Saturday, May 21, 2011

Peaceful Space

So I stumbled upon this yoga studio space on the Internet.  I would love to do yoga here.  The water around the studio and the idea of doing yoga in the outdoors, in nature is a very soothing idea to me.  I have practiced yoga outside and love the peaceful feeling it brings.  There is something about yoga and nature combined that brings your practice to a deeper level.
Very Cool Yoga Studio

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Yoga: An Illustration

Yoga can be described as the aligning or the bringing into harmony the body, mind and spirit.  Bringing more awareness to the connection of the physical and subtle bodies (energy, mind, intellect), guiding you to a place of blissful being.
Many people are originally drawn to yoga as a means to reduce stress or for a physical workout.  But as the practice continues and students begin to connect the body, mind, and breath something wonderful starts to happen.  A feeling of clarity and balance begin to take hold.  The yearning for a happy and meaningful life along with a connection to something greater than ourselves, begins to be more powerful than the original intentions for going to a yoga class.
Asanas (yoga postures or poses) are alive through the individual in each posture.  Allowing yourself to be open to the feeling of inner peace amongst the intensity of an asana practice, remaining calm and soft while strong and stable, takes the practice to a deeper level.
So while you are gaining flexibility and strength you are also earning numerous health benefits and deeper level of consciousness.  The best part is that it just happens.  It happens when you are ready and open to it and never sooner.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Positive Well Being

If you want to have a happier mindset or just be in a better mood, try this pretty simple exercise.  Every day write down three positive things that happened to you in the past 24 hours.  It could be anything that gave you even the slightest of a good feeling.  Maybe your pet greeted you at the door, you made a delicious meal, you passed a test, met a goal, got the front parking spot, etc.  The objective is to be aware of and reflect on the positive events in your life.  You might not even realize the amazing things in you life, until you right them down.  Little things can make a big difference.  Notice the sunrise or sunset or the beautiful color of the sky.  
Think about children and how much joy they have for little things.  I saw a child (maybe 3 years old) the other day throw her arms up in the air and run to her friend when she saw her, all with a big smile and laughter.  It brought such joy to me to watch and I thought, when did we stop getting expressing our excitement?  When did we stop finding such joy and excitement in life?  We might not get back to that exact expression as the child, but we can start noticing the sky, birds, flowers, a breeze or whatever it might be and be happy that we experienced it.  Find your joy, make it happen.  You can do it if you just try.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Let Go of Stress and Be Happy

Even beginners tend to feel less stressed and more relaxed after their first class. While building strength with postures and movements, keeping focus and awareness on the breath actually calms the mind.  The 'mind chatter' will begin to decrease and before you know it, you are calm.

Some biochemical benefits are, for example, a decrease in catecholamines, the hormones produced by the adrenal glands in response to stress. Lowering levels of hormone neurotransmitters such as dopamine, norepinephrine, and epinephrine -- creates a feeling of calm.

The same is true with mood. Nearly every yoga student will tell you they feel happier and more contented after class. Recently, researchers have begun exploring the effects of yoga on depression, a benefit that may result from yoga's boosting oxygen levels to the brain. 
Who doesn't want to feel less stress or more calm and happier?  Even in a power yoga class while you will benefit from the deep breathing used in classes.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

The Nose KNOWS...

Practising a few rounds of alternate nostril breathing (pranayama) for a few minutes each day, can help restore any imbalances in your brain, improve sleep, encourage a calmer emotional state, boost your thinking power and calm your nervous system.
The nostrils do not work equally, meaning that at this moment you will be favoring either your left nostril or your right nostril. 

