The Yoga of Life – Five Steps to Being In the Flow

Do you believe that everything you do is infused with the energy you do it with? If you are frantic and stressed in your life then your life will be frantic and stressful. If you are peaceful and calm you will have more peace and ease in your life. This DOES NOT mean that difficult things won’t happen to you or that you won’t be challenged. But, there is evidence that your internal state determines your external state.

Yoga holds the potential for you to approach everything in your life with peace and calm in your heart. The physical practice on the mat is just the beginning. There is more to learning how to confront fear and step past limitation besides doing a fancy arm balance, a graceful backbend, or a crazy contortion.

Do your efforts on the mat support you in your open eyed Sadhana – that thing we call life? Especially when things get tough? The physical practice has the capacity to wake up your body and increase your awareness. But what you do with that awareness is up to you. How do you act/react when discomfort arises, when things don’t go your way, or when you get bad news? This is the real proof of yoga. It takes practice to sit with things like emotional pain, physical discomfort, uncertainty… These are the most difficult asanas in life.

Finding the opportunity in the face of a challenge is a high yoga. It is possible to use our difficulties to cultivate mental strength, emotional balance, and spiritual fortitude for your life off the mat. That sounds great right, but how? Being present with what is, relaxing and accepting it, and allowing it to shift you are all like building a muscle, increasing flexibility, or trying to nail a posture. It takes practice.

At Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health  a process called BRFWA is taught to practice being in the flow of what is happening. These five steps will help you develop a relationship with yourself and with your life. After all you cannot choose, force, or control what happens to you only how you respond to it.

Breathe. Take several breaths inhaling into your belly and exhaling slowly until the breath is extinguished. This turns on your parasympathetic nervous system.

Relax. Scan your body to find where you are holding tension. Invite it to release by bringing the breath there and softening. Increase tension in the places that are most challenging to let go of and then soften. The contrast often helps.

Feel. This is an emotional body scan. Notice feelings, sensations, and be present with the experience without trying to change it, ignore it, or stuff it down. Let yourself feel fully.

Watch. Be the witness of the experience. Observe it, create spaciousness around it, and offer it compassion.

Allow. Continue to be present with the experience and cultivate acceptance. Relax into what is.

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You may find that you will need to go back to step one and start again. Some situations you will move through quickly while others may take some time. Keep this tool with you and use it faithfully. Let me know how it goes.

* For more explanation on BRFWA read here, here, and here!

Get To Know Your Diaphragm

Modern life seems to move more quickly than our biology can handle. Between media, traffic, and the pressures of work and life responsibilities, most of us spend a lot of time in ‘fight or flight’ stress response. This activates your sympathetic nervous system which dumps adrenaline into your blood stream. The result inhibits cortisol production, weakens the immune system, and sets the body up for dis-ease. Argh, I am getting stressed out just thinking about it!

Take a deep breath into your belly… exhale… ahhh, that’s better! Belly breathing activates the parasympathetic nervous system which is sedating and calming. It releases growth hormone to repair injured tissue, regulates cortisol, and brings the body back to a balanced and soothed state.

Breathing is an unconscious process. Many of us breathe in a stress response pattern that eliminates the belly and diaphragm. This shallow breathing pattern which recruits the chest and upper shoulder muscles: (pectoralis minor, upper trapezius, levator scapulae, sternocleidomastoid, scalene, and subclavicular) keeps us in a panic. Belly breathing can reduce stress, induce sleep, and help create a new normal for the body.

Courtesy of bandhayoga.com

Courtesy of bandhayoga.com

Get To Know Your Diaphragm
Your respiratory diaphragm is a central and essential to healthy breathing.  The diaphragm is located in the bottom of the rib cage separates and the abdominal and chest cavities. It is a dome shaped muscle that flattens toward the abdomen when you inhale and expands back up toward your heart when you exhale.

When your diaphragm is tight and restricted it can limit a healthy breathing pattern. Like other muscles in your body the diaphragm benefits from being strengthened and stretched. Also, it’s intimately connected to your psoas muscle so it can even be part of the culprit of lower back pain. By releasing your diaphragm your can align your rib cage over your pelvis and soften the pull of the deep hip flexors and tight abdominal organs and muscles. You may even free your lower back!

