FAQs -- Frequently Asked Questions
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.
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.
There are other "limbs" of yoga, such as "bhakti yoga" which is devotional and involves chanting mantras and praising God. "Karma yoga" is another form of yoga -- selfless service; giving of your time and your self as a volunteer for a worthwhile cause.
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 healing process. Breathing exercises are also frequently involved in a "yoga therapy recommendation," as are 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. 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 Ayurveda?
One definition of "Ayurveda" is the "science of Self-Healing." It is also seen as the practice of bringing the body back into balance; how to bring harmony into your life 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 physioliogical issues, whereas Ayurveda focuses on eating habits and choices and lifestyle choices and daily practices 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.
Where are Boston Wellness Center classes held?
At this time, we are offering public classes at two main locations: German Centre (Auditorium) in West Roxbury and The Center at Westwoods in Westwood.
Sunday Restorative Yoga classes are held each week at The Center at Westwoods, 590 Gay Street, Westwood, MA 02090.
DIRECTIONS: Coming from Boston, Gay Street is off of Washington St/Rt 1A, not far from Legacy Place -- make a right at the light on Gay and drive down past the school on your right, you will also pass Pine Street on your left. The Center driveway is just a little further up, around the bend -- on your right.)
Or if you have to take 95, exit at 15A (heading towards Dedham). Coming off the exit, get all the way over to the left turn lane and turn onto Elm St. There will be a Joe's American Grill on the left and across will be a CVS.
At the next light, take a left onto route 1A and come down to one more light. This is Gay Street. Make a Right. Drive down past the school on your right, you will also pass Pine Street on your left. The Center driveway is just a little further up, around the bend -- on your right.)
The number 590 is on the mailbox -- there are no large signs. Drive all the way back around the circle to park. We will meet in the white building known as the "meditation hall."
All Tuesday and Thursday Beginner Adult Yoga classes are held at the German Centre Auditorium, 2222 Centre Street, West Roxbury, MA 02132. There is plenty of free parking on-site.
What should I wear?
You don't need to buy fancy yoga outfits to do a yoga practice. Usually comfortable, loose clothing works. It can be handy to have some spandex or lycra in the material to keep clothes in place when you bend forward, back or do inversions like downward-facing dog.
What should I bring?
Sticky mats are available at both locations but are more for emergency use (if you forget yours). It's much more sanitary to use your own mat. Sticky mats are now relatively inexpensive at TJ Maxx, Marshalls and Target.
Both the Westwood and West Roxbury centers have foam blocks and straps available. Westwoods also has cushions, blankets and eye pillows. You may want to bring your own blanket, towel or cushion to the West Roxbury location which has a hard wood floor and no soft props available.
It's always good to have a bottle of water with you.
What about eating?
It's not recommended to eat any large or medium meals up to 1-2 hours before a yoga practice -- it may make you feel nauseous. For Gentle/Beginner classes, you may try something something light like a piece of fruit or yogurt to hold you over.
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?
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 deepen 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.
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 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.