Struggling To Accept The Truth? Here's How Yoga Can Help

Struggling To Accept The Truth? Here's How Yoga Can Help

Because of the negative news I feel I'm hit with on a regular basis lately, I've been struggling to find peace and acceptance. But like so many situations in life where I've faced challenges and thought I was out of resources, yoga has once again provided the right tools to keep me moving forward.

These three yoga teachings have been particularly helpful as I look to what’s next.

1. Breathe with intention.

Breath is a big part of yoga. Breathing techniques calm the nervous system, reduce stress, help clear the mind, and facilitate resilience and positivity in the face of challenge. Many yoga practices use the breath to create a physical space to let go of thoughts and energy that don’t serve us through the power of the exhale. Anxiety and anger are both emotions whose impact can be reduced by simply breathing with intention. Inhale the energy you want to cultivate, exhale that which does not serve you.

2. Know that we're all one.

It’s basic, but it’s also profound. When we strip away all the labels that we’ve created to describe one another, we find that we are all the same. One of my favorite elements of the practice of yoga is that it teaches us to drop labels. There is no space for judgement or self-judgement in yoga. We drop labels like “inflexible” or “not strong enough” by asking our mind to let go and letting our body perform at its ability without the artificial constraints of the mind. With every new accomplishment on the mat, we witness the lack of meaning in labels.

3. Connect with the good.

If you feel like there is overwhelming evil or negativity in the world, you need yoga. I have yet to walk into a studio and feel negative energy. Good is everywhere, but we have to choose to focus on it. It is a choice, and it’s one we have to continually make and learn from. Surround yourself with love and positivity. The more we find connection through love, the more we spread acceptance and positivity.

It’s not that there’s no work to be done outside of the yoga studio. There will always be work to be done. But the first piece of the puzzle is realizing that we are all connected—that’s how puzzles work! We are in this together. Acceptance is key. Once we find acceptance we can start listening and learning from each other. If that’s the standard we hold our leaders to, we must hold ourselves to that same standard. Let’s find acceptance so we can move forward.

January 27, 2017 by S M
Want To Eliminate Lower Back Pain For Good? Do These Yoga Poses Every Day

Want To Eliminate Lower Back Pain For Good? Do These Yoga Poses Every Day

Want To Eliminate Lower Back Pain For Good? Do These Yoga Poses Every Day Hero Image
Photo: Stocksy

As someone who prides herself on the level of strength and flexibility achieved as a result of my seven-plus-year yoga practice, I was both shocked and dismayed to wake up with extreme lower back pain last month. When I say extreme, it's no exaggeration. It literally took every ounce of energy I had just to stand up, sit down, or straighten my back in any capacity. By the second day, it was so bad that I could not stand upright without using a wall for support, feeling like my knees were going to buckle if I moved away from it. The pain was excruciating and debilitating.

As much as I love making meals in my Dutch oven, I am convinced that this awesome (but heavy!) invention was the source of my mysterious lower back pain. I tend to do things in a rush and failed to take the time to properly bend my knees while lifting it in and out of the oven. Well, I certainly paid the price. Lesson learned!

At the onset of the agony, my first instinct was to stretch my lower back out through gentle yoga postures. But after reading conflicting advice online, I eventually decided against it. So many articles tell you not to stretch or you will actually make the problem worse. By the end of the third day, I got to a point where I stopped taking the advice of 50 percent of the articles I read (because the other half tell you to stretch AND lie down), and I followed my initial instinct, which has rarely led me down the wrong road. I rolled out my yoga mat and proceeded to stretch out my lower back.

And let me tell you, it hurt like hell. But it was the smartest move I had made in days. Not only was I able to stand up straight after just 20 minutes of light stretching, I was able to walk around and sit comfortably again for the first time since the pain began. Really, is there anything yoga can't heal?

My tried and tested advice on how to heal lower back pain is this: Stretch the moment you wake up (using the simple postures below) and then repeat the same stretches again before you lie down for the night.

Give these poses a try:

1. Standing Forward Fold (Uttanasana)


Photo credit: Jennifer Niles
Stand in Tadasana (mountain pose) with the feet hip-distance apart. On an inhale, sweep both arms up to the sky, then slowly dive down into a standing forward fold. Make sure to fold forward from the hips, not from the waist! Grab the back of your calves to pull yourself deeper into the pose. Feel the lower back release and the hamstrings lengthen as you focus on putting more weight into the toes vs. the heels. Hold this pose for 1 to 2 full minutes. The longer the better!


2. Cobbler's Pose (Baddha Konasana)


Photo credit: Jennifer Niles


Start by sitting on the mat with the soles of your feet together. Grab your toes and begin to bend forward (from the hips) until a point where it is comfortable enough to hold for 1 to 2 full minutes. You also have the option of stretching your arms out in front of you and crawling your fingertips forward to release the back even more.

3. Double Seated Pigeon (Dwapada Rajakapotasana)


Photo credit: Jennifer Niles


Start in a cross-legged seated position. Start by placing the right foot directly on top of the left knee and the left foot directly underneath the right knee. Hinge from your hips and crawl your fingertips forward until you reach a place where you can comfortably hold the posture for 1 to 2 minutes.

