An Introduction to Kundalini Yoga


Yoga is yoga, and all of it is fantastic. However, if I was forced to choose my favorite yoga discipline to practice, it would be Kundalini Yoga hands down. I am, at heart, a Kundalini chick – it is the yoga that rocks my world.

Kundalini Yoga is a science. It works on the energy channels and meridians of the body, using postures, movement, breath, eye gaze, mudra and mantra to activate pressure points within the body, enabling us to reach a higher state of consciousness and mental clarity.

Overview

Yogi Bhajan brought Kundalini Yoga to America from India in 1969 and set about introducing westerners to the practice. By using breath and movement, practitioners were – and still are – able to achieve the ‘high’ feelings often only achieved through the use of narcotics, which were very popular in the late sixties and early seventies.

Kundalini Yoga focuses on the rising of Kundalini energy. This energy lies at the 4th vertebrae and is dormant in most of us – until awakened. The energy is often described as coiled up and sleeping (much like a snake). Through movement, the energy begins to awaken and travels up the spine through the chakras to reach the crown chakra at the top of the head.

Often referred to as the “householder’s yoga,” it can be done anywhere and at any time. Kundalini Yoga, as taught by Yogi Bhajan, offers guidelines of how to live your daily life and how to conduct your yoga practice, such as a full 2.5 hour daily practice (known as Sadhana), keeping the head covered, always wearing white, and following a strict yogic diet. I don’t know about you, but I don’t have 2+ hours to commit solely to yoga every day (I wish I did). Sometimes my Sadhana may just be a 3 minute meditation, and this is perfect.

Kundalini 101

Much of Kundalini Yoga is used to balance the chakras, creating a clear path for the energy to rise. By opening and balancing our chakras, we enhance all aspects of our lives and strengthen our internal ‘survival tools’ to manage today’s challenges.

Kundalini Yoga is multi-faceted and a class can involve meditations, chants (known as mantras), posture movements and sequences (known as kriyas), allowing the body and mind to be taken to a different state of consciousness and awareness. A Kundalini meditation can be as short as 30 seconds, up to 11 minutes, or even as much as 62 minutes – but each is timed to allow the chemical changes in body, blood and brain to take place.

Kriyas are a set of postures/movements/breath work done in sequence and to specific lengths of time. The sequence never changes. Every posture or movement is timed to bring about a response in the body, which when accompanied by the rest of the kriya, will bring the body and mind to a particular outcome.

Chanting is very powerful and has a direct impact on our brain patterns and thoughts. At the beginning of each Kundalini Yoga class, the chant “Ong Namo Guru Dev Namo” is recited three times. It is loosely translated as “I bow to the divine teacher within.” This chant connects you to the chain of teachers that have gone before and also connects you to your inner teacher/guide. I love that concept – being taught by the teacher that is already within us.

We are so often told that all the answers to our own happiness lie within. This always reminds me to notice my inner world and the changes that are taking place. At the end of the class, the chant “Sat Nam” is repeated three times. This is translated as “truth is my name.” When we leave our Kundalini practice, we vibrate the truth.

Try a simple Kundalini exercise

Some kriyas have 10-11 different components, while others have just one. As an example, Sat Kriya is a wonderful practice that incorporates just one movement. Sat Kriya is truly powerful – it stimulates and balances the 1st, 2nd and 3rd chakras and also energizes the entire body, healing every cell. Try it:

  • Sit in a kneeling position, on your heels. If this is uncomfortable, you can sit cross legged instead
  • Raise your arms into the air, elbows straight and arms close to your ears, and interlace your hands
  • keeping your index fingers pointing upwards
  • Say the word ‘Sat’ while pulling the tummy muscles in sharply
  • Then ‘Nam’ whilst relaxing the tummy muscles
  • Do this continuously for 1 minute, eventually working up to 3 minutes
  • At the end, take a deep breath in and hold the breath as long as you can while engaging your root lock,  mula bandha (the energy center located in the pelvic floor area).
  • Repeat twice more and relax.

The takeaway

Many of the Kundalini positions and practices look easy on the surface. However, it is the repetition that challenges us and consequently changes our brain patterns, brain waves and chemical makeup of the blood and body. Pushing the body and mind can bring out deeply rooted emotions and trauma, so be patient and allow yourself to experience the journey. All Kundalini Yoga is healing; we just may have to break things down first.

Personally, I find that Kundalini Yoga challenges and nurtures the mind as much as the body in a way that no other yoga practice has. Not only does my body become fitter and more flexible; my mind is open and clearer.

Whether you choose to follow this lifestyle or not, rest assured that Kundalini Yoga (even if you can only manage three minutes of breath practice) will change the way you feel and lift your spirits.

As Yogi Bhajan said, ‘’Yoga is not going to make you great. Yoga is going to make you you!’’


