When I was younger (in college), I used to seek various ways to have a healthier mind and body. To have an alternative direction to a solid set of moral values. I stumbled upon and read different texts and teachings like those of Confucius, and a vast variety of Buddhist teachings. Exploring options like those lead me to Yoga. So I bought myself a book called Jivamukti Yoga by Sharon Gannon and David Life. What I like about this book is that it not only teaches what Yoga is in general but also give insights to what Yoga is for, about, its history and the what it can do. I will not go deep on those anymore because I myself needs to read the book again to understand it fully. What I also like about this book is that it also has bits of Christian teachings in its pages, Yoga is not of Christian roots but what I know is that it started in India *and it is the second most ancient if India's six philosophical systems, which are also referred to as darshanas or poimts of view and are considered complimentary rather than independent.
Yoga is an ancient practice designed to link the body and the soul and to "liven it up". It is not only healthy, but Yoga also helps the body ones spirituality to become stronger. The Yoga poses and breathing techniques are designed to target specific body parts, enabling oxygen to be distributed more to that particular area. Also, certain yoga poses are designed to enhance organs, thus, making them function at their best. To add, those are just some of Yoga's physiological aspects and contributions to ones general health. The spiritual aspect is far more deeper and Yoga was also designed for spiritual enrichment as well.
**YOGA FOR P.L.H.I.V. How exactly can yoga benefit PLHIV?
“Worldwide, yoga has become widely recognized as an effective complementary management therapy for many conditions, diseases, and disorders, including HIV and AIDS,” according to Charmaine Cu-Unjieng, co-instructor of the Yoga for Life program.
“Since HIV attacks the immune system, PLHIV particularly need to maintain strong immune systems to keep from becoming vulnerable to a variety of opportunistic infections,” shares Charmaine. “An asana or posture sequence which aims to bolster the immune system was developed by B.K.S. Iyengar, the founder of Iyengar Yoga. The sequence encourages proper blood circulation, as well as increases the efficiency of the thymus, pineal, and pituitary glands, which are parts of the endocrine system known to regulate the production of T-cells, the body’s army against infections.”
“Inversions such as the Sirsasana (headstand), the Salamba Sarvangasana (supported shoulderstand), and the Adho Mukha Vrksasana (handstand) are part of the Iyengar asana sequence that can be of great benefit to people with compromised immunity,” adds Charmaine. “Backbends like the Salamba Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (supported bridge pose) and the Supta Baddha Konasana (reclining bound angle pose) are also used to open up the chest and stimulate thymus activity.”
Charmaine points out, “The most significant benefit of yoga to PLHIV may be in stress reduction. Although everyone experiences stress, the way that stress can take its toll on one’s immune system makes it even more of a concern for PLHIV. PLHIV may also face additional stressors in their lives, like stigma and discrimination, facing disclosure, or fear of sickness and death.”
The program also features pranayama or breathing techniques that can be equally beneficial to PLHIV, with the Ujjayi (victorious breath), Kapalbhati (breath of fire), Nadi Shodhana (alternate nostril breathing) as Charmaine’s examples of breathing techniques that help detoxify the body, increase oxygen intake, promote cellular metabolism, and most importantly, silence the mind.
But she also cautions, “Asanas and pranayamas should be taught by qualified yoga instructors who can teach you the right techniques, make adjustments to the routines for any physical limitations you may have, and make corrections as you perform the asanas. Likewise, anyone with special health conditions should consult his or her healthcare provider before beginning any yoga practice.”
When I started doing Yoga it not only helped me be flexible, but also it made my respiratory system stronger too, I was healthier. Matching Yoga practice with abstaining the consumption of land animal meat as well as any processed food, helped a lot. I stopped smoking at that time and I was not even drinking any processed drinks either. I was a heavy Green Tea drinker, the type that was imported from Japan and the one that one has to scoop out the leaves and put in a kettle specifically for teas. I can run a mile without slowing down, I can swim 4 laps without stopping in an Olympic sized swimming pool, I can climb walls (indoor bouldering) for hours. I can walk for miles, even for hours. I was lean, and it was my fittest, I had 6 pack abs. I never got sick for more than a year, and not a bit of pain in any of my insides. regular Yoga and a healthy lifestyle improved my mind and body that time. So what happened? College thesis came and it all crashed down. I was back to my old lifestyle of smoking and eating all those delicious land animal meat. I did have determination and interest, but I did not have any discipline.
Pulling out the book from my bookshelf bring back healthy memories. As of this writing I decided to go back to Yoga again. I know it will bring great help to my depleting immune system. Thus, with my "back to yoga" plan; I will promote the group I found a couple of months back in which I also partake in one of their activities (a few weeks ago).
***Yoga for life
Yoga for Life began in June 2010, and is the Philippines’ first community-based yoga program for persons living with HIV, as well as others who support them and the cause and want to experience the beauty of yoga. To date, the community has grown to over 300, as Yoga for Life continues to reach more people and build a community of advocates who, through yoga, share their energies towards living positively and living well.
Yoga for Life will have an activity for the 28th International Candlelight Memorial. The event will be held at Glorietta, Makati this coming may 15th. For more details of the activity, please click here.
*Practices for Liberating Body and Soul. Jivamukti Yoga by Sharon Gannon and David Life.
**Yoga for Life's Seasons by CZARINA NICOLE ONG