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Month: February 2017

7 Yoga Mantras to Power Your Practice This Week

7 Prompts to Power Your Yoga Practice This Week

Could your practice use a little inspiration? Explore these yoga mantras and prompts from Brian Leaf’s new book, The Teacher Appears: 108 Prompts to Power Your Yoga Practice. Try one each day this week, or let all seven inspire your practice right now!

1. What would it be like to accept your body and your yoga practice exactly as it is today? Live into that answer today on your mat. (From Anna Guest-Jelley, founder of Curvy Yoga)

2. Practice on a blanket today rather than on your sticky mat. Notice which muscles you use to stabilize your feet. How do your postures feel different?

3. Stand in front of your mat and dedicate every movement of today’s practice to someone you love, someone who needs healing, or someone you need to forgive. Notice if it changes the way you move, the way you breathe, or the way you feel. (From Seane Corn, yoga teacher, activist, and cofounder of Off the Mat, Into the World)

4. For the rest of the day, every time you hear a smartphone beep or buzz, stop whatever you are doing and take a deep, mindful breath.

5. How do you feel right now? Internally repeat the words “I rock.” Notice any change? Repeat the phrase at least fifty more times today (particularly at moments of difficulty) and watch what happens. Begin now. (From J. Brown, founder of Abhyasa Yoga Center)

6. When you move through your practice today, approach each pose as if it were your medicine. Notice whether you are taking the proper dosage. Are you holding a pose for too long or not long enough? How does your practice feel different with this mental shift? Write yourself a yoga prescription. (From Tiffany Cruikshank, founder of Yoga Medicine)

7. Remember: The harder you are on anything, the faster you wear it out. Be gentle. (From Bryan Kest, father of Power Yoga, creator of Western donation-based yoga)

Click here to view the original article.

Bedtime Meditations for Better Sleep

By Dana Diament.

For many of us, the day doesn’t seem to stop until the minute our head hits the pillow at night. In that precious moment, we think our refuge has finally arrived but we close our eyes and sleep couldn’t seem farther away. Our mind won’t stop chattering. The aches in our body feel more vivid than ever. We start to wonder just how long it will take to fall asleep or whether we’ll get a good night’s sleep at all.

This common scenario is a symptom of our body stuck in the sympathetic nervous system, our fight or flight mode. We need this part of our nervous system as it gives us the adrenaline we need to survive in the world – which these days is more about waiting in lines, dealing with traffic, meeting deadlines, paying our bills, getting the children to school than fighting off an attack from a tiger.

Dana Diament - meditation for better sleep

However, when it comes to falling asleep, we need our body to switch to our parasympathetic nervous system, our rest and repair mode. In an ideal scenario, our bodies can easily switch back and forth between the two modes, the way we can flick a light on and off. Because we spend so much of our day in our sympathetic mode, it can be difficult to switch over to the parasympathetic mode on demand.

Here’s where meditation comes in. By tuning into our breath or using a mantra in meditation, we are gently coaxing the body to relax. This then signals to the body that there is no more danger and no need to be alert. In other words, the sympathetic nervous system can hibernate, and the parasympathetic system can come online. Once your body can make that switch into the parasympathetic mode, those elusive Zzz’s happen with ease.

If you’re new to meditation or the word makes you run for the hills, feel free to erase that word and call it a relaxation exercise instead. The ones below are fairly simple. It’s best to do them either in bed or sitting close to the bed, so that you can easily transition to sleep afterwards. Before you start, put away any computers and smart phones so that you’re not tempted to check them in that transition to sleep.

3 BEDTIME MEDITATIONS FOR A BETTER NIGHT’S SLEEP

Meditation One: BREATH & BODY SCAN

Lie down on your back and start by taking a few deep breaths. Inhale through your nose, and open your mouth to exhale. Do this three times and as you breathe, notice what the movement of the breath feels like in your body. Can you feel any movement in your belly? Your ribs? Your chest? Try not to judge the movement, and simply observe it.

See if you can make the exhale slightly longer than your inhale. Count your inhale to 3 and exhale for a count of 4 or 5. Do this for another 3 rounds. When you’re working with the breath, the key is to be completely relaxed and not add any tension to the body. If the breath count doesn’t work for you, feel free to skip this part or add it in after a few nights when you’re more comfortable.

Now begin the body scan to help relax the entire body. As you move through the body, repeat a 4 step method for each body part.

