An Interview with Shehla Khan, Pure Fitness Yoga InstructorWhat do these conditions have in common?
- Headaches, upset stomach, insomnia, aches and pains
- High blood pressure, weight gain/loss, frequent colds/infections
- Depression, anxiety, moodiness, fatigue
ne of the most effective ways to relieve stress when approached with balance (over-training has the opposite effect).
Instructor Shehla Khan focuses her studies and practice on helping people reduce the impact of stress in their lives. In addition to teaching Yin/Yang at Pure Fitness in Toronto, she has been working privately with cancer patients and clients with depression and eating disorders; conditions all exacerbated by stress. Shehla often shares with students that stress isn’t a medical problem, but an inevitable condition of living. Yoga is a way of learning to let go of stress by calming the mind and body.
Developed by the ancient yogis of India, when science as it is today did not exist, the system was created solely through the intuitive senses of experience and feeling; senses that are overshadowed these days by the noise caused by stress chemicals in our brains. Many of the components of yoga have been studied, and thier benefits confirmed by modern science:
- The postures and breathwork has been shown to stimulate and tone the vagus nerve; responsible for activating the parasympathetic nervous system, producing calm and reducing anxiety
- A recent study showed that holding cobra pose for several deep breaths reduces cortisol by 11%
- Meditation, a component of yoga, has been proven to reduce anxiety, and to have other significant benefits for overall wellness
Many avoid the form of more traditional Yoga that Shelah teaches, because they think it’s ‘too slow’, it won’t burn enough calories, or it is not a ‘good workout’. Oddly enough, these are often the individuals who’ll benefit from it most. The typical “type A” personality often has trouble sitting still doing nothing, alone with their thoughts. For some, busy-ness is a way to avoid feelings of anxiety. Instead of slowing down, such people are frequently drawn to an intense cardiovascular or Power Yoga class after work. Shehla reminds her students that “Power Yoga heats up and stimulates the body, and was created as a morning practice.”, and is therefore not advised at night, especially for those with anxiety. Cardiovascular exercise stimulates chemicals in the brain which can temporarily alleviate anxiety, but it isn’t a permanent fix. Also, it can impact sleep, when hormonal processes take place that are essential for wellness.
Shehla has regulars including a few high level executives and lawyers whose jobs involve constant stress; many that once thought yoga was a waste of valuable workout time. Having experienced the mood benefits of yoga, they now won’t go without it. She once taught a class full of young, strong and super flexible athletes. She didn’t think they’d continue, since the class was focused on meditation and breathwork. But they did! She was curious, and asked one why he kept coming. His response embodied the truth of Yoga,
“ I’m a professional fighter and constantly active. Here I have a chance to stop; to focus entirely on my internal world. Now, when I’m in the ring, everything happens in slow motion. I actually see that punch coming and I can execute my response with clarity.
“We’re all fighters in our daily lives so we have a lot to learn from this guy”, Shehla shares, “when life throws us punches, we ALL can learn to respond with a clear and content mind, rather than from the fight -or-flight reptilian brain”. Stellar advice, don’t you think?