Left nostril for calming – right nostril for energy:

Breathing in, only through your left nostril, will access the right “feeling” hemisphere of your brain, and breathing in, only through your right nostril, will access the left “thinking” hemisphere of your brain.  Consciously alternating your breath between either nostril will  allow you to activate and access your whole brain. 
Some benefits of alternate nostril breathing:
It Revitalizes you:  A few rounds of alternate nostril breathing is a quick pick me up if you are feeling flat, tired or even stressed. It provides your body with a much needed dose of extra energy.
Improves brain function:    Alternate nostril breathing brings equal amounts of oxygen to both sides of the brain for improved brain function.  If you are new to this practice, start with just 2 minutes and work up to five minutes.
Cleanses your lungs:  A daily practice morning and night of alternate nostril breathing is great way to remove stale air and impurities from the bottom of your lungs. 
Calms an agitated mind:   A few minutes of focused alternate nostril breathing is helpful to calm the 'chattering' in the mind.  The worrying about the to do list, etc.  
Merges the left “thinking” brain and right “feeling" brain:  Alternate nostril breathing optimizes both sides of your brain so you can access your whole brain, and all the benefits that go with it.  The flip side of course is, single nostril breathing can be used to activate, just the left”thinking” or just right “feeling” side of your brain for specific situations.
Improves sleep:  If you can’t sleep at night lay on your right hand side, gently close your right nostril with your right thumb and breath through your left nostril.  This will activate your parasympathetic nervous system which will calm you down and slow your heart rate.
Soothes your nervous system:  By focusing on your breath and deepening it, your brain will register this message and trigger the parasympathetic nervous system.  You have effectively switched your nervous system from a stressed response, into a relaxation response.   Single left nostril breathing (by closing your right nostril) will direct the flow of oxygen and energy to the right hemisphere of your brain, allowing once again, for the parasympathetic nervous system to be switched on.  

An alternate nostril breathing exercise – purifying breath:

Use your right thumb to close off your right nostril.
Inhale slowly through left nostril, completely filling the lungs, and pause...
Now close left nostril with ring finger and release thumb off right nostril  
Exhale through your right nostril, and pause...
inhale through right nostril, and pause...
Use thumb to close of right nostril
Breath out through left nostril
Inhales and exhales should be of equal length and there should be a pause between each.  Start out with just 2 minutes of this and gradually build up to 5 minutes.  This has helped Veterans tremendously with calming their minds and energy.  I volunteer at a veteran's yoga class and the breathing exercises is touted as unanimously helpful.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Health Benefits of Yoga go On, On, On, On...

From lowering blood pressure to increasing pain tolerance, the following health benefits can all be discovered within the body. 
Blood pressure. A consistent yoga practice decreases blood pressure through better circulation and oxygenation of the body.  Any inversion asana and pranyama (breathing through the nose with full inhales and exhales of equal length) have been known to lower blood pressure. 
Pulse rate. A slower pulse rate indicates that your heart is strong enough to pump more blood with fewer beats. Regularly practicing yoga provides a lower pulse rate. 
Circulation. Yoga improves blood circulation. By transporting nutrients and oxygen throughout your body, yoga practice provides healthier organs, skin, and brain. 
Respiratory. Like the circulatory system, a lower respiratory rate indicates that the lungs are working more efficiently. Yoga decreases the respiratory rate through a combination of controlled breathing exercises and better fitness. 
Cardiovascular endurance. A combination of lower heart rate and improved oxygenation to the body (both benefits of yoga) results in higher cardiovascular endurance.
Organs. Yoga practice massages internal organs, thus improving the ability of the body to prevent disease. Additionally, an experienced yoga practitioner becomes better attuned to her body to know at first sign if something isn’t functioning properly, thereby allowing for quicker response to head off disease. 
Gastrointestinal. Gastrointestinal functions have been shown to improve in both men and women who practice yoga. 
Metabolism. Having a balanced metabolism results in maintaining a healthy weight and controlling hunger. Consistent yoga practice helps find the balance and creates a more efficient metabolism.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Symptom Reduction or Alleviation with Yoga Practice