Read more: http://www.yogiapproved.com/yoga/an-introduction-to-kundalini-yoga/

Please follow and like us:

A Deeper Perspective on Balance


As a working mother of two school age children, I’m the first to admit that balance doesn’t always come easy. There are times when commitments and responsibilities pile up and I feel as if I’m racing from one place to another.

Whether it’s parenting, working life, a busy social life, or any other number of reasons, I’m sure we’ve all been in that place where we feel we’ve ‘lost our balance’.

Yoga extends beyond our mat. It’s how we live our life. So it’s no surprise that what’s happening in daily life affects how we practice on our mat. In balance poses, this is particularly evident.

Life is always changing and many things happen in life that can throw us off balance; such as unexpected news, major life changes, illness/injury and stress, to name a few.

There are many ways we can bring balance into our yoga practice and it’s not just from a physical sense.

To begin though, let’s look at the physical.

 

What happens physically in balance poses?

Balance is defined as:

“an even distribution of weight enabling someone or something to remain upright and steady.”

Standing balance poses in yoga offset our natural centre of balance. When we lift one leg, the body needs to adjust to the changing distribution of weight, through strength in the standing leg and stability in the core. In hip opening balances, like Dancer Pose, instability is invited into the core as the hips open, and it becomes a gentle play between strength and letting go as you extend into a backbend and open the hip.

Here are some things you can do physically to aid your balance:

  • Establish firm foundations – You may have heard your yoga teacher tell you to spread your toes and ground all four corners of your feet. This helps you establish a stable foundation. Without this, balance is challenged, even before you lift a foot off the ground.
  • Ease into your balance pose slowly – This enables you to find the right depth/modification of posture for your body and ability. It then becomes a gentle play between balancing yin and yang energy, which leads me to the next point.
  • Find softness and strength – For muscles to lengthen, like the hip flexors need to for Dancer Pose, they need to relax. Holding tension in the body will cause resistance in the muscles, limiting extension. By their very name, balance poses require ‘balance’ – of strength and softness. Keep softness in the knee joint of the standing leg, by micro-bending the knee. The more strongly you activate the muscles, the quicker the muscles will fatigue and the more tension you will hold in your body.
  • Activate your core – Core activation is one of the foundational building blocks in yoga. Your core stabilises your spine, torso and pelvis. It also taps into your “inner fire” energy (Manipura Chakra) which is the “can do” centre in the body. Accessing this place is vitally important when it comes to arm balances. For the purpose of this blog, I’ll stick to standing balances, which still require subtle core activation. For tips on Crow Pose, you can read our blog Advancing Your Practice.
  • Don’t let the lifted leg become lazy! – When you are working with standing balances such as Leg Raise or Warrior 3, the lifted leg needs to be activated. Remember the song from your childhood – “the leg bone’s connected to the… hip bone…” A wobbly leg will lead to instability in the hip and your balance will unravel.
  • Prepare your body first – Depending on the balance pose you are attempting, openness is required in the hips, hamstrings and thighs. Over time and through regular yoga practice (on and off the mat), your body will open and tension will release from these areas. Before you attempt a standing balance, prepare your body first with postures that release tension from any areas that are particularly tight in your body. It also helps to work on some core activation postures and techniques too so that you train the core muscles to activate instinctively.

 

Beyond the physical body

Now that we’ve explored some of the physical requirements for balance poses, let’s delve a little deeper. Some of these comments made in classes may resonate with you.

“I can balance on my left leg, but not on my right.” (or visa versa)

One of the benefits of yoga is the ability to observe the body. Sometimes we can balance well on one side of our body and not on the other. This may be the result of an injury, or it could indicate something deeper. Whatever the reason, it’s always an opportunity to make the enquiry. Is it a result of a physical injury? Often we feel more comfortable dealing with the physical first. If it isn’t a result of a physical injury, explore other reasons.

Metaphysically, our left side relates to feminine energy and our right side: masculine energy. Are you more dominant in feminine or masculine energy? If you are struggling to hold balance on either side ask yourself – What’s this? And perhaps not in a class situation, but afterwards take a look at what’s going on off your mat; in daily life, and observe whether there is imbalance. Then think of ways that you can bring more balance into your life. Read our blog Balancing Yin and Yang Energy for ideas on how to balance feminine (yin) and masculine (yang) energy.

“It’s not happening for me today.”

We all have days on our yoga mat that are frustrating. When it seems that no matter how hard we try, we can’t seem to balance or get ourselves out of our head. Whilst we should always practice with Ahimsa (kindness to ourselves), there is a subtle line between giving up, and letting the ego take a back seat while we try. Sometimes we would rather not try than to risk “perceived failure”. This “perceived failure” is perhaps falling out of a balance pose.

We fall many times in life, for a whole range of reasons. Falling is not failing. What matters is that we have the courage to get back up. How many times did you fall off your bike as a kid? Did it stop you riding? We have all fallen at some stage. Laugh it off, refocus and try again. Or else, go to Child Pose and use it as an opportunity to examine your reaction to falling. This is where yoga happens.