The benefits of a healthy diaphragm are numerous. A more easeful breathing pattern brings nourishment to your whole body, increases your energy, and regulates your stress hormones.

Try This Breathing ExerciseFullSizeRender
Lay on your back with your sacrum flat on the floor and a small natural curve in your lower back. Bend your knees with your feet flat on the floor. Let’s call this Ardha Savasana.

Place a soft, pliable weight such as a bag of rice or a sand bag over your belly button. As you inhale into your belly meet the weight. As you exhale let the weight drop into you. Your diaphragm has to work harder to move toward your abdomen because of the weight. When you exhale the weight helps it to release and restore.

Breathe here for about 5 minutes then remove the weight and rest another 2 minutes. Notice the effects.

Note
You may need to start with less weight. A yoga prop sandbag is 10 pounds. You can find a bag of rice that weighs 2 pounds. If you experience pain or discomfort remove the weight.

Let me know about your experience in the comments below.

 

Alkalize Your Body

Acidity is the cause of chronic inflammation and the root of most disease. Here is an easy way to reduce inflammation and acidity in your body and improve your overall health.

When you wake up brush your teeth first thing. The organs release toxins while you sleep that end up in your mouth and are harmful to swallow. Some of you might already do a practice called “oil pulling” and/or use a tongue scraper first.

After your mouth is clean, squeeze the juice of one lemon into a 16oz. glass of warm water and drink. Stay hydrated with warm or room temperature water throughout the day and add lemon when you feel like it!

Here are some of the benefits of lemon water:

Balances pH
Lemons are one of the most alkalizing foods for the body. Lemons contain both citric and ascorbic acid, weak acids easily metabolized by the body allowing the mineral content of lemons to alkalize the blood. Disease states only occur when the body pH is acidic. Drinking lemon water regularly can help to remove the overall acidity in the body, including uric acid in the joints, which is one of the primary causes of pain and inflammation.

Boosts Immune System
Lemons are high in vitamin C, which is great for fighting off cold, recovering from stress, sickness, and injury, and reduces the amount of phlegm produced by the body. They are high in potassium, which stimulates brain and nerve function and controls blood pressure. The ascorbic acid (vitamin C) found in lemons is anti-inflammatory and is used to support asthma and other respiratory symptoms. Lemons also contain saponins, which show antimicrobial properties that may help keep cold, flu, and other viral infections at bay. The ascorbic acid found in lemons also enhances iron absorption in the body and iron plays an important role in immune function. This essential nutrient aids in the recovery from stress.

Clears Skin
The vitamin C in lemons helps decrease wrinkles and blemishes and helps to combat free radical damage. Lemons water purges toxins from the blood, kills bacteria known to cause acne and rejuvenates your skin from inside out! You can even apply it topically to age spots and scars to reduce their appearance.

Lemon water also aids digestion, helps with weight loss, freshens breath, and gives you an energy boost.

When life gives you lemons, drink lemon water. Cheers!

lemons

 

 

 

 

 

 

P.S. When you drink alcohol have a glass of lemon water before you go to sleep.

 

Fall Reboot + Recipes

In Ayurveda it is common to eat a simple diet of kitcharie and vegetables each fall and spring for about a week. This helps to remove toxins from the body and give it a chance to find balance again. Even though I have done this many times in the past, this year I missed my spring time cleanse and have been very reluctant to do it.

I like to enjoy the pleasures of life, especially when it comes to food. Though I eat really healthy, I dislike limiting or restricting myself. Despite my resistance I began a reboot for my system a few weeks ago with the intention to do it for one week. I felt so good that I continued on a second week, and now I am on my third week of eating simply, though I am slowly adding variety back into my diet.

I am so thrilled I did this for myself. I feel more vibrant than I have in quite a long while. My energy has increased, and my body feels more fluid, especially my joints which are not popping and cracking as much as usual.

This type of cleansing works well for me because I never feel like I am going hungry. Perhaps the best parts for me are that I got in the habit of cooking for myself again and knowing that I have a healthy meal prepared in advance so I don’t have to figure out what to eat once I am already hungry.