Medical professionals have learned that the following diseases or disorders can all be helped by maintaining a yoga practice. 
Carpal tunnel syndrome. Individuals with carpal tunnel syndrome who practiced yoga showed greater improvement than those who wore a splint or received no treatment at all. Researchers saw improved grip strength and reduction of pain in the study participants. 
Asthma. There is some evidence to show that reducing symptoms of asthma and even reduction in asthma medication are the result of regular yoga. 
Arthritis. The slow, deliberate movement of yoga poses coupled with the gentle pressure exerted on the joints provides an excellent exercise to relieve arthritis symptoms. Also, the stress relief associated with yoga loosens muscles that tighten joints. 
Multiple sclerosis. The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine is funding a clinical trial of yoga for treating multiple sclerosis. 
Cancer. Those fighting or recovering from cancer frequently take advantage of the benefits that yoga provides. Cancer patients who practice yoga gain strength, raise red blood cells, experience less nausea during chemotherapy, and have a better overall well-being. 
Muscular dystrophy. Using yoga in the early stages of muscular dystrophy can help return some physical functions. The practice of Pranayam yoga has been known to help regain some abilities lost to muscular dystrophy.
Migraines. Regular yoga practice has been shown to reduce the number of migraines in chronic migraine sufferers. 
Scoliosis. Yoga can straighten the curvature of the spine associated with scoliosis. 
Chronic bronchitis. Exercise that does not elevate respiration, yet increase oxygen levels in the body is ideal for treating chronic bronchitis. Luckily, yoga can do this, as well as aerate the lungs and provide energy. 
Epilepsy. Focusing on stress reduction, breathing, and restoring overall balance in the body are the focus of how yoga can help prevent epileptic seizures. 
Sciatica. The intense pain associated with sciatica can be alleviated with specific yoga poses.  Here are some asanas to help:  Dandasana, Supta Padangusthasana, Utthita Parsvakonasana, Ardha Chandrasana, Savasana.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Studies of people with OCD have shown that practicing yoga has lead to a reduction in symptoms–resulting in less medication or medication no longer needed. 
Constipation. Due to the practice of yoga and overall better posture, the digestive and elimination systems work more efficiently. If the practitioner also has a healthy diet, any constipation will be eliminated through yoga. 
Allergies. Using a neti pot to clear the sinuses is an ancient form of yoga to help reduce or eliminate allergy symptoms. Certain types of breathing can also help clear the nasal passages. 
Menopause. Yoga practice can help control some of the side effects of menopause.  
Back pain. Yoga reduces spinal compression and helps overall body alignment to reduce back pain.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Disease Prevention with Yoga Practice

Disease Prevention
Doctors and nurses love yoga because studies indicate that it can help prevent the following diseases. 

Heart disease. Yoga reduces stress, lowers blood pressure, keeps off weight, and improves cardiovascular health, all of which lead to reducing your risk of heart disease. 
Osteoporosis. It is well documented that weight-bearing exercise strengthens bones and helps prevent osteoporosis. Additionally, yoga’s ability to lower levels of cortisol may help keep calcium in the bones. 
Alzheimer’s. A new study indicates that yoga can help elevate brain gamma-aminobutyric (GABA) levels. Low GABA levels are associated with the onset of Alzheimer’s. Meditation like that practiced in yoga has also been shown to slow the progression of Alzheimer’s. 
Type II diabetes. In addition to the glucose reducing capabilities of yoga, it is also an excellent source of physical exercise and stress reduction that, along with the potential for yoga to encourage insulin production in the pancreas, can serve as an excellent preventative for type II diabetes.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Fluid Body with Yoga

Yoga has been practiced for more than 5,000 years, and currently, close to 11 million Americans are enjoying its health benefits. Yoga can hardly be called a trend.

The series of yoga poses called asanas work by safely stretching your muscles. This releases the lactic acid that builds up with muscle use and causes stiffness, tension, pain, and fatigue. In addition, yoga increases the range of motion in joints. It may also increase lubrication in the joints. The outcome is a sense of ease and fluidity throughout your body.

