Guest Article: Trevor McDonald - Website
Life is chaotic.
From the moment you wake up and open your eyes, you’re already being greeted with a steady stream of stimuli from seemingly everywhere.
And that’s even before you get out of bed!
It’s all too easy to want to block everything out, put your blinders on, and try to slog through your day-to-day routine.
It’s easy to become so focused on just getting through your day, that when it winds down to an end? You realize you haven’t even focused on one single thing.
You were just go-go-go, trying to survive another day.
That simply won’t do.
That lack of mindfulness can come back to haunt you. You may not even realize it, but being detached and distracted can be very harmful to you.
It’s so important to be in the moment, be focused, and be mindful.
Yet these days, more and more people are detached, distracted, and unaware.
It’s easy to get distracted by countless ads, blog posts about how to avoid body shaming, and everything in between.
The truth is, mindfulness – within your daily routine as well as in your Yoga practice – is an essential element to both your physical and mental wellness.
What Is Mindful Focus & Why Does It Matter?
It’s so easy to get caught up in the big picture that you overlook the smaller details in life.
When you feel like your attention is pulled in a thousand different directions, feeling overstimulated and overwhelmed can seem normal.
The thing is, though, that it’s not normal to feel like you’re constantly on an emotional or mental ledge. Over time, chronic stress can actually be extremely harmful to your health.
Mindfulness can help redirect your thoughts, allowing you a chance to relax and breathe.
Practicing mindful focus has been shown to have several important health benefits. People who practice mindfulness tend to be happier overall and have better health.
They're less likely to get sick too since mindfulness has been shown to help boost immunity.
Mindfulness is also a great way to help relieve anxiety and stress.
If you feel like you’re so overwhelmed with tension and stress that your mind doesn’t want to shut off at night, you may benefit from mindfulness. It has been shown to help those suffering from insomnia, too.
Finally, people who struggle with chronic pain have reported finding lasting relief from their aches through meditation.
As you can see, mindful focus isn’t just something that gets passed around by yogis; even researchers and medical professionals can agree that it’s got some pretty incredible health benefits!
Practicing Yoga to Become a Healthier You
If it feels like your mind is racing and you can’t seem to shut it off, you’re not alone. If you’re struggling to calm your mind, then you may find that practicing mindful focus through yoga can be incredibly helpful.
It’s important to remember that yoga isn’t something that’s reserved exclusively for the trained and enlightened. It’s a practice that’s inviting to people of all age groups, genders, and backgrounds.
Before you can understand the benefits of yoga, though, you first need to understand what the principles of yoga are.
Yoga focuses on a combination of special techniques. More commonly, they include learning specific poses, mindful focus, and breathing.
Together, these make up a portion of yoga.
By taking the time to practice and grow with yoga, you can start to notice a huge difference in your overall well-being.
Because Yoga poses are a type of gentle exercise, it can have incredible effects on your physical health. Yoga can help relieve chronic lower back pain, for example.
It can also help with numerous neurological disorders that can cause severe pain and discomfort. Researchers have found that it can help with multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, and fibromyalgia.
They can also help lower your blood pressure, allowing you to live a much healthier life.
Yoga has been shown to help address a huge spectrum of both physical and mental health issues, as well. It can help treat depression, reduce stress, help with addiction, and reduce insomnia.
Regular practice of yoga poses can also help boost your immune system, reducing your risk of catching an illness.
The bottom line?
Just the mere practice of yoga can greatly, significantly improve your quality of life.
Applying Mindful Focus to Your Daily Life
Applying the principles of yoga to your daily life doesn’t have to be something difficult or complex.
You don’t need to worry about trying to carve hours of your week to focus on, well, focusing.
In fact, even taking the time to practice a tiny bit of yoga can be quite beneficial to your health and welfare.
Even if you don’t have an hour to commit to yoga, you can still find a few small ways to sneak it in.
Finding even 10 or 20 minutes to practice mindfulness can still be a positive influence in your life.
Even better? You can do it right here, right now, in the clothes you’re wearing – no special equipment or yoga mats needed!
To dip your toes into a yoga practice, you need to start small. Take 10 minutes to focus on your breathing. See if you can relax your mind and try to meditate.
If you have a few more minutes, then the gentle hatha yoga postures can help you work out the stress and aches of your body and mind.
Begin with Hatha, after you have developed control and ease of the postures, then you might attempt the styles of yoga that have grown from Hatha such as vinyasa or Yin yoga.
Yoga is so inclusive and gentle that it can be beneficial to you, no matter your age or current ability level. There really is no excuse not to practice it.
That’s the wonderful thing about yoga. There really is something for everyone.
The more you practice yoga and mindfulness, the better you will start to feel.
If you’re looking to improve your focus, reduce your stress, enhance your outlook on life, and even shed a few unwanted pounds, yoga is for you.
What are you waiting for? Your inner peace awaits you.
You just have to be ready and willing to practice mindful focus.
Are you ready?
According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are over 40.4 million family caregivers for adults age 65 or older in the United States. These caregivers are typically family members who take on the responsibility of helping their loved one with long-term services and support. Caregivers may provide financial assistance and personal care, but a large part of what they do is helping with day-to-day activities and emotional support. While most caregivers find that being there for their loved one is a rewarding experience, it stands to reason that the role involves a certain amount of stress with the risk of burnout. While dealing with that stress involves several healthy lifestyle choices, adding yoga and meditation to your daily schedule can be a huge boon to the overall mental health and wellness of both caregiver and senior.
