifting to be with my friends every day. I feel better than when I did in my twenties and I am going to be 56.“
These are just a few comments students made at the end of Rajashree Choudhury’s seminar for the BYSJ community. All Bikram Yogis in the Bay Area were invited, and on a hot Sunday afternoon, over 60 of us spent the day learning from Rajashree, Bikram’s wife. Her credibility as an expert in Yoga Therapy has landed her in speaking engagements around the globe, including at the Omega Institute in New Jersey, Kripalu Center in Massachusetts, and The Crossings in Texas, along with all the Bikram Yoga studios around the world. Rajashree’s expertise extends beyond the poses. She has a unique and powerful way of communicating the yoga’s mental and emotional benefits.
As the event host, I was lucky to have the chance to get to know Rajashree a little better. Turns out she is my age – we are born about a week apart. She came in the day before the seminar, and we had fun roaming around Santana Row chatting about her role in the Bikram Yoga organization. She was working on an article on how the consistent practice of Bikram Yoga can help alleviate the stress that many of us are experiencing as a result of the current economic situation. Much of the seminar was focused on the role that our nervous and endocrine systems play in maintaining health and balance.
At the start of the seminar, Rajashree went into detail and demonstration on how to use the breath to calm the mind. “Stress that we create with our thoughts affects the circulatory system and can cause spasms in the body obstructing the flow of prana or life force.” Slow deep full belly breaths taking long six-count inhalations and long six-count exhalations help to hit every point in the “emotional body” from the solar plexus on up, helping to relax your body and mind.
Because of the large turnout, the seminar was held in a huge vacant space just across from the studio. We did our best to make it hot and were able to maintain a steady 90 degrees, far cooler than optimal. It was evident that we needed to create more of our internal heat. During class, Rajashree dissected each pose, addressing common mistakes and explaining the benefits from doing them correctly. I would not say her class was tough; however, she emphasized our responsibility to work hard. “You must keep up the consistency AND keep up the intensity or you will get no results. She’s right. Despite our devotion, we can get lazy. And this holds true not only for yoga but other areas of our lives.
From Half Moon pose- which can open up the spine right away “to the weight bearing Awkward Pose” which opens up the knee joint and stretches fascia in the right place to help cure Plantar Fasciitis, helping prevent osteoporosis, seminar attendees were encouraged to focus on proper technique. She continued through the poses one by one, with her beautiful way of articulating. She talks fast and accents her major points with a great big smile.
As noted, she spent a good deal of time talking about the endocrine system, which includes the body’s entire hormone-secreting glands. This system works in conjunction with the nervous system to control the production of hormones and their release into the circulatory system. The endocrine system involves the colon, pancreas and glands (adrenal, thymus, thyroid, pituitary and pineal) located in the brain and organs around the torso. Although we rarely think about them, the organs in the endocrine system and the hormones they release influence almost every cell, organ, and function of our bodies. The endocrine system is instrumental in regulating mood, growth and development, tissue function, and metabolism, as well as sexual function and reproductive processes. Each one has a big job in processing just the right amount of hormonal secretion to keep us in a good mood, with a decent appetite, out of anger and full of energy and vitality (things that I want to make me happy for sure!)
In other words, the endocrine systems affects emotions. Rajashree emphasized how Standing Separate Leg Stretching Forehead to the Knee pose boosting efficiency of the endocrine system. “Unfortunately, this is a system that gets taxed with everyday stress and becomes less effective as we age,” Rajashree commented. “When you do yoga, anger, low self-esteem, addictions will go away. You will no longer focus on your addiction and yoga as therapy will help the circulatory relationship from glands to organs. As you place your forehead on the floor in Separate Leg Forehead to the Floor pose, you are regulating serotonin levels in the brain, a key hormone to help anxiety and sleep. Squeeze chin to chest and place forehead on the knee in Separate Leg Stretching Forehead to Knee pose, you are getting a thyroxine boost restoring metabolism to a natural more regular level.
“The seminar’s emphasis on stress happened to coincide with my own experience. In the last few months, I have been busier, and therefore, more stressed, than ever – something most of you can relate to, I’m sure. Stress isn’t always negative. It can simply mean that we are active doing things we love to do. Nonetheless, stress can overload the body and the mind. When we recognize and appreciate the work our bodies do, we can use techniques like yoga to help it help us during times of stress. Stress is an intangible and invisible force that can sneak up on you whether situations are positive or negative. Relaxation is the answer. “Items that support relaxation are food, meditation and yoga. Once tranquility returns to the body, you must maintain it and once balanced, hope returns, states Rajashree. With a big smile she adds, “Yoga brings rhythm of the body, melody in the mind, and harmony to the soul.” Thanks, Rajashree. Come again.