There is a saying – “The pose begins when you want to leave it.” Breathe through the resistance in your body and acknowledge whatever comes up. It may surprise you to learn that resistance is sometimes deeper than the physical body.

Teacher: “We’re going to focus on balance poses today.” Most students: “Urghh…”

In my early days of teaching yoga I was very conscious of how much students didn’t like balance poses. I myself remember turning up to a yoga class after a big day at work and being told the focus of the class was balance. I wanted to roll my mat up there and then and run from the room.

What I’ve discovered over my 12 years of practice is that the times I learn most from my yoga practice are when I am injured, challenged or out of my comfort zone. While it’s not always an easy experience, it’s an opportunity for reflection and the peeling back of layers to get to the bottom of my resistance. What manifests physically in our body and our reaction to situations is a result of samskaras (mental and emotional imprints from our past). Unless we reprogram our reactions and beliefs we will not change our future reactions. Yoga is an opportunity to peel back the layers and reprogram new ways of seeing and experiencing the world. The inner work and practice we do off the yoga mat is just as important as the work we do on the mat.

Physical injury is the body’s way of telling you to stop or slow down. Being out of your comfort zone is an opportunity to overcome fear, and challenge is an invitation to discover your inner strength.

 

Yoga is not just a physical practice. The definition of yoga is the joining together of mind, body and spirit. When we find balance in these elements we will be a step closer to finding balance on our mat.

Read more: http://www.wildplacesyoga.com.au/a-deeper-perspective-on-balance/

 

Please follow and like us:

5 Yoga Poses for Creativity


Creativity doesn’t live in neat little boxes.

It lives past perfection and in the place where we have the freedom to express ourselves and make mistakes. Through freedom we can achieve momentum in our creative project, and mistakes can often lead to new approaches and idea.

Thinking back to early 2009; I was taking a creative writing mentorship with Sarah Armstrong and she told me one of my characters was too polite. That surely given her situation she would have been angry; let her get angry; don’t restrain her; let her get it all out. So I did. My character ranted and raved for pages and pages. In that ranting she had a conflict with another character and I uncovered her true goal in the story. For writers out there you’ll know that these are two very important elements to a novel – character goals/objectives and conflict. There is no story without these things. It took freeing my character to discover them.

Yoga is a great tool for encouraging free expression. Here are 5 yoga poses to help unlock creativity.

1. Revolved Triangle Pose (Parivrtta Trikonasana)

Creative fire resides in the belly; the Manipura Chakra. Twisting into the navel centre will help free any tension in this area. I like Revolved Triangle Pose because it combines a twist with balancing masculine and feminine energy.

2. Dancer Pose (Natarajasana)

This pose is my number one creative pose. It’s a pose that feels expressive by it’s very name and nature. I can ground down, draw energy up from the Earth and extend towards the sky. As creatives, giving our work a solid foundation will support expansion and expression.

3. Wild Thing Pose (Camatkarasana)

There is possibly no other yoga pose that is as vulnerable as Wild Thing because it completely opens the front body. Creativity requires vulnerability and opening, and this pose epitomises that. There is also room within this pose to explore creative extension with the non-grounded limbs so you can completely own your version of the pose; and hence your unique creative expression.

4. Handstand Pose (Adho Mukha Vrksasana)

When I’m drawing or painting I often turn my pictures upside down to find their flaws. By viewing art from a different perspective, flaws became strikingly obvious. Handstands are a playful way to invert the body, energise the mind and physically view the world from a different perspective – a vital tool for any artist/creative.

5. Child Pose (Balasana)

A pose of introspection; a place to let go. By grounding your third eye, you can connect with your intuition; particularly useful if you are stuck in your creative process. This pose can also be used as a place to find stillness and connection before you commence your creative project.

 

Read more: http://www.wildplacesyoga.com.au/5-yoga-poses-for-creativity/

Please follow and like us:

10-Minute Rituals to Start Your Day Stress-Free


Most mornings, I hit the snooze button multiple times and struggle to get out of bed. When I’m finally ready to wake up, I lie there with my iPhone glued to my face and check emails or Instagram. Sometimes there’s an email or image that jolts me, unsettled and stressed, from bed. This is not the best way to start a day, so I’ve decided to start practicing a morning ritual.

A morning ritual is something you do each morning to begin your day on the right foot—stress-free. It gives you a reason to get out of bed and sets the pace for the coming 24 hours. Over time, this routine could have a significant impact on your health and well-being. The ritual doesn’t have to take up a lot of time (simply 10 minutes will work). The key is to do it each morning first thing when you wake up. Interested in trying a morning ritual out? Here are 10 recommendations for beginning your day with positive energy.

The creators of the Five Minute Journal, a fill-in-the-blank journal that instructs you to start your day by listing three things you are grateful for, believe that “gratitude is the opposite of depression and anxiety. It’s the conscious experience of appreciation of the gifts in our lives and the results are tangible.” By writing down what you are grateful for first thing in the morning, you’re thinking about the positive things in your life. The book also has you write down three things that would make today great and a personal daily affirmation.

