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10:34 PM Sun, Sept. 23rd

The physical practice of Yoga fuels spiritual healing

PRESCOTT ­ Yoga is a gentle, non-invasive way to obtain vibrant health of the body, mind and spirit.

Local certified instructors agree that Yoga "facilitates deep breathing, mental clarity and focus to help the body become strong and supple."

Cain and Revital Caroll, who have each taught Yoga for about 15 years in many different countries, own Yoga Shala in downtown Prescott and said Yoga enhances the body's strength, flexibility and vitality.

Cain, who has also written a book called "Partner Yoga," said that many people believe Yoga is for flexible people and consists only of stretching.

However, he said that those thoughts are misconceptions, and Yoga's sole purpose is to heal and strengthen the body and mind.

Another misconception is that Yoga has a religious tie. However, Revital said, "It's a non-religious practice," and Cain added, "It's only spiritual in that it will support and foster deeper communication with a person's own belief system."

The most common type of Yoga is Hatha Yoga, which Cain said is "a system of physical exercise, breathing techniques and relaxing techniques that help people heal from injury or illness and regain a state of radiant health."

This is accomplished through "very specific postures that affect very specific alignment of joints and muscles," Cain said.

Ananda Martine Di Benedetto, a certified Yoga instructor who teaches at the Prescott YMCA, said Yoga is about "opening your heart. It begins with meditation to get into the heart. It's a connection between the mind, body and spirit."

She said Yoga poses help to relieve tension.

"We're moving in a way that we can find peace so we are not holding in stress," Di Benedetto said.

The breathing helps to "increase the level of oxygen, and this affects all of the body's organs and tissues," Revital said.

During a class, she added, she and other Yoga instructors can individualize poses and postures to have the best effect on that person.

For example, a person with a knee injury might do a different pose than a person trying to heal a back injury.

"We give different variations and suggestions and demonstrate different poses and techniques," she said.

Di Benedetto added, "The purpose is not for everybody to do the same thing. It's for people to move to the next step and know their body better. One step at a time."

During a Yoga class, "We work with the postures, which affect the body's nervous system and promotes the increase of oxygen."

Di Benedetto said that the breathing and silent meditation involved with Yoga allows a person to reflect.

"It's being able to do one thing at a time," she said. "The world is going so fast. Life is so demanding and Yoga can help emotionally."

She said the movements done in Yoga "allow us to become more flexible, and we get stronger, and through that, we can push stress away."

In "gentle" Yoga, Cain said a class might involve more "therapeutic and slow" movements, while a "more vigorous" class might entail poses that "get your heart rate up."

Revital added that these types of classes "have a more cardiovascular focus."

Cain said Yoga can help people who have heart problems, auto-immune diseases, hypertension, stress-related problems, back problems and spinal disorders.

"It helps people heal," Revital said.

Di Benedetto added, "It makes the immune system stronger, and then our whole body can rebalance itself and the sickness disappears."

Cain said Yoga can also help with depression and emotional problems "because Yoga, unlike other systems, is directly affecting the endocrine system" ("the body's system of hormones").

Also, Revital said, "It helps you to feel more confident and connected with yourself."

No matter what a person's situation is, Revital and Cain said Yoga can most likely help, because, as Cain put it, "It encourages the body to regain natural balance."

Di Benedetto said overall, Yoga "balances your life. We do Yoga, and then we put Yoga into our life and then we put life into Yoga. It can change lives."

Contact the reporter at rbump@prescottaz.com