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New Year, New You: Spiritual Health and Power Yoga in the New Year

Balance Dream

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Happy 2017! Welcome to the second entry in our new four-part series, "New Year, New You."

Whether it's eating better, taking your vitamins or just generally bettering your mind and body, we're here to help get you there.

There may not be a more zeitgeist-y, New Year's resolution-centric lifestyle change than committing to a bi-weekly meditation and yoga classes. Like athleisure fashion, cold-pressed juices, or quinoa, Eastern spiritual and physical exercises have struck a pose in popular culture as of late.

At the end of every yoga class, instructors guide students through meditative breathing exercises: a deep inhale, followed by a billowing exhale. Though all based in the ancient practices of another time, today's yoga offers something for everyone, whether you delve into a full mind/body/spirit approach or prefer keeping your focus primarily on the physical body and athletic conditioning. So unroll your floor mat, align your chakras (and spine!), and join us as we explore the worlds of spiritual health and Power Yoga.

BREATHE IN

We've all heard "be the change you want to see in world." But in accordance with these spiritual principles, we must first gaze inward at what needs changing within ourselves.

Reflection and self-realization to understand and gauge spiritual health are jumping-off points toward better mental and emotional health. Along with meditation and exercise, auras and chakras—accurately reading them, taking the steps to harmonize them—are important factors when considering your overall 2017 health and wellness regimen.

Also known as "electromagnetic fields" in the scientific community, auras (colorful, halo-like projections surrounding the human body) can help identify subconscious mental and spiritual imbalances in someone's psyche. Although they're invisible to the naked eye, meditation and healing centers like Soul Centre in Winter Park, founded and managed by locals Kari Ghanem and and Chelsea Michaud respectively, use finely calibrated machines that can read and display auras.

"You know when you're in a public place and your mood suddenly swings?" Michaud asks. "Often times, that's your aura entangling and swapping energies with someone near you. But you can take steps to strengthen your aura and, consequently, your overall well-being."

A healthier aura will feature bright, vibrant colors with few gaps or holes, while flagging auras appear porous and washed-out. Regular aura readings can help you set benchmarks for mental and emotional health moving into the new year.

"Aura readings make us more cognizant of our own mindfulness and positivity, or lack thereof," Michaud says. "People have visited us assuming their auras would look unhealthy, have hopped on the reading machine, and their auras were spectacular."

Chakras are closely tied to an individual's auras. Every human being possesses seven of these distinct energy centers. Aligned vertically from the crown of the head to the pubic bone, these non-physical nodes are linked to internal organ health and harmony. If any one of the seven chakras overpowers the others—say, your third eye outshines your throat chakra—the subtle body (that is, the physical body's spiritual, non-corporeal energy) can become unstable and have a tangible impact on your emotional state and wellness.

Gurus can identify and balance your wayward chakras, giving your juju a much-needed jump start. Popular methods for balancing chakras are flower and crystal therapies. Like all of us, various flowers and crystals also project auras which can restore human auras and even rebalance chakras by absorbing negative energy for their wearers.

"For instance, to balance my heart chakra, I would carry a rose quartz," Michaud says. "This quartz's aura removes resentments and emotional pain, which knock my heart chakra out of alignment."

BREATHE OUT

If flower and crystal healing represent that deep inhale, Power Yoga is an outward push into the Universe.

Derived from vigorous, dynamic disciplines including ashtanga, vinyasa, and Bikram styles, Power Yoga rarely rests on its laurels. Yogis flow between poses and positions, all the way through and back again, rather than holding single position for long moments at a time.

"I was looking for something different to do with yoga," Orlando Power Yoga founder Kelly Senn says. "I had been doing Bikram yoga for several years, and I started doing Power Yoga at home. There were more poses that were harder for me to do. ... I fell in love with it and had the opportunity to open up a studio right away, which I did as I was going through teacher training. And here we are."

The traditional yoga styles Power Yoga draws from rely on fixed routines of asanas, or poses—a student attending a noon Bikram class, for example, will have a nearly identical experience to that of the 5 p.m. attendees. Not so with Power Yoga. Instructors can modify their routines mid-class to fit students' physical and spiritual needs.

Power Yoga's most renowned feature is perhaps the heat and humidity. It's a pillar borrowed from Bikram yoga, and the sweltering environment is there for more than just evoking that euphoric, sweaty feeling. Beginners and yogis recovering from injury often discover the increased temperature and humidity help improve flexibility during classes.

Over time Power Yogis will experience a slimming sensation—weight loss, lower blood pressure, and a lithe, toned physique. The constant movement and Power Yoga's emphasis on upright poses strengthens the core and increases stamina. But (as seen above) instructors like Senn also incorporate meditation and breathing regimens into their classes for reflection and self-fulfillment. Power Yoga, when paired with proper spiritual health, can help balance the best of both worlds.

"I have people there just for the fitness benefits in my classes," Senn says. "I also have people who treat this studio like their church. Some are going through physical therapy. The beauty of Power Yoga is you can take anything you want from it and leave the rest."

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