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.
We all know that the only way to truly prepare for Winter sports is to get out there and do them. Whether you are heading to Heavenly or Kirkwood, Squaw or Sierra at Tahoe, Yoga Asana and Pranayama as well as mindful practices can help you to feel strong, safe and aware while out on the snow. Try out these simple practices to help you enjoy this year's season. You won't regret it.
1) Asana (Poses)
There are many Yoga asana (poses) that can help you to strengthen as well as recover from your day out on the slopes. An experienced and knowledgeable instructor will be able to guide you through theses poses and teach you how to use them in a way that helps you prepare for your day out, then release afterward.
Yudrasana (Lunge) - raising and lowering between high and low lunges.
Deviasana (Goddess) - holding, and also shifting your upper body from side-to-side.
Virabhadrasana Dvi (Warrior Two) - holding, as well as rotating.
Parsvottanasana - intense side stretch.
Supta Virasana - reclined hero
Svastikasana - auspicious pose/reclined twist variation
2) Pranayama (Conscious Breath)
If you’re heading out to the resort you are unlikely to be the only one doing so. You can prepare for and remain relaxed while sharing the mountain by applying a simple breathing techniques. Not only will they help you to remain calm and patient in lift lines. Pranayama practices can also help you to reduce stress levels while you are out and about traveling and visiting the area.
Victorious/Powerful Breathing (Ujjayi):
Breathe in and out of your nose only.
Constrict the back of your throat slightly so that your breath is audible to you, only.
Feel your breath as it moves in and out of your throat.
Slow your breathing down so that each inhale and exhale is as long as you can make it.
3) Dharana (Mindful Practice)
We can easily become caught up in the cycle of activity and buzz around us while we are out on the slopes. There are people moving everywhere and in every direction. It’s a good idea to step out of the way, look around, and observe our circumstances every once in a while.
Be sure to follow these simple mountain rules to keep yourself and others safe:
-Move to the side of the trail if you need to stop for any reason. While waiting for friends, fixing your gear or taking a break, move out of the way of those who are riding.
-Be considerate of others by keeping your backpack, poles and gear close to your body while moving around or riding the lift. Wear headphones if you like to listen to music and keep the volume at a level that still allows you to hear the liftee and those around you in the case that someone is trying to get your attention.
-Stay in control of yourself, even if your friends are bombing down the slope ahead of you. Most of us don’t get to ski every day. Honor your abilities and be honest about how much control you really have over your board or skis. Everyone, including that 5-year-old grom crushing it on the bumps will have more fun when staying in control.
Find a spot on the side of the trail, pull up a chair, or head into the lodge and relax for a few minutes. Close your eyes and listen to the sounds around you. Enjoy the crisp air and the swish of others sliding by.
To learn more about the poses, breath work and mindfulness practices that keep Jenay peaceful during Tahoe Winter visit LakeTahoeYoga.com.
The Meaning of Yoga
The word Yoga comes from the sanskrit root word, "Yuj," which means to yoke or unite. No matter the style which you choose, while practicing and afterward, you should feel a sense of self-connection as well as a connection with those whom you practice. No union = no Yoga.
There are two approaches to the practice of Yoga: Hatha and Raja. At Lake Tahoe Yoga we practice both, simultaneously. The effort, or movement, is Hatha. The mindful aspect is Raja. An authentic Yoga practice with offer both physical and mindful practices. Each movement should require focus and attention while at the same time an experience of release of distractions. As the practice continues, you should feel a sense of freedom and one-pointed focus.
Alignment is everything. Any teacher that tells you to "listen to your body," or "move freely in any way that feels good," is doing you a disservice. We each have our own anatomical alignment, but that doesn't mean we are all aligned properly. We have spent years moving in unhealthy, habitual ways. Yoga Asana is designed to help us adjust our bodies into the best position and to move more healthily. While moving, your attention should move to misalignments and a good teacher will help you identify ways in which to correct them.
Breathing is one of the most important aspects of Hatha. In a traditional practice, you will learn the postures first, and then the breath that directs each posture. Each breath is important as it helps to move not only your body, but your energy as well. Poorly directed breath can result in physical issues, mental strain and energetic blockages. Your breath should be effortful, but not forceful. If you are ever breathing with more effort than you are applying physically, you are breathing too hard.
Finally, energetic awareness is the key to a good class and high quality instruction. Your instructor should be able to hold your focus no matter where you are practicing. Shaktipat is the exchange of energy between yourself and your guide during your practice. If your instructor is distracted, unfocused, continuously talking, giving inclear instructions, etc., there is no shaktipat. Throughout the entire practice you should feel as though you can completely let go and just follow the guidance of your teacher.
Yoga has recently become a hot word to add to anything you do. There is Yoga with Kittens, Yoga with Goats, Naked Yoga, Paddle Yoga, etc. With the word yoga being thrown into everything from athletic work outs to types of tea, it can be difficult to figure out what type of yoga is correct for you.
Yoga is a Practice
Sadhana Pada is the second portion of the Yoga Sutra. It is the section focused on practice. As we travel through the second book of the Yoga Sutra we soon learn that the piece we're mostly drawn to: Asana, are nothing without Breath (Pranayama). Patanjali says, "Once you have perfected the pose, then practice the breath." I don't know about you, but I'm far from perfect as far as my asana practice goes.
Yoga is a Study
Svadhyaya is about the Self. As we practice asana, we learn about the areas in which we hold back, the places where we push too hard and when we have and lack flexibility. These are all reflections of how we live our lives. Our breath and the ability to move breath, can help us to release, engage and move not only our bodies but our Selves.
Yoga is Breath
Directed breathing slows down the movement of your thoughts actions and expressions. Learning to retain or suspend your breath (Kumbhaka) is the key to Pranayama. Lengthening the amount of time that you can suspend your breath after an exhale is said to lengthen your life in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika.
As you practice Asana and get closer to your own perfection, don't forget to breathe. Each breath creates space, openness and connection. Use your breath to discover your Self.
Yoga is Accuracy
According to Hatha Yoga our practice begins with the physical and moves toward the mindful. To access the mind, we must clear the paths (Koshas) of rubble, waste, impurity and residue. Asana clears the pathway through the external body. Satkarma clears the pathway through the internal body. It is Pranayama that clears the pathway through the energetic body.
To learn more about the practices of Raja and Hatha Yoga and to deepen your understanding of the practices of Yoga as well as your Self. Join us daily for educational discussions and intentional practices.