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Yoga myths debunked

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Vicky Hallett,Annie Mahon,Debra Perlson-Mishalove
Thursday, May 13, 2010; 2:00 PM

Co-founders of D.C. Yoga Week Annie Mahon and Debra Perlson-Mishalove, and MisFit columnist Vicky Hallett, discuss the benefits of yoga and clear up myths about the exercise. (Men don't do yoga? Says who.)

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Vicky Hallett: Hi everybody! Thanks for joining us! We're fortunate to have Deb and Annie with us today. They're amazing women with amazing studios. So whatever you're looking for from a yoga practice, they can help steer you in the right direction. Let's get started...

Debra Perlson-Mishalove : My name is Debra and I look forward to answering any questions you may have about yoga!

Annie Mahon: Looking forward to chatting with you all

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Bikram: What is your opinion of Bikram's methods versus other styles?

Debra Perlson-Mishalove : I did find after a few years of practice that my body and spirit were craving a bit more as far as variety in poses (Bikram is a set series) as well as philosophy.

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varieties: Hi. I'd like to get into yoga, but the vast number of varieties overwhelms me. I've tried a few, and I must say that I get dizzy having my head upside down. Are there gentle, relaxing varieties or should I be looking for a meditation class?

Annie Mahon: I would suggest you take a class and find a teacher that you relate to, regardless of style.

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Yoga: Yoga doesn't appear to confer any cardio benefits. Nor does it develop lean muscle mass. So must yoga be just a part of an overall fitness program to have any real benefit?

Vicky Hallett: I'm thinking you didn't read my story today. Yoga can certainly be a cardio workout and build muscle. I happen to think other forms of exercise are important, too, but there are plenty of people who get a real benefit from yoga alone.

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therapeutic aspects of yoga: There is a lot being talked advertised as "therapeutic yoga" these days. Can you elaborate on what is meant by therapeutic yoga, and what are the qualifications to make someone a yoga therapist?

Annie Mahon: Yoga Alliance and the International Association of Yoga Therapists are two places to get more information about therapeutic yoga and what best qualifies someone to teach yoga therapeutically.

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Men don't Yoga?: I would have to say, after yoga teaching me to respond better and understand my body, as well as balance, it did wonders for my golf game. Then I showed my father (66), it improved his game and now his whole group is on it.

Debra Perlson-Mishalove : Our clients include baseball players, dancers, basketball players, soccer players, runners etc - all who feel like it improves their "game".

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Yoga tax?: Hi. I walked by that rally last week against the possible D.C. yoga tax, but I don't know anything about it. What exactly is the proposal? And what's its status?

Debra Perlson-Mishalove :

Debra Perlson-Mishalove : Stay tuned!

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Yoga for weight loss: One thing that annoys me about celebrities: When asked how they stay so slim, they enthusiastically respond, "I do yoga!" I find that answer misleading since the typical one hour session of vinyasa burns, what, 200 calories? You'd have to do a LOT of yoga to burn the equivalent number of calories that a 45 minute run (or other intense cardio) would burn. Can you enlighten us on how good yoga is for weight loss? I suspect most of these celebrities also have a very low calorie diet and/or do a lot of cardio in addition to practicing yoga. (I'm not arguing it's not beneficial for other purposes. I'm just asking you to shed some light on how to effectively use yoga to lose weight).

Annie Mahon: Debra adds - there is a great recent study for the weight loss question http://health.yahoo.com/experts/weightloss/9301/yoga-and-weight-loss/1273774695018

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Theft of yoga: http://newsweek.washingtonpost.com/onfaith/panelists/aseem_shukla/2010/04/nearly_twenty_million_people_in.html

Debra Perlson-Mishalove : http://www.yogadork.com/2010/04/29/yoga-and-hinduism-deepak-chopra-vs-aseem-shukla-beef-continues-with-fervor-religious-and-non/

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Yoga from videos?: I don't have any good yoga studios around me so I've ordered some DVDs. I haven't been in a class for a year or so (since I moved) and I'm a little worried about making sure I'm doing postures right and pushing myself enough. Do you think yoga outside of a class is a good idea?

