Yoga + Focused Concentration = Less Stress
Stress from work, school, and family can build throughout the day until, when it’s finally time to get some much needed rest, you have trouble closing your eyes. You need a full night’s sleep, that’s a solid seven to eight hours every night, to rejuvenate, energize, and refresh the body for a new day. Yoga and focused concentration both offer ways to help clear your mind, slow your heart rate, and prepare your mind and body for better sleep.
Yoga, especially those forms that use directed breathing, reduce the inflammation brought on by stress. Focusing your mind and body before bed has measurable benefits by reducing the activity of proteins that cause stress-related inflammation. Yoga Asana also helps relieve tension and tightness in muscles.
Focused concentration that centers on mindfulness is another way to help center your mind, putting stressful events and thoughts in the background for better sleep. Mindfulness concentration encourages practitioners to focus on the moment so that thoughts and emotions center in the present rather than dwelling on the past or speculating about the future. This type of concentration helps relieve symptoms of depression, chronic pain, and conditions like high blood pressure.
Yoga for Better Sleep
Yogic and concentration techniques can be performed before getting into bed or after you’ve laid down. When doing poses in bed, your mattress type may prevent you from getting a stretch with the same intensity you are used to on the floor, but that doesn’t reduce the relaxing benefits.
Standing Forward Bend
Stand with the feet hip-width apart, folding from your hips toward the ground. Reach your arms to the ground. You can grab your elbows with your hands and let your arms gently dangle for a better stretch. Slightly bend your knees to relieve any strain. Breathe deeply using your diaphragm.
Seated Spinal Twist
Start by sitting on a mat or your bed with both legs out straight in front of you. Bend your left knee, bringing your left foot over your right leg. Gently hold your left leg with your right hand, and twist your torso so you’re looking over your left shoulder. You can keep your right leg straight or bend it toward your left hip. Take up to eight deep breaths, release, and repeat on the other side.
On your knees, sit with your knees wider than your hips and bring your big toes together. Lengthen your torso between your legs. Extend your arms out in front or rest them beside your legs. Let your forehead drop toward the ground or your bed. Take up to eight long, deep breaths before releasing.
Focused Concentration works well once you’re lying in bed. Start by focusing on your breath. Breathe deeply using your diaphragm and listen to the sound of the air entering and leaving your lungs. Focus your mind on the calming sound of your breath. If it helps, focus on a calming word with each inhale and exhale. As you continue breathing, keep your mind focused by pulling it back to your breathing when it begins to wander. Continue until you feel calm, quiet, and relaxed. You may even drift off to sleep.
Special thanks to TUCK for their contribution of this blog and active work in the study of Mindfullness, Sleep and accessing Dhyana (Meditation).
Tuck Sleep Foundation is a community devoted to improving sleep hygiene, health and wellness through the creation and dissemination of comprehensive, unbiased, free web-based resources. Tuck has been featured on NPR, Lifehacker, Radiolab and is referenced by many colleges/universities and sleep organizations across the web.
You are out of Balance
You night not notice it, but you have become so comfortable with how things are that you just accept that this is how you are supposed to feel. When was the last time you checked in with yourself? When was the last time you tried something new? When was the last time you felt uncomfortable? When was the last time you allowed yourself 15 minutes of time to allow your thoughts to run wild? When was the last time you allowed yourself 15 minutes to quiet those thoughts?
How well do you know your Self?
In the movie Anger Management, the main character is asked to explain who he is. Can you do this? Without describing yourself as what you do, who you know, where you live, what you enjoy? Can you describe your Self?
Try this: write down that which you do, where you live, what you enjoy, who you know, who you are in relation to others, etc. Now, describe what you look like, what you love and what you dislike about yourself.
Now, read what you have written. Is this you?
You are not your self.
Through the practice of yoga asana we develop an understanding of our habits. We learn that we have, over time, developed practices that protect us, that compensate, that hide the imabalances.
When we direct our breath, we identify the limitations we place upon ourselves and the ways in which we cheat ourselves from accepting who we are and what we need.
When we sit or rest in silence we learn to listen to the chattering within us. We begin to hear our body and breath. We notice the useless thoughts buzzing around in our heads.
