handstandThe Sanskrit word “Uttanita” means to stretch or open your perspective by looking at something in a new way.  As yogis we choose to turn our world upside down through the practice of various postures, including inversions, to gain an expanded perspective of ourselves and the purpose of our lives, but it doesn’t need to stop there!

Uttanita is a concept that we can apply to every aspect of our yoga practice and our lives.

I recently read an online article on how yoga changes your brain. It provides a great explanation of  how and why yoga works and that it is essentially uttanita in action! Here is the link: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/prefrontal-nudity/201109/yoga-changing-the-brains-stressful-habits.

Author Alex Korb, Ph.D., says that scientific research supports assertions that yoga can improve depressive symptoms and immune function, as well as decrease chronic pain, reduce stress and lower blood pressure. How? By changing the natural habits of your brain!

Korb, a neuroscientist, explains that “yoga works not because the poses are relaxing, but because they are stressful. It is your attempts to remain calm during this stress that create yoga’s greatest neurobiological benefit.”

“The twisting of your spine, the lactic acid building up in your straining muscles, the uneasy feeling of being upside down, the inability to breathe, are all different forms of discomfort and disorientation, and tend to lead reflexively to anxious thinking and activation of the stress response in the entire nervous system. However, just because this response is automatic, does not mean it is necessary. It is, in fact, just a habit of the brain. One of the main purposes of yoga is to retrain this habit so that your brain stops automatically invoking the stress response.”

Applying yoga techniques of breath awareness, present-mindedness and teaching your body-mind to respond differently to stressors, both on the mat and in real life, can change your brain’s habitual stress responses and replace them with those that are more conducive to your happiness and sense of well-being. So, Korb is telling us that we actually come to yoga to stress ourselves in order to teach our brains how to respond differently to those stressors.

This fall, my classes delve into the concept of Uttanita. Each week we will explore a concept while practicing asanas with a mind to changing our perspectives and being wide open to changes that can lead us to an improved sense of well-being! I hope will join us as we change our brains’ responses to stress and turn things around!

Here is a complete list of fall classes: http://www.noramaskeyyoga.com/classes/class-descriptions/

Om Shanti,
Nora