Annie Mahon: Good luck!

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Kids and yoga: Annie, my 9-year old son does yoga at your studio and loves it! Can you describe some of the benefits of yoga for children?

Annie Mahon: Have fun. xo.

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Bad back: Hi. I am generally healthy but very prone to joint injuries. I also get lower back pain that can be triggered by arching and twisting my back. I tried yoga a couple of times and really enjoyed it but later my back was killing me. I'm not sure why, but now I'm scared to try again. Thoughts?

Debra Perlson-Mishalove : You may benefit from calling your local studio and asking which teacher would be the best fit!

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beginner's yoga: My mom is almost 70, and I'd like to recommend yoga to her. She's not very active, although she does walk about 10 miles a week. She recently joined a gym with a pool and she is doing pool exercises now. She's perhaps 35 pounds overweight. Is there a good yoga style to recommend she ask for at her fitness club? Thanks.

Annie Mahon: xo

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Prenatal Yoga: I am 11 weeks pregnant and am very interested in taking a prenatal yoga class. There is one starting in my area next week. My doctor thought it was a great idea. Only issue is that I have never done yoga before. Will this be easy for me to pick up? Anything I should know in advance? Thanks.

Debra Perlson-Mishalove : It is a great way to meet other moms to be and prepare for birth and motherhood!

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Disease prevention: What is the evidence and studies on whether yoga helps prevent some diseases? I am interested in what yoga may not. Not just for well being, but whether it can avoid some future troubles.

Vicky Hallett: Simply by promoting flexibility, balance and strength, yoga certainly helps you stay healthy as you age. You might want to pick up the book "Yoga As Medicine," by Timothy McCall. Studies of specific diseases are going to be hard to come by. But yoga is gaining acceptance in the medical community, so that might change over the next few years.

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Yoga as Religion: Hi. I'm a christian and want to practice yoga, but I'm intimidated by the chanting and talks about hindu gods. Is yoga a religion?

Annie Mahon: Find a teacher that you like who doesn't emphasize chanting and hindu gods, and enjoy!

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No Time for Yoga: I'm interested, but it's so hard to fit it into my life and routine. Any suggestions?

Annie Mahon: xxo

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yoga: I have been practicing yoga for about six years and over that time I have found very few yoga instructors who teach the actual "culture" of yoga. Most of the instructors I have encountered seem to have received their certificates from the local "Five & Dime." I fear the practice of yoga is suffering from trendiness. Care to comment?

Debra Perlson-Mishalove : Some practitioners actually enjoy the absolute basics without too much "depth" when they first try out yoga.

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Enlighten Up: Have either of you seen the documentary "Enlighten Up?" If so, what were your reactions?

Debra Perlson-Mishalove :

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Yoga and Abstaining: It seems like a big part of the yoga community means going vegetarian, not drinking, stop wearing leather, throw out your tv, etc...I'm interested in taking up yoga for some of the physical and spiritual benefits but feel a bit intimidated by the "yoga crowd" and the purity that goes alongside it. Is there a place for me?

Annie Mahon: there is room for you and everyone else in yoga... and keep asking these questions....xxo

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yoga benefits: I'm seeing a lot of questions filled with skepticism about the benefits of yoga. I started yoga during a really bad time in my life as a way to simply start a new routine and get out of a funk. It has literally transformed my life. I lost more than 20 pounds (I only do yoga, no other workout routines), I eat better (more consciously) and I am much more in tune with my body and my mind's needs. As for the physical transformation, I think that benefits can be gained even practicing small amounts (i.e. one to two hours a week). So for those that are hesitant, just try it without all the preconceived notions you may have.

Vicky Hallett: I've heard so many stories like yours! One of the reasons I wrote this piece is I kept being amazed at how scared people are of yoga. (Not to name names, but a certain editor of mine has never tried it...) I get not wanting to do trapeze -- although I think it's ridiculously fun. That might not be your thing. But, honestly, yoga is one of those forms of physical activity that has something for everyone.