If you’re not into writing what you are grateful for, consider free-form journaling. Morning Pages are 750 words of stream-of-consciousness writing done first thing in the morning. Write whatever you want. Anything and everything that crosses your mind. Writing in the morning synchronizes the coming day and can provoke, comfort, prioritize, or clarify your thoughts.

It’s called a sun salutation for a reason, right? Going through the stretching motions of a morning yoga routine slowly wakes up the mind and warms up the body. You’re saluting the morning sun! However, not everyone is into yoga, and if it’s not for you, find a 10-minute stretch routine you like on YouTube. When you wake up, drink your water and stretch your body. According to Livestrong, morning stretching can improve posture, alleviate aches and pains, increase blood flow, and give you greater amounts of energy during the rest of the day.

A meditation routine that has you focus on relaxing breath and mindfulness is an awesome way to start your day. It’s an incredibly beneficial daily practice, and there are countless meditation apps out there. Find the one that works best for you and stick with it.

Everyone knows the health benefits of drinking water, but according to Dr. David Duizer drinking a glass of water is incredibly beneficial in the morning: “Without starting your day with adequate water intake we are likely to remain dehydrated for the rest of the day. Hydrating your cells with 1/2–1 liter of water first thing in the morning is one of the best things you can do for yourself. Drinking water first thing in the morning helps with mental clarity, energy, and mood.”

Many nutritionists argue that it’s even better to drink a hot cup of water with fresh lemon juice. This coffee alternative helps detox, wakes up your digestive tract, supports weight loss, and soothes an upset tummy. Start your day with a glass of water and drink it while you are performing the rest of your morning ritual.

If you have a significant other that you live with, consider starting your day together. Tell your partner one thing that you love about them and have them do the same to you. Look into each other eyes and really connect. Into affirmations? Say them out loud to each other: “I am feeling healthy and strong today,” or “I have the knowledge to make smart decisions for myself today.”

If you have a child, you can also perform this same ritual with them. If you live alone, connect with a friend or loved one via text. Send a positive morning message to your best friend who lives in Virginia Beach or your cousin who just moved to the West Coast. Even your mom will appreciate a morning message of gratitude: “Good morning mom, just thinking about you. I hope you have a fabulous day!”

Everyone knows that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, so why not turn yours into a ritual? Don’t eat a piece of toast and jam as you hurry out the door. Instead, make yourself a soft-boiled egg, then sit at the table with a napkin and really enjoy the meal. If you love coffee, take the time to make yourself a mug of the good stuff. Then enjoy it! Be mindful of what you are eating or drinking. Don’t answer emails or browse your Facebook feed; simply eat breakfast. If you have children or a live-in significant other, you can connect with them over a shared morning meal.

Almost everyone I know has some sort of book beside their bed. What if you started your day by reading that book for 10 minutes? Science says that reading can chill you out, help keep your brain sharp, and alter your emotions by easing depression or making you more empathetic. So set a timer and just read. It will clear your mind. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a textbook, self-help book, or trashy novel, just read a book, or magazine, or newspaper—avoid reading on a computer screen or tablet—for 10 minutes.

Once you’ve been practicing your morning ritual for several months, you might find that it is easier to get up in the morning. You could even start waking up earlier to accomplish more from your daily routine.

Spend the first 10 minutes after waking up doing some power cleaning. Make your bed, hang or fold the clothes that are lying around your closet, sort that stack of intimidating papers. Do a different task each morning, be it wiping down the coffee table or emptying the dishwasher. Focus on completing the task you are doing and set a timer. Once the 10 minutes are done, begin your day with a more clean surrounding and feeling like you’ve accomplished something right out of the gate.

Whatever morning ritual you decide to do, make it a habit. Do it every day. Set up a routine. This is the key to a successful morning ritual—to habitually repeat it until you do it without thinking! Then it will become a comforting part of your life.

Ream more: http://www.mydomaine.com/morning-rituals/slide5

Please follow and like us:

Ice yoga in Swedish Lapland: Does this latest wellness fad make any sense?


As an adamant enemy of hot yoga, with its yuppie cult following and seriously unpleasant stickiness, I had high hopes for ice yoga.

The brainchild of Arctic wellness outfit Active North, based up in Swedish Lapland, I’d imagined all that fresh, frigid air would be much better for me than a stuffy studio.

But now I’m out on the ice, I’m not so sure.

Standing facing the edge of my mat, I take my right leg out to the side. Shifting the weight of my torso, I place my elbow on to the top of my bent knee. My left arm reaches over my head while my snowsuit attempts to keep up with the stretch. Warmth, rather than flexibility, seems to be the strong point of my outer layer.

I try to bring my focus away from the constricted feeling around my armpit to my breathing. Deep breath in. Deep breath out. I can see my icy exhalations right in front of me.

