Stretch. Strengthen. Restore.

Age-related arthritis is a natural part of life, and by age fifty to sixty, most people have some degenerative changes in the spine. Studies have shown that those who practice yoga make significant gains in strength, flexibility, and endurance, which is a basic goal of most rehabilitation practices for disc degeneration. Yoga focuses on fortifying the back and core muscles by increasing blood flow to the discs, and this in turn, stimulates the restoration process.

An excellent yoga stretch for strengthening the spine is Cobra Pose.

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Rest. Breathe. Honor the peaceful space within you.

According to the National Center for Health Statistics, one in three adults have high blood pressure in the U.S. and about only one in two have it under control. Many studies show that yoga can be an effective way of reducing high blood pressure, particularly the very important, diastolic number – which is the second number representing the pressure in your vessels when your heart rests between beats.

One asana for improving blood pressure is Corpse Pose (Shavasana). It pacifies the sympathetic nervous system and slows down the heart, while teaching the muscles and mind to relax deeply.

Some tips for getting the most out of this pose:

  • Allow the earth to take all of your weight. A relaxed body feels light, almost floating.
  • Become gently aware of your breath by making it soft, small and quiet.
  • Allow your mind to relax by letting go of any worries, fears, anxiety or excitement.
  • Let go of any future plans or past events.
  • Rest. Breathe. Honor the peaceful space within you.
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The Fourth Limb ~ Pranayama

The fourth “limb” is Pranayama or breath.

When we learn to control our breath, we can control our minds. When the mind is anxious, our breath tends to be shallow and fast, which in turn sends a signal to our nervous system that something is wrong. By focusing and deliberately controlling our breath, we can send a signal to the nervous system that we are safe, and that everything is ok. This eases our minds and the body relaxes. Once fully relaxed, our minds have space for concentration and meditation.

Pranayama supports the respiratory system by keeping it physically strong. Controlling our breath can greatly influence our heart rate. When we learn to slow down our heart rate, our minds are kept in greater balance. Combining Pranayama with our asana practice, we purify our bodies and minds in unison.

One technique used in Pranayama is Alternate Nostril Breathing.  Alternate Nostril Breathing is a beautiful breathing technique that helps calm the mind and body in just a few minutes. The breathing technique is called Nadi Shodhan, and it helps release blocked energy channels in the body, which in turn calms the mind. It is also known as Anulom Vilom Pranayama.

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How to do it:

  • Sit comfortably, cross-legged or in any seat that supports the spine. Press your right thumb in to your right nostril and breathe in through the left side. Close the left side with your pointer finger and breathe out through the right side.
  • Repeat breathing in through the right and exhaling out the left. Continue going from side to side for eight to twelve cycles. Notice how it opens up both airways and helps you breathe evenly through both sides.

Alternate nostril breathing helps expand lung capacity and calms the nervous system…perfect for those who suffer with asthma or other respiratory issues.

 

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System Restored.

Restorative yoga consists of poses held for long periods of time in order to stretch and lengthen the deep connective tissue in the body. It is a therapeutic class designed to increase range of motion, lower blood pressure and heart rate while stimulating the endocrine, digestive and immune systems.

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Restorative yoga is also an excellent opportunity to disconnect from the frenzied activity of daily life and lets our speedometer return to 0. It offers a welcomed breather from the commotion of life and helps us prepare our minds and bodies for meditation and deepened awareness. Moving slowly through the poses allows us to explore our mind and body at a steady and natural rhythm.

Guided restorative classes are easy, soothing and accessible.

According to Psychology Today, 10 million Americans practice some form of meditation.

Practicing is a sanctified time for all of us… melting away from the stress and chaos of the outer world. Choosing to unplug — no matter how demanding or fascinating the outer world — is difficult, but so gratifying. Renew, regenerate, restore. Your mind and body will thank you.

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2016, I’ve learned a lot from you.

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“Anything that annoys you is for teaching you patience.
Anyone who abandons you is for teaching you how to stand up on your own two feet.
Anything that angers you is for teaching you forgiveness and compassion.
Anything that has power over you is for teaching you how to take your power back.
Anything you hate is for teaching you unconditional love.
Anything you fear is for teaching you courage to overcome your fear.
Anything you can’t control is for teaching you how to let go and trust the Universe.”

2016, Ive learned a lot from you. It wasn’t an easy year that’s for sure but a huge one for growth. I now see how necessary it all was, and I am #grateful 🙏🏻

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The Third Limb ~ Asana

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The third limb of yoga is Asana – the practice of physical postures.  The root of the word Asana means “comfortable seat,” which literally describes what its original intentions were. One of the reasons Hatha yoga poses – or Asana as we now know it  – were developed was to help people be able to sit in meditation, comfortably, for long periods of time.  The stretching and strengthening became part of the preparation and endurance for these extended periods of sitting and reflection.

Asana practice works the physical body so the mind has a healthy and peaceful place to reside.  If our muscles are pulling and our legs ache, if our bodies do not feel relaxed, it is difficult to concentrate and meditate.  Through the practice of Asanas, we develop the habit of disciplining our bodies and minds in order to meditate.