So, if your digestion is off, or you are suffering from low energy and fatigue, aching joints, or skin conditions, I highly recommend taking a week to eat simple, warm, easy to digest food and reboot your life.

Here is what I did:

Breakfast
Sweet Potatoes
Scrub any variety of sweet potatoes and poke a few holes in them. Bake on 425 for about 45 minutes. Peel off the skin then mash with coconut oil and cinnamon.

Stewed Apples and Pears
Cut up apples and/or pears and put in a saucepan with a bit of water to barely cover. Add ginger, clove, cinnamon, and cardamom and golden raisins. Stew until fruit is soft.

Alternate these as separate dishes or mix them together, it’s delicious and filling and my new favorite breakfast choice for this time of the year.

Lunch and Dinner
Kitcharie with veggies (leafy greens, carrots, zucchini, broccoli, cauliflower).
Top with avocado and kraut.

Snacks
Raw almonds, raw sunflower seeds, cucumbers, dates, banana, and apples.
Limit your snacking as much as possible.

Self-Care
• Fast for at least 12 hours at night.
• Begin the day by oil pulling and abhyanga.
• Start your digestive system and alkalize your body with a glass of warm water and the juice of one lemon.
• Drink herbal tea throughout the day.
• Practice asana, pranayama, and meditation daily.

Please note, I am not a nutritionist or an Ayurvedic Doctor, I am just sharing my experience with you. For more information on appropriate herbs for you and to do this safely for your body type, please see an Ayurvedic practitioner. There are tons of great resources, let me know if you need a referral.

bestSELF

Pajamasana – Yoga In Bed

As a yoga practitioner and teacher I have learned to incorporate yoga stretches in all aspects of my life. I even do yoga in bed! The people at Casper, a new sleep start up specializing in latex memory foam mattresses asked me to share my in bed yoga secrets with you. So come on in to my bedroom…

A little bedtime yoga is great before falling asleep or first thing in the morning, especially when you wake up and don’t quite want to get out of bed yet. In fact, a supported child’s pose with pillows is the best way to spend the minutes when you have hit the snooze button. Reclined hip and leg stretches such as Supta Baddhakonasana, Supta Padangusthasana, and others are great to do on the mattress. (See photos below.)

When you first wake up, I suggest pressing your hands into the wall or headboard above you to get a nice overall stretch. Draw your shoulder blades down your back, engage your serratus anterior, and your latissimus dorsi. Gently release your ribs toward the bed and extend up into your hands pressing into the wall. Stretch your legs straight extending them away from your head.

In the morning I often swing my legs out of bed and lay my torso over some pillows. It’s almost like a half child’s pose with straight legs. This gives me an opportunity to stretch my calves and hamstrings before rising all the way up. Bend your knees into the bed as you reach your hips back and tip your pelvis to widen your sit bones and open your lower back. Then work your legs toward straight by lifting your belly and pressing your feet down. Enjoy the stretch in the backs of your legs while resting your torso on a cloud of support. I have even dosed back off in this one!

Finally, if you are run down and in need of a little boost of energy, flip around and put your legs up the wall. (Pictured below.)

Of course, bed yoga does not replace precious time on the mat and is not as beneficial as being on a hard surface, but it sure does feel good to get a little self-care in to begin and end each day. This is also great to do if you are traveling and in a hotel room.

What yoga postures do you like to do on your mattress – either at bedtime or in the morning before getting out of bed? Let me know with a comment below.

