Meditation Made Easy

Meditation has been proven to reduce physical manifestations of stress. The act of deep breathing assists in invoking calm and reducing anxiety. However, committing to a meditation practice can be a daunting idea. How do you even start? In our fast paced society, sitting still for a few minutes a day, trying not to let our thoughts distract us…this can be hard.

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Often, we rely on resources, like YouTube videos or applications on our smart phones, to assist us. Here are a few user friendly meditation apps that can be downloaded on any smart phone.

  • Headspace – Free
    • App requires membership after free trial ($7.92), beginner friendly, easy to use. Offers instructions on how to meditate.
  • Meditation Studio – $3.99
    • Powered by Gaiam, offers many different types of meditation, offer guided meditations
  • Calm – Free
    • App requires membership ($4.99), offers different types of meditations,
  • Stop, Breath, & Think – Free
    • App requires membership ($4.92), offers tutorials on types of breathing as well as guided meditations
  • Oprah & Deepak 21 Day Meditation – Free
    • App offers free 21 day meditations series, guided meditations with theme, offers mantras as well as journaling prompts

There are many more apps that can be used. Going to a meditation workshop is also an option. Anyway you do it, meditation is only going to be a benefit to your life.

Meditation can be done anytime, anywhere. Whether you’re just starting your day, in the middle of some work, or even driving home (though you don’t want to close your eyes during this meditation!), you can take a few minutes to meditate. Even going for a walking meditation can combine the calming benefits of meditation with the physical benefits of walking.

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So go, download an app, and let’s meditate!

Satya – Finding Your Truth

Satya is the Sanskrit word for truth. Truth is often seen as a binary, black and white issue. A truth is a truth and a lie is a lie…right? Well, people have different truths. Truth can be very subjective, specific to the individual. What is true for me isn’t true for everyone. Yoga philosophy teaches us that truth is when our thoughts, words, and actions are all in harmony. Gandhi equates this to true happiness. Yoga also teaches us that with truth, no harm is done.

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Using these principles in considering what is true and what is not, we can move from judging others towards acceptance. By accepting that all truths are different, one can live a more free life. Without the burden of judgment, we can detach ourselves from having to be perfect, from having to project our own truth onto others.

This is applicable to yoga as we often find ourselves judging and criticizing others on their yoga practice based on where we are in ours. Going to a studio can be daunting, as we may feel judged and compare ourselves to others. You may not be able to get into that headstand or handstand, you may have trouble with the warrior series. It’s okay…that’s your truth. Don’t judge your truth, your practice based on where others are at. Don’t feel like a failure if you use props. Props can be a great addition to an already established practice.

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Ultimately your practice is your own, your truth is your own. By trying to focus on that and not what others are doing, you will be happier and more free in life.

Happy practicing!

Pose Breakdown: Anjaneyasana (Low Lunge)

A pose that is great for strengthening the muscles that support the knee is anjaneyasana or low lunge/crescent lunge. This pose is often incorporated into the sun salutation series or is done before a warrior series.

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Adjustments and modification are available. For example, the back knee can be raised or lowered to the mat, depending on the strength in your knee and leg. The hands can be raised, reaching towards the back (as shown in the picture) or they can be pressed together at the heart. Twists are also available in this pose to add some deeper stretches for the back.

This pose is great is you want to release tension in your hips. It is also good for stretching the hamstrings, quads and groin. This pose can also help build mental focus. Holding this pose helps focus not on thoughts but on the physical nature of the pose.

When going into this pose, be sure to align your knees and ankles, keeping them stacked. Your heart should be open, reaching forward and your arms can be raised, reaching back. Breath deeply in and out, embracing the pose and all that comes with it.

Yoga for Traveling

Are you an avid traveler who is trying to maintain a consistent yoga practice at home? Traveling can throw a wrench in attempting to build your practice, but it doesn’t have to.

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Here are some simple and easy ways to maintain your home practice on the go!

