Restoration Through Yoga: How a Regular Yoga Practice Can Help You Heal Physically and Mentally

By: Mary Flint


Yoga. It is ancient and mysterious. It is evolving here in the Western world. There is wisdom in the practice of yoga. The wisdom of ourselves. Yoga is a mindfulness practice. It helps to balance our mind, body, and spirit, but only if we practice regularly. This is where the healing happens.

There are eight limbs to traditional yoga, and knowing them helps us to understand how regular practice can help us to heal ourselves. The “Yoga Sutra” by Patanjali calls the eightfold path of yoga, ashtanga which means “eight limbs.” The first limb is yama, which is how we conduct ourselves in life. The second limb, Niyama deals with self-discipline and spiritual observances. The third limb is asana, or the postures we practice on our mats. Asanas help us to prepare our bodies for meditation. The fourth limb, pranayama is breath control. The fifth limb, pratyahara is when we direct our attention internally, and away from the external world. The sixth limb is dharana which means concentration. All of the previous limbs together, bring us into extended periods of concentration. The seventh limb is dhyana and is meditation or contemplation. The eighth limb, samadhi is a state of ecstasy. It is where we transcend the Self. We come unto a profound connection with the divine, and interconnectedness with all living things.

A regular practice of the various yogic limbs, or even just one or two of them, is where the healing happens. I cannot overstate the power of a regular yoga practice when the practitioner really wants to create change. Even when we practice solely for the purpose of physical fitness, these deeper results appear whether we choose to acknowledge them or not. We find ourselves better able to handle stress. We are calmer, more focused, and more present. We live our lives with an ease that we simply didn’t have before, stressful situations don’t hold as much power over us as they once did. While stress still happens, we are better equipped to deal with it.

In my personal history, yoga has helped me through three of the most painful and difficult times of my life. When my father’s health was declining before his death, I noticed and was horrified by the realization that he seemed to have lost the connection between his mind and his body. He was so disconnected that he didn’t fully realize he could no longer walk following a fall that broke his hip. Watching him suffer in this way is what led me to my first yoga class in 2007. I was determined to never allow myself to become so disconnected with my own body as I aged.

I used my regular yoga practice to help me overcome an extremely negative thinking pattern while my marriage of 25+ years was falling apart. I used my time on my mat to move my thoughts towards the positive and away from the negative. I had an experience during this time of soul-searching that can only be described as a direct connection with my higher power, my source. I experienced a bright light, a feeling of welcome, of a deep abiding love, acceptance, and a conviction that the only way to handle my dissolving marriage was through complete forgiveness and love. This deeply moving, transcendent experience changed everything about my life from that point on. I am still basking in that light and warmth. It is difficult to describe what I felt, but it was a truly empowering experience, and could only ever be described as a message from or perhaps a connection with, the divine presence.

2013 was another year when yoga was my refuge, my strength. It was a year when my health, my life actually, was in the hands of surgeons and oncologists. It began with a trip to the emergency room with a sharp pain in my lower right side. The emergency appendectomy revealed a large tumor in my appendix that had nearly burst. The tumor had grown four centimeters into my colon, so I required another surgery to remove the rest of the cancer. I had a total of five hospitalizations that year. I had a subsequent small intestinal blockage that was a result of the scar tissue from the two previous surgeries, which was my third hospital stay. During my following chemotherapy, I required two more weeks in the hospital, the first for a clostridium difficile (c-diff) infection, and the second was a result of the toxic chemotherapy itself.

During all of this, I practiced my yoga anytime I was able, which wasn’t nearly as much as I would have liked. I longed for my mat, I knew I would get back to it any time I could, and I did. I used my yoga practice to gage how well I was feeling when I had a good day. When I was on my mat, I felt strong, powerful, and focused, but most importantly, I felt normal. As my body grew stronger, my yoga practice also grew stronger. I do not believe I would have been prepared to deal with all of this illness had I not been practicing yoga; before, during, and after.