1 – Notice any sensations in that body part
2 – Contract any of the muscles in that area for 2 seconds and then release
3 – Mentally allow yourself to release tension in that body area. Say to yourself “My {body part} is relaxed” for e.g. “My hips are relaxed”
4 – Notice again the sensations in that body part

Scan through the following areas of the body. Start at the feet & ankles, moving up to the legs (calves, knees, thighs), buttocks and hips, belly, back, chest, shoulders & neck, and finishing up with the face & the whole head.When you finish your body scan, say to yourself “My whole body is relaxed.”

Meditation Two: CLEAR YOUR MIND

At the end of a long busy day, it can be all the things we didn’t get to that can keep us up at night. I like to flip the switch on the to-do list and instead focus on the things that went well. Going to bed with a positive mindset and feelings of contentment can improve the quality of your sleep.

Get out a piece of paper or your journal and a pen. Write down your 3 main priorities for the next day. Then write down 3 things that you’re proud of or that you’re grateful for that happened today.

Put the paper away, and dim or turn off the lights. Then find a comfortable seat on a cushion, close to your bed. Tune into your breath and notice the breath moving in and out of your body. Gently place one of your hands on your forehead and the other on the top of your head. Breathe into your hands and say to yourself “Tomorrow is another day.” Repeat the mantra 3-5 times.

Next, place both of your hands on your heart space. Again breathe into your hands. This time say to yourself “I am proud of / grateful for {insert one of the things you wrote down}”. Do this for each of the 3 things you wrote down.

As you focus on the positive from your day, notice if that creates a feeling of relaxation in your body or some spaciousness in your mind. Try to hold on to this feeling as you make your way into bed. If your to-do list creeps up again, try not to get frustrated. You can repeat the meditation even after you get into bed.

Meditation Three: WAKE UP RESTFUL

Sometimes the anxiety over whether we’ll get a good night sleep can be what keeps us up at night. What a catch 22. In this scenario, it can be helpful to visualize waking up restful. This meditation can be done sitting up or lying down.

Start by taking 3 deep breaths to help calm yourself. Then start to paint a picture in your mind of waking up feeling energized and restful. Begin by noticing the details of your bedroom. It helps to imagine a peaceful scene. For example, even if the room is messy when you go to bed, in your scene the room can be uncluttered and tidy. Notice the sun gently streaming through the windows to wake you up, and any other details of the room (maybe photos of loved ones or paintings) that make you feel happy.

Then see yourself in your bed, opening your eyes and taking a gentle stretch. What can you hear or smell? What can you feel on your skin? Go ahead and imagine the most restful scene that you’d like to wake up in – even if it means the most luxurious sheets, the smell of fresh flowers, and the birds chirping (in other words not the sound of your children screaming or the neighbor mowing the lawn). This is your safe haven and there’s no limit here to your imagination.

Then take your awareness to your body and notice the internal sensations. What would it feel like to wake up feeling great in your body – what sensations would be there? Which sensations would be gone? What does it feel like to not wake up in a panic or in a rush to get out of the house? Feel a smile on your face as you wake up looking forward to the day. Take your time as you create this scene and linger here for as long as you wish.

When you’re ready to end the meditation, say to yourself “I sleep well and wake up restful and energized.”With this meditation, there’s an added bonus of bringing details from our subconscious mind to our conscious mind of simple changes we could make to our bedroom or waking- up-ritual to improve our quality of sleep. If great ideas coming up during this visualization, jot them down and delay taking action on them until the next day. That way you can stay in the relaxation mode and let the power of your mind ease your way into a restful sleep.

About the Author

Dana_Diament_360x262-v2Dana Diament is a senior Yoga Medicine instructor who is passionate about blending eastern and western perspectives. Dana is halfway through her 1000-hour Yoga Medicine master teacher training certification, and travels across the globe to lead 200-hour trainings. Based in Byron Bay, Australia, she writes about yoga, meditation, health and anatomy and teaches workshops, group classes and therapeutic privates. You can find her on Instagram @danadiament and www.danadiament.com.

Yoga for Seniors: How Practice can Reduce Falls

Yoga for Seniors

By Dr Amy Sedgwick MD, FACEP, E-RYT.