Child's Pose

Child’s Pose

Supta Baddhakonasana

Supta Baddhakonasana

Legs Up The Wall

Legs Up The Wall

Supta Padangustasana A

Supta Padangustasana A

Half Happy Baby

Half Happy Baby

Supta Padangustasana B

Supta Padangustasana B

Reclining Pigeon

Reclining Pigeon

Reclining Twist

Reclining Twist

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

77 Surprising Health Benefits of Yoga

 

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Health Benefits Inside
1. Blood pressure. A consistent yoga practice decreases blood pressure through better circulation and oxygenation of the body. These two exercises can help lower blood pressure.
2. 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.
3. Circulation. Yoga improves blood circulation. By transporting nutrients and oxygen throughout your body, yoga practice provides healthier organs, skin, and brain.
4. 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.
5. Cardiovascular endurance. A combination of lower heart rate and improved oxygenation to the body (both benefits of yoga) results in higher cardiovascular endurance.
6. 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.
7. Gastrointestinal. Gastrointestinal functions have been shown to improve in both men and women who practice yoga.
8. Immunity. Yoga practice has frequently been correlated with a stronger immune system. Read this article for more on the immune system and yoga, including some poses that specifically work on areas of immunity.
9. Pain. Pain tolerance is much higher among those who practice yoga regularly. In addition to pain tolerance, some instances of chronic pain, such as back pain, are lessened or eliminated through yoga (see below for more on back pain).
10. 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.

Health Benefits Outside
11. Aging. Yoga stimulates the detoxification process within the body. Detoxification has been shown to delay aging, among many other health benefits.
12. Posture. The very nature of yoga teaches the practitioner how to hold and control one’s body in a more healthful position. Through consistent practice, your posture will improve so that you look more confident and healthy.
13. Strength. One of the premises of yoga is that you are using the weight of your own body for overall strength. Find out more about how yoga works as an excellent method of strength training in this article.
14. Energy. Regular yoga practice provides consistent energy. In fact, most yogis state that when you perform your yoga correctly, you will feel energized after your yoga session rather than tired.
15. Weight. The benefits of a better metabolism along with the exercise of yoga work to keep your weight in check. Additionally, the stretching of muscles longwise helps to reduce the amount of cellulite that can build around muscles.
16. Sleep. Because of the many benefits to both body and mind that a yoga routine can provide, many find that their sleep is much better. Read here for more on sleep and yoga, as well as some positions for helping induce sleep.
17. Balance. An integral part of the yoga practice is balance and control over your body. With a consistent practice, you will find that your overall balance will improve outside the yoga class.
18. Integrated function of the body. Yoga is derived from Sanskrit and means “to join together and direct one’s attention.” This is exactly what happens to your body after you start practicing yoga. Yogis find that their body works together much better, resulting in more graceful and efficient body movements.
19. Body Awareness: Doing yoga will give you an increased awareness of your own body. You are often called upon to make small, subtle movements to improve your alignment. Over time, this will increase your level of comfort in your own body. This can lead to improved posture and greater self-confidence.
20. Core strength. With a strong body core, you receive better posture and overall body strength. A strong core helps heal and reduce injuries. This is why a lot of athletes do yoga as cross training (boxers, MMA fighters, etc). Read how this swimmer uses yoga to strengthen her core and improve her swimming.
21. Sexuality. Yoga can improve your sexuality through better control, more relaxation, and more self-confidence. Read more about the yoga and sexuality connection here.