I give my examples above, not for sympathy; I do not want my father’s death, the breakup of my marriage or my year of cancer to define who I am; they are simply things that happened to me. I intend for them to be an example of the healing power of yoga. Yoga created my fit and supple body, which allowed me to gracefully deal with all of the challenges it was put through. It helped me to mentally deal with everything that was happening. I never felt out of control or weak. I had the mind of a warrior, and I have yoga to thank for that. It helped me spiritually in the feeling that my higher power, my source, was there full of light, warmth, and love, and would not desert me no matter what. I know deep inside my soul, my yoga practice allowed me to tap into my true self, apart from my ego. Yoga has shown me who I really am.

I know that yoga can help us all heal, as it healed me. It gives us the inner strength and the physical strength that we need when we are navigating life. It helps us to find ourselves, and it helps us to create a strong bond between our minds and our bodies. Both the good and the bad situations in life are better when we practice on a regular basis. Give yoga a try. Participate in many different styles of classes until you find one that speaks to you personally. There are so many options available for us today; we have no valid excuses anymore to not give it a try.

I wish everyone on earth practiced yoga. The world would be a truly glorious place to live if they did.

About Mary Flint:

Mary enjoys yoga as a lifelong practice. She loves learning new yoga poses, and mastering inversions and arm balances. She has found yoga to be much more than just a physical practice, as it has prepared her mind, body and spirit for navigating life. Mary believes that yoga is for everyone, and wants to help others find their own practice.

Your Journey or Mine: Practicing Satya On & Off the Mat

By: Lin Venham


Satya (Sanskrit: सत्य) means truth, reality. It also refers to a virtue in Indian religions, referring to being truthful in one's thought, speech and action. In Yoga, Satya is one of five Yamas, restraint from falsehood and distortion of reality in one's expressions and actions.

When we speak from Satya, we speak from a place of contentment. We understand that our thoughts are matter of opinion; that our emotions and our morals are subject to change. As we begin to practice Satya, we notice how warped our perception of truth has become, mostly from the growth of our egos. Truth, by its very nature, is absolute. There is only one truth and it does not change. Everything else is just opinion. All of our judgments, our bitterness, and our insecurities are formed from our own opinions or the opinions of others. Knowing you're human, knowing you're in control of your life and your emotions, and knowing anything outside of yourself is not yours to claim or hold attachment to; that is establishing the foundation of truth. 

Satya Off the Mat 

Start with Yourself. Hear that inner dialogue? Say hi to your ego! Start paying attention to the words running through your mind. Start to decipher if they are opinion or truth. If you're hearing opinion- pause. Find the truth of that situation, then work from there. Sorting through and controlling your inner dialogue eventually leads to a quieter mind and concise thoughts.

Meditation and Mindfulness. Spend time in the quiet morning to set an intention that you will remain mindful of Satya. Meditate and reflect on your day before you crawl into bed. 

Remember Restraint. Notice Satya is a Yama (restraint), meaning it isn't about oversharing for the sake of getting your opinion off of your chest. It's seeing the raw truth, and being strong enough to project truth even if your inner peace is rocked. Are your words helpful, kind, constructive, necessary?

Satya On the Mat

Listen to Your Body. Does it hurt? Is your body giving up? I don't think it's a matter of opinion. Know when it's time to rest or take a modification. Experienced yogis aren't the ones who force themselves past their edge, the most experienced yogis take child's pose at their body's request.

Stick to Your Journey. Don't compare yourself to the people around you. I may be more flexible, but you may be stronger. We are all on our own journeys, coming from different places. Be content with your progress.

Practice Savasana. It's called corpse pose for a reason, and it pertains to the mind (ego) too!  It may not be any easier for us to find stillness after a hot power class; but the trick is to focus on the breath. Feel it enter the nose, swirl through the body, then leave through the nose. When your mind trails, call it back.

