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Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2008 02:56 am

Take a deep breath. Yoga’s easy!

Springfield practitioners say yoga offers a path to better mental and physical health

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Untitled Document Erinn Tanner’s yoga class begins with pupils on brightly colored foam mats, lying flat on their backs, arms at their sides (think starfish washed ashore) in a position called savasana, or the corpse pose (not corpse in a morbid sense, Tanner says, but rather as a shedding of the old self, a clearing of the mind, and a rebirth of the spirit).
Tanner, who goes by the name Erinn Earth, is trained in the sivananda form of yoga, which emphasizes exercise; breathing; relaxation; a healthy, typically vegetarian diet; positive thinking; and meditation. Just as there exists no one path to enlightenment in Hinduism — the religion of which yoga is an integral part — yoga, too, comes in many different forms, all of which involve, in varying degrees, meditation, integrating the mind and body through physical activity, spirituality, concentration, and discipline. Over the past 50 years, approximately 30 million Americans have begun practicing the ancient tradition. Yoga offers a number of health benefits, both mental and physical, including short-term respiratory improvement, according to a recent study conducted at Thailand’s Khon Kaen University. Powerful breathing allows the chest wall to expand and get more air to the base of the lungs. This lets more oxygen in, decreasing the effort required to breathe, says lead researcher Raoyrin Chanavirut. “These findings may benefit people suffering from illnesses that affect breathing, including asthma,” says Chanavirut, who adds that yoga helps people with neuromuscular conditions and those who have undergone abdominal or thoracic surgery. Fifty-eight study participants practiced five hatha yoga positions over the course six weeks in 20-minute sessions, three times a week. The positions included cat, tree, and camel poses. The members of a control group avoided exercise and continued with their typical lifestyle habits (but did not smoke or drink).
Chanavirut’s research team used a measuring tape to determine lung capacity before and after the sessions, measuring the sternum and the middle and lower chest and then using a tool called a spirometer to measure the amount of air a person exhales, a key indicator of healthy lung function, according to research reports.
“Volunteers who did yoga over the six-week period significantly improved chest wall expansion at all three measurement points and also showed significantly better forced expiratory volume (blowing out) and forced vital capacity (blowing out after breathing in),” research reports say. One man says he began taking Tanner’s class three months ago, after his physician told him that he had mild hypertension, and says he feels great. Tanner teaches yoga three times a week at FitClub West (2811 W. Lawrence Ave.), and FitClub South (3631 S. Sixth St.). She also offers private instruction; contact her at 685-1643.
Other local yoga offerings include: • Ahh Yoga, 1051 Wabash Ave., 217-725-2373, www.ahhyoga.net • Namasté Yoga Center, 907 Clocktower Dr., 217-698-8177, www.namasteyoga.com Springfield YMCA, 701 S. Fourth St., 217-544-9846, www.springfieldymca.org • Center for Living, Prairie Heart Institute, 217-544-LIVE, www.prairieheart.com/cfl
Contact R.L. Nave at rnave@illinoistimes.com.
This report includes information provided by Content That Works, a news-features service.
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