Emotional Health Benefits
22. Mood. Overall well-being improves with yoga practice. The combination of creating a strong mind-body connection, creating a healthy body, and focusing inward can all lead to improvement in your mood.
23. Stress Reduction. The concentration required during yoga practice tends to focus your attention on the matter at hand, thereby reducing the emphasis you may have been putting on the stress in your life. Read more about yoga and stress management here.
24. Anxiety. One benefit to the controlled breathing used in yoga is a reduction in anxiety. Learn more about how you can use yoga breathing to reduce your anxiety.
25. Depression. Some believe the negative feelings that you may be repressing are brought to the surface during some types of yoga exercise. When this happens, the negative energy is no longer stuck within you, but released through exercise. Regularly releasing this negativity leads to a reduction of depression in many people.
26. Self-acceptance. Focusing inward and realizing through your yoga practice that perfection is not the goal, self-acceptance begins to take over. This post describes how success is not measured by perfectionism in yoga.
27. Self-control. The controlled movements of yoga teach you how to translate that self-control to all aspects of your life.
28. Mind-body connection. Few other exercises offer the same mind-body connection that yoga does. As you match your controlled breathing with the movements of your body, you retrain your mind to find that place of calm and peace that long-time yogis know.
29. Positive outlook on life. Continued practice of yoga results in a balance of many hormones and nervous system, which brings about a more stable, positive approach to life.
30. Hostility. Most yogis report a huge reduction in the amount of hostility they feel as well as a sense of control when anger flares. This calm effect is likely from the relaxation and meditation that is incorporated in their yoga practice that leads to an overall calming of the nervous system. Less hostility means lower blood pressure and stress and a healthier approach to life.
31. Concentration. Researchers have shown that as little as eight weeks of yoga practice can result in better concentration and more motivation.
32. Memory. Improved blood circulation to the brain as well as the reduction in stress and improved focus results in a better memory.
33. Attention. The attention required in yoga to maintain the structured breathing in conjunction with yoga poses sharpens the ability to keep a sharp focus on tasks.
34. Social skills. In yoga, you learn the interconnectedness of all of life. Your yoga practice soon evolves from a personal journey to one connecting to to the community at large where your social skills improve along with your yoga practice.
35. Calmness. Concentrating so intently on what your body is doing has the effect of bringing calmness. Yoga also introduces you to meditation techniques, such as watching how you breathe and disengagement from your thoughts, which help calm the mind.
Body Chemistry
Several aspects of body chemistry such as glucose levels and red blood cells are affected by yoga. Learn how you can improve your body chemistry through yoga.
36. Cholesterol. Yoga practice lowers cholesterol through increased blood circulation and burning fat. Yoga practice is a great tool to fight against harmful cholesterol levels.
37. Lymphatic system. Your lymphatic system boosts your immunity and reduces toxins in your body. The only way to get your lymphatic system flowing well is by movement. The specific movements involved in yoga are particularly well-suited for promoting a strong lymphatic system.
38. Glucose. There is evidence to suggest that yoga may lower blood glucose levels.
39. Sodium. As does any good exercise program, yoga reduces the sodium levels in your body. In today’s world of processed and fast foods that are full of sodium, lessening these levels is a great idea.
40. Endocrine functions. Practicing yoga helps to regulate and control hormone secretion. An improved endocrine system keeps hormones in balance and promotes better overall physical and emotional health.
41. Triglycerides. Triglycerides are the chemical form of fat in the blood, and elevated levels can indicate a risk for heart disease and high blood pressure. A recent study shows that yoga can lead to “significantly lower” levels of triglycerides. Read more about the results of that study here.
42. Red blood cells. Yoga has been shown to increase the level of red blood cells in the body. Red blood cells are responsible for carrying oxygen through the blood, and too few can result in anemia and low energy.
43. Vitamin C. Vitamin C helps boost immunity, helps produce collagen, and is a powerful antioxidant; and a yoga regimen can increase the vitamin C in your body.

Exercise Health Benefits
44. Low risk of injury. Due to the low impact of yoga and the controlled aspect of the motions, there is a very low risk of injury during yoga practice compared to other forms of exercise.
45. Parasympathetic Nervous System. In many forms of exercise, the sympathetic nervous system kicks in, providing you with that fight-or-flight sensation. Yoga does the opposite and stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system. The parasympathetic system lowers blood pressure and slows the pace of your breathing, which allows relaxation and healing.
46. Muscle tone. Consistently practicing yoga leads to better muscle tone.
47. Subcortex. Subcortical regions of brain are associated with well-being, and yoga is thought to dominate the subcortex rather than the cortex (where most exercise dominates).
48. Reduced oxygen consumption. Yoga consumes less oxygen than traditional exercise routines, thereby allowing the body to work more efficiently.
49. Breathing. With yoga, breathing is more natural and controlled during exercise. This type of breathing provides more oxygen-rich air for your body and also provides more energy with less fatigue.
50. Balanced workout of opposing muscle groups. As with all of yoga, balance is key. If a muscle group is worked in one direction, it will also be worked in the opposite direction to maintain balance. This balance results in a better overall workout for the body.
51. Non-competitive. The introspective and self-building nature of yoga removes any need of competition in the exercise regimen. With the lack of competition, the yogi is free to work slowly to avoid any undue injury as well as promote a more balanced and stress-free workout.
52. Joint range of motion. A study at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine indicated that joint range of motion was improved by participants who practiced yoga.
53. Eye-hand coordination. Without practice, eye-hand coordination diminishes. Yoga maintains and improves eye-hand coordination.
54. Dexterity. The strong mind-body connection and flexibility gained from yoga leads to grace and skill.
55. Reaction time. Research done in India shows that reaction time can be improved with specific yoga breathing exercises in conjunction with an already established yoga practice. The improvement was attributed to the faster rate of processing and improved concentration gained from yoga.
56. Endurance. Working the entire body, yoga improves endurance and is frequently used by endurance athletes as a supplement to their sport-specific training.
57. Depth perception. Becoming aware of your body and how it moves, as one does in yoga practice, leads to increased depth perception.

