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Archive for January, 2015

Determine What Type of Yoga Poses Are Right for You

Posted on January 25th, 2015 by Both comments and pings are currently closed.

Yoga can be intimidating, to say the least. If you’ve ever admired the grace of a yoga class and decided to join in on-the-fly, you’ve probably felt the shock and embarrassment of performing a physical routine for which, you realized far too late, you were unprepared.

The trick is to start slow with a routine that is geared just for you.  Whether you are trying to address a specific or general physical issue, such as arthritis or inflexibility, here are a few yoga poses that will ensure you start off on the right foot.

Types of Yoga Poses for Arthritis

If you have arthritis, you have the misfortune of knowing plenty of pain without adding an unnecessarily difficult yoga regimen. Beginning a low-impact regimen that focuses the benefits of yoga’s breathing exercises can help lessen many of arthritis’ muscle symptoms, such as lower back pain.

Try the Sun Salutation for a low-demand pose that highlights breathing and stretching. Begin by standing straight, with hands relaxes on the side. Bring your hands over your head to touch and before slowly letting your torso drop over your legs as you exhale. Step back, and, supported by your arms, look straight up. Shift your weight back on your ankles, before gently rising towards your beginning position.

Types of Yoga Poses for Office Workers

Nearly every yoga pose that requires octopus-like stretchability has a chair variation perfect for desk-trapped office workers or for those of us who were simply born inflexible. Here are some easy yoga chair poses that will have anyone rejuvenated.

Basic Upper Leg Pose

Restore circulation to your benumbed limbs with the Upper Leg pose. Scoot your chair from the table and with your feet planted firmly on the floor, lean slowly forward to touch the ground. Keep your eyes focused forward for 10 seconds before exhaling, rolling your shoulders forward and lowering your neck for a relaxed back expansion.

Be sure to also try the hip-loosening Side Leg pose or the Chest Opener as well!

Types of Yoga Poses for Starters

Before making that potentially mortifying trip to the public yoga class, perhaps it would be better to practice some easy, straight-forward basics at home so you can concentrate on proper form and breathing without having to worry about falling behind, or worse, falling down.

The Warrior

Stand sideways, legs apart, toes pointed to one side. Spread your arms to the sides, even with the shoulders. Slowly bend your front leg to a right-degree angle, bending your toes forwards. Count slowly to 10 and release, straightening the front leg and switching sides. The goal is to build the amount of time you can hold the pose correctly to about 1 minute, so, be sure to repeat.

Other poses to try: Tree Pose and Triangle Pose touching the knee.

Types of Yoga Poses for Physical Therapy

Physical therapy and yoga poses go hand-in-hand in their focus on physical ability and restoration. Easily modified to accommodate even serious disabilities, these yoga poses will have both you and your physical therapist moving with joy.

Cat Pose

Set yourself up like a table, back flat, each limb as a different leg rooted on the floor.  Inhale as you let your stomach fall towards the fly as your lift your head and gaze straight up at the ceiling. Hold for about one minute, before relaxing your neck and shoulders, and arching your back, pulling your belly button inwards as far as you can comfortably go. Hold for another minute and release.

Also try: Cobra pose, Downward Dog variation using a block or other stand.

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Why Does Yin Yoga Practice Feel So Good: Exploring the Three Tissues of the Body

Posted on January 22nd, 2015 by Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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“Why does my body not move the way I want it to?”

To answer this question we will look at our joints. There are many tissues that form a joint: bone, muscle, tendon, ligament, synovial fluid, cartilage, fat, and sacks of fluid called bursae. Sufficient to our purpose we need only consider three of them: Muscle, Connective Tissue and Bone. Each of these tissues has different elastic qualities and each responds differently to the stresses placed upon them by yin yoga practice. By learning to feel the differences between these three tissues Yogis can save themselves a great deal of frustration and possible injury.