4. Reclined Leg Stretch (Supta Padangusthasana­)


Photo credit: Jennifer Niles


Start by lying down on the mat with your knees hugged into your chest. Then, strap up one foot at a time and extend the leg into the air while resting the other leg along the ground with the toes pointing up toward the sky. Make sure that you are feeling this one more in the hamstring than the shoulders, back, or neck. Hold for 1 to 2 minutes on each side.


5. Child's Pose (Balasana)


Photo credit: Jennifer Niles


Separate the knees so that they are in line with the width of the mat, with the big toes touching. On an exhale, slowly fold the torso in between the legs and stretch the arms out in front of you. Rest your forehead on the mat. As you settle into the pose, continue to work on getting the butt closer to the heels. Slowly work on inching the fingertips forward to release the tension in the lower back. Hold for 1 to 2 minutes.
January 05, 2017 by S M
Benefits of Yoga When You Are Sick

Benefits of Yoga When You Are Sick

With each handshake and hug, cold viruses can be spread easily.

Judi Bar, a yoga specialist at Cleveland Clinic, says those who are looking to keep their immune system in check might want to try some yoga.

"The idea of practicing yoga helps us to build the immune system, with our breath, with that awareness, by calming that stress response and that alone helps us to stay so much healthier," explains Bar.

Research has shown that an increase in the stress hormone, cortisol, can weaken our immune systems and make it easier for us to get sick.

Bar says that in addition to lowering stress levels, yoga movement actually helps pump lymphatic fluid through our systems, which helps the body rid itself of toxins and waste.

Folks who are more sedentary tend to get sick more often because their lymphatic systems are not pumping as much.

In addition to the physical benefits of yoga, Bar says that yoga can help us achieve healthier habits outside of the yoga studio, which work hand in hand to help fight off illness.

"It also causes us to be more mindful so that we'll remember to drink more water, or that we will eat healthier, or that we will end up getting our cardiovascular exercise, to keep us healthy and strong," says Bar.

Bar also said that if you're feeling under the weather, practicing some gentle yoga poses and doing some mild stretching can help provide some relief and boost your energy.


January 05, 2017 by S M
This Yoga Technique Could Help With Depression & Anxiety

This Yoga Technique Could Help With Depression & Anxiety

You may already know that practicing yoga has been linked to better heart health and lower stress. So it's probably not too surprising that yoga can be great for your mental health, too.

According to a recent study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, a particular form of yogic breathing could help ease symptoms of major depression. The breathing-based meditation, called Sudarshan Kriya yoga, may alleviate symptoms of depression for those who haven't been receptive to other forms of treatment, such as medication.

In a study of 25 participants, researchers from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania found that those with major depressive disorders who did not fully respond to medication saw a decrease in symptoms of depression and anxiety after practicing Sudarshan Kriya yoga. Researchers studied the participants for two months, during which they monitored symptoms such as mood, interest in activities, energy, suicidal thoughts, and feelings of guilt.

According to Science Daily, Sudarshan Kriya is a series of breathing exercises that alternate between quick and slow breaths, designed to bring people to a more restful, meditative state. This kind of mindfulness, according to the American Psychological Association, promotes awareness of your current state, which can have a positive effect on your mental health.

However, it's also worth noting that this is a preliminary study, with a relatively small sample size of 25 participants. Plus, the study also refers to a very specific kind of yoga that specifically emphasizes breathing, so other forms of yoga might not offer the same results.

That being said, if you're not super into yoga, another technique of mindfulness-based stress reduction (a breathing meditation with some very low intensity yoga) has also proven effective — so really, it looks like mindful breathing is the key.


January 05, 2017 by S M
You Asked: Is Yoga Good Exercise?

You Asked: Is Yoga Good Exercise?

By almost any measure, the answer is yes—but don't let it be all you do.

From CrossFit to Insanity workouts, exercise has lately trended toward the extreme. But physical activity doesn’t always have to be vigorous to be effective. While it may seem mellow compared to most training programs, yoga’s health benefits keep pace—and often outdistance—what many people would call “traditional” forms of exercise.

For starters, research shows regular yoga practice lowers your risk for heart disease and hypertension. Yoga may also lessen symptoms of depression, headaches, diabetes, some forms of cancer and pain-related diseases like arthritis.

Yoga also seems to combat weight gain. from Seattle’s Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center found middle-aged adults who practiced yoga at least once a week gained 3 fewer pounds than those who stuck with other forms of exercise. The same study found overweight adults who practice yoga lost 5 pounds, while a non-yoga group gained 13 pounds. Those results held even when the authors accounted for different eating habits.

How can a little bending and stretching do all that? Unlike exercises like running or lifting weights—both of which crank up your heart rate and stimulate your nervous system—yoga does just the opposite. “It puts you in a parasympathetic state, so your heart rate goes down and blood pressure goes down,” says Dr. Tiffany Field, director of the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami School of Medicine.

