h1

YogaXoga Blog Has Moved…

April 26, 2012

Hi folks…this is long overdue…but we’ve actually moved this blog to a new site, with tons of new yoga tips, stories and mini-classes for you.  Our apologies if you were wondering where we ran off to…Here are some of the more recent posts that I hope you enjoy:

Ways to Deepen Your Yoga Practice

Yoga Stretches Before Bed, In Bed

Yoga for Runners, Walkers & Cyclists

Energizing Stretches

Yoga for Hypothyroidism

 

Here’s the new blog — come join us there. We’re at www.yogaxogablog.com 

Enjoy and be well…

Heidi

h1

Thoughts on Sharing Yoga…

July 19, 2010

As YogaXoga turns 6 this week, I find myself looking back (& forward) on this journey. Teaching yoga is something that I truly treasure. I  love the tangibility of that hour.  Someone walks into class and they’re tired, irritable, stressed, stiff, sore, anxious – you name it…and on a good night, they leave feeling better. more relaxed. calmer. clearer.   Sometimes I get to know that result right then…someone will walk up after class with that blissful smile and say “that’s just what I needed”. Often, I can see the peacefulness on the faces of those who leave quietly with no words.  No words needed.

As I think more about it, we’re all teachers, sharers of yoga…and you don’t have to go to yoga teacher school to pass on the knowledge and awareness of something beneficial.  Maybe you have a co-worker with terrible neck & shoulder pain, or a neighbor who desperately wants to keep gardening but her low back has another plan… every day we come into contact with people who could benefit from yoga…maybe it’s just one stretch that you really like and want to share…maybe it’s a favorite teacher or favorite class.  Invite a friend…or even better, share your story.  Share how yoga has helped you.

When I’m needing my own “personal boost”, the best medicine is when I  reach out to others…and share something that’s been of benefit to me. Maybe it’s yoga.  juicing.  journaling.  rest.  saying no and not feeling guilty.  What’s your wellness secret?

We can get isolated…but sharing with each other our stories and what works for us connects us and draws us into a closer community.   Sometimes we’re afraid we’ll come off preachy or pushy…like we’re carrying our yoga/wellness soapbox around all day.   But if our intent is just to share it… so that maybe someone else will feel better, who can fault that?  You might not get to see the results of your sharing right then or ever…but there’s a blessing for each of us in sharing and giving to others.

h1

Energizing Stretches

July 9, 2010

Maybe it’s the week after the home projects-filled holiday weekend or just that we’ve finally hit those hot and humid summer days… Either way, I’ve been dragging…no energy to do what I need to do. Maybe you feel the same…  Here are some of my favorite energizing stretches. Maybe try these in the afternoon instead of that third cup of coffee.

As always, try to practice these after your muscles are warm – either from full flows (sun salutations) or from other exercise (walk, run, bike, etc.)

Standing Cat & Cow – Stand with your feet wider than your shoulders, knees slightly bent. Inhale and open your arms out to the side, lifting your sternum, and exhale as you round your spine, tuck your chin towards the chest and bring the arms back in front. Continue moving each way 4-6 breaths.

5 pointed Star – Continue in that same wide stance, with feet straight ahead and arms out in a “T” shoulder height.  Draw your belly button towards the spine and stand tall, relaxing the shoulders.  Feel the strength in your arms and lift the sternum without arching the low back. Hold for 3-5 breaths.

Reverse Warrior – Turn your right foot out and bend into the right knee. Make sure the right knee is stacked right over the right ankle.  If you need to, widen your stance to make this more comfortable.  Drop your left arm down by your side and lift the right arm overhead.  You should feel grounded in the legs, but a nice lift in the upper body. Gaze up at the right hand or down at your left foot. Hold for 3-5 breaths and switch sides.

Chest Expansion – Standing in Mountain pose, draw your arms behind you and lift with your sternum. Try to keep the low back in a neutral position.  Draw the shoulder blades closer together behind you. Hold and breathe for 3 breaths.

Standing Forward Fold – From Chest Expansion, soften your knees and fold forward, allowing your upper body to dangle and relax. Hold opposite elbows if that’s comfortable, relaxing the head, neck and shoulders. Breathe and hold for 4 breaths.

Move down to your back on the floor…

Knees to Chest - Hug your knees in toward your chest. You may rock side to side or just hold here and feel your back supported by the floor.