Yoga stretches not only your muscles but all of the soft tissues of your body. That includes ligaments, tendons, and the fascia sheath that surrounds your muscles. And no matter your level of yoga, you most likely will see benefits in a very short period of time. In one study, participants had up to 35% improvement in flexibility after only eight weeks of yoga. The greatest gains were in shoulder and trunk flexibility.


This is written on WebMD

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Warrior II

The 2nd of the 3 Warrior postures.  A basic standing hip opener, and yet still very challenging.  Here are the basic movements for the posture (asana).
Start Warrior II (Virabhadrasana II) with the feet spread wide (about the length of one of your own legs).  Toes are pointed forward.  For this example we will start with the RIGHT foot turning out (90 degrees) while keeping the left foot planted in place.  Reach the arms out shoulder height and over the legs.  Bend the right knee so that the thigh is parallel to the ground and gaze over the right finger tips.  The back is long and tall, shoulders lower away from the ears (but keep the arms level with the shoulders.
Intermediate things to work on...
Draw the right hip forward and the left hip back at the same time you pull the right knee back (toward the pinky toe) so you can see the right big toe on the inside of your right knee.
The benefits of this pose are...
strengthens the thighs, knees, ankles, and arches.  Stretches the hips and shoulders.  Stimulates the digestive system and circulation.
Always remember to engage the Ujjayi breath of inhales and exhales through the nose with the back of the throat and the vocal diaphragm contracted.  Try the basic actions of the pose while engaging the breath and once you feel you have this down, work on some of the more technical actions. 

Sunday, March 13, 2011

WARRIOR 1

The Warrior poses in yoga are some of your more well known.  However, the postures can be technically difficult or challenging.  I will provide some of the major technical actions for Warrior 1 below:

Warrior 1 (Virabhadrasana 1) - Here are basic actions to this posture:
lunge the right foot forward (about 3 1/2 feet in front of left foot) and turn the back foot out about 45 degrees.  The heel of the lunged foot should be in line with the arch of the back foot (for balance purposes, you may need to widen this stance in the beginning).  Working to square the hips so they are both facing forward by pulling the right hip back and the left hip forward.  The arms sweep up over the head and the gaze is up through the hands.  (and then work the other side - left foot lunges forward...)
Warrior 1 - intermediate actions
Here are a few technical actions to add and look for once you have gotten the basic posture - bent knee is directly over the ankle, front thigh is parallel to the floor, back foot pressing down (entire foot...even the outer side of the foot is flat to the ground).  Lengthen through the lumbar to avoid compression, draw the scapula's in and down...
What this posture is working:  The spinal extensors, deltoids (shoulder), pectoralis major (chest), abdominal's, gluteus maximus, hamstrings, quadriceps...just to name a few.
This pose can be challenging when all the actions are put to the test.  But take it slow and keep a regular practice.
Always remember to engage the Ujjayi breath of inhales and exhales through the nose with the back of the throat and the vocal diaphragm contracted.  Try the basic actions of the pose while engaging the breath and once you feel you have this down, work on some of the more technical actions.

Monday, March 7, 2011

It's In The Breath

Yoga is at the root, a practice of meditation to reach a higher level of consciousness.  Steadying the breath and keeping awareness on the breath calms the mind.  During a vinyasa flow practice, the deep inhales through the nose brings in oxygen and prana (life force), every exhale through the nose removes carbon dioxide and toxins.

Breath is the most important aspect of yoga to engage during any practice.  There is no movement without breath.  Continued awareness to the breath during a vinyasa flow leads to a connection of the mind and the body.  Continued awareness to the inhalations and exhalations can create a meditative like state and will lead to a loving meditation. 

During a vinyasa flow practice, the breath used is called Ujjayi.  To do this correctly, inhale and exhale through the nose with the back of the throat and the vocal diaphragm contracted.  Now your inhales and exhales will sound something like Darth Vader.  Keep the inhales and exhales at an equal length and allowing space between the breaths.

Try the Ujjayi breath now for 10 inhales and exhales of a minimum of 3 seconds each.  See what you feel during and after the breaths.  Work on quieting the mind at the same time.