Movement, breath and silence help us to identify all of the imbalances to which we are blind; it sheds light upon that which we have allowed to hide in the darkness.
You are your Self
We are not here to direct you through a workout or fix your ailments. We are here to help you to identify your imbalances. We are here to guide you through asana sequences that address physical and energetic change. We are here to guide you through breathing practices that shift your awareness and spark emotion. We are here to encourage you to be silent so that you can hear the chatter of your mind.
It's time to show up. To be here. It's time to seek synchronicity.
Yoga's sister science, Auyrveda, brings balance to our body, breath and mindful practices. By evaluating our lifestyle, eating, sleeping and working habits, we begin to paint a picture of who we are. We begin to see the difference between the self and the Self! We become whole only by breaking apart the pieces of our own individual puzzling selves. Each of us is like a puzzle that appears to be put together, but when you look closely, you see that there are pieces added or misplaced. As we practice, as we shed light upon the darkness, we begin to identify the pieces that need to be removed or replaced.
Book a Synchronicity Session today.
Identify imbalances. Learn how to return to your true nature. Return to synchronicity through specified practices.
As a Yoga studio, our job is to share knowledge, experience and philosophies about Yoga. Our hope is that you, our practitioners, will absorb what we share and eventually, begin to do the same. There is a middle ground, though, for all of this. You see, we all have to practice and our practice is more than just what we do in the studio. It is the generalization of the skills we learn in class into our lives. It is a lifestyle.
You are Me
Have you felt the effects of your practice? To find Yoga is to find your Self. In order to get there, you have to restrain (Yamas) your wants and observe (Niyamas) your needs. The way you treat yourself should be reflected in how you treat others. And, if you see yourself as spiritual, holy, god-loved, etc. then you will see all others in this way.
Restrain, Direct, Control
Every posture is a demonstration of the practice of Yama. We move with intention trying to retain the position prescribed in any way that our bodies are able. We can generalize this practice into our lives through the Yamas.
The Yamas are five-fold: Truth, Helping, Generosity, Moderation and Sharing. Living your life with the intention of retaining these aspects of Yoga can shift our perspective and have an effect on others. Imagine if everything you did was guided by these principals. What would you do differently?
Observe, Reflect, Realize
Pranayama practices are tools designed to focus and limit our thoughts. These breathing techniques include a count of breaths, length of each, pauses between and various aspects of mudra or mantra. These techniques are the first step in establishing Niyama.
Niyama are five-fold: Purity, Contentment, Self Study, Dedication and Devotion. These practices direct our attention toward our own habits. We live life based upon memories, experiences, wants and desires. Our thoughts and actions are a demonstration of subconscious karma. To practice Niyama is to practice treating yourself well. The more you do so, the better you will treat others.
Shift, Adjust, Change
Our continued practice of Yama, Niyama, Asana and Pranayama ultimately leads us toward the additional four limbs: Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi.
The more we live a lifestyle of Yama and Niyama, maintain our physical health through Asana and consciously breathe the less our attention will be drawn to distraction (pratyahara).
Allowing ourselves opportunities to spend time alone, in quiet spaces allowing our minds to be directed by rhythmic breathing or sound vibrations, the better we become at focusing upon that which is important (dharana).
Silencing the chatter of useless thoughts, detaching from toxic people and environments, recognizing that which we can control and letting things happen as they will while remaining present becomes natural (dhyana).
Eventually, we will settle into contentment and recognize that we are each a tiny droplet in the ocean of the universe (samadhi).
Our Self is made up of many levels. The koshas are considered the layers of the Self. Manomaya is the layer within which the mind or manas and the emotions are prominent.
Our mind is constantly chattering away. It tells us our desires, needs, dislikes, etc. All of these things are directed by the ego. The ego places labels upon everything we experience. Our emotions are attached to these experiences and, through them, we develop samskaras or impressions.
Manomaya is the layer within that we must work the hardest to move beyond. If we can let go of our ego then our mind can quiet. If we can move beyond our emotions, we can view the world with less bias and judgement. Our practice is to let go of these things and become less attached to our self and that which lies outside of us.