Disease Prevention
58. 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.
59. 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.
60. 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.
61. 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.

Symptom Reduction or Alleviation
62. 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.
63. Asthma. There is some evidence to show that reducing symptoms of asthma and even reduction in asthma medication are the result of regular yoga.
64. 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.
65. Multiple sclerosis. According to this article, “yoga is now recognized as an excellent means of MS management.” Additionally, National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine is funding a clinical trial of yoga for treating multiple sclerosis.
66. 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.
67. Muscular dystrophy. Using yoga in the early stages of muscular dystrophy can help return some physical functions. The practice of Pranayam yoga helped one teen regain many of his abilities lost to muscular dystrophy. Learn more in this article.
68. Migraines. Regular yoga practice has been shown to reduce the number of migraines in chronic migraine sufferers. This post describes how yoga can reduce migraines.
69. Scoliosis. Yoga can straighten the curvature of the spine associated with scoliosis. Find out how this yogi cured her scoliosis and continues to help others as well.
70. 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.
71. Epilepsy. Focusing on stress reduction, breathing, and restoring overall balance in the body are the focus of how yoga can help prevent epileptic seizures.
72. Sciatica. The intense pain associated with sciatica can be alleviated with specific yoga poses. Here are 10 great ones to help relieve pain.
73. 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.
74. 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.
75. 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.
76. Menopause. Yoga practice can help control some of the side effects of menopause. Learn how the bridge pose can help reduce hot flashes here.
77. Back pain. Yoga reduces spinal compression and helps overall body alignment to reduce back pain. Find a yoga pose to help lessen back pain here.

Thank you to Lucid Dawn for this fantastic and comprehensive list.

Outer Hip Relief

Have you been doing your “Kitchen Sink Yoga” or “6-Minutes of Yoga For Stiff Bodies“? Well here is another pose to add to your repertoire.

The big muscles on your outer hip called the external rotators can tend to get tight. Use this stretch to target them at work, home, or virtually anywhere to help relieve the tension that comes from a sedentary life.

standing-pigeon1

Holding on to a table, counter, or the sink bend your knees and cross your shin over your opposite thigh. Flex your foot to protect your knee.

Press down into the table with your hands to keep your deep core engaged. Lean forward until you feel sensation that you can sustain and breathe into. Create the action of pulling your knees away from each other to target stretch. Hold for 30-45 seconds and repeat on the second side.

standing-pigeon2As you open you will be able to walk further from the table and increase the forward bend as I show in the second photo.

If you need to modify, you can do this seated in a chair, or rest  your shin on a low table or bed.

Be mindful that you keep your ankle joint square by keeping your foot flexed, pressing out through the ball of the big toe, and down on the little toe side of the foot.

In my experience, versions like this of “standing pigeon” can be more effective than the traditional pose on the floor. Happy Hip Stretching!

P.S. If you would like a whole class of hip openers like this that leads to the arm balance, flying pigeon, check out my class on YogaVibes.

52 Weeks To Greener Living

Be A Conscious Consumer

I believe with great passion that we vote every time we spent a dollar. Unfortunately most companies are not committed to the sustainability of our planet or to the health and well-being of the population who is buying their products. The market is driven by the dollar, if we all made choices with the environment in mind, companies would be forced to change.