My instructor tells me to move into the plank pose, and as I slowly come into position, I realise my movement is a little off balance as my clunky snow boots make sure my footwork isn’t as nifty as usual.

I’m now face to face with the reindeer hide, which is acting as my mat. Reindeer hair traps heat better than any other animal skin, so I’m told, and I don’t feel the cold emanating from the block of ice I’m balancing on – which, incidentally, is the only thing (aside from the dead reindeer) between me and the Byske River beneath.

Moving from plank we push up into cobra. I lift up my chin, but since two of my base layers have hoods and I’m wearing a hat and a scarf, I struggle to get much of a bend in that area.

From here, moving back into child’s pose is quite nice. The snowsuit starts to remind me of a puffy one-piece I used to wear as a toddler, and I think I’ve maybe reached the level of yogi enlightenment were you begin to regress.

We finish the class by lying down on the mat in shavasana (corpse pose). Just as I begin to relax, we’re up again, being handed warm wooden cups of chaga chai. I’m reluctant to get up, but I guess lying motionless in -17C isn’t a great survival technique.

The slow and static postures I’m using for this “Yoga on Ice” session are drawn from Virya and Yin yoga, allowing me to focus on my frosty surroundings. The ice-covered lake and snow-capped trees are calming, but staying so still for so long did feel counter intuitive in the cold.

However, our instructor and founder of the retreat, Rebecca Bjork, is all fresh-faced, cheery Swedish perfection and despite the slight discomfort, if it means looking like her, I’m willing to give it a chance.

Following the yoga session, we’re invited to try a typical Swedish sauna and ice plunge pool, which, we are assured, will improve our circulation and relieve muscle tension.

There’s more tension first, though – making it into the changing room in your snowsuit is a logistical nightmare. I feel like I have more of a workout taking off all my layers than I had during the yoga session.

Walking into the 80C sauna, my body begins to warm up pretty quickly, but before I get too comfortable, I’m told to take a dip in the ice plunge pool – created by drilling a hole into a layer of ice covering the river.

Running from the sauna out into the cold, the powdery snow burns as it sticks to my feet. I have to balance my need to get this over with really quickly, with not wanting to knock out all my teeth on the icy wooden ladder.

Surprisingly, compared to the snow, the 0C water feels tepid, and I sink myself lower and lower to feel warmer.

However, emerging from the water, it feels like I’ve pressed a reset button on my whole body. The endorphin rush is worth the pain of the previous few minutes, giving me a newly gained understanding of masochists.

Other activities during the retreat include snowshoeing through the forest, cooking reindeer, moose and Arctic char over open fires, and deeply meditative ice sculpting. Hacking at a block of ice for an hour with a really sharp tool does wonders for my stress levels – more so than the yoga, to be honest.

After three days, my skin glows from the saunas, my muscles relax from the icy plunge pools, and my soul soothes from the ice smashing and sublime frozen landscapes.

But I don’t think I’ll be taking my downward dogs out onto the frozen pond in my local park just yet.


Read more: http://www.independent.co.uk/travel/europe/ice-yoga-swedish-lapland-wellness-winter-holiday-arctic-circle-travel-active-north-a7546351.html

 

Please follow and like us:

Yogic breathing may help fight major depression


Significant improvement in symptoms of depression and anxiety were seen in medicated patients with major depressive disorder, said the study.


A breathing-based yogic meditation practice may help alleviate severe depression in people who do not fully respond to antidepressant treatments, according to a new study led by an Indian-origin scientist.

Researchers found significant improvement in symptoms of depression and anxiety in medicated patients with major depressive disorder (MDD) who participated in the breathing technique known as Sudarshan Kriya yoga.

The meditation technique, which is practiced in both a group setting and at home, includes a series of sequential, rhythm-specific breathing exercises that bring people into a deep, restful and meditative state: slow and calm breaths alternated with fast and stimulating breaths.

“Sudarshan Kriya yoga gives people an active method to experience a deep meditative state that’s easy to learn and incorporate in diverse settings,” said Anup Sharma, research fellow at University of Pennsylvania, who led the study.

Past studies suggest that yoga and other controlled breathing techniques can potentially adjust the nervous system to reduce stress hormones.

In the study, researchers enrolled 25 patients suffering from MDD who were depressed, despite more than eight weeks of antidepressant medication treatment. The medicated patients were randomised to either the breathing intervention group or the “waitlist” control group for eight weeks. During the first week, participants completed a six-session programme, which featured Sudarshan Kriya yoga in addition to yoga postures, sitting meditation and stress education.

For weeks two through eight, participants attended weekly Sudarshan Kriya yoga follow-up sessions and completed a home practice version of the technique. Patients in the Sudarshan Kriya yoga group showed a significantly greater improvement in Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HDRS) scores compared to patients in the waitlist group.

HDRS is the most widely used clinician-administered depression assessment that scores mood, interest in activities, energy, suicidal thoughts and feelings of guilt, among other symptoms.

