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Natural Awakenings Spokane WA/Coeur d'Alene ID

Yoga is the Inner Gymnasium of the Mind

by Danielle Cannon

Although practiced for centuries, yoga has experienced a resurgence, offering a way to “work in” rather than “work out” in the gym to counter our often hectic lifestyle. Instead of always needing to be with our smartphones and computers, yoga teaches us to take time out to reacquaint ourselves with who we really are.

Yoga still suffers from a few misconceptions—we must be able to touch our toes—it’s only for those that can afford cute yoga pants and mats—it is for women—it’s not really a workout. In truth, yoga exists to help everyone by gaining freedom from our busy routine. Yoga promotes the idea of working on our breath and learning how it relates to our inner being instead of living an externally focused life. It teaches us to become centered and work on easing the internal pressure.

For those that can't sleep or can’t stop the anxiety, yoga teaches us how to be calm, centered and grounded, not only during practice, but all the time. We can do yoga in our street clothes, at our desk, in the hallway or in our car; the art is knowing how to just “be” and breathe, to find our center through deliberate movement. We do not have to seek out a studio to find this internal peace.

It is difficult for our multitasking, gratification-seeking generation that finds it almost impossible to just do one thing at a time. As a result, people are finding themselves more dissatisfied than ever. By practicing yoga, we allow ourselves to find freedom and peace so that we can be more present in all that is important.

There are many ways to do this. To practice "square breathing," sit in a comfortable place with eyes closed and legs crossed, arms comfortably resting on the floor or on your legs. Mentally picture a square. Breathe up one side of the square with arms outstretched. Then, pause the breath momentarily and bring the arms in front of the body and exhale down the next side of the square. Pause again and return the outstretched arms to each side and breathe up the next side of the square. Complete the square this way and repeat the entire sequence a couple of times as long as it is comfortable. Finish by sitting in quiet reflection for a moment or two.

The count of breathing in and out should be four to six seconds each. The point is to examine our breath while outstretching our arms in a state of peace. There is nothing hurried or pressured. It's a chance to give ourselves permission to become calm and present and receive the gift of quietude.

Danielle Cannon is a clinical social worker and has served as a therapist, mentor, administrator and policy maker in the behavioral health field for over 19 years. Cannon teaches yoga and Pilates in North Idaho and recently received Street Yoga Certification. She is co-owner of Empower Training Studio, 6506 W. Prairie Ave., Post Falls, ID. Call 208-661-0553 or visit

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