Knowing the difference between truth and opinion is tricky, and it takes a lot of thought and time spent focusing inward. You've got to get to know yourself- who are you underneath all those opinions? It's accepting your strengths and weaknesses, but knowing that those aren't what make you who you are. A comparison that can be made is Satya, the truth, is divine. It is the purity and whole of every situation, every person. Opinion, as I said is ever changing- by the minute, hour, day. When we live from satya, we're able to see clearly what we need before what we want, what is helpful and what is harmful, and when it is our truth to let go.

About Lin Venham:

Lin first came to her yoga mat in 2014. Not long after, where there was stillness in her chest, there had become life and she was seeing and feeling the world for the first time from a place of nirvana. Trained in Baptiste yoga and equipped with a laidback, peaceful style, she focuses on guiding you through smooth Vinyasa sequencing to build strength and flexibility, or easing you into restorative poses, typically sprinkled with guided meditation and essential oils. As a yoga guide, her goal is to bring you to your most inner self and introduce you to the raw and real you; give you a safe space to practice “being,” while you bloom into who you are meant to be.

Yoga on the Road: How to Keep Your Zen While Traveling

By: Natalie Ault


Traveling is the best, but the commute to getting there whether plane, train, or automobile can take a toll on our bodies. Whether your hotel bed isn't the most comfortable or your trip includes touring all over the city, you need the energy and mobility to keep up. 

Yoga has the ability to awaken the body, provides strength and flexibility, works out the mind-body-soul, restores mental energy and stamina, and also promotes relaxation and calmness. I want to share with you ways to get your yoga in no matter where you are no mat needed! I also find that yoga helps me tune in with all the yoga therapy listed above, making my trip even better. I like to get at least 10-15 minutes in when I first wake up to get me ready for whatever lies ahead in my day.

Lets start the day by greeting it with the light within us, stretching our bodies, and filling us with energy. Sun salutations are a workout which put us in sync with our breath and our body.

Sun Salutations:
1.) Standing with hands by sides, palm forward - Samasthiti
2.) Inhale, raise arms - Mountain Pose
3.) Exhale, bend forward from hips, relax head, knees straight - Forward Fold
4.) Inhale, step right leg forward into a lunge, hands framing right foot - Runners lunge
5.) Exhale, bring right foot back to meet left, hips up and back, head hangs between arms - Downward Facing Dog
6.) Inhale then exhale lowering knees, chest, and chin to the floor - Chatarunga
7.) Inhale, push chest forward, arms extend -Cobra
8.) Exhale, push up and back - Downward Facing Dog
9.) Inhale, step left leg forward into a lunge, hands frame left foot - Runners Lunge
10.) Exhale, step right foot up to meet the left, hinge at hips - Forward fold
11.) Inhale, rise up to stand, bringing hands overhead, look up - Mountain pose
12.) Exhale, bring hands down to sides, palms forward - Samasthiti

Take your time when going through the salutations. Use your yogi breath in the nose and out the nose to get in sync with the mind and body. You can hold poses as long as it serves your body. You can flow through the series as many times as you need.

One of my favorite poses to do while traveling is "Legs Up The Wall." This pose helps with edema of the legs and feet, circulation of the blood through the body, and helps with relaxation. To get in the pose lay on your back, take the legs up and rest on a wall (or headboard), take your arms out to side palms facing up, and relax. Try it out for a couple minutes before you go to sleep. You will not be disappointed in the results.

To add on to the experience you can start or end with an easy seat for meditation. Simply find a comfortable seat, bring hands to Namaste or rested on your knees, eyes softly shut, and use your breath. Starting out try it for a minute or two, eventually staying like this for up to five minutes, or longer if you have time. Use this time to let your thoughts float in and out, recite a mantra, or give yourself an intention. This mindfulness to yourself can help with our hyper-speed world, staying centered and grounded, bringing you to the now, and any overstimulation we may feel.