With a mean baseline HDRS score of 22.0 (indicating severe depression at the beginning of the study), the group that completed the breathing technique for the full two months improved scores by 10.27 points on average, compared to the waitlist group, which showed no improvements.

Patients in the yoga group also showed significant mean reductions in total scores of the self-reported Beck Depression (15.48 point improvement) and Beck Anxiety Inventories (5.19 point improvement), versus the waitlist control group. Results suggest the feasibility and promise of Sudarshan Kriya as an add-on intervention for MDD patients who have not responded to antidepressants, researchers said.

The study was published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.


 

http://www.dnaindia.com/health/report-yogic-breathing-may-help-fight-major-depression-study-2276185

Please follow and like us:

Beginners Guide to Connecting With Nature


There’s no debating that connecting with nature makes us feel good.

According to Harvard, the health benefits of spending time outdoors include: increase in vitamin D (known for fighting osteoporosis, cancer, depression and heart attacks), increased happiness, improved concentration and faster healing.

On a spiritual level, being in nature enhances our sense of connection and community, vital elements for human existence.

In our busy, technology-driven lives, how can we easily connect with nature?

To help get you started, try these beginners steps to connecting with nature.

Go for a walk in nature

“In every walk with Nature one receives far more than he seeks.” ~ John Muir

Along with Muir, many great writers, artists and naturalists have professed the benefits of walking in nature. From a health perspective, natural light promotes healing and happiness, fresh air is good for the lungs, and the calming pace of nature soothes emotions and clears the mind.

The meditative pace of walking leaves time to observe your natural surroundings. By walking in familiar surrounds, over time you’ll observe changes in the natural environment; perhaps trees losing their leaves in Winter, an increase in bird activity in Spring, tidal changes and moon phases. When we start to observe the rhythms and cycles of nature, we deepen our connection to the Earth.

Sit in nature

If walking is not your thing, then simply sit in nature and observe.

‘To the mind that is still, the whole universe surrenders.” ~ Lao Tzu.

Whether in nature you allow yourself to slip into meditation or increase your awareness on what is happening in the natural world, both provide an avenue for stilling the mind. Perhaps find a quiet spot. I find sunrise a great time of day for gratitude and intention setting, and dusk for clearing the mind of the day’s activity.

Grow something

It doesn’t have to be an elaborate vegetable patch or prize winning blooms, you can start small. Grow some herbs in a pot; weed and fertilise an existing (perhaps neglected) garden bed or plant a native tree in your garden. Most states in Australia have a Free Native Plant Program, so check your local council website for details. The very act of nurturing something instills connection.

Walk Barefoot on the Earth

Also known as ‘Earthing’, walking barefoot on the grass, sand or in water (particularly the ocean for it’s high magnesium content) balances out the positive electrons in our bodies from our technology-based lives.

Earthing is said to reduce inflammation, improve sleep, increase energy, lower stress, improve blood pressure and blood flow, and relieve muscle tension and headaches to name a few.

After a day in the office or indoors, kick off your shoes and walk barefoot on the Earth. Perhaps you can water your garden at the same time.

Become an Ornithologist

This may be a little unconventional, but as the mother to a budding little bird-lover I can vouch for the benefits.

Our home backs onto a nature reserve, habitat to an array of bird species. We also live close to the Bay – home to a diverse selection of shorebirds, all with their own unique characteristics.

Invest in a bird book and start identifying the native birds that frequent your area. It’s great education for little ones.

We have gone one step further and have a birdbath in the backyard. It enables my children to have a connection to animals without keeping birds in captivity. We have a few resident kookaburras and a cheeky butcherbird that are quite taken with the welcoming reception they receive.

Blind Contour drawing

Blind contour drawing places emphasis on observing the subject rather than the finished product. It heightens awareness and enables you to see the details of your subject.

You don’t need to be an artist to practice contour drawing. Take a pencil/pen and paper. Sit somewhere comfortable in nature and choose something to draw – landscape, flora or fauna. Spend time observing your subject – notice the details. Then without looking away from your natural subject, draw the outline in a single line. You can retrace or draw finer detail; all without lifting your pencil from the paper.

Contour drawing is a preliminary sketching technique used by artists to acquaint themselves with their subject. You’ll begin to notice intricate details that you may have previously overlooked.

Read more: http://www.wildplacesyoga.com.au/beginners-guide-to-connecting-with-nature/

Please follow and like us:

10 Undeniable Reasons You Should Be Doing Yoga

Ah, yoga, we love you so.

There’s a reason the ancient practice has stood the test of time. Yoga is a total mind-body experience, with both physical and mental benefits. Not to mention the fact that there are endless options, making it one of the most versatile ways to work out.

But don’t just listen to us wax poetic about the practice — allow the science to speak for itself. In honor of the International Day of Yoga, below are 10 research-backed reasons to incorporate more yoga in your life:

1. Yoga is the ultimate stress reliever.

Feeling a little high-strung? Head to a yoga studio. Research shows the practice can reduce stress levels and lower blood pressure. Yoga may even reduce symptoms of more serious mental health issues like anxiety.