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Saturday's event: What can you tell us about this Saturday's event?

Debra Perlson-Mishalove : Expect a day filled with yoga practice, demonstrations and community!

Annie Mahon: xo

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Beginners can try yoga for free on TV or DVD: I am a 56-year-old woman who's been attending yoga classes since September. I no longer have any stiff joints or tight muscles. During February's blizzard, the gym was closed and I was snowed in, but I found yoga lessons on Comcast's On Demand fitness channel. The public library also has yoga DVDs. So anyone can try yogafor free, if they are embarrassed to take that first class.

Debra Perlson-Mishalove :

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Yoga on the Mall: At what time is Shiva Rea leading a class? I have several things scheduled for Saturday so I want to be sure not to miss her.

Annie Mahon: Hope to see you there. xo

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Hot vs. room temperature yoga: A few years ago, I attended Bikram yoga for a few months, where the studio is 110 degrees or hotter, and the class lasts 90 minutes. The heat made me dizzy at first, but what made me drop out was the excessive time commitment -- more than two hours when you add the time it takes to stop sweating and then take a shower. I now attend a 60-minute yoga class held at room temperature. I don't see any benefit to the extreme heat of the hot yoga class.

Debra Perlson-Mishalove : I personally believe that we can practice in a comfortable temperature and still build flexibility.

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Getting ready for Yoga classes: I'm so glad you are here today! I'm a 50-year-old female who has let weight creep up on me in the last 10 years with no exercise to speak of. I'm starting a walking program and wanted to add yoga. (I was having lower back pain and was diagnosed with arthritis in my lower spine last fall.) Willow Street Yoga is very close to my home, but I just missed the start of their spring classes due to work. Are there any DVDs you would recommend I check out as a complete novice, to get me going until the next round of classes start in July? Also, as an FYI, Willow Street Yoga does have yoga classes that are for folks with neck and back injuries that stress a more gentle, slower class.

Annie Mahon: xo

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Yoga and lean muscle mass...: Yoga DEFINITELY helps to build lean muscle mass! I've been in plenty of classes where I walk out completely sore for a few days. Your heart rate goes up and you also sweat. The first class I ever went to was a power yoga class, and I walked out completely drenched in sweat and was sore for a full week. Before you doubt the benefits, try going to a few classes.

Annie Mahon: xo

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Chanting worries: To the person concerned about chanting and hindu gods, I would agree that with some looking, you can find a good instructor who doesn't focus on those sorts of things. Just generally, though, I'd encourage you to think of chanting as a form of singing and an exercise in and of itself . The vibrations are good for your body! If you don't want to chant the actual words because you don't believe in them, then just hum along and you will get much of the same benefit from allowing your lungs to vibrate with sound!

Debra Perlson-Mishalove : I am jewish and sometimes instead of OM, choose to chant Shalom...no one seems to notice and it feels great!

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really bad back: Twisting is very bad for bad backs, especially if your problem is bulging disks. One hard twist can push that disk out further.

Annie Mahon: This post reminds me that if you have any physical condition, espeically one that requires a doctor's care, you will definitely want to ask your dr. about whether you should do yoga before you start. xo

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Frustrated with Yoga: Every time I decide to take a yoga class -- about three times now -- and pick a beginners class, it's always disappointing and frustrating because it isn't a true beginner's class. Most times the instructor assumes i know the basic posses which i don't and just goes through the class with very little direction and relatively quickly from one pose to another. The last time I took a class I pulled a muscle and finally gave up on getting into yoga. Any advice?

Debra Perlson-Mishalove :

Vicky Hallett: enjoyed the Yoga for Misfits class at Yoga District (which I wrote about in the story), and I think a full half of the class had never done yoga before.

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Vicky Hallett: It's time for savasana. Which means we're done here folks! But come out to The Mall on Saturday and be sure to take advantage of all the deals next week.

Annie Mahon: See you on Saturday! xo annie


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