We begin our analysis by classifying the three tissues according to quality. Muscle is soft; it is the most elastic, and mobile. So Muscle is the most Yang of the three. Bone is hard; it is the least elastic, the least pliable and is immobile. So Bone is the most Yin. Connective Tissue lies between the two extremes.

It is interesting to note that this classification of the Three Tissues remains the same when we examine them not by quality but by location. The muscles are the most external and exposed during yin yoga practice. They are Yang. The bones are the most internal, the least accessible. They are Yin. The connective tissue lies literally between the two.

Why bother with this analysis? Because Yang tissues should be exercised in a Yang way and Yin tissues should be exercised in Yin way. The characteristics of Yang exercise are rhythm and repetition. The characteristic of Yin exercise is prolonged stasis or stillness. We are all familiar with Yang exercises like running, swimming, and weight training. All of these activities are rhythmic. We alternate the contraction and relaxation of our muscles to run or swim or lift. It would be unproductive to just contract a muscle and hold it until it spasms. It would be equally unproductive to just let a muscle stay relaxed. Healthy muscle requires the rhythmic contraction and relaxation that Yang exercise provides. The rhythm is very important. Indeed, it could be said that it is rhythm that distinguishes exercise from simple manual labor.

Manual labor is rarely of the proper rhythm or of adequate repetition to make a person “feel good”. It is usually a haphazard mix of too much of some movements, not enough of others. This leaves us feeling sore and “kinked” at the end of our labors, not pleasantly perspired and relaxed, as with yin yoga practice. In cultures where long days of manual labor are unavoidable Human Beings have responded by making up “Work Songs” and soldiers have invented an endless variety of “Marching Songs”. The purpose of these songs is to create a rhythm to work to. Labor is still labor but it is made more palatable and less destructive by moving, singing and breathing with a rhythm.

Yang exercise is easy to define and identify. It is what we are all familiar with. By contrast Yin exercise seems a contradiction in terms. How can something that is gentle and static even be called “exercise”. One purpose of these articles is to expand our conception of exercise to be more inclusive. Yang exercise is not the only form of exercise.

The characteristic of yin yoga practice is stasis or stillness for long periods of time. Yin exercise has a rhythm but it is a much, much longer rhythm than Yang activities like running. A common misinterpretation of Yin stillness is “passive” or “inactive”. But this misconception is due to our cultural bias to muscular, Yang activities. If nothing were happening in Yin exercise then it would indeed be a contradiction in terms. But tissues are being stressed in proper Yin exercise, particularly connective tissue.

The most common example of Yin exercise is traction. If someone’s leg were broken it would not be beneficial to rhythmically pull on the injured area. But gentle, steady, continuous traction might be absolutely necessary for healthy recovery by using yin yoga practice.

An even more common and less dramatic example of the Yin principle of prolonged stasis is orthodontia; braces on our teeth. Teeth are bone anchored in more bone and yet even they respond to yin yoga practice that we call “braces”. Bone is the ultimate Yin tissue of the body. If we were to exercise our teeth in a Yang way it would be disastrous.

Imagine an enthusiastic body builder taking what she learned from the gym and applying it to her mouth. If she had decided she was going to straighten her crooked teeth by rhythmically wiggling them back and forth in multiple sets it would not be long before her teeth fell out. Yang tissues should be exercised in a Yang way and Yin tissues should be exercised in a Yin way.

We will finish this article with a reminder of the Taoist conceptions of Yin and Yang. When we analyze things we are comparing them to something else. There is no absolute Yin. There is no absolute Yang. If we recall the Tai Ji symbol of spiraling half circles of Black and White we must remember that there is a black dot within the white spiral and a white dot within the black. This is to remind us that when we use language such as “Yang is rhythmic but Yin is not.” that this is not absolutely true. Yin has a rhythm but it is much longer than Yang. Likewise it is not absolutely correct to say “Yang is active but Yin is not.” There is activity in Yin but it is of a different type. It can be tedious to be meticulously accurate in our speech. One of the great benefits of Yin/Yang terminology is that we can express ourselves in terse, memorable ways but always with the understanding that this is not the final word. Like poetry; a deeper analysis might be necessary for different purposes.

