Yoga Works in Mysterious Ways (and here are 3 benefits you may not have known...)

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Sweeping phrases such as “The Benefits of Yoga” or “Ten Reasons Yoga Can Change Your Life” are far too vast for a single post; almost too vast for an entire book. Delving deeply into the many ways that yoga can change a person’s mind and body takes time and understanding.

It’s easy to throw the idea out there that yoga can reduce anxiety, stretch muscles, calm minds, improve circulation, tone muscles, and improve overall health – but these benefits, when broken down and absorbed with deeper understanding, truly give yoga the recognition it deserves.

Most people know that yoga is a gentle exercise infused with calm guidance, soft music, and deep breathing – so for now, we want to focus on some things that you may not know…like the internal, less understood benefits of yoga.

One: Practicing yoga can boost the body’s immunity. In an article that came out last year in Psychology Today, “Psychological stress can impact many systems in the body, including weakening the immune system and increasing chronic inflammation.”

With a focus on calming the mind, yoga – if practiced on a regular basis – can help with chronic stress brought on by day to day life. Keeping work, kids, spouses, schedules, appointments, commitments, and routines in alignment can cause an underlying level of stress that can weaken our immune systems, and yoga can keep our stress management in check.

It can lower stress hormones, boost the nervous system, and stimulate the lymphatic system (which removes toxins from the body).

Two: Yoga can better the bones. Two of the most common yoga poses – Upward and Downward-facing dog – requires lifting your own weight, which naturally strengthens the arm muscles. According to an unpublished study conducted at California State University, Los Angeles, “Yoga practice increased bone density in the vertebrae. Yoga's ability to lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol may help keep calcium in the bones.”

As a weight-bearing exercise, yoga lengthens muscles and holds them there during poses, creating tension on the bone and ultimately improvement of bone strength.

Three: Yoga improves circulation. Focusing on proper breathing during a yoga session increases oxygen-rich blood flow. If you consider all the moves in yoga – standing, relaxing, even head-down poses, there are many ways to keep the blood flowing.

An increase level of oxygen in the body helps brain function, as well as the functions of other internal organs, which can benefit the body in many ways. So when you consider the steady, intent-driven breathing that yoga promotes, it’s easy to see how doing so keeps the internal organs at optimal health.

These three benefits of yoga barely skim the surface of what yoga is capable of doing for the human body. While it promotes a healthy connection between mind, body, and soul, yoga also plays a very important role in the physical health of our internal bodies (more surprising benefits to come in future posts, so stay tuned…)   





Restorative Yoga & Essential Oils - Every Wed Night at Mello Yoga!

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Yoga that is complemented with essential oils enhances a practitioner’s experience and heightens his/her awareness, says Roshni Sundaram, who teaches Mello Yoga’s Wednesday evening MY Gentle Flow/Restore with Essential Oils classes.

The oils elevate your senses and take your practice to a different level,” she says, and Mello Yoga owner Lisa adds, “This sets me apart from other places.”

 Restorative yoga – which incorporates shorter “flow” time and less intensity than other yoga classes – is meant to fill students with a heightened sense of inner calm and self-reflection; and the oils (which Roshni places gently on everyone’s palm at three different times during class so students can inhale and apply topically) are used to accelerate and amplify that experience.

 “In class, I talk about why we use oils in yoga or even outside in our routine lives and I’ll offer up different ones – some for grounding, some for inspiration, and others to relieve stress or soothe muscles. I change it up each week and talk about the need to release and let go to allow the body to process what’s gone on during the day,” Roshni says.

 Lisa adds, “Oils open up your breathing passage. Each one has its own healing property. They’re 100% therapeutic.”

 The Restorative with Essential Oils class, which takes place every Wednesday from 7-8 pm, is a perfect wind-down for a busy day.

 “I’m not trying to energize people or boost their confidence at 7 pm,” Roshni laughs. “I’m guiding people toward holding onto all the good that came from their day, and letting go of the stuff that wasn’t.” 

 Lisa and Roshni have been friends for many years, and when Lisa presented Roshni with the idea of blending oils – which she has used on herself for her own yoga practice and on her family for many years – with a restorative-type class, Roshni was hesitant. She had never taught restorative yoga before.

 She always offers oils at the end of her power yoga classes, but the idea of teaching a restorative class – where teachers hold silent space for yogis to reflect and go deeper – scared her.

 “During power yoga, I demonstrate more, I give more instruction, I show proper anatomical alignment,” she says. “During a restorative class, you don’t talk as much. You’re not trying to encourage students to have their best day, you’re trying to wind them down and prepare them for a good night’s rest with a clear mind.”

 Finding the balance between talking enough and not enough, between maintaining silence and filling it, was tricky, but Roshni figured it out and has done an amazing job, Lisa says.