A Morning Stretch
Among the many changes that happen to the body as we age, most seniors find that they lose flexibility and agility as the years go on. Doing a gentle yoga routine in the morning is a great way to improve mobility and balance, which is essential for preventing senior falls. Stretching is also beneficial for caregivers of all ages, as it eases tension due to stress. Furthermore, it’s helpful in reducing pain as well as stiffness in both the muscles and joints.
To get the best results, it’s important to be consistent and commit to stretching every morning. Having a dedicated practice ensures both senior and caregiver maintain muscular integrity while building strength. Try this easy stretching routine to help relieve stress and improve flexibility. To make it more like yoga, focus on your breath with each stretch. Inhale through your nose as you prepare to enter each pose, and exhale through your mouth when you release.
A Mindful Approach
As stretching and yoga help seniors and their caregivers maintain healthy bodies, meditation helps improve the health of the mind. By dedicating time to contemplation, people who meditate increase their mindfulness for a happier and more fulfilled life. According to Gizmodo, research shows that meditation can shield the brain from the damaging effects of stress and anxiety. Furthermore, it helps improve patience, enhances sleep quality, and alleviates feelings of depression. A daily meditation practice enriches one’s life and helps build self-esteem. Learning how to meditate is even a helpful skill when it comes to the management of chronic pain.
Just about everyone can benefit from meditation, but when it comes to seniors, there are particular benefits to consider. For one, when used in conjunction with a healthy lifestyle and medical supervision meditation slows the progression of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, degenerative conditions that impede cognitive function and memory. When seniors meditate, they are less likely to suffer from isolation and loneliness, which can have devastating physical health effects on top of the mental and emotional strain. Meditating stimulates the brain’s centers for memory, so it can help slow the memory loss that affects many people over the age of 65. Furthermore, the deep and focused breathing that accompanies meditation introduces healthy oxygen into the blood while improving circulation. Many seniors suffer from poor circulation resulting cramping, pain, or a heavy sensation in the limbs.
Millions of people in the United States provide unpaid care for a senior loved one. Care giving involves many things, including financial assistance, personal care, assistance with day-to-day activities, and emotional support. While most caregivers enjoy being there for a loved one, it comes with its share of stress with a risk of burnout. Along with a healthy lifestyle, seniors and their caregivers can ensure wellness with daily yoga and meditation habits. Stretching in the morning is a great way to improve agility and balance for seniors, while it can help their caregivers relieve anxiety and stress-related pain. Meditation is as good for the head as yoga is good for the body. It improves mindfulness and protects the brain from stress, but it’s also helpful for seniors, as it slows the progression of dementia.
Give The Gift of Yoga
Lake Tahoe Yoga offers a variety of options for individuals interested in beginning the practice of mindful movement and meditation.
One of the instructors at LTY recently approached me to ask for advice on how to differentiate her classes and make them more accessible for beginners. I was overjoyed to hear her say that she wanted to improve her skills so that she could help make everyone feel more comfortable in her classes. Teaching beginners is not an easy skill to learn. Many teachers approach their instruction from where they are; they teach based upon their abilities and knowledge. Learning to break down the poses in a away that is accessible for new practitioners and exciting for those with experience takes practice.
Teaching for You
One of the topics covered in the Lake Tahoe Yoga Teacher Training Program is how to teach FOR our practitioners rather than TO them. Those of you who have joined the practice at LTY know that no two practices are ever the same. We change up the postures, sequences and focus in every session. Our goal is to keep you focused, but also to challenge ourselves as teachers. Our intention is to create practices that are for you. From the poses to the breath and the energy of the space (even when outdoors) we are constantly considering ways in which to make Yoga happen in every aspect of the practice.
Every Body Can Do Yoga
Just like you, our team of teachers have a variety of styles, talents and abilities. We are proud to offer classes that are inclusive for all bodies. We use tools to help ourselves access postures and are honored to share our knowledge of tool useage with you. We accept all practitioners as themselves. We want to know what your goals and intentions are, what you hope to get out of the practice and how you intend upon growing, changing and transforming through the practice. Come to us with your requests, needs and wishes. We are ready to guide you upon your path.
We Love Our Small Class Sizes
Our studio space can fit just 20 mats (25 if we really want to get cozy). In a typical scheduled practice we will have just 1-10 practitioners. This leaves plenty of space for movement, tool placement and expression of each individual in the space. As teachers, we love this. We are able to give everyone attention. Whether offering specific guidance for an individual’s body, answering a question asked during the practice or providing an adjustment to each and every participant, we enjoy spending time with our practitioners and knowing that each individual has been noticed. You will never be anonymous at Lake Tahoe Yoga. You will always be welcomed into the studio as a member of our intimate community of Yogis.
Do Not Be Fearful
Regardless of your ability, age, knowledge or comfort level with Yoga, we invite you to join us. Try one of our classes. We would be honored to have you join our community. Give us the chance to guide you through the poses, breath and mindful practices of Yoga. Give yourself the chance to feel better, every day, through the practice of Yoga.