Flowing Bridge - Place your feet hip width apart and right under your knees with arms down by your side, palms down.  As you inhale, gently press into your arms and feet and lift the hips off the mat. As you exhale, release back to the floor. Continue 6-8 times, moving with your breath.

h1

Yoga Before Bed: General Tips

June 18, 2010

I get this question all the time…while I have several posts on Yoga Stretches Before Bed (see below), I thought I’d spend a little time explaining what type of poses you want to do at night vs. what type you might want to avoid.

First, the answer is YES.  Absolutely you can do yoga before bed…and if you have trouble getting your mind to wind down, you should do some gentle stretches and breathing exercises to aid sleep.

Breathing before Bed

What you should do:

  • Slow, steady breaths – breathing in and out through your nose – 3 part breath helps us get out of our head, our to-do list and by focusing on our breathing pattern, it calms us.
  • Longer exhale breathing – We call this a 2:1 breath, where your exhale is twice as long as your inhale.  Start by simply counting the length of your inhale and exhale in your mind and start to make your exhale longer.  You don’t want to overdo where you are gasping for breath – this should always feel comfortable.  Work up to the exhale being twice as long as the inhale…continue for 6-8 breaths.

What you should avoid:

  • Breath retention – holding the breath creates stimulation (& stress) in the body…if you’ve learned breath retention techniques in a yoga class, save them for during the day.
  • Mouth breathing – A wise teacher once told us “our mouth is for eating and talking and our nose is for smelling and breathing”… our nose is a natural filter for the air we breathe. Steady breaths in and out through the nose are more calming than breathing in and out through the mouth.

Stretches before Bed

What you should do:

  • Slow, gentle movements – try to find movements where you’re slowly able to move with your breath.  The movements shouldn’t be complicated…we want the mind to be winding down for the night.  So, Cat & Cow stretch,  Modified Plank to Child’s Pose flow are good choices.
  • Forward-folding stretches – when we fold forward, it calms our nervous system.  1 leg forward fold is a nice option…gently allowing your upper body to come towards  your leg without force or strain. Standing forward fold with knees bent, allowing gravity to help coax your upper body towards the floor.  And a favorite before bed: Child’s pose with your arms alongside you, resting.

What you should avoid:

  • Quick, active movements – I will give one exception here.  If you are really wound up and anxious, doing some Full Flows (Sun Salutations) or Sunflowers to burn off excess energy may do you some good…but in general, we want to find calming movements.  You might try more active poses and movements earlier in the evening – maybe after work.
  • Energizing poses – Whenever we lift the chest in poses like Camel, Chest Expansion, we’re increasing our energy… great poses to do in the morning or in lieu of that afternoon coffee break…but not at night.

Other posts on Yoga Before Bed:

Breathing Awareness Exercise

Yoga Stretches before Bed

Mild Inversions Can Aid Sleep, Reduce Stress

h1

YogaXoga Product Finds: Scouting the Divine by Margaret Feinberg

June 8, 2010

Every once in a while I venture off the yoga, breathing, stress relief subjects to something that has very little (at least at the onset) to do with yoga.  This is one of those cases.

Several years ago, my dear friend who lives in Juneau, AK introduced me to Margaret Feinberg’s books: Organic God, Sacred Echo and now this, her latest creation: Scouting the Divine.  Whether you call yourself a Christian or someone who’s spiritual or maybe someone who is seeking, exploring, learning about God, life, what we’re doing here…this is a treat!

Margaret spends time with a shepherdess, a winemaker, a beemaker and a farmer to really explore all those analogies and images in the Bible about sheep, vines, honey and working the land.  The nuisances and discoveries she finds by sitting down with and getting into the daily lives of these modern-day versions of ancient vocations are rich and insightful.

I read Scouting the Devine on my Kindle while we were away in this little town in Missouri…ironically, we visited a winery on our trip which made my reading all the more timely. I can’t tell you how many times I yearned to have a physical book that I could bend the corner and make notes in…(lesson learned for you Kindle folks out there – sometimes you need the paper book still)

So…how is this like yoga?  First of all, I guess it doesn’t have to be…I reserve the right to blog about things non-yoga.  But if I really ponder the comparisons…Margaret’s book is about taking verses and stories that some of us have read numerous times and some of us haven’t read at all…and turning them over, around, upside down and looking at them in a different way for an “ah-ha” or an insight that we didn’t have before.  Each time we step on our yoga mat, it’s a new day, a new moment.  Hopefully, that means that something about that experience feels new and unique as each day and each one of us is unique.

