September is National Yoga Month. It seems like the perfect time of year to reset your body; cool weather will be approaching, the kids are back in school and everyone can use some healthy exercise and relaxation.
Jenny Jared is a longtime yoga teacher and cofounder/creative director of the charity United We Om, a 501c3 charity committed to providing yoga and meditation practice to the underserved, which she cofounded with her husband, Matt. The Lululemon Ambassador is out to prove that practicing yoga is so much more than just physical posture and cute clothes.
“I’ve been teaching yoga for 15 years now. I teach donation classes and a lot of prenatal yoga,” said Jared. “A lot of people begin practicing yoga for an idea that they have; they think it’s going to do something for them and it ends up being something completely different, so they quit.”
The Port Washington native said that she began practicing yoga at the age of 16, when she was the only kid in a mom’s yoga class.
“Yoga spoke to me and I loved it. I thought it would be a side job to support my acting career, but it turned out to be what I was supposed to do,” she said.
According to Jared, yoga is a very scientific and mystical and magical way of transforming the way people experience the world around them. Yoga removes the “chatter of your mind” to reach a state of absorption in the present moment. Once people begin to practice yoga more frequently, Jared said that they do notice changes in their lives.
“It’s more than the physical postures and deep breathing. Yoga is engaging your parasympathetic nervous system and since most of us live our day in a fight or flight state of being and we are not really in an emergency situation, yoga works to get us back to a state of rest,” said Jared, adding that muscle tension and shortness of breath create anxiety. “Most of us want to be calm, relaxed and present, so yoga sends our brain the message by slowing down our breath and relaxing the muscles we don’t use.”
Here’s how it works: yoga forces the body to shift around the hormones that it is producing and allows the body to repair itself as if in a state of sleep. While there are many different forms of yoga, it is up to the yogee to find what’s best for them.
“The idea of what to practice has to do with everyone’s individual personality. It falls under a greater umbrella, Ayurveda, or ‘science of life,’” said Jared. “For example, people who like hot yoga are usually fiery, naturally competitive, have an enormous amount of energy and are drawn to strong physical exercise.”
Some yoga gets people revved up while other types of yoga calm the body down to find a balance. Jared said that there is a yoga for everyone, which is the gift of the exercise. Nowadays, yoga is being incorporated into hospitals and rehabilitation programs, as people practice the art to de-stress, lose weight and build stamina and strength.
“You’re only as old as the flexibility of your spine and yoga really addresses that,” said Jared. “That physically limits people as they get older if they don’t use that full range of motion, so it’s important to take care of your body in other ways as well. Fresh, good water all day long is key, since most of us are dehydrated.”
The same as drinking water after a sports game or massage, so too, is true for a yoga class. Stretching and twisting releases many toxins from body tissue and drinking a lot of water also helps to flush them out of the body.
“I have rarely met someone who finishes a yoga practice who didn’t know exactly what their body needed,” said Jared on nutrition. “Whether that’s a really big nutritious meal or a piece of fruit, it varies from person to person, but when you break the habitual patterns, you will get into sync with your body and listen better.”
If you practice yoga in the morning, avoid eating unless you’re feeling faint. If you go in evening, make sure you eat something that isn’t strong with a lot of spices, something neutral, knowing you want to leave time for your body to digest it. After yoga class, just listen to your body. Yoga practice is a personal journey.
As a teacher, Jared believes that yoga class should be an environment to foster personal freedom, and that students can learn what’s best for them by engaging with the teacher.
“There is a consistent relationship that’s important to build,” she said. “Yoga practice is a personal journey.”
For more information on Jenny Jared, United We Om and yoga in general, visit www.unitedweom.org.