2. It’s a good workout.

Yoga may not scream “heart pumping cardio,” but trust us, it’s one of the best ways to get some exercise. Research shows yoga is a healthy way to lose weight, particularly for middle-age individuals. Take that, elliptical.

3. It’s an excellent way to strength train.

Yoga engages so many muscle groups, from your core to your arms. It’s a great way to swap your weights every once and a while for something different. Don’t believe us? Try these moves and feel the burn.

4. It can make your mind sharper.

Boost that noggin with a few Sun Salutations or Downward Dog poses. Exercise is a natural way to sharpen your memory. Yoga, in particular, may also help boost brain function and improve reaction time post-workout, Runner’s World reported.

5. Yoga can ease pain.

Neck pain, knee pain, back pain… you get the idea. Yoga is the antidote to these types of ailments. The practice can help relieve chronic pain, according to Harvard Medical School. Here are a few yoga moves you can try the next time your body is begging for a little relief.

6. It can help you sleep.

Forget the sleep aids, allow yoga to lull you into a soft slumber. Research shows the practice can help with insomnia. And with it’s calming benefits, there’s no doubt your mind will be relaxed and prepped for rest. Try one of these nighttime yoga moves for better sleep.

7. The practice could be good for migraines.

Head pain, begone. A 2007 study found that yoga helped reduce the frequency and intensity of migraines in sufferers. Talk about therapeutic.

8. It can put you in the mood.

If you want to turn up the heat in the bedroom, you might want to head to the yoga studio first. Research suggests the activity can increase sexual satisfaction. And here’s proof it’s not just a female activity: Studies show that sexual performance is enhanced for both women and men when they practice yoga.

9. It makes you more flexible and balanced.

Say goodbye to klutziness. A regular yoga practice can help improve your balance and muscle flexibility. And don’t stress if you’re a beginner: There are ways to modify yoga poses to fit your not-so-limber limbs until you’re a more seasoned pro. Check out these moves to help you get started.

10. It may lead to a happier state of mind.

Who wouldn’t have a joyful disposition after they’ve just had a calming, yet challenging workout? Studies suggest that practicing yoga can boost your mood. Namaste to that.

Ready to hit the mat?

 

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.za/entry/reasons-to-do-yoga_us_576802c3e4b0fbbc8beaf462

Please follow and like us:

5 Best Yoga Poses for Runners


Although running and yoga may seem like activities that are on opposite ends of the spectrum, they really are complementary activities that work together beautifully. Running is an excellent way to exercise your whole body aerobically at a high level of intensity. The main benefit of running includes gaining muscular strength, better cardiovascular health, and losing weight. It can also be quite meditative.

However, running can be stressful on muscles, joints, and ligaments. It’s estimated that after every mile, your feet will hit the ground around 1,000 times. This means if you run about 20 miles every week, each foot will hit the ground approximately 20,000 times.

This repetitive impact may affect your hips and legs, which can lead to stiffness and sometimes even pain. For you to get rid of these stressful effects of running, practicing yoga before and after you run will help you to stay flexible, limber, and less prone to injury.

Additionally, if you are looking for a way to not get tired when running, these five yoga poses will definitely help and improve your running.

1. Butterfly

This yoga pose helps in adding flexibility to your groin and hips by opening up your inner thighs. Lean forward a little and the activity also aids in stretching the back. Here’s how to do it:

  • Sit tall on a mat and make sure that the soles of your feet are together, from here interlace your fingers and keep them on your toes when still sitting tall.
  • Next, turn your shoulders back and try to look at a point past the end of your nose tip.
  • Lean forward until you can feel the stretch.
  • While breathing in, imagine that your head is moving towards the wall in front of you and then breathe out, allowing your body to sink close to the floor.
  • For the best results, ensure you hold this position for about thirty seconds.

2. Thread the Needle

If you need a yoga move to stretch the outside of your hips and the inner thighs, then this is it. Do the following:

  • Lie flat on your back on a mat and bring your knee towards your chest at a ninety-degree angle.
  • Position your right ankle on your left thigh and then interlock your fingers while keeping them at the back of your thighs.
  • Try to pull your left thigh towards your chest and hold in this position for about thirty seconds.
  • Allow yourself to relax when you feel the tension building and repeat the pose on the other side.

3. Bridge

This move will help in opening your shoulders and front of the body as well as strengthen the core. It’s a great activity to counteract the effects of running since the longer we run, the more we tend to hunch forward. Follow these steps:

  • Lie on your back and place your feet flat on the ground, hip-width apart.
  • Lift your hips up towards the ceiling while engaging the core.
  • Clasp your hands together underneath your pelvis and roll the shoulders blades towards each other.

