International Yoga Day 2018: Breathe it All In, Love it All Out

Yoga master Aaed Ghanem believes in living life consciously, being the change you want to see and breathing in and out with the intention of being grateful for this gift called life, while never taking it for granted. The founder of Beirut Yoga Center also feels living should be healthy on all levels. To celebrate International Yoga Day, we talk to Ghanem about spreading life through your body with yoga and proper nutrition.

Tell us about yourself.
I’ve been inspired by many teachers, world-renowned masters, speakers and gurus from the east and the west. I’d like to name some who left me with a smile, a joy, a matchless heart beat, wisdom and unparalleled peace, like Swami Sivananda, Prem Rawat, Parmhamsa Yogananda, Mikael Naimy, Kamal Joumblatt, Napoleon Hill, Edgar Casy, Jim Rohn and the one and only Rumi. 

After finishing my academic studies with an MBA in Human Resource Management, I decided to dedicate myself completely to yoga and healing paths, and from then on, I’ve been showered with infinite blessings…

Mostly, I live a healthy lifestyle, practising yoga and meditation daily. Nutrition also has a big role in my life, and of course, reading and studying will never cease to be my lantern of light. Reading was, still is, and will always be my anchor for a pleasant sail and for a safe, lightened destination in a moment-to-moment tantalising journey.

Which kinds of facilities does the Beirut Yoga Center offer?
We offer integral practices and alternative therapies at the centre. We also offer life coaching and all kinds of consultations, but mostly those related to the body and mind. We have many types of yoga, including Hatha yoga, Hot yoga, Ashtanga yoga, Vinyasa yoga, Acro yoga, breathing techniques and meditation…We also arrange lots of workshops and retreats in Lebanon and abroad. Additionally, we do hiking and yoga trips, we follow up on nutritional tips and we host international inspirational speakers, including famous yoga teachers. 

We’ve been hearing a lot about Hot yoga, can you elaborate more about it?
Hot yoga isn’t a recent thing, it has been around for over 50 years. However, with the tough, stressful lifestyles, bad eating habits and junk food, people have reached a stage where they can’t tolerate the results and have started searching for a solution! Lo and behold, it came like a basket of gold, instead of freezing in the cold, get yourself inside the hot room and set the mould!

They found Hot yoga and it definitely works in so many ways. It takes place inside a room that is heated, but very well ventilated regardless of the intensity of heat. Some classes are hotter than others, with a static kind of yoga asanas (postures), while others are less heated with more flowing yoga exercises. Some classes follow a sequence and others are freestyle, yet all of them lead to the same result, a fresh, healthy feeling when you leave the room that’s not to be compared to anything else.

So what are the benefits of Hot yoga?
If you have a piece of steel and you want to bend it, the best and most efficient way is to heat it up! Likewise, the body becomes stiff because of a lack of proper movement and proper posture and because of the accumulated physical and chemical stress that relates to negative emotions and psychological imbalance, which may lead to anxiety and lack of concentration. Hot yoga works on flexibility and proper posture, it tones the muscles in a healthy way, it releases a lot of toxins from the body and refreshes the skin through perspiration. Additionally, it helps align the spinal column, so it’s perfect for people who have scoliosis or back pain. In fact, Hot yoga changes the construction of the body from the inside out, from bones to skin and from fingertips to toes. So before you change it, you have to heat it up to soften it, because a warm body is a flexible body. Then you can reshape the body any way you want. 

Hot yoga detoxifies the body through perspiration, tones the muscles and flushes every cell and organ in the body. When you sweat, impurities are flushed out of the body through the skin. Whatever your age, injury, or prior yoga experience (if any at all), this type of yoga will benefit your body and mind in ways you never imagined possible.

Plus, it activates the digestive system big time. Hot yoga washes out waste products and detoxifies the glands and organs of your body. It provides the body with natural irrigation through the circulatory system, with the help of the respiratory system. It brings nourishment to every cell of your body so that each one can perform its function and keep your body healthy. 

Practising yoga not only increases our supplies of oxygen, but it also teaches us how to use that oxygen properly, and we learn to control breath through pranayama (breathing techniques).

Is it OK for people with health problems to do yoga?
We always insist people who have health problems get the OK from their doctors first. We follow up to make sure they are doing things the right way, but they must get their doctors’ permission.

Are there any specific dietary requirements for people doing yoga? 
Usually yogis follow a healthy diet for a better life. We can talk about the definition of a healthy diet another time maybe because it’s a big issue by its own. 

We know yoga has worldwide success, yet in our region it’s still not so popular. What are the reasons? 
Well, it’s like everything else, you need to put effort into raising awareness about this incredible, important practice. Nowadays it’s getting better thanks to social media and magazines like yours.

How can you promote it? 
The best way is to come and try it once; you’ll want everyone you know to come with you next time. Of course we all need to maximise our efforts so that yoga can be accessible and reach everybody.

Is it true yoga, and more specifically Hot yoga, helps weight loss?
I’ve experienced this myself and I’ve seen Hot yoga help a lot of people, who come regularly to class, lose weight big time (between 700 to 1,000 Calories per session).

Although losing weight is a tricky thing because it has many parameters like emotional eating, bad eating habits, late night eating, junk food and metabolism …

How many times do you advise people to partake per week? 
For good results, I would say two to three times. However for the fastest results, you need to do yoga almost daily, but not necessarily Hot yoga, we are talking about all kinds of yoga.

Do you have any final tips for our readers?
Give life to your mind through proper education and reading. Give life to your heart by allowing peace to find you…Give life to your soul by liberating it from the bondage of illusions. Time is fleeting and the past is in the past. Forgive and flow with your breath to the ultimate freedom. Inquire about who you are and enjoy being alive before you lose the ability to enjoy. Come to yoga, we promise you’ll never leave, or leave the same!

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