For Melanie Priesnitz, traditional yogic movement and philosophies go much deeper than lifestyle.
“My first exposure to yoga came before I was born. My mother started practicing when she was pregnant with me, and when I was old enough, we practiced together.”
Yoga has always been an integral facet of her authentic self. When she moved away from the practice as a teenager, and returned later as an adult, she realized she naturally views her life from a yogic perspective.
“Most definitely, it is a part of me, it is how I breathe and how I live. Yoga feeds and unites my body, mind and spirit. I am drawn to both the movement of yoga and the stillness.”
Yoga translates to the word ‘union’ and is an ancient method of focused movement, mindfulness and personal renewal. It is a physical method which uses the breath to link the body and the mind, allowing the return of inner balance and alignment.
Priesnitz has hosted a variety of yogic workshops over the years and is especially fond of facilitating family sessions. She says she has a great time watching families breathing, bonding and playing together.
“One thing I always notice in a yoga class is the shift in energy before, during and after. I see people becoming calmer, more focused and centered. I notice that people seem more grounded and connected, often quieter and more reflective. Much strength can be gained from slowing down and paying attention to your breath.”
Priesnitz says the spaces in-between movement and action are precious and often underappreciated.
“Great creativity can come from allowing ourselves to be empty for a time. Shedding what does not serve us lets us thrive in the future. I love watching people settle into savasana at the end of class, there’s an audible shift in energy when people release. How often are we given permission to just lie there and do nothing?”
The Savasana (or Corpse Pose) pose may look easy, but it can actually be quite challenging. Many yoga students who can easily balance, bend, and twist their way through the rest of the class will struggle with the act of lying on the floor, breathing in quiet meditation.
Yoga has shown significant symptomatic improvement in asthma, hypertension, back pain, musculoskeletal conditions, mental distress, depression and more. A clinical trial of yoga therapy on asthma patients shows a reduction in the severity and duration of attacks, as well as a decrease in prescribed medication.
Back pain is a common complaint when physicians refer their patients to yoga. Studies found those who took up yoga to ease lower lumbar pain showed significantly less rigidity, discomfort, and depression after six months, than did patients in standard care.
Personally, I have used Yoga for back ache; occasional sciatica (discomfort along the sciatic nerve, running from the lower back down the back of each leg); to provide mental clarity and alleviate emotional distress. When we sit at a desk for extended hours the sciatic nerve can become compressed and the elongated stretching of yoga releases this pressure. The restriction of a seated position can also create neck and shoulder tension. Certain postures can help to stretch the rhomboid muscles (situated under each shoulder blade) to reduce discomfort.
With long term practice, Yoga restructures the alignment of the skeletal structure improving posture and muscle tone, creating a stronger, more efficient body.
For Priesnitz, yoga is also a state of mind. She applies its concepts, and the philosophy of peace and non-violence towards the self, to her daily activities.
“Sometimes yoga is standing at my job in the garden and taking a moment to find stillness. Breathing in the fresh air, listening to the birds and feeling the ground under my feet. Sometimes yoga looks like making a mindful decision to not enter into an argument with someone. I do what comes naturally, I listen to myself and recognize that the needs of my body, mind and spirit are always changing.”