4. Seated Spinal Twist

This pose not only helps to loosen the spine but also ease stiff shoulders and neck after a long run. Here’s what to do:

  • Cross one leg over the other while keeping your knees pointed to the ceiling with the sole of your feet on the ground.
  • Try to reach your opposite hand across your body while pushing it against the outside of the thigh and downwards to your knee to make the twist deep.

 5. Low Lunge

  • From standing pose lunge the right leg forward until the back left knee touches the ground.
  • Raise the arms above the head and hold for 30 seconds.

These five poses are an excellent way to end any running session. They work the front and back of the legs, strengthen the core, and open the hips. Do them regularly and you should stay a happy and healthy runner.

Read more: http://www.dailycupofyoga.com/2016/10/22/5-best-yoga-poses-for-runners/

 

Please follow and like us:

5 Meditation Practices You Need to Know About


Meditation has come a long way since it first became popular in the West during the 1960s. Some of the most popular and effective methods are now backed by scientific evidence, showcasing the benefits meditation has on the body and our mental health. While meditation has been around for ages, only recently has it become a part of popular Western culture.

Currently in the modern world, there are five meditation practices that have stood the test of time. The reason for this is that they provide the most successful results, some of which can be felt after only one session. In this article, you’ll learn what these five methods are and how you can benefit from practicing them. Each of the techniques should be practiced for at least 20 minutes to have maximum impact.

Mindfulness

Mindfulness was developed to help us place our attention fully in the present moment. It doesn’t have a focus on spirituality; its sole purpose is to teach the student awareness of presence. What are the benefits of this? When we learn to become fully present, we can see our thoughts as separate from us, meaning we don’t have to engage with every one of them. Learning to watch negative thoughts come and go without harming us is one of the foundational principles of mindfulness.

Popularized by Jon Kabat-Zinn, mindfulness teaches us to avoid secondary suffering. Secondary suffering is where we enhance our own pain by thinking about something negative that’s happened to us and then replaying it like a mental movie over and over again. Through developing mind awareness, we can learn to tune out secondary suffering and most negative thoughts, helping us to live in a happier, lighter and healthier state of being.

Transcendental Meditation

Transcendental Meditation was popularized by the Maharishi in the 1960s when he met The Beatles and taught it to them. The purpose of this method is to silence the mind and transcend to the source of all present-moment awareness. This is achieved through repeating a special mantra given to you by a qualified Transcendental Meditation teacher. The mantra is repeated internally in your mind, and you place your focus solely on your breath and the sounds of the mantra. When other thoughts arise, you let them be but do not engage with them.

After a while has passed, you will find your mind activity is very quiet and peaceful, and you will have transcended to the core of your being. This is the purpose of this technique. A certified Transcendental Meditation teacher is the only person qualified to teach you this method, as he or she knows what mantra is right for you and how to show you the process in its latest form with complete precision.

Walking Meditation

Walking meditation is a fast-growing meditation method that provides a unique experience to most other techniques. Typically, it involves slow, mindful walking in nature, where the student can use her surroundings to anchor herself in the present moment. This technique can be great for beginners to meditation as the grounding apparatus is very influential because your senses are far more active. You feel the wind and air passing across your face and the contact between your feet and the ground.

This method is typically practiced on nature walks; however, you can use it wherever you wish as long as you feel comfortable in your environment. Meditation teaches us that anything can be used as an anchor into the present moment; therefore, this particular technique could even be used in a busy city center!

Mantra Meditation

Similar to Transcendental Meditation, mantra meditation uses a word or series of words repeated over and over again to quiet the mind. Mantras can be repeated aloud or internally depending on your environment and how comfortable you are with chanting out loud. There are hundreds of different mantras all with different meanings.

Mantra meditation is typically practiced while sitting in a meditative pose, using slow relaxing breaths. The same principle applies as for most meditation methods where you allow everything to be just as it is in the moment. Thoughts and distractions will arise, but the trick is to know that that’s okay. Let everything be as it is, and simply focus on your mantra. You’ll find that if you concentrate on the process of mantra meditation, all distractions will melt away naturally over time.

Mala Bead Meditation

This meditation method involves using mala beads. Mala beads are usually made out of wood but can also come in the form of precious gemstones. An authentic mala bead necklace has 108 beads. The student is supposed to count each bead using a mantra. The entire mantra is repeated on each single bead, meaning the mantra is stated in its entirety 108 times. Mala meditation should be done slowly with deep breaths. Once you reach the end of the beads on the necklace, you’ll find that your mind activity has decreased and you’re in a state of peacefulness and contentment.

Overall, these five methods have proven themselves to be the kings of the world of meditation. You can learn more details about each of them online via YouTube videos, blogs, and other sources.

After learning more about these techniques online, you may wish to take things further and deepen your meditational practices. The best way to do so is to seek out a teacher who’s experienced in your chosen method and learn directly from him or her.

Happy meditating ?

Read more: http://www.dailycupofyoga.com/2017/01/30/5-meditation-practices-you-need-to-know-about/

 

Please follow and like us: