Penetrating Postures: The Science of Yoga by Alice G. Walton

This is the first of a two-part series on yoga: the second, “The Psychology of Yoga,” looks at the psychological changes that yoga has been shown to bring about.
Judging from the number of yoga mats I’ve seen toted around Manhattan in the last 15 years, I’m pretty sure I was the last person on the island to try it. My relationship with the practice started about six months ago, and I must admit, I fell for it – and hard. I was amazed at the changes it was effecting in my body, and even better, my mind. But the science nerd/Western medicine part of me wondered how, exactly, it was doing this. I could wager some guesses based on what I know about the body, but wanted to talk to some people who actually study this stuff for a living.
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Yoga and Weight Loss – The Science and the Myths by Dr. Timothy McCall

Dr. Timothy McCall, Yoga Journal's longtime Medical Editor and the author of Yoga as Medicine: The Yogic Prescription for Health and Healing, reviews the science behind the claim that yoga can help take off unwanted pounds. Spoiler alert: It's not about the metabolic rate! To learn more, visit

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Improve Your Balance with Yoga Asana, Part II of III – by Andrew Thorpe

Andrew demonstrating his strength and flexibility



Balance is a multi-faceted, complex system designed to carry out the commands of the central nervous system. Balance is comprised of vision, proprioception, the vestibular system, posture, and the musculoskeletal system. The body is truly amazing; if one system is deficient, another system will compensate for it.


As a review from the last article: Proprioception is the body’s system for letting you know where you are in space. Imagine you are performing headstand. The teacher gives you the action of “extend up through your inner heels and take the pinky toe sides of the feet down towards the floor.” If you are able to feel and achieve this position correctly, then the joint receptors are doing their job. Now, what if you are not able to achieve the desired response?


Vision, a widely used system, can be used to compensate for the inability to achieve the desired response. You can use vision in the above example by using a mirror. We all know that performing a yoga pose in front of a mirror allows us to see and correct our malalignments. This can be helpful when first learning a yoga pose, or difficult action. However, it is a compensation and should not be relied upon. Once the desired action is achieved, the pose needs to be repeated without the use of the mirror. Only in this way can your proprioceptive system be trained. Otherwise, you will continue to compensate with vision.


Why does this matter? Vision, if relied upon too heavily, can give inaccurate sensory information to the brain. For example: Remember back to a time where you were waiting at a traffic light; you are stopped and a car next to you begins to move. You become startled and think you are moving as well! Propriopception is the most accurate system for letting one know where the body is in space. However, due to joint injury, or lack of use, the body increases its reliance on vision.


Here is another example of why one should not rely on vision: You wake up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom. You are half asleep. The room is dark. There are clothes on the floor, a plush carpet, throw rugs, a change in surface from the bedroom to the bathroom; all of these things increase our reliance on proprioception. Therefore, if you are dominant in the use of vision, you are much more likely to take a fall.


When you are practicing yoga, notice if you tend to compensate with vision; are you looking down at your feet in standing poses? During the more challenging balancing poses are you staring at only one spot on the wall and not changing your focus or turning your head? During your home practice, or practice at a studio, are you relying on the visual feedback from a mirror to tell you where your body is in space? This is okay in the beginning to give you a reference of correctness. Once you have that reference, repeat it several times without looking and FEEL where you are and how you are moving.


Remember, that while it is fun to achieve a challenging yoga pose, the practice goes way beyond your time on the mat. Medicare spends billions of dollars each year on the consequences of falling; something that we all pay for in one way or another. When the benefits of practicing yoga transfers to your walking across the bedroom floor safely in the dark, then it is also transferring to all aspects of your life.


(Look for the final article on Improving Balance with Yoga Asana soon. The final article will include posture, the vestibular system, and the musculoskeletal system.)


Andrew Thorpe, SPT, Nationally Certified Iyengar Yoga Instructor is currently pursuing a doctorate in physical therapy. He can be reached at Andrew Thorpe 973-222-5521

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3! New Posts This Week – Nov 1, 2010

Gary in a characteristic King Fu



  • Yoga Holds Out a Dose of Hope for the Cancer Afflicted -A recent study done by the Bangalore Institute of Oncology Research on Yoga and Cancer


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New Post This Week – Oct 13, 2010



  • When Yoga Hurts, by Lizette Alvarez ----Iyengar Yoga is looked upon favorably in this New York Time article from July 24, 2010. It appears in the "Stretch" section, a monthly series of articles on yoga. Follow this link to the article. When Yoga Hurts
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Tapas, by Janel Weaver

As part of the Teacher Education program at Studio Yoga the students are asked to write an essay on one of the yamas or niyamas, two of the eight limbs of yoga practice. Here is Janel's contribution.


Janel Weaver

Tapas: austerity, discipline, regulation


I have always been a disciplined person. Whether it is training for a marathon, staying on a diet to lose weight, participating in sports, changing careers, or furthering my education, I always have a goal for myself. With hard work and discipline I have accomplished so many things thus far. Yoga has completely changed my perspective on life for the better. Read the rest of this entry »

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2! New Posts This Week – 9/15/10


  • " New Dreams" Tibetan Art Show at the Watchung Arts Center in Watchung NJ. Special hours this coming Sunday, Sept 19th from 1-3 pm. To learn more about this exhibit visit New Dreams


  • Below you will find the latest installment from nutritional counselor, Gale Maleskey. Enjoy!
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Chocolate Really Is Brain Food, by Gale Maleskey, MS, RD


Gale Malesky

Here’s reason to nibble chocolate or sip cocoa. Research shows that compounds called flavanols, found in some dark, minimally-processed forms of cocoa, improve blood flow to the brain. Read the rest of this entry »

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Krsna Jayanti, posted by Theresa Rowland


Krsna Jayanti, the celebration of Krsna's birth, falls on September 2nd this year. In observance of this auspicious day you might enjoy the following article written by the folks at Exotic India. Read the rest of this entry »

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2! New Posts this Week, 8/18/10

  • Studio Yoga Director, Theresa Rowland, was recently interviewed for a Daily Record Newspaper article featuring yoga in New Jersey.
    Eat, Pray, Om
  • Peggy Clark writes about compassion. Her article is below.
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