  • Take your practice with you!
    • Pack a travel mat or bring along a towel to practice some yoga while you’re away. Many companies make thin, easily foldable mats that are perfect for the seasoned traveler.
  • Make your practice part of your adventure.
    • Plan to wake up early or save some time at the end of the day for some yoga. For me, waking up a little earlier and giving myself a few minutes for my practice is usually best, but some people prefer yoga in the evenings or before heading to bed. Better yet, stop drop and yoga while you’re site seeing! There’s no time like the present, right?
  • Find studios or events where you’re traveling to.
    • Yoga is an international affair. There are probably many options as far as yoga studios in the place you’re visiting. There may even be an event taking place while you’re there. Most yoga studios have drop in rates.
  • Choose pranayama or meditation as opposed to asana.
    • Yoga isn’t just about the asana (physical practice). Yoga is about the breath and mind too. Practice your pranayama and meditation while waiting in line or practice a walking meditation. Sit by the water and focus on your breath.
  • Any yoga is better than no yoga.
    • Even just 10-15 minutes of yoga a day can make a world of difference. If you can take the time to check your e-mails, you can take the time for some yoga!

Happy travels, yogis!

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Wanderlust 108 Festival

It’s that time of year again, festivals of all kinds are popping up on our social media news feeds. From music festivals, yoga festivals, and everything in between, the spring and summer months are full of activity!

I recently got to participate in one of the Wanderlust 108 festivals in San Francisco. It was my first experience with a single day festival, yoga or otherwise. I had heard many things about these Wanderlust 108 festivals…good and bad. I wasn’t really sure what to expect, to be honest…but I figured I’d give it a chance! Being open to possibility, that’s one of the best lessons yoga taught me.

The first part of this “mindfulness triathlon” was a 5K run/walk. Now I won’t lie, I planned on walking the whole thing. I’m not a runner, I never really was. I’ve done 5K runs before, but I quickly found out running is not for me. I never really enjoyed it, I never hit that point in my runs where I felt the glory of the run. I’m okay with that. Considering it had been over six years since my last 5K, I am very proud to say I ran just about 1/3 of the 5K! Big Day!!! I completely attribute it to herd mentality…people were running so I did too.

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The second portion of the triathlon was the yoga session. I was most excited about this. Little did I know, it would be the longest yoga class ever…or at least it felt that way. Overall, it was a great class. It worked out my muscles and helped me become aware of certain weaknesses I didn’t know I had, specifically in my thigh muscles. In the end, we really earned that savasana!

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Finally, we got to the meditation. It was a beautifully led mindfulness meditation, really embracing the idea of being here now. I really enjoyed it, even though I dozed off a bit throughout. That’s okay, I accept myself for who I am!

In the end, I really enjoyed the Wanderlust 108 event. I will definitely attend future events, maybe even one of their multi-day festivals!

Fall dates and tickets were just dropped. For more info and to buy tickets, check out their website: Wanderlust

May the Fourth Be With You!

Yoga for Chronic Pain

Recent studies have been coming forward suggesting that yoga and mindfulness meditation can help alleviate chronic pain. In some cases, studies have shown that these practices may be more effective than prescription pain killers.

Here are a few poses that may be helpful in alleviating chronic pain. Note: Please follow any advise by a licensed physician when dealing with chronic pain.

Deep Breathing

Place hands on belly and feel the physical sensation of the breath as it fills your stomach, lungs, and chest. Focus on any physical and emotional sensations that arise.

Mindfulness Meditation

Sit in a comfortable position. Maintain good posture with your back straight, shoulders rolled back and away from your neck. Begin breathing deeply and intentionally. Maintain focus on the breath. As thoughts or emotions arise, meet them where they are at without judgment. Give them minimal attention, then let them go, returning focus on the breath.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Lay on your back. Tense muscle groups throughout your body, starting with the feet. Hold the tension, focusing on that tension and the physical sensations that arise with the tension. Release the tension in that muscle group before proceeding to the next muscle group. Being with the feet and slowing move up the body, ending in the face/head. The last activity is to tense all muscles in the body, holding the tension, then releasing all muscles in the body. (Guided video Progressive Muscle Relaxation Meditation)

Seated Side Bends

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Seated Spinal Twists

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Cat/Cow

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Child’s Pose

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Downward Facing Dog

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Mountain Pose

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Standing Side Stretches

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Warrior One

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Warrior Two

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Locus Pose

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Seated Forward Fold

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Supported Bridge Pose

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Legs Up the Wall

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Supine Twist

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Savasana

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Resources:

Why Doctors Are Endorsing Yoga Instead of Opioids for Lower Back Pain

Yoga and Chronic Pain Have Opposite Effects on Brain Gray Matter

How Does Yoga Relieve Chronic Pain?