 “‘You’ll get to share your passion for plant-based wellness with essential oils and give people a nice midweek stress-relief class,’ Lisa told me,” Roshni recalls. “She said, ‘You should try,’ and I said, ‘This is so out of my comfort zone.’”

 But Roshni stepped up, and Mello yogis have loved it: “I feel as though I am providing a mindful space where people can be quiet with themselves and I can lead them to reflect on whatever it is that they might be going through.”

 Essential oils are so powerful that not only does Roshni walk around the room during restorative class to dab them on the palms of those in it, Lisa also diffuses oils during class, soaks cool washcloths in them to place on practitioners’ heads after class, and uses them to clean the studio. At the end of class, people spray an essential oil-infused plant-based cleaner on all materials – blocks, mats, bands, etc. – to get them clean.  

 “It’s a non-toxic way to clean and maintain the studio,” Lisa says – and this is just another element of Mello Yoga that makes it stand out from the rest.

 “We emphasize breath work so much in yoga that it becomes imperative to provide a clean space for students that is also free of harsh chemicals from typical cleaners,” Roshni says. “When you open the door, you immediately perceive a calm vibe. Lisa used a lot of natural material to create her studio; bamboo floors, minimally processed wooden furniture and cubbies. The natural materials take in the smell of the oils.

 As Roshni explains, oils are very powerful because “when you breathe them in, the scent molecules directly reach the limbic system of your brain, which processes emotions and maintains body homeostasis. You can use smell to trigger certain responses in your body (for example, staying calm, staying focused, letting go of certain emotions, etc.). But just like yoga or other self-care practices, it is consistent use that will yield amazing body and mind transformations!” 

 And at Mello Yoga, they are definitely consistently used.  Roshni jokes that essential oils seep from the studio walls.

 “It’s a very sacred space,” she says.

 Lisa adds, “When people come here, I want them to say, ‘I’m here. I have arrived. I am home.’”


Meet Lisa and Her Vision for Mello Yoga


On a freezing day in New York City nearly 20 years ago, Lisa Mello saw a sign that drew her in and something “magical” happened.

“Hot Yoga” – the sign said, and “I was cold,” Lisa laughs. “I walked in and fell in love with the heat.”

 Until that moment, she had never stepped foot into a yoga studio. She knew nothing about yoga – other than it might be something fun and different to add to her exercise regimen. But it was immediately apparent to her that yoga was capable of changing her life.

 “The benefits drew me in initially,” she recalls. “But I wanted to know why I was feeling good. I had low back pain and it went away. My anxiety decreased. My whole entire state of mind started shifting. I began making better choices.”

 After growing up in Westchester, and later attending NYU to earn a Master’s degree in Early Childhood Education, and teaching school for nearly a decade, Lisa “high-tailed it to sunny San Diego for the palm trees and sunshine.”

 Here, she went through yoga training and began teaching at CorePower Yoga in Point Loma, where she also continued working as a school teacher.

 When offered the opportunity to open and manage CorePower in Poway, she said, “Where’s that?” – and then took the position.

 “I love Poway,” she says. “I’ve got my two kids and my husband and we’re raising our family here.”

 When her (then) 5-year old son said, “Mommy, why isn’t there a yoga studio for kids that we can go to?” it helped solidify her aspirations to open up her own yoga studio.

 “I have a lot of people who love me and want me to succeed,” she says. “The vision was to create a space for literally everybody, kids, adults, families. I wanted to make it accessible, I wanted it to be affordable, and I wanted to create a space where people are able to go and check out of the world for an hour.”

 Simply walking through the doors of Mello Yoga’s upstairs space offers warmth and welcome and a sense of peace – as well as Lisa’s infectious smile and calm energy from yoga instructors who expand each yogi’s well-being through mental, physical, and emotional connection.

 “Every teacher brings their own flare,” Lisa says. “They’re all amazing. Their hearts are really in it.”

 Going beyond the experience of awakening one’s mind, body, and spirit, Lisa created her yoga studio to bring something special and truly unique to those who practice with her. She incorporates live music from local musicians in some of her classes, deepens relaxation with essential oils in others, warms the room for more cleansing and healing classes, and offers families the opportunity to practice yoga together during monthly “Family Yoga,” donation-based classes.

 The heart of Mello Yoga is to bring the community together in spiritual unison, where friends and family can gather to slow down from the fast pace of life, internalize awareness, and transcend together. Lisa is a leader and, together with her loving instructors, is ready to guide you down a path toward self-acceptance, love, and internal peace.

 “I get to be a part of that journey with people,” she says. “During each class, there’s some sort of theme. Last week, the theme was self-acceptance, being perfectly imperfect. I show people how to take that from the mat and into real life.”