FAQs -- Frequently Asked Questions
What is Acupuncture?
Acupuncture is an effective form of medical treatment that has evolved into a complete holistic health care system. Acupuncture promotes natural healing by using the body's own energy. It can boost the immune system, relieve and manage pain, as well as accelerate recovery from illness, surgery or serious trauma. This ancient system also supports emotional and mental health and improves overall physical function and well-being. It is a safe, painless and effective way to treat a wide variety of medical conditions.
What is yoga?
The yoga that everyone is most familiar with in the Western world is "hatha yoga" which simply refers to the physical practice of yoga poses which may or may not include meditation or pranayam. The true meaning of the word "yoga" (coming from the Sanksrit) is "union" or to "yoke together." And a true "yoga" practice cultivates balance in mind-body-spirit, restoring ourselves to wholeness and bringing awareness to every moment, to every breath.
The original purpose of yoga in India was as a physical practice to help monks condition themselves to sit longer in meditation -- sometimes for 8 hours per day. The practice was confined to the monasteries/ashrams and was created by and practiced by men only.
Kripalu, Iyengar, Ashtanga, Sivananda, and Bikram are all simply names of styles or schools of hatha yoga. Most are named after a "guru" or spiritual teacher who founded the style.
Raven primarily trained and teaches in the style of Kripalu Yoga, but she also spent years as a student of Sivananda and Jivamukti (a form of Ashtanga/Iyengar styles).
What is "yoga therapy?"
Yoga therapy refers to the therapeutic application of yoga to a physical, emotional or psychological issue.
For instance, if someone suffers from low back pain, there are specifc yoga poses and movements which can actively support the spine and promote healing/relieve pain and decompress nerves.
Many times a session will include breathing exercises (pranayam), as well as Ayurvedic practices and changes in eating habits.
Yoga therapy is an excellent complement to any other modality or medical treatment. The practices are quite gentle, non-invasive and focus on bringing more oxygen into the system and more blood flow into the vital organs and areas or the body which have been compromised.
For emotional and psychological issues, physical movement and poses can also be quite effective as well as special breathing techniques. That said, there is a whole yoga practicum for depression and anxiety. Simply learning how to breathe more deeply and exhale more fully can shift your physiology drastically over a short period of time.
Yoga focuses first on the breath -- the more oxygenated the blood, the healthier we are in general. Deeper breathing slows down the heart rate and calms the entire nervous system. Secondly, yoga zeroes in on the spine and the trunk of the body where all of the vital organs are located.
What is Chakra-Balancing?
"Chakra" is the Sanskrit word meaning "wheel". In the yogic tradition, chakras are seen as the "energy centers" of the body and if all are healthy, they are open and spinning, moving the energy from bottom to top. One of the aims of yoga is also to help open the chakras using physical movement/poses -- this is just a variation on that theme.
Chakras begin at the base of the spine (tailbone) and run up, along the spinal cord, through the brain to the crown of the head. There are many different theories about chakras and some say there are 12 or more of these energy centers, but for the purposes of these treatments, we stick with the basic belief that there are 7 main chakras. Each one corresponds to a different color, seed sound, musical note and life theme.
- 1st Chakra is the Root
- 2nd Chakra is the Sacral
- 3rd Chakra is the Solar Plexus
- 4th Chakra is the Heart
- 5th Chakra is the Throat
- 6th Chakra is the Third Eye
- 7th Chakra is the Crown
Chakra-Balancing involves the use of acupuncture, Reiki healing and other modalities as needed (such as gentle breathwork).
Each treatment is customized based on the client's expressed needs and desires. The treatments can be very helpful and effective in calming the mind, providing stress-relief and re-balancing of mental/emotional energy. It may also help you with insomnia, headaches, SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) and can give your spirits and immune system a boost as well.
The treatment is offered with patient lying down for the full hour. No yoga poses or movements are involved, though we do sometimes work with the breath.
What is "Reiki?"
Reiki is a healing energy practice which involves the laying-on of hands. The practitioner calls upon their Highest intention in order to bring through pure, healing love and universal energy to the recipient. Each practitioner is essentially a channel for this healing energy to flow through.
Reiki has ancient roots in Tibetan energy medicine. It is closely linked to the chakra system (7 energy centers which run up the spine and out through the crown of the head).
Reiki sessions usually last 50 to 60 minutes and are performed on a massage table -- the client is fully clothed and simply closes their eyes and allows themself to receive the energy and allow it to flow where it is needed the most.
As with yoga therapy, Reiki can address physical, emotional or psychological issues very effectively. The experience of a Reiki treatment can vary wildly and may be quite subtle or profound and life-changing. Sensations are quite commonly experienced the deeper you sink into relaxations. Sometimes colors or visions may be "seen."
Reiki is suitable for all ages.
What is Ayurveda?
One definition of "Ayurveda" is the "science of Self-Healing." It is also seen as the practice of bringing the body (and your life) back into balance from the inside out. Ayurveda has been practiced as a medical and preventitive modality in India for over 5000 years and is the sister science to yoga.
Hatha yoga and yoga therapy address certain physical and physiological issues, whereas Ayurveda focuses on eating habits and choices and lifestyle choices and daily practices (Dinacharya) to enhance your overall health and well-being.
Ayurveda believes in "whole body intelligence" and that good health and/or disease begins in the digestive tract.
What is "pranayama?"
Pranayama is the practice of cultivating or building strong "prana" in the physical body.
Prana is the Indian equivalent of "chi" from Chinese medicine. It is the "life force" that runs through us. Prana is brought in and moved through the body by the breath. Deepening the breath cultivates more prana.
As the lungs expand and contract more fully, this massages the heart which sits in between the lobes of the lungs, besides circulating more oxygen through the bloodstream.
What if I am pregnant?
If you are still in your first trimester, you can easily do any of the gentle/beginner/restorative classes.
If you are further along, you will need to stay off your belly (over-stating the obvious) and likewise, not spend too long on your back.
It's possible to do a relaxation on your side. Feel free to bring a pillow or cushion to place between your knees.
A number of women go through their whole pregnancy in our classes. You learn quickly what works and what doesn't for you. You take it easy as you need to. Yoga is a great way to relax, rejuvenate and gently condition the body for labor and delivery. Also, the pranayam work can be very practical and helpful at that time.
Do I have to stand on my head or twist myself into a pretzel shape?
NO! Many people have the mistaken impression that all styles and traditions of yoga require you to have incredible flexibility before you even begin!
Kripalu style yoga is very gentle and forgiving, and yet it is very easy to challenge yourself in your practice by deepening the breath, holding postures longer or doing variations. In essence, it is self-directed -- you make the choice of how far you go and for how long. You will not expected to be proficient or even flexible -- that's why we have "beginner classes".
We do not lead headstand in our classes as it puts too much pressure on the cervical vertebrae. Most American's cervical vertebrae are already out of alignment from our slumped position over computer keyboards and steering wheels and our neck and upper back muscles are generally not strong enough to jump right into this practice.
There are other movements and poses, like Child pose and Seated Yoga Mudra, as well as Rabbit and a gentle forehead or cranial massage that can give you many of the same benefits of headstand without the risk of cervical injury. The cranial plates of the skull are designed to move slightly and it is helpful and very healthy to put a little pressure on them and massage the top of your head into a mat or blanket for a few minutes.