The Challenge ~ ~ Next time you reside in a pose, notice aches and pains and find comfort. Through careful self-study you will be able to find comfort and balance in many aspects of your life, including diet, relationships, finances, etc.  A sense of comfort is the goal and the outcome.

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Ready for Flight!

Airplane for All Over Toning

Airplane Pose (Dekasana) Benefits: improves balance, develops concentration, strengthens legs, chest, and arms

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As Casey here is demonstrating, inhale as you extend your right leg behind you. Bend knee, drawing it toward left ankle as you hinge forward at hips.

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Exhale, straightening left leg and extending arms forward and right leg to hip height behind you.

Reverse motion. Do 20 reps, then switch sides.

 

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The Second Limb ~ Niyama

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The second limb of Patanjali’s eight-limbed yoga approach involves the five internal practices of Niyama (observance). Niyama means “rules” or “laws.”  They are an extension to the ethical codes of conduct in the first limb, the yamas. Niyama, to the practicing yogi, helps them to maintain an internal environment in which to grow in body, mind and spirit. The principles of self-discipline and inner-strength become necessary on our yoga path.

Compared with the yamas, the niyamas are more intimate and personal. They refer to the attitude we create toward ourselves as we create a code for living authentically.

  1. Self-Purification (Shaucha)

Shaucha means “purification; cleanliness.” It includes a number of practices for cleansing the body as well as the mind. Shaucha is not only the basis of bodily health, it is also the entryway to deeper and more peaceful states of meditation.

Practice Tip: Choose wisely when allowing anything to enter your body or mind. Keep all food and thoughts pure and feel how radiant your health becomes.

  1. Contentment (Santosha)

The word santosha means “contentment” and in addition, “delight, happiness, joy.” It comes from a place of total acceptance of our lives. It involves being content and happy. It teaches us that happiness is a choice. Being content and accepting our realities as blessings makes happiness our choice.

Practice Tip: Do not envy others. Feel gratitude for everything you have and do. Free your mind of expectations and just know you are exactly where you’re meant to be.

  1. Self-Discipline (Tapas)

The meaning of tapas is “heat.” Tapas accompanies any determined effort  that we dedicate ourselves to, whether it is to improve our health or to take a different direction in life. Tapas focuses energy, creates passion, and increases our strength and confidence.  Asanas are a form of tapas for the body and meditation is a tapas for the mind.

Practice Tip: Pick just one healthy change you can do for now. Take small steps daily to replace an unhealthy habit with a healthy habit.

  1. Self-Study (Svadhyaya)

Svadhyaya means “to recollect the Self.” It is the effort to remember, to contemplate, and to meditate about ourselves. The “Self,” meaning the light that shines at the innermost core of our being.

Practice Tip: Make a list of the things that inspire you. Then when practicing your asanas and/or breath awareness, or meditation search to recognize when you are acting in harmony with your goals or if you are being counterproductive in your daily activities.

  1. Self-Surrender (Ishvara Pranidhana)

Ishvara refers to powerful consciousness; pranidhana means “to surrender.” Ishvara is the last and most significant of the niyamas, and possibly the most difficult for students to grasp. Self-surrender is the act of giving ourselves to a higher purpose.

Practice Tip: During meditation, observe and acknowledge the thoughts that distract you. Then let them go and practice inner stillness. Focus on the center of your being.

Practicing the Yamas and Niyamas is a route on our journey . Take one Niyama at a time and proceed with self-compassion and patience. Do not worry about perfection.

” When you pick one petal from the garland of yamas and niyamas, the entire garland will follow.”

– Swami Sri Kripalvanandaji

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Detox with Yoga

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According to Dr. Pam Peake, national spokesperson for the American College of Sports Medicine, “Yoga and all physical movement support the natural process of detoxification in the human body.”  But how and why do our bodies need detoxification? Our digestive, nervous, and hormonal systems were designed to work together to achieve ideal health. This is what our bodies want to do! When we overload them with toxins and unhealthy foods, these systems don’t work as well as they should and we get sick.

Detoxing brings balance back and helps our systems function properly again. We all feel the need to detox when we feel tired and weighed down by stress, a lack of exercise, and poor food choices. What is great about yoga practice, is that with each new breath is a new moment:  you can re-start any time, all the time. Yoga helps you to remain in the present, moving forward, never looking back.

All asanas assist in the detoxification process. So if you feel inspired, play by your own rules, and choose your favorites. Wherever you are in the practice—whether you’re moving into advanced poses or you are a very beginner—enjoy yourself, and watch the benefits from detox happen naturally. Certain postures, especially twists, remove toxins to stimulate digestion and the thyroid gland, build muscle, and get the digestive track moving. Inverted poses, such as head stand, help drain accumulated lymph fluid from the legs and upper body. This is a great pose to do at the end of your practice, as all toxins that were released during the practice are flushed toward the heart to be oxygenated and cleansed.

The right yoga routine can definitely help you detox your body and mind. Practicing after a long weekend of partying or especially around the holidays, when we tend to “indulge” is a time when you may feel like you need a cleansing. As you practice, use each inhale to lengthen and each exhale to wring yourself out like a sponge, getting rid of anything you no longer want or need. If nothing else, yoga is an awesome way to reboot your metabolism and give you more energy!

 

 

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