Field has published an in-depth review of yoga’s potential health benefits. She says the types and varieties of movement involved in yoga stimulate pressure receptors in your skin, which in turn ramp up your brain and body’s vagal activity. Your vagus nerve connects your brain to several of your organs, and it also plays a role in hormone production and release.

“Stress hormones like cortisol decrease as vagal activity increases,” Field says. At the same time, this uptick in vagal activity triggers the release of the hormone serotonin, which helps regulate everything from your mood and appetite to your sleep patterns.

All of this may explain yoga’s research-backed ties to a healthier heart, as well as its ability to slash your stress, improve your mood, quell your appetite and help you sleep more soundly, Field says. When you consider the health perks linked to each of those brain and body benefits—lower inflammation, lower body weight, lower disease risk—you could make an argument that few activities are as good for you as yoga.

One thing yoga doesn’t do, though, is burn loads of calories. Even hot forms of yoga like Bikram result in modest energy expenditures—roughly the number of calories you’d burn during a brisk walk.

While more and more research suggests calories shouldn’t be your sole focus when it comes to diet and exercise, there’s no question that running, swimming, lifting weights and other more-vigorous forms of exercise are great for your brain and body.

Yoga is unquestionably good for you, Field says, but it should be done in tandem with traditional forms of physical activity—not in place of them.


January 05, 2017 by S M
Tags: exercise yoga
Yoga Is Officially Sweeping the Workplace

Yoga Is Officially Sweeping the Workplace

The American workforce is becoming more mindful. In a new study of more than 85,000 adults, yoga practice among U.S. workers nearly doubled from 2002 to 2012, from 6 percent to 11 percent. Meditation rates also increased, from 8 percent to 9.9 percent.

That’s good news, say the study authors, since activities like yoga and meditation have been shown to improve employee well-being and productivity.

“Our finding of high and increasing rates of exposure to mindfulness practices among U.S. workers is encouraging,” they wrote in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) journal Preventing Chronic Disease. “Approximately 1 in 7 workers report engagement in some form of mindfulness-based activity, and these individuals can bring awareness of the benefit of such practices into the workplace.”

The study, which surveyed adults on whether they’d participated in specific activities in the last year, revealed that people with jobs were more likely to practice mindfulness techniques than those who were unemployed. (However, the participants were not asked where and when they practiced these activities, so it’s unknown how many people were actually doing them at work, versus on their own time.)

The authors point out that incorporating mindfulness practices into the workplace experience—through employee wellness and stress-reduction programs, yoga and meditation classes and web-based offerings—can be a way for companies to encourage their workers to take part.

The study also identified room for improvement in certain sectors. Blue-collar and service workers were less likely to practice mindfulness techniques than white-collar workers, and farm workers even less. Household income and education levels partially accounted for these disparities, but not entirely.

The authors say that employers in these occupations could benefit by identifying workers who do practice mindfulness techniques, and involve them in planning and promoting these activities for other employees.

Institutional obstacles, such as lack of funding, lack of time or personal beliefs, “should be addressed to make these practices available to all workers,” they wrote. Men and socioeconomically disadvantaged groups within these occupations are the least likely to do them.

In previous research, these types of workplace interventions have been associated with a host of benefits for employees. Mindfulness training has been shown to reduce burnout and mood disturbances in health care providers, and to improve sleep quality among teachers. (The study authors were unable to find any mindfulness studies that had specifically focused on blue-collar or farm workers.)

The new study also looked at the prevalence of two other mindfulness practices—tai chi and qigong—but did not find a substantial change in these rates over time. Yoga and meditation are likely more popular because they’ve received much attention in the general public over the past two decades, the authors point out.

As a whole, mindfulness practices can “address multiple workplace wellness needs, benefiting both employees and employers,” the study authors say. Kristin McGee, a yoga instructor in New York City and author of the upcoming book Chair Yoga, says that mindfulness techniques are important for managing workplace pressures, no matter what that workplace is. “Having any type of job nowadays is so stressful because of the long hours we spend working,” says McGee (who was not involved in the study). Mind-body techniques like yoga can help counteract some of that stress and some of the physical demands of work, whether from hard manual labor or sitting hunched over at a computer, McGee says.

McGee encourages people in all types of jobs to incorporate a bit of mindfulness into their workday, even if it’s just a simple breathing exercise. Research has shown that slowing down and deepening breath can have real effects on wellbeing, including controlling blood pressure and improving heart rate. “That oxygenating breath helps clear the mind and reminds you that you’re in charge of your breath and your body,” McGee says. “It’s a great tool for avoiding knee-jerk reactions, and having better control over the situation.”

To stretch a bit at work, McGee recommends side bends to help prevent back soreness and stiffness. These can be done standing or seated in a chair: Keep your back straight, lift your arms overhead, interlace fingers and press palms toward the ceiling, and bend gently to right and then to the left.

Other work-friendly yoga poses include spinal twists, (which can be done seated or standing) eagle arms (great for stretching out wrists and shoulders), and mountain pose (for resetting your posture, boosting energy, and improving focus).


January 05, 2017 by S M
Tags: yoga