“Patient to trauma room one, patient to trauma room one, stat!”…an overhead page that is all too common in my line of work. Among the many types of patients I take care of as an emergency physician, I see a large proportion of elderly patients who come to me in the wake of a fall. More than one-third of people aged 65 and older fall one or more times per year.1 

Falls occur due to multiple risk factors, including decreased muscle strength and postural awareness, medication side effects, cognitive impairment, and depression.2 These patients come to me with hip and long-bone fractures, acute mental status changes due to brain injury, skin tears and lacerations, and many other life-threatening injuries.

In many of these cases, the falls could have been prevented with some basic interventions. Especially those to help patients maintain the strength, stability, and mobility in their bodies, as well as a sense of overall wellness.3 Sadly, broken bones and head bleeds are just the start of the problems that often follow a fall. Oftentimes the immobility and stress on the body that results from a fall, as well as the psychological impact of falling, sets elderly people up for a host of problems. Secondary infections such as pneumonias and wound infections can impede recovery. Brain injury and physical disability often lead individuals to lose much of their autonomy. This overall decrease in function often results in repeat falls, subsequent injury, a reduction in quality of life, and sometimes even death.4

Treating the Underlying Cause of Falls

As yoga professionals, we are in a unique position to address some of the underlying causes of falls. The benefits of strength and balance training are, of course, cited frequently in the medical literature. These, combined with the breathwork and relaxation specific to a yoga practice, can provide a regimen that offers an individual physical strength and stability as well as a sense of well-being and enhanced quality of life.

When I am treating a patient for a particular problem, I often find it helpful to check in with the latest medical literature so that I know what kinds of things my colleagues have found effective in treating similar patients. While I believe it is good to review the literature, however, studies vary widely in their strength and validity, and if one is not used to reading medical literature critically, it is easy to be led astray by apparent “good” results that are based on poor research methods. My hope, as both a practicing physician and yoga teacher, is to empower you with the same kind of evidence that medical providers rely on before prescribing a treatment plan for patients.

There has been a fair amount of research conducted on how to prevent falls in the elderly. Studies looking specifically at yoga regimens occupy a smaller subset of this literature, and the biggest criticism I found in my quick review was that the size of the study populations have, to date, been quite small. Still, I think the papers I review below may be helpful as you think about promoting yoga for seniors. At the very least, realize that what you are offering is more than just a simple yoga class. In fact, you may be the link in the chain that prevents the next fall!

Study #1

In 2013, a paper in the Journal of Gerontology by Tiedemann et al. detailed a randomized, controlled trial of 54 “community dwellers” (read: people who do not live in institutional settings such as nursing homes) with a mean age of 68 who were not practicing yoga or tai chi prior to participation. The study divided the two groups into an intervention group who received an educational booklet with poses, and another group that participated in twice-weekly yoga classes for 12 weeks. The control group only received the education booklet but did not participate in classes.

At the end of the 12 weeks, the intervention group had better agility when moving from sitting to standing, better balance in a one-legged stand, and a faster and more confident gait. The yoga poses emphasized were tadasana (mountain pose), virabhadrasana I (warrior I), virabhadrasana II (warrior II), virabhadrasana III (warrior III), ardha chandrasana (half moon), vrksasana (tree pose), adho mukha svanasana (downward facing dog), and savasana (corpse pose).5

Study #2

Less robust in its design but with similar results was a study from 2014 by Kelley et al. in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. This study looked at a similar cohort of participants and analyzed the effects of a 12-week, twice-per-week hatha yoga practice in community-dwelling adults with the average age of 72. This study was not randomized (so a little less robust than the one described above) and was a pretest/post-test style study looking at the “before and after” effects of a group of participants.

The yoga poses were similar to those in the Tiedemann study, with the addition of centering breath work, warm-up shoulder rolls, heel raises, and baddha konasana (bound angle pose). The outcomes were similar, noting improvements in mobility, postural control, and gait speed.6

Other Studies

Other meta-analyses (studies that evaluate a group of similar studies looking for common outcomes) show more modest evidence that yoga, in particular, is superior to other forms of physical-activity-related interventions in elderly people.7Patel et al. did a meta-analysis looking at studies from 1950 to 2010 and found 18 relevant studies looking at older adults across a range of settings. This meta-analysis suggested yoga improved the participants’ sense of good health, aerobic fitness, and strength.