 

To learn more about Paul Grilley, visit his website at www.paulgrilley.com and check out his DVD’s and online courses here at Pranamaya.

Paul Grilley:  A well-known master of yin yoga, Paul brings a thorough grounding in Hatha and Ashtanga yoga as well as anatomy and kinesiology to his teaching, which integrates the Taoist yoga of martial arts master Paulie Zink and the Chinese meridian and acupuncture theories of Dr. Hiroshi Motoyama. Paul’s book, Yin Yoga: Principles and Practice, explains how yin yoga can teach us to relax, be patient, be quiet, and focus on the skeleton and its joints—a necessary counterpoint to today’s more ubiquitous muscular yoga.

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10 Steps to Staying Inspired and Manifesting Your Intentions

Posted on January 19th, 2015 by Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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Staying inspired isn’t always easy. Sometimes just completing our daily mundane tasks- taking care of our kids, going to work or school- can seem like a grind. So how do we stay inspired to attain the goals and dreams that we have set for ourselves?

1. Imagine:
It is said that “Imagination leads to experience” and it is one of the first steps to begin to shift our positive thoughts and aspirations into form. Creating a vision board is an excellent way to begin to shape what sprouts from our imagination into being. A vision board is a picture collage of all the things you would like to manifest. Be as specific as you can about what those things are. If you want a new car, find the actual make model and color of the car you want. If you are dreaming of an exotic vacation find pictures of the hotel you’d like to stay in and the things you’d like to do while you are there. If you desire a loving relationship find photo’s or words that invoke this for you. Place the board in a place where you can see it everyday. Take a moment each day to look at what you’ve created, knowing that you have the ability to make it happen. Pay attention to synchronicities in your life, it may be the universe conspiring to help you!

2. Be Grateful:
Gratitude is central to being a happy and inspired person. We all have something to be grateful for, even if at this very moment the only thing that you can think of is the breath you are breathing right now. Create a gratitude journal. Every night before you go to bed make a list of 5 things that you are grateful for.

3. The Company You Keep:
Sometimes you need to let go of relationships that don’t serve you. You are not being served if you consistently feel drained after being around certain people. In your friendships and relationships are you always giving more energy than you receive? Do you feel valued? Are you in a circle of friends that thrives on drama and gossip? Who are the people you look up to? Spend more time with them. It is said that you are the average of the 5 people that you spend the most time with. Sit with that for a moment and think about whether you need to make any changes. Surrounding yourself with people who are positive, proactive and uplifting will help you to stay connected to your own goals. Who are those people in your life? If you don’t have any, find some!

4. Make an Action List:
List five things at the beginning of the week that you can complete to move closer to your goals. Don’t be afraid to do things that seem big- like making a cold call or sending an email to someone you don’t know. List 3 things you can stop doing this week that waste time and resources i.e. internet, channel surfing, spending too much or gossiping.

5. Meditate:
Set the tone and foundation for your day by spending at least 5 minutes meditating upon waking. The practice of consistent mediation has cumulative effects and allows you to develop the ability to remain centered in the midst of turmoil.

6. Daily Exercise:
No matter what your preferred movement form is. Get out there and do it 30 minutes a day! I prefer yoga and meditation because it brings awareness to your thoughts and can reveal mental constructs that may be blocking you from moving forward. If you are new to yoga you can try a free Yin Yoga class for beginners with Sarah Powers.

7. Mindful Eating:
Be mindful of not only what you eat (hopefully 60% organic), but how you eat. Do you offer a blessing for your food? Are you talking on the phone or watching TV while you eat? Are you rushing through your meal? Do you eat too late at night ? You are not only what you eat, but HOW you eat. Incorproating the science of Ayurveda can be an eye opening way to use food as medicine and practice daily self care rituals.