I love to travel and the more I can travel the better, but I do not want to lose my practice just because I am away from the studio. When I travel it can be fun to find new studios and see what they have to offer, but many times due to location or my trips time schedule that can make it impossible. Let your yoga give you what you need to stay charged and ready to have the best vacation experience.

About Natalie Ault:

Natalie's yoga practice has been evolving over the past decade. She has completed her 200 hour RYT training through Release Yoga Studio and is now certified through Yoga Alliance. She has been influenced by an assortment of yoga workshops, studios, and other fitness interests. Her classes are just like her personality.. upbeat, challenging, igniting, and true! She knows how important it is to be mindful of your own body and recognizes that every soul has its own brilliance.

Natalie's authenticity for her yoga practice has strengthened her mind-body-spirit! She aspires to help you discover that realization as well. She has no doubt that yoga is made for everyBODY and welcomes you with an open heart. Roll out your mat and get ready to awaken, recharge, and let your core shine.

Enhancing Your Yoga Practice With Essential Oils

By: Tonya Harriman-Fowler

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Most people think of essential oils as "liquid potpourri." While they do smell delicious, their therapeutic values when distilled and sourced properly, are absolutely amazing! I had been aware of eos (or essential oils) for most of my adult life and even used them during my services as an aesthetician, and then a massage therapist. I had been taught they might help alleviate headaches, reduce stress, and provide aromatic benefits. My true understanding of the power of eos began just 18 months ago.

Being introduced to eos with some of the highest purity and distilling standards has opened new doors for me. Besides using them on a daily basis to enhance my family's over­all wellness, I have discovered their supportive value during a yoga practice.

Certain oils like Peppermint or Cardamom are considered vasodilators which encourage air ways to open increasing lung capacity and freer breathing. Increased Pranyama can bring breath and movement together more easily. Mindful breathing really brings body/mind/spirit connection full circle during a meaningful practice. Continued inhalation of Peppermint during yoga or exercise oxygenates blood cells increasing respiration. This internal chemical change in the body can help us move more or for a longer period of time. When Peppermint is inhaled thru the olfactory system, it signals the limbic system to send a message to our brain to breathe. Breathing normally is a parasympathetic response, but we sometimes find ourselves holding our breath while holding a pose. A whiff of Peppermint can signal the brain to breathe. Some days I can use all the help I can get!

A powerful and potent oil, like Frankincense, can increase focus, concentration, and provide a sense of grounding to our mood and body. This oil, when applied to the root chakra, brings stability and balance to our emotions; a great oil to use to settle into a yoga practice, during Triangle or Grounding Poses, and to enhance a meditation session. Knowing that Frankincense can cross the blood­brain barrier, apply this oil to base of brainstem and top of spine for increased concentration or focus. Application to the tailbone, legs, or feet helps the mind and body become more rooted and balanced.

Have I mentioned Lavender? Ahhhh! One of my favorites all around. Inhaling or ingesting a high quality Lavender can bring on a sense of peace and calm in a heartbeat. It is also a soothing addition to offer during Savasana; simply rub between palms and hold above nose for a few deep breaths. Finish by dragging the finger tips up and over the 3rd eye. Heaven! Lavender is not as well known for its anti-inflammatory properties. Sore muscles from a rigorous practice can benefit from a direct application diluted with a carrier oil. Have a headache prior to practice? Rub a drop onto temple or scalp when headache is present.

Practicing in a studio or with a pod of yogis? Bring your Melaleuca oil to class. Melaleuca is anti-fungal, anti­bacterial, anti­viral, anti­microbial, anti­septic, and anti-­inflammatory. Phew! Not even sure I covered them all. Put in a glass spray bottle as a hand sanitizer or mat cleaner without all the toxic chemicals. Research shows it is such a strong germicide that it can even kill staph. Melaleuca can also boost our immune systems when applied to the bottoms of the feet or a drop under the tongue. Remember...only high quality, food­ grade, internal ingestion eos under the tongue.