Conclusions

Realizing that there are no perfect studies proving that what we do as yoga teachers help these folks avoid falls, I do think there is a legitimate growing body of evidence suggesting that yoga can help our elders achieve increased strength, stability, coordination, and well-being. In my mind, that is better than any drug I have ever heard of—and certainly better than the injury, disability, and death that can result from preventable falls.

I encourage you to continue to target this age group. I hope you realize what an important contribution you can make toward improving the health and well-being of older people! Rather than a new drug or quick fix, it is the small, daily, purposeful things we do with integrity that often bring about the most meaningful change. This is yoga.

Good luck and namaste, beautiful yogis!

View the original article on Yoga International.

Sedgwick_Amy_small

About the Author:

Dr Amy Sedgwick MD, FACEP, E-RYT lives in Portland, Maine where she practices emergency medicine. She is an active contributor to Yoga Medicine, so keep an eye out for more articles from Amy. Click here to learn more about our contributors and teaching faculty.

References

1. Lord SR, Ward JA, Williams P, Anstey K. Physiological factors associated with falls in older community-dwelling women. J Am Geriatr Soc. 1994; 42:1110–1117.
2. Rossat A, Fantino B, Nitenberg C, Annweiler C, Poujol L, Herrmann FR, Beauchet O. Risk factors for falling in community-dwelling older adults: which of them are associated with the recurrence of falls?, J Nutr Health Aging. 2010 Nov; 14(9):787–91.

3. Tiedemann A, Shimada H, Sherrington C, Murray S, Lord SR. The comparative ability of eight functional mobility tests for predicting falls in community-dwelling older people. Age Ageing. 2008; 37:1–6.

4. Alexander BH, Rivara FP, Wolf ME. The cost and frequency of hospitalization for fall-related injuries in older adults, Am J Public Health. 1992 Jul; 82(7):1020–3.

5. A Tiedemann, S O’Rourke, R Sesto, C Sherrington, A. 12-Week Iyengar Yoga Program Improved Balance and Mobility in Older Community-Dwelling People: A Pilot Randomized Controlled Trial, J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2013 September; 68(9):1068–1075.

6. K Kelley, EdD, PT, NCS, D Aaron, BS, SPT, K Hynds, BS, SPT, E Machado, BS, SPT, and M Wolff, BS, SP. The Effects of a Therapeutic Yoga Program on Postural Control, Mobility, and Gait Speed in Community-Dwelling Older Adults, J Altern Complement Med. 2014 Dec 1; 20(12):949–954.

7. Patel NK, Newstead AH, Ferrer RL. The effects of yoga on physical functioning and health related quality of life in older adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis, J Altern Complement Med. 2012 Oct; 18(10):902-17.

Practice Mindfulness and Find Your Inner Peace

Marie Tabela, Dana Diament and Kaitlyn Hochart share some tips on how to practice mindfulness, and how living a mindful life can make all the difference.

Yoga at seashore

How to Stay Mindful and Find Your Inner Peace in 2017

Maybe this year your New Year’s resolution focused more on the mind and soul than on hitting the gym. Maybe your goal is to become more connected with yourself, rather than connected to your cell phone. Or maybe it is to be more mindful and experience each and every moment to the fullest.

If that sounds like you, then you probably also noticed that it’s much, much easier said than done. Being mindful and achieving self-awareness and an inner calmness can be one of the most challenging things we work on, especially with so much going on around us.

Two Yoga Medicine instructors were able to weigh in on this subject for us to help guide us down our own personal paths of enlightenment.

Yoga Medicine instructor Dana Diament says mindfulness is the practice of noticing your thoughts or sensations in any given moment. “Because it can be done anywhere and at any time of day, simple mindfulness practices can be incorporated into your everyday life in just a few minutes,” she said.

Yoga Medicine instructor Kaitlyn Hochart says you should start small when it comes to finding your meditation practice, and make sure to head outside.

Dana’s tips: How to practice mindfulness

Tip #1

Notice your posture when you’re standing in line at the grocery store. Begin from the ground up. Is your weight evenly distributed between your feet? Are you leaning into one hip, or are your hips centered? Next, move your awareness higher up and notice the sensations in your chest and shoulders. Can you lift your chest slightly or draw your shoulders down your back? Lastly, check in with the sensations in your face. Try to unfurrow your brow, relax your jaw, and perhaps even let the corners of your mouth turn up into a little smile. After you investigate and shift your posture, notice the effect it has on your mood. You may be surprised to find that standing up taller can shift your impatience. Bonus mantra: As you wait for your turn, repeat silently to yourself the words, “I am patient.”