Maybe you get a new insight or feeling in a pose.

Maybe a new idea or thought comes to you as you’re quiet and still with your breath.

Maybe you feel a new sense of acceptance and peacefulness with your body, its strengths and limitations…

Maybe it has nothing to do with yoga.  Go ahead and explore Scouting the Divine….and you tell me (fyi – you can get the best deal on a hard copy autographed book at her website).

h1

Breathing Basics

June 5, 2010

We got on the subject of breathing this week in one of my classes…easy to do in a yoga class.  Students were asking how to breathe correctly, when to breathe in or out during certain poses, and wanting a general breathing refresher. I thought it might be good for all of us…Here goes…

Belly Breath

Start by lying on your back with your legs bent, feet on the floor.  Rest one hand on your belly and the other along your side.  Close your eyes and breathe.  Notice where you feel your breath first.  We want to feel the belly and diaphragm lift as you inhale. As you exhale, the diaphragm contracts and the belly lowers.  Try this breath a few more times, letting the belly lift and lower with your breath.  This is a very calming breath for us – great to practice when you’re stressed out or need to unwind before bed.

[Note – if you are a chest breather – where you lift your chest and shoulders when you inhale, you’ll want to start with this belly breath lying on your back.  When we’re lying down, it’s easier to really feel the difference between breathing from the belly and breathing from the chest.  When we breathe just from the chest, we’re actually creating more stress for our nervous system by breathing short, shallow breaths.]

Counting an Even Breath

Our breathing is such a great tool for stress relief.  Lying down or in a comfortable seated position, close your eyes and begin to observe your breath – in and out through your nose, lips sealed.  Start to count the length of your inhale slowly – think “1, Mississippi, 2 Mississippi” and then count the length of your exhale… Try to start by counting to 3 (1, 2, 3) and then exhaling (3, 2, 1).  It doesn’t matter how high you count, but that you’re letting your inhale and exhale be the same length.  This focus on our breathing helps calm our nervous system and lengthen and improve our breathing capacity.  Continue for 6-8 breaths.

Whisper Breath

Find a comfortable seated position or lie down on your back.  Breathe in and out through your nose with your lips sealed.  As you exhale, create a whisper sound in the back of your throat. It sounds like you are saying “Ha” or fogging up a mirror but your lips are sealed.  Don’t force the whisper to be louder – just allow it to happen at your own pace and volume.  This breath helps us to find a calm alertness, increasing our ability to focus and be still. Continue for 6-8 breaths.

h1

Yoga Poses for Anger

May 19, 2010

In working with various clients, I’ve been learning more and more about how yoga can help us release emotions, including anger.  Naturally, as I’m learning about the effects of different poses, I share those in my other classes; mentioning that this or that pose is helpful for anger.  The responses from classes have been interesting.  I’ve heard giggles and seen smiles and looks of surprise and awkwardness.

Anger isn’t a very popular emotion.  We don’t usually talk about anger. Maybe it’s just with women.  It’s acceptable to talk about feeling anxious, nervous, even sad at times…but angry? Nope.  But, that’s ok. Maybe we’re not ready to talk about it…but here are a few poses that might be helpful…and an interesting article that I found to be insightful.

Yoga poses, breathing and meditations can help us acknowledge feelings of anger and begin to let them go vs. stuffing them down inside or lashing out at those around us.  Try these and let me know what you think…

Hare/Rabbit Pose:  From child’s pose, bring your arms down and along the sides of your body, palms up.  Gently lift your hips, leaving your arms and legs where they are, so that the crown of your head is in contact with the floor. It shouldn’t feel like a headstand – you want to keep your weight in the body with slight pressure on your head.  Hold for 3 breaths and rest back to child’s pose.

Child’s Pose

Rabbit Pose

Thunderbolt Pose w/ Block: (Caution on this one if you have trouble with your kneeslift the hips higher to accommodate) From a kneeling position, place a yoga block longways from midcalf to ankles and set your hips on the block.  If your knees are comfortable, try placing the block vertically to lift the hips higher.  Close your eyes and rest your hands on your thighs, palms up.  Breathe and hold for 4-6 breaths or as long as you’re comfortable.

Yoga Journal Article with meditation tips on anger: Unmasking Anger

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 27 other followers