8. Thirty Minutes of Silence Before Bed:
How often during the day are we ever really silent? We are constantly barraged with images, information, distractions, sound bites, feedback etc. Take time to decompress from it all and just be silent, write in your journal, meditate, make a cup of tea and just BE. In order to be truly happy we must cultivate the ability to be alone with ourselves and our thoughts- with no distractions.

9. Deep Relaxation:
It is important for us to be able to deeply relax. We mostly think of that as sleeping, but there are a few exercises that we can do that bring us into a state of deep relaxation. The practice of yoga nidra is done lying on your back, on your bed or on the floor. Your eyes remain closed as you remain perfectly still and are guided though an exercise. This is a wonderful exercise for anyone who has trouble sleeping. It can be done any time of day and is deeply restoring. And because it is so deeply relaxing it is a great place to plant an intention. All of your internal resistances soften and you now have fertile ground to manifest your dreams from. I have used this method many times to achieve goals and it is very effective.

10. Commitment
Make a commitment to yourself. If you can’t commit to yourself, it’ll be hard for anyone to commit to you in any capacity. Challenge yourself to incorporate the nine steps into your life for 41 days. If you slip, start from day one. I guarantee you’ll see changes by day 42.

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Can Yoga Heal a Broken Heart?

Posted on January 15th, 2015 by Both comments and pings are currently closed.

There are many ways that we become heartbroken. It can be from years of failed relationships, a betrayal from a partner, the loss of a loved one, divorce, abandonment, disappointment, even loneliness. Some of our heartbreaks are so deep that it feels as though we may never recover. We become so disconnected from ourselves that we need something to guide us back to wholeness.

All too often, we search for something or someone outside of ourselves to make us happy. But those of us who have tried that route have no-doubt experienced the fleeting happiness that is born from a relationship incubated in a bubble of neediness. It is our relationship to ourselves and the understanding of who we really are that will bring us that feeling of completeness and the knowledge that we are never truly alone.

The Yoga Sutras describe a light that resides inside each of us—a luminance that is beyond all sorrow. This light is said to be located at the heart center. If we can access that light by letting go of resistance, offering gratitude, and surrendering to what is, we can once again—and maybe for the first time—taste our true nature, one that is full of joy, freedom, and bliss.

The process of accessing that light requires svadyaya (self-study), abhyasa (diligent practice) and vairagya (dispassion). We have to muster the courage to walk through the fire of transformation, and we should begin by making a sacred commitment to ourselves toward our own healing.

But first, we must learn to become still. Stillness is probably the one thing we’d like to avoid. Busyness keeps us distracted from our issues and the pain at heart. Perpetual motion is a great tool to avoid seeing our patterns, ways we could have acted more wisely or compassionately. It staves off those voices of doubt in our minds that maybe we actually are unlovable or underserving and might always be alone. It seemingly keeps us from feeling the pain. But it’s still there, under the surface, bubbling away, deciding whether to burst forth and release or sink deep and create toxicity and dis-ease. At the end of the day it only serves to keep our healing at bay.

We need to stop our endless television watching, web surfing, overworking, and the countless coffees with friends who just want to cheer us up or rehash the story over and over as they project their own relationship woes onto us.

Even our asana practice can become a way to distract ourselves. However, if we turn off the music and infuse our asana practice with the subtler aspects of yoga like pranayama, mantra, and bandhas, we can use it to prepare us for deep meditation. From this place, we can begin to pry open the door to the cave of the heart.

It is said that, in the stillness, the unknown becomes known. It may be scary to look into those painful and cavernous places within ourselves. But it must be done if we want to be free.

Make the decision now to take your seat, close your eyes, be with yourself, and breathe. Being still will illuminate your inner world, and how you experience the outer world will be shifted. But the practice of meditation is much more powerful when you practice daily. If possible, do it in the same place at the same time every day, and you will see that the cumulative power of a daily practice becomes palpable very quickly.

Here are some things that will help you to move your healing journey forward:
1. Practice non-expectation
2. Observe silence for at least 30 minutes before bed
3. Reduce your media intake
4. Take time to be alone

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