It’s overwhelming to think about all at once. Start by considering where you keep your money. Are you in a big, national or international bank, or a at local credit union? Where you keep your money is the foundation of how you engage as a consumer.

Then, think about the basic products you use every single day: toilet paper, soap, toothpaste, laundry detergent, trash bags… Once a week, choose one product and look for  a comparable local, sustainable, organic product you can switch to. At the end of the year 80% of what you consume every day will be replaced with a greener version.

Inspired by Joshua Scott Onysko, Pangea Organics Founder

ConsciousConsumerism

6 Minutes of Yoga For Stiff Bodies

People with stiff bodies face a special challenge in yoga classes where everyone seems pretzel-like in their flexibility. But don’t despair!

Everybody has six-minutes a day to spare, right? These four exercises done daily will change your life! Ok, that might be a bit dramatic but it will change your body which will make you feel better in it. Do them religiously, and within a couple of weeks, you’ll notice the difference.

Even if your body is more open use them as daily maintenance to stretch out when you wake up or after sitting for a long time.

standing-lunge

1. Stand with one foot on a table or counter top. Push the heel of the foot on the table down firmly and use that power to stand fully in your leg that is on the floor. Tone your belly and lengthen up through your spine. The more open you are the higher the surface you should use, and the closer you can come toward the table.  I like to do this at my bathroom counter while I am brushing my teeth! Do this daily and feel you hips and hamstrings open quickly! Hold each side for 45 seconds breathing evenly.

 

standing-quad-stretch

2. Standing Quad Stretch. Bend your knee and hold your foot behind you. Kick your foot into your hand as you pull your heel toward your hip. Stretch your knee straight down toward the floor. Use a table, chair back, or wall for balance if you need. Hold each side for 45 seconds breathing evenly.

 

 

 

3. Box Pose at a table or wall. Place your hands on the
tabletop and walk back until your torso is parallel box-posewith the floor and your hips are over your heels. Press your hands into the table and reach your hips away from your hands to stretch your spine. If you hamstrings and low back are tight, bend your knees and tip your pelvis so your sitting bones move back and apart and you put a curve in your lower back. Engage your legs and your low belly muscles to support your spine and stretch long. Hold for 60-90 seconds breathing evenly.

 

shoulder-stretch4. Shoulder Stretch at the wall. Face the wall and stretch one arm placing the little finger side of one hand on the wall. Press your outer hand into the wall to engage your muscles and turn your feet, hips, and chest away from the wall. Make sure to keep your head stacked over your pelvis. Breathe into your front chest, shoulder, and upper arm. Play with targeting different spots by placing your hand even with your shoulder, 45° higher, and 45° lower. Hold 30-45 seconds per side.
Please ask for questions or clarifications below and comment to let me know how it’s going for you.

Happy Feet

Many of the discomforts in our body begin with our feet. As you walk, your foot, which could be thought of as a sense organ, finds the ground and sends messages to the rest of the body how to support your movement. This function is limited because we put our feet in shoes and walk along paved streets when our bodies were built to run barefoot on the earth.

Whether or not you have foot pain, fallen arches, bunions, toes that don’t spread, or you wear high heel shoes, this one simple exercise will help you open and increase blood flow in your foot, loosen tight calves and hamstrings, and allow your foot to ground more completely. 

What To Do:
1. Get yourself a “pinky ball.”
2. Step down on it with your heel, slowly move the ball 1/4 inch at a time toward your toes. Stay 30 seconds in each spot.
3. You can regulate how much weight you put down on it. Work it in to the intense spots over time.
4. Make your way from your heel to your toes and back massaging the bottom of your foot and stretching it over the ball like bird perched on a branch.
5. Massage the second foot.

Not only will this open up your feet, but since the body is one interconnected web of facia it may begin to open the back of your legs, spine, and even your neck.  And, since in reflexology the foot is a microcosm for the whole body, rolling your foot can help to bring greater balance to your health and well-being.

If this is painful I encourage you to stick with it. After about a week of daily foot massage it won’t be so intense and you will feel the difference. Please let me know how it goes for you in the comments below. For more foot and leg relief check out this post

Pinky-ballfoot-massage