While teaching yoga I must incorporate at least 1 essential oil every time. It not only enhances their yoga class, it helps me stay relaxed and focused to give my yogis an awesome experience on their mats. My hope is that it carries them through their day, while at the same time, leaves them wanting for more.

About Tonya Harriman-Fowler:

Tonya came to yoga later in life and now cannot imagine her life without it! Yoga has increased her fitness level, as well as her ability to be a more mindful and balanced human being. She is super excited to complete her 200 RYT training this August and truly believes her yoga training is just beginning!

Come to her classes expecting a full body/mind experience. She brings life experience from her own yoga journey with a little humor thrown in. You can expect proper alignment cues, creative sequencing, and hands on assists with essential oils all while enjoying her eclectic taste in yoga music.

Inversions: How Changing Your Perspective Can Change Your Life

By: Andrea Carlisle


What do you think of when you hear the word “inversion?” Like most people, it can immediately cause a little bit of panic – their minds go right to those advanced inversions like headstand and handstand or maybe even some challenging arm balances. However, inversions are not just fancy tricks that look cool on social media. There are so many accessible inversions that will give you all of the great benefits of having your head below your heart - fear factor not required!

So, how do you start getting inverted and reaping the benefits? Think about your normal day-to-day life. Most time is spent upright: walking, sitting, laying down with your head propped up on a pillow. Our heads always seem to be above our hearts, but what happens when we challenge that? Any time your head comes below your heart is considered an inversion in yoga. Asanas like downward facing dog and forward fold are great examples of ways to achieve this. They are thought to help improve circulation and lymph flow, as well as calm the nervous system. Yoga master B.K.S. Iyengar has voiced how he believes inversions purge the body of impurities, which in turn facilitates strength, calmness, and clarity of mind. Hmmm… maybe there is something to this whole getting upside down thing!

Let’s break it down with child’s pose. This might be one of my favorite inversions. Your hips are up on your heels giving you a very gentle decline as your head meets the floor. This incredibly accessible pose packs a lot of punch when it comes to benefits. It has been known to relieve stress, and release tension. Your third eye center resting on the mat releases a calming sensation so it’s always a great pose to take when you’re starting to feel stressed out during your day or have just worked a particularly difficult yoga sequence. It opens the hips and lengthens the low back while helping you reset and find that serene stillness. The next time you start feeling anxious, give this pose a try and see what it does for you!

Many people have reported their own positive experiences with practicing inversions. It has been said to be a natural anti-depressant, allowing the flush of the adrenal glands which releases endorphins that boost your mood. It can aid in digestion, and of course increases blood flow to the brain, which can result in better concentration and memory. As with anything, be cautious when practicing inversions and do not continue if you have high blood pressure or experience any kind of pain. Consult your doctor if you’re unsure of whether or not inversions can be part of your yoga practice.

So if you’re all cleared, when’s the best time to start an inversion? I say right now! I know you’ve been sitting upright reading this article, so I challenge you to get up and change your perspective! Take a forward fold, shoulder stand, or the always wonderful child’s pose. Try to notice of how you feel before and after getting inverted and how you feel the rest of your day. Take one whenever you find yourself getting stressed or agitated as well. If you can incorporate inversions into your daily yoga practice, I have a feeling you won’t be disappointed!

About Andrea Carlisle:
Andrea Carlisle will complete her 200 hour RYT from Release Yoga in 2016. Andrea loves to explore movement and mind-body connections through creative sequencing. She approaches her edge head-on with arm balances and inversions, which act as her form of meditation. She likes to be challenged and therefore challenges her students to also face fears and break down mental barriers, allowing them to grow and thrive on and off the mat. With a light heart and an upbeat attitude, Andrea hopes her students will leave feeling confident and strong, like they can conquer any obstacle in their path.