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I was browsing through my social media and saw a class called “Goat Yoga.”

When I clicked on it, there were images of people doing yoga poses while baby goats were walking over their bodies and frolicking beside them. How cute and quirky. Baby goats definitely hit our button that makes us ooh and awww with delight. After a few moments, however, I began wondering: how is it possible to relax with goats running up and down your back? Doesn’t that hurt? Is that really yoga?

We have the keys to our own happiness inside of us

It occurred to me that yoga has become complicated. There seems to be yoga for everything and everyone these days. Power yoga, hammock yoga, flow yoga, yoga on a paddleboard, yoga for moms and babies, yoga in a chair, yoga for seniors and even yoga with your dog, or Doga. There are just so many options when it comes to choosing a yoga class, and this often makes it more challenging to find the right kind for you.

Understanding Yoga and Your Needs

It’s important to understand your own needs before starting a yoga program. It may also be helpful to understand a little more about yoga. Yoga means union or oneness. Through the simple practices of yoga, we come to know and experience a deep sense of integration, unity and happiness.

Most of us are accustomed to looking for happiness outside of ourselves. If our external circumstances are going well, and we feel good them, we say we are happy. If our external circumstances aren’t going well, for example we have lost our job, we are going through a divorce or we become sick, then we are unhappy. With this outlook, we have to wait for our external circumstances to change until we can become happy again.

If we practice yoga and stress management, however, we can learn to move into our center. Here we can discover that happiness does not depend on something outside of us. We have the keys to our own happiness inside of us. Nothing external can completely fulfill the longing we have for something more. Through a state of deep inner calm, we can experience that sense of inner connectedness or oneness. We touch a place of deep joy and understanding that only moving inward can fulfill.

Yoga takes us inward through a series of practices that help to relax the body, restore a deep and conscious breathing habit and quiet our mind. We begin to reverse the outward flow of energy and consciousness so that awareness can rest in a state of being rather than doing.

Yoga for Healing

In Ornish Lifestyle Medicine (Intensive Cardiac Rehabilitation), we use yoga for healing. (Sorry, no goats.) The goal is to down regulate the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight response) and up regulate the parasympathetic nervous system (relaxation response). The practices are calm and slow with an inward focus. When we are in a place of peace and stillness, healing can occur. We are able to restore and regain our health and well-being.

Yoga for You

If your goal with yoga is fitness, you can use forms of yoga that are strengthening such as power yoga, hot yoga or flow yoga. These can be uplifting, stimulating, fun and relaxing. Be aware that some of these forms can be too stimulating for the nervous system and the heart if you are trying to heal. They also tend to keep the participant outwardly focused through connecting to music and form.

This is why we encourage participants in Ornish Lifestyle Medicine to have both a fitness program and a stress management program that are separate. Since so much of our lives lead us outward, the goal of yoga for healing is to return inward. To balance the effects of our modern stress filled lives. If we use a yoga practice that is more outwardly focused, we don’t experience the deep calm we deeply need to offset our chaotic lives.

If your goal is healing, then a big dose of calm yoga is needed in addition to your physical activities. If your goal is to spend more time with animals than yoga with goats maybe just the thing. Just don’t forget to add a generous amount of calm yoga to your practices.

What kind of yoga makes you feel the most calm and restored?



Contributed by

Susi Amendola
Stress Management Specialist

What have you done to remind yourself of the things that have meaning for you?

Better Health Begins With You...

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