Heather Linkenheimer - Yoga Instructor Steeped in Jivamukti Traditions

Throughout her career, freelance yoga instructor Heather Linkenheimer has struck a fine balance between her education and practice, cultivating both a personal aptitude and an ability to help others find their inner yogis. With more than 10 years of involvement in yoga, Ms. Linkenheimer traces her discovery of the practice to a Hawaiian vacation in the early 2000s. After a life-changing experience in her first class, she pursued further training in the art and traditions of yoga on her own, a journey that ultimately led to New York City and the East Village’s famed Jivamukti Yoga Center. Captivated by its seamless blend of mind, body, and spirit-oriented techniques, Heather Linkenheimer became a proponent of Jivamukti Yoga and today shares its core tenets of shastra, bhakti, ahimsa, nada, and dhyana. As she leads students through Jivamukti’s intensive regimen of meditation, breath control, and poses, she shows yogis of all skill levels how to get the most out of their practice and achieve inner harmony.

Like most yoga instructors, Heather Linkenheimer frequently consults the masters of the practice for guidance in her own work. To this end, she reads such essential books as Light on Yoga: Yoga Dipika and Yoga and the Quest for the True Self, as well as learns from Mandy Ingber’s acclaimed Yogalosophy series. Heather Linkenheimer also practices Swedish and sports massage, trains in Thai massage, spends time in nature whenever possible, and enjoys vegetarian cuisine, such as meatless chili and lasagna.

Cultivating Core Strength through Yoga

In yoga, developing core strength is more than simply sculpting a six-pack. Throughout any given practice, your core supports you in the full range of poses. Whether you are standing in mountain pose or you’re inverted in a forearm stand, your core provides you with the strength you need to move from pose to pose. Oftentimes, teachers need to remind their students to activate their cores, since engaging the abdominal strength makes many poses significantly less strenuous. Students who begin to adopt this habit find that they rely significantly less on their arms and shoulders in restful poses like downward facing dog. When students activate their cores in regular practice, they often find that they feel “suspended” in the pose. For example, in plank, the body begins to feel like it’s floating arm’s length above the ground.

Aside from its benefits in the yoga practice, core activation can help relieve the emotional tension we hold in the abdominal region. According to yogic belief, a strong core also improves digestion, boosts posture, and deepens breathing.

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The Possible Benefits of Yoga for Patients with Multiple Sclerosis

A new study led by Evan T. Cohen, PhD, from the Rutgers School of Health Related Professions suggests that yoga can significantly benefit patients with multiple sclerosis (MS). While participating in a yoga program specially designed for the needs of individuals with MS, patients improved in walking ability and balance, and experienced lower levels of fatigue. Dr. Cohen suggests that the study points toward the importance of physical activity for patients with MS and demonstrates the viability of yoga as a form of exercise.

The study does not definitively show that yoga is better for individuals with MS than other forms of physical activity largely due to its broad, exploratory nature. At the same time, it serves as an important catalyst for continued investigations into yoga and other forms of exercise among populations with MS.

The study included 15 women who practiced yoga in a specially designed class at a nearby center. A panel of experts, including yoga instructors, scientists, and health care providers, created the program, which included breathing, meditation, and relaxation techniques in addition to yoga postures.

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From Ashtanga to Vinyasa: A Basic Guide to Yoga

Walk by any stretch of storefronts in a metropolitan area today, and chances are you’ll see at least one yoga studio. Learn to distinguish among some of the more popular styles with this basic guide.

Hatha yoga: Many teachers in the United States focus on hatha yoga as the most immediately accessible form. Participants practice poses, or asanas, that condition the body and, in a traditional interpretation, prepare the individual for further spiritual development.

Ashtanga yoga: This form of yoga is currently gaining ground. It offers a more intensive workout as participants move through a fast-paced series of asanas.

Bikram yoga: This style takes place amid temperatures approaching 100 degrees Fahrenheit in order to promote cleansing of the body through increasing circulation.

Iyengar yoga: Named for its founder, Iyengar yoga concentrates on the subtle variations from one asana to the next. Participants hold postures longer than in many other styles and use a variety of props to allow for any individual differences in alignment and body structure.

Anusara yoga: Often described as a less intense form of Iyengar, this form focuses on individual expression and is often recommended for novices.

Jivamukti yoga: This style attempts to reinvigorate physical practice with intense spiritual focus that makes use of traditional Sanskrit chanting and emphasizes a set of ethical practices, including vegetarianism.

The vinyasa family of flowing yoga styles includes Ashtanga and Jivamukti, as well as power yoga, White Lotus yoga, and Kali Ray TriYoga.

Lunges and Yoga Sequencing

If you have ever attended a yoga class, chances are high that you have moved through some type of lunge. Variations of this pose range from simple high and low lunges to revolved lunge poses and hip-opening lunges like Warrior I and II. Most types of lunges focus on increasing flexibility and strength in the thighs and groin. Due to these and other benefits, teachers often include lunges in the opening class sequences.

For example, in the Prana Flow school, teachers instill the importance of “the four movements of lunge” at the beginning of each class. Once students move into a lunge, Prana Flow teachers challenge them to extend energy forward through the front knee, backward through the back heel, down through the forward hip, and up through the calf of the back leg. Focusing on these four specific movements helps students to understand how to improve their lunge alignment. Furthermore, it invites them to channel and disperse their energy, a skill that will allow them to stay comfortably in this and other poses. Additionally, lunges foster balance and activate the core, preparing students for a wide range of poses as the practice unfolds.

The Effectiveness of Yoga Practice for Weight Loss

Many types of yoga do not place as much physical demand on practitioners as aerobic exercise does. For example, an individual will burn twice the calories walking for an hour at 3 miles per hour than practicing typical forms of yoga. At the same time, many practitioners and teachers rave about yoga’s ability to encourage weight loss.

In 2005, Dr. Alan Kristal undertook a formal study of the effect of yoga on weight loss. He found that yoga does indeed help people lose weight, or at least prevent them from gaining weight. In the course of the study, overweight individuals practicing yoga lost 5 pounds, whereas participants who did not practice yoga gained 14 pounds.

Dr. Kristal concluded that the weight-loss benefits of yoga stem from an increased connection between body and mind. This stronger connection allows individuals to become more aware of what they eat and how much. Yoga practitioners better register the feeling of fullness and tend not to overeat.

Some more intense forms of yoga, such as Power Yoga, do have fat-burning and aerobic qualities that can further fuel weight loss.

The Benefits of Meditation

Meditation, long used to treat ailments ranging from pain to depression, has been the subject of scientific study in recent years, and researchers have established a number of correlations between its practice and positive outcomes in the body. A team of researchers at Ohio State University showed that some types of relaxation therapy could reduce a person’s risk of having breast cancer recur or boost the immune system in elderly people. At the University of Western Australia and Trakya University in Turkey, studies showed that relaxation may increase fertility in men and women. And researchers from Emory University and Harvard Medical School have shown that meditation can affect blood pressure and stress-related inflammation.

While the positive effects of meditation on the body have yet to be fully quantified, researchers are continuing to explore the subject, and it has become an important part of overall health for many people. A study conducted by the U.S. government in 2007 estimated that more than 20 million Americans used meditation once a year at that time, an increase of 5 million people over five years. The National Institutes of Health have yet to issue a firm statement that meditation benefits the body, but they do suggest that people discuss meditative practices with their doctors if they use them.

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