Office yoga…

Let’s face it… we’re a desk-potato nation. Some 80% of Americans have sedentary jobs… Our bodies aren’t designed to hold a position for eight or more hours a day – they’re made to dance, twist, jump, and run. When we’re deskbound, the body has to hold a fixed, unnatural position for a long period of time. Eventually that can lead to problems, including changes in our metabolism, decreased circulation in the legs, and compression in the spine and pelvis, which places extra pressure on the connective tissue and nerves.

When you sit at your desk what do you notice? After only one hour at work what does your body alignment look like? Most of us end up slouching with a rounded back, shoulders forward and your chin protruding forward. This is a very unnatural body position and is the reason for many chronic back and shoulder ailments.

So what do I do? Stand up, stretch, and breathe deeply at least once every 50 minutes. Check out Yoga Journal’s great quick office yoga sequence at yogajournal.com/officeyoga.

Put a sticky reminder in your cube.

Here are some examples of easy office yoga moves… de-stress at your desk!

  • Twist out tension… standing chair twist
  • What it does… wrings out tension in the deep muscles of the spine.
  • How to… place your right foot on the seat of a chair. Press your knee against the back of the chair. Firm your legs and belly to stabilize your lower back. Twist to the right and hold the back of the seat with your left hand. Place your right hand on your right hip.
  • Inhale; lengthen the spine. Exhale; slowly turn the shoulders to the right, looking over your right shoulder. Progressively deepen the twist over 8 to 10 breaths and then repeat on the other side.
  • Stretch your sides… standing crescent
  • What it does… lengthens the torso while opening the chest, rib cage, and shoulders. Facilitates deeper breathing.
  • How to… while standing, hold on to the back of the chair with your right hand. Ground both legs firmly into the floor. Inhale as you lift your left arm up by your ear.
  • Exhale, engage your abdominal muscles, and move your tailbone down. Inhale, lengthen your spine, and sidebend to the right. Move your left shoulder back, open your chest, and breathe into your left side for 4 to 6 breaths. Repeat on the right side.
  • Stretch your hips & legs… chair warrior
  • What it does… stretches tight hips and leg muscles. Because the body is partially supported by the chair, you don’t need to exert as much energy to stay balanced in the pose, so you can focus on the stretch itself.
  • How to… Sit sideways on a chair with your right knee bend at a 90-degree angle and your left leg extended straight behind you. Firm your legs, tone your belly, and lengthen the tailbone. Place your hands on your front thigh and breathe evenly into your torso while moving the shoulders and head back. Inhale and lift your left arm up, stretching your entire left side. Hold for 6 to 8 breaths and repeat on the other side.
  • Relax your neck & shoulders… standing shoulder opener
  • What it does… helps reduce neck and shoulder pain by encouraging proper alignment of the upper arm bones, shoulders, and head.
  • How to… while standing, clasp your hands behind your buttocks or hold onto a scarf or belt behind your back with your palms facing forward. Inhale; expand your torso. Exhale; firm the legs and belly. Inhale and slowly stretch your arms straight. Move your hands away from your buttocks, draw the shoulders and head back, and enjoy the stretch across the collarbones.
  • Exhale; lift the chin slightly and soften your jaw. Hold for 2 breaths, keeping your belly firm to support your low back while breathing deeply into your neck and shoulders.
*If you do only one thing, take a break every hour and notice your body alignment, then correct it. Sit up straight, roll your shoulders back, pull your chin back so your neck is in line with your spine and take a few deep breaths.
.
Most phones now have an app called the Zen Alarm Clock. This acts as a peaceful reminder every hour to take a break and breathe.
.
Don’t want to do it alone? Get the whole office in on it! I have a wonderful friend, Jennifer Berman who specializes in Corporate Yoga. She will come to your office and lead you in a wonderful practice leaving everyone peaceful for the rest of the day! View her website, Jennifer Berman Yoga for more info!
.
Get up out of your chair… your body will thank you.
.
Reference: Yoga Journal 2011

A Yoga Pose for Every Problem…

I found this very interesting article about how yoga poses can help with specific ailments and disorders. This is no new news to me since I love my book, Yoga, the Path to Holistic Health. But I love finding new studies proving the authenticity!

A Yoga Pose for Every Problem” by Meryl Davis Landau…

“As a longtime health writer, certified yoga teacher and, most recently, the novelist of a book with a yoga theme, I’m impressed with the way science has increasingly put yoga under a microscope. A number of well done, if small, studies are proving that these ancient stretches and breathing practices do more than make you feel energized and connected to your higher self (although they do that, too!), they actually help specific health problems.

Here are a suggested pose–and the corresponding research–for five common medical conditions. Remember to breathe as you hold each pose. (Of course, you should consult with your doctor before doing these or any exercises.)

*Irregular Heartbeats

The research: Atrial fibrillation–more commonly called A-fib–is a common but serious problem where the heart beats irregularly, putting sufferers at risk for stroke. When researchers at the University of Kansas Hospital recently referred people with A-fib to a 3-times-a-week yoga class, their number of A-fib episodes slashed in half. The study author says this is especially impressive when you consider that traditional treatments include drugs with serious side effects or risky surgical procedures.

Helpful yoga pose: Cobra. Although the study involved comprehensive yoga sessions, poses like cobra that open the chest are said to aid the heart. Lie on your abdomen, legs and feet together, forehead on the floor, and hands on the floor beneath your shoulders, elbows close to the body. Inhaling, stretch the chin out slightly and, pressing on the palms, begin raising the chest and shoulders, continuing to a height you feel comfortable (typically just before or just after the belly button leaves the ground). Hold 30 seconds, then release.

*Shoulder Injury

The research: Quelling shoulder pain after a rotator cuff injury usually involves surgery and months of rehab. But a study by an esteemed NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia rehab medicine doctor found that a single yoga move keeps people from needing to go under the knife. The pose, which can be repeated a few times in a row, strengthens the usually weak muscle below the shoulder blade, allowing it to take over the damaged muscle’s role.

Helpful yoga pose: First-stage of headstand, modified for standing. Stand a foot or so from a wall, facing it. Grasp your elbows with each hand and press both elbows against the wall. Keeping your elbows at that distance, release your hands and join them together to form a triangle against the wall. Engaging your shoulders, press your forearms into the wall. Hold for 30 seconds, then release.

*Migraines

The research: Migraine sufferers doing yoga weekly have less frequent and intense head pain after three months than a comparable group not doing the poses, a small but important study by Indian researchers found. If you have migraines, it’s best to practice as a preventive measure; once the pain strikes, yoga movements could make it worse.

Helpful yoga pose: Seated forward bend. Sit on the floor with your legs out in front of you. Inhaling, raise your arms to the ceiling and exhale, folding forward from the hips, bringing your hands towards your feet. When you’ve reached as far forward as is comfortable, relax your head, neck and shoulders. Hold for 30 seconds, then release.

*Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

The research: One of the first American studies documenting yoga’s ability to help specific health concerns was the University of Pennsylvania’s 1998 research published in the prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association. People with carpal tunnel syndrome who practiced yoga moves emphasizing the hand and arm joints felt much better after 8 twice-weekly sessions.

Helpful yoga pose: Prayer pose. Sit or stand in a comfortable position with your spine and head centered. Relax your shoulders. Bring your palms together, fingers extended upward, in front of your heart. Gently press your hands together for 30 seconds. If this pose feels too easy, try repeating the move with your hands behind your back.

*Anxiety/Depression

The research: Pat Garbarg, MD, a psychiatrist and assistant clinical professor New York Medical College, was so intrigued by the power of yoga breathing that she tested it on perhaps the most anxious and depressed people around–survivors of the 2004 Southeast Asia tsunami! Amazingly, after just six weeks, their depression practically disappeared, and signs of post-traumatic-stress disorder fell 60 percent. If it could work for them, imagine what it can do for run-of-the-mill mood problems.

Helpful yoga pose: Paced breathing. The breathing practices Garbarg tested were complex, but she has found that even the most basic yoga breath works wonders in her less traumatized American patients. Once or, ideally, twice a day, sit quietly and begin slowing down your breaths until inhalations and exhalations become equal in length and last roughly 6 seconds each. Continue this slow, even breathing for up to 20 minutes.”

Healing Journey…

Yoga proves to be an ideal approach to self-care cancer survivors…

Breast cancer affects many of us: One in eight women in the United States will develop invasive breast cancer in her lifetime. The good news is that more women today are beating the illness. There are more than 2.5 million breast cancer survivors in the United States. 

Yoga can be a valuable part of the process of healing and recovery from the disease, and classes for cancer patients and survivors are readily available. “Yoga can help women who have cancer find solace and learn to deeply care for themselves,” says Linda Sparrowe, a yoga teacher who co-leads yoga and meditation retreats for women touched by cancer.

New academic research backs this up. Several studies published this year show that yoga offers effective relief from the physical and mental affects of the disease and the side effects of treatment. These effects include symptoms such as fatigue, pain, swelling, stiffness, stress, and depression.

Researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, found that after practicing Iyengar Yoga twice weekly for 12 weeks, breast cancer survivors were less depressed and exhausted and felt greater vitality. In another study of Iyengar Yoga, conducted at Washington State University, Spokane, participants felt better physically and emotionally, and they had lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol. This does more than reduce anxious feelings: Elevated levels of cortisol may contribute to cancer recurrence and earlier mortality among breast cancer survivors. 

Yoga can also help survivors regain trust in their bodies. In a study at Indiana University, Bloomington, women who participated in and eight-week hatha yoga program were stronger and more flexible, felt less self-conscious about scars from surgeries, and were more accepting of their changed bodies. “Yoga helps us feel more comfortable with our bodies and ourselves,” says the study’s lead researcher, Van Marieke Puymbroeck, a professor of recreation therapy at Indiana University. “It helps us build inner resources to respond to life’s challenges.”

Specialized Restorative Yoga Retreats for women living with cancer…

Red Feather Lakes, Colorado – www.shambhalamountain.org 

Bolinas, California – www.commonweal.org

New York City – www.thelibbyrossfoundation.com

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month! The Komen for the Cure fundraiser travels all across the U.S. raising money for breast cancer research. Click on the Komen for the Cure link to find the Race for the Cure event in your town!

In Birmingham the event is Saturday, October 15, 2011 at Linn Park. Click here to see the information for Birmingham’s event. I will be running the 5K in honor of a few amazing women I know! 

Race for the Cure! Or… you can even “sleep in” for the cure!

Shanti Om,

***I’m Pink for breast cancer awareness! If you have trouble reading the pink writing please let me know and I will post in standard black.*** 

Reference: Article by Kelly McGonigal, Yoga Journal 2011

Servant of Peace…

This is my current favorite Snatam Kaur song…

Aad Sach, Jugad Such, Haibhay Such, Nanak-a Hosee Bay Such
Translation: True in the beginning, true in the primeval age, true even now, and true forever.

“When a time comes and things don’t move, this mantra writes down the root of prosperity in your personality… all that is stuck shall move.” ~Yogi Bhajan

Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace;
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy;
O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born into Eternal Life

The pictures in the video are of Anandamayi Ma, a great teacher who is now widely recognized as a personality of great spiritual eminence.

The video cuts off at the end but you can buy the song/album on Sprit Voyage, Amazon, or iTunes 🙂

Om Shanti,

Healing Energy…

I was inspired in tonight’s yoga class. A fellow yogini in class is a school teacher and one of her student’s is loosing his battle with cancer. With tearful eyes, she asked if the class would dedicate our practice to him. I did my best to send all of my energy I created with my practice to him. I couldn’t help but think how minuscule my problems were compared to his. She said that his sudden turn in health was a shock to everyone because he was always smiling and happy. Children are amazing, they are fighters, positive to the end.

In yoga, our practice is not about being fit, or being flexible, or being able to stand on our heads. It’s about creating energy and using that energy in a positive way. If we know peace, the world around us will know peace.
.
“Be the change you want to see in the world.”
~Mahatma Gandhi
.
At the end of class we sang the healing mantra, Ra Ma Da Sa. We sat in a tight circle and sang like the whole world could hear us. If you are ever in need, or know someone in need of healing energy this is a great mantra to repeat.
.
Ra Ma Da Sa
Sa Say So Hung
.
*Here are instructions for practicing this meditation*

Posture: Sit in easy pose.

Focus: Eyes are closed and focused at the third-eye point.

Mantra: Ra Ma Da Sa, Sa Say So Hung. The mantra should be sung in one complete exhalation. As you chant the first Sa, your navel point is pulled in so that this syllable is abbreviated.  You should also pull your navel point in as you chant Hung.  Hung should be vibrated at the root of the nose. The rest of the syllables are drawn out in a strong, powerful chant. Strive to keep your chant at full volume (loud but not raucous) throughout the meditation.

Meaning of Mantra:
Ra = sun energy
Ma = moon energy
Da = earth energy
Sa = infinity, universal energy
Sa = repeat in second half of mantra
Say = the personal embodiment of Sa
So = the personal sense of merger with Sa
Hung = the Infinite, vibrating and real.

The mantra literally means: “I am Thou.” It is also means, “The service of God is within me.”

Mudra: Bend the arms and bring the elbows against the side of the rib cage. The palms of the hands are parallel and face the sky. The elbows are snug at your sides with the forearms in close to your upper arms. The hands are at a 60 degree angle, halfway between pointing forward and pointing to the sides (see picture).

Time: 11 minutes.

End: Inhale deeply, hold your breath and visualize the person you want to send healing to (it can be yourself). Make that image in your mind very clear and see a glowing green light around the person. Keeping that person in your mind, exhale. Inhale deeply, hold your breath and continue to send the person healing green light. Still keeping that vision in your mind, exhale. For the last time, inhale deeply, hold your breath and see the person very clearly, see the green healing light bathing the person, bathing every cell in the body. Exhale and relax.


May this sit with you as magically as it did with me tonight,

My Life Yoga…

I found this wonderful website full of inspiring stories… MyLifeYoga.com

This particular one caught my eye: How yoga improved my autistic symptoms. In my education classes I have learned all about autism and that it can be a completely socially & emotionally debilitating disability. Nicole’s story of how she overcame her autistic symptoms with yoga is truly inspiring. Autism can’t be cured by yoga, but as Nicole states she has “high-functioning autism” in which she gives all of her thanks to yoga. What an amazing story.

Browse the website for more inspiration!

With inspiration,

Ground your Energy…

I was recently talking with a fellow yogi friend about her crazy travel schedule (fully equipped with nightly hotel stays) and she said that she was always feeling frazzled. I thought about her problem and wondered if there were any holistic remedies for sleeplessness and nervous energy. And lucky for me, as I was reading this month’s Yoga Journal I found this remedy:

For a good night’s sleep, here’s a tried and true Ayurvedic tip for drawing nervous energy out of your head and down to earth.

  • Fill and eye-dropper bottle with unrefined and un-toasted Organic Sesame Oil (can be found at Specturm Organics).
  • Pack the bottle and some cotton socks in your bag.
  • Before you get into bed, warm the oil by immersing the bottle in hot water. Massage warm oil into the soles of your feet. Slip on socks to keep the oil close to your skin and prevent stained sheets.
And this oil isn’t just for your feet! You can cook with Sesame Oil to add a delightful new taste to your home-cooked meals.

Inversions and Menstruation…

So it’s that time of the month again… can you do your beloved shoulderstand & headstand? The thing that kept me away from it for so long was the myth that inversions can lead to endometriosis. But according to the following article that I found on the Yoga Journal website, that myth has been debunked…

“First of all, there is no consensus on whether to avoid inversions during a woman’s menstrual cycle. The two opinions are basically divided between those who think that no women should practice inversions during menstruation and those who feel the choice varies from woman to woman.

Those who encourage a ban on inversions cite fears that certain physical problems may arise. Until recently, increased risk of endometriosis was considered the most common risk. But since more is known now about that disease, the idea has been debunked. There is also a theory that inversions may cause “vascular congestion” in the uterus resulting in excessive menstrual flow. (For more info, click here.) If true, this risk is probably most relevant for women who hold inversions a long time. Some teachers say that since a woman’s energy is low during menstruation, high-energy poses such as inversions should be avoided. This makes sense, yet not all women experience low energy during menstruation; indeed, many feel quite energized.

Philosophically speaking, menstruation is considered to be apana, meaning that energetically, its vitality is downward-flowing. The argument against inversions during menstruation maintains that inversions will disturb this natural energetic flow. However, inversions are recommended in some systems of yoga as therapy to improve elimination of excess apana. In Yoga: The Path to Holistic Health, B.K.S. Iyengar recommends practicing inversions to alleviate menstrual problems such as heavy flow and irregular periods.

The contradictions don’t stop there. Some teachers recommend avoidance of inversions such as Sirsasana (Headstand) and Sarvangasana (Shoulderstand) while suggesting no such caution with other poses that invert the uterus, such as Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend) and Downward-Facing Dog.

Since I know of no studies or research that makes a compelling argument to avoid inversions during menstruation, and since menstruation affects each woman differently and can vary from cycle to cycle, I am of the opinion that each woman is responsible for making her own decision. Pay attention to how you respond to inversions (indeed, ALL asanas) during your period. A short Headstand may be fine while a longer one isn’t; maybe you will find that backbends or twists adversely affect your period. If your energy is very low, restorative poses may be just the ticket, though you may find a more active sequence of standing poses alleviates cramps and the blues. You really won’t know what works and what doesn’t until you feel it in your own body.

The bottom line is that hatha yoga is full of contradictions and varied opinions, leaving each of us ultimately responsible for our own choices. Pay attention to your body and discover what works and what doesn’t—not just during your period but every day.”

(article written by Barbara Benagh. Taken from the Yoga Journal website)

What about inversions while pregnant? That’s next…

Beautiful eyes…

Our eyes let us see the beauty of the world. Without your eyes how would you know what the ocean looks like, or a multi-colored Fall leaf? How would you know the feeling you get when looking at the sun hidden behind a cloud… how it radiates and the rays of light shoot out like happy thoughts?
We too often take advantage of our eyes, let’s give them a chance to be spoiled.

“Our eyes both perceive and reveal our beauty. A regular eye-washing practice can leave them clear and bright” (Dr. Harigeetham). Also, bathing the eyes can help rejuvenate tiny muscles that have been taxed by hours of computer use or driving.
.
Harigeetham recommends infusing your washing water with triphala. The Ayurvedic herbal powder – made up of the amaiaki, haritaki, and bibhitaki fruits – is a blood purifier and whole-body rejuvenator and has properties that support the ophthalmic nerves and eye muscles.
.
After the washing, consider applying the dark eyeliner known as kajal (also known as kohl). “Kajal reduces glare in bright light, sharpening the vision, and encourages the growth and darkness of eyelashes,” Harigeetham explains. If you choose an Ayurvedic herbal formulation, which contains almond oil and flower extracts – you’ll also be nourishing and strengthening the tissues around the eyes.
.
…how
First, prepare the triphala infusion by boiling 1 teaspoon of triphala powder in 1 cup of water for about 10 minutes. Allow the mixture to cool completely; strain thoroughly.
.
First, bathe.
Wash your face with cold water. Then, using a cupped palm, bathe each open eye with cool triphala water 3 times. Rinse the face with a bit of pure water, and pat dry.
.
Then, cover.
Layer organically grown rose petals, cucumber slices, or cilantro leaves over each closed eye. (All three are cooling and refreshing to the eyes.) Place a cotton pad over each eye; then tie a band of muslin cotton or a bandana around the eyes to create a loose blindfold.
.
Look around…
Lie back in Savasana, relax, picture something beautiful, and begin to do 5 cycles of each of these 5 eye exercises with your eyes closed:
*Rotate your eyes clockwise.
*Rotate your eyes counterclockwise.
*Move your eyes in a figure 8, looking to the upper left, lower right, upper right, lower left.
*Look straight up and then straight down.
*Look left and right.
.
Then, rest.
Now, relax and breathe for 20 minutes. Release the blindfold. Immediately direct your vision to a beautiful sight, object, or photo that makes you feel calm and connected. If you’re using kajal, apply it now.
.
As you transition back to your day, allow your vision to remain “soft,” letting the scene of the world come to you with effortless focus. If possible, avoid harsh lighting. Let your inner vision come forward.

**Click on these links to see where to buy kajal and triphala**

*Part of a 4 part Ayurvedic Self Care series taken from Yoga Journal that I want to share with you!*
Reference: Yoga Journal, October 2010