Tip #2

Pause for a moment before you speak. Consider how your words will sound once spoken out loud before you actually say them. We can probably all remember a time when we wish we could have taken back what we just said. As we learn to be comfortable with silence rather than rambling on or flaring up, mindfulness in our communication can help us to choose our words more deliberately, which results in less conflict and repercussions. Bonus mantra: In the silent pause, say to yourself “I am kind” to remind yourself of the power your words can have.

Tip #3

Check in with your breath instead of checking social media. The next time you get the urge to pick up your smartphone, instead watch the rise and fall of your belly as you breathe. You can also close your eyes and place your hands on your belly, if you feel comfortable to do so. On your inhale, notice the belly expanding with the breath, and on your exhale notice the belly drop back down.

As you continue watching the breath, try to take deeper, fuller breaths. At the end of 4 or 5 rounds, notice any changes in your body or mind. This diaphragmatic breathing helps to ease our nervous system, which can have a range of positive effects like feeling more calm or more energized. Bonus mantra: If you’re using social media as a temporary escape from the present moment, try using the mantra “I am here” as you breathe mindfully.

Tip #4

Put your fork down between bites and chew your food 20 times. Notice the textures and smells of what you’re eating. Can you hone in on all of the flavors? If you didn’t prepare the food yourself, can you guess all of the ingredients? Eating mindfully enhances the enjoyment we get from food and can help us to make healthier and more nourishing choices. Bonus mantra: Each time you put your fork down, give thanks for the plate of food in front of you by saying the words “I am grateful.”

Kaitlyn-Hochart-headshot2

Katilyn’s tips: 4 things to add to your daily routine

Tip #1

Wake up and choose an intention for your day. Examples: Today I will be present in all my conversations, or today I will practice compassion towards myself. Write your intention down in a journal, or say it out loud.

Tip #2

Go for a walk outside. Leave the headphones at home. Take in all the sounds around you – the sounds of traffic, other conversations around you, the birds, the movement of the trees. How do you feel when your walk is finished?

Tip #3

Practice mindful eating for one meal a day. Eliminate all distractions when you sit down to eat – no phone, no email, no television. Chew slowly and be present with each bite of food.

Tip #4

Take time each day to be still through a meditation practice. Start small with 5 minutes a day. Pick the same spot in your home, and find a comfortable seat. Each time you take a natural breath in, in your mind say “inhale,” and each time you breathe out, in your mind say “exhale.” When your mind begins to drift, return to feeling your breath and this mantra.

Click here to view the original article.

Tiffany Cruikshank’s Meditation for Stress Relief

Tiffany Cruikshank Mind Makeover

Today we will be sharing a meditation for stress relief. We will work on developing your ability to notice the sensations in each breath but then also see the bigger picture. The first part is to observe the breath and acknowledge the sensations in the body and see if you can detangle them from the mind. Then recount a stressful situation or a stressful day—anything recent enough that you can recall it in full detail and really connect to that memory.

Notice the sensations that the recollection brings up in the body. Is it possible to allow the sensations to exist and to disengage the mind, to just notice and watch them? Take a moment to do this. Then notice what it feels like to acknowledge that everything will pass at some point. Consider that in the big picture, a month or a year from now, you’ll look back on this one little stressful experience and it will be insignificant. Last, notice what it feels like to acknowledge that right now, in this moment, you have everything you need.

Mind Makeover

Today’s journaling will focus on stressful moments.

1. Notice your stress points, either from yesterday or last week, whether they’re minor incidents, ongoing situations, or big events.

2. Ask yourself, how different would those stress points look if you were able to take an observer’s mindset? To detach yourself in the moment when you feel stress and simply observe? Notice the experience and imagine the big picture.

3. Will the outcome of those moments look different? Sometimes it will, and sometimes it won’t. How will it be different? Remember, today’s work is not necessarily changing stress or outcomes but rather changing your perception. That shift alone has a profound effect on your health.

Today’s mantra: I am content.

via YogaGlo.

Click here to view YogaGlo’s blog featuring Tiffany Cruikshank.

Excerpted from MEDITATE YOUR WEIGHT: A 21-Day Retreat To Optimize Your Metabolism And Feel Great Copyright © 2016 by Tiffany Cruikshank. Published by Harmony Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.

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