 

*All images from Google Images

Music for Your Yoga Practice

When I’m planning a yoga class or private session, one of the biggest and often most overlooked pieces to consider is the music. Do I play music? What kind of music should I play? Should it be soothing, calming? Should it be groovy, danceable? These are all questions that run through my head when I’m planning to teach yoga. It can often be just as important as the sequence being taught. Music can set the tone for a yoga session, creating an upbeat environment or creating a quiet, calm space.

So, what’s the answer?

Well…it depends.

There are so many factors at play when it comes to planning the type of music, if any, to add to a yoga session. What kind of yoga are you teaching? What’s the make up of the class? What’s your mood or the mood of the student/students?

Ultimately, my plan is always to have a couple options at hand. Usually, I ask the student or group of students if they would be okay with music being played during the class. Then, before playing the music, I do a check in. This helps me determine if more upbeat, active music is appropriate or if calming music is better fit.

No matter what type of music I start with, I always always always end the class with a calming song. I believe its always best to have a calming, soothing song during savasana (corpse pose). This will definitely help with the release, the whole point of the pose.

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A great, though pricey, option is to have headphones for the students. You can have a couple different playlists available so the student can choose what they want to listen to. Be sure to connect a microphone to the headphones via Bluetooth so that the students can still hear your instructions.

I’ve been to many different classes with many types of music playing and it all works. Go with your gut when picking out music for your class. You will set the tone for the class and the class will follow your lead.

Pose Breakdown: Vajrasana (Thunderbolt) vs. Virasana (Hero)

Two poses that often get confused or interchanged are vajrasana (thunderbolt pose) and virasana (hero pose).

Both poses are seated postures, often used during meditation before or after a yoga asana practice. These postures are also good to use during pranayama practice.

The picture on the left is vajrasana and the picture on the right is virasana.

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As you can see, the two poses look very alike. Generally, your body is in a similar position. The main difference, however, is where the feet are. In vajrasana, you are sitting on the heels of your feet. In virasana, you are sitting between your feet. The subtle difference changes the elevation of your hips.

The benefits of the two poses are pretty much the same, the elevation of the hips however may cause more or less comfort. Similarly, sitting on the heels or between the heels may depend on the comfort level of the yogi.

Ultimately, whichever posture you chose, you will benefit. Whether you use this posture for meditation, pranayama, or simply as a break between yoga asana, you will find it to be a great posture for your feet and thighs. It also helps create awareness of posture.

Finding Your Yoga

One of the questions I am asked most often is “which yoga is the best?”

I always respond the same way, it depends.

The type of yoga that is “best” depends on so many factors. It depends on the person practicing, it depends on the mood of the person, it can even depend on the time of day the person is practicing.

Here are a few things to ask yourself when looking for a “type*” of yoga to best suit you.

  1. What do I want to focus on with this yoga practice?
  2. What do I want to feel after this yoga practice?
  3. What is my primary reason for participating in this yoga practice?

These questions will give you a sense of what you’re looking for out of a yoga class and help guide you to specific types of yoga classes.

Here are a few popular types of classes available in most areas:

Hatha Yoga

This is basically the source of all yoga. It generally encompasses all practices of yoga. It is were most yoga practices stem from, from the asana (pose) sequence as well as pranayama (breath) practice.

Vinyasa Flow Yoga

This type of yoga is very much the typical yoga people think of. It’s very fluid, moving from one pose to another in line with the breath. You breathe in with one pose and out with another. This can fluctuate in intensity, from power yoga which is usually very active, fast paced, and builds strength, to Ashtanga, which holds a bit longer in each pose.

Yin Yoga

This type of yoga is slow paced, holding poses for long period of time (can be anywhere from 2 to 5 minutes).

Kundalini Yoga

This type of yoga blends together spiritual practice with asana. This practice incorporates movement with breath as well as chanting specific mantras. The goal is to increase consciousness as well as improving vitality.

Bikram Yoga

This type of yoga uses the same 26 poses in the same sequence. It stemmed from hatha yoga practice, joining movement with breath. Generally, Bikram Yoga is practiced in a hot room for 90 minutes.

There are many other types of yoga out there. I always recommend new yogis try different types of classes as well as different teachers. You may find you like the style, but a different teacher can really change the outcome of the class. Ultimately, like I said, the style of yoga depends on a lot of factors. The best thing one can do as a new yoga student is to be a YES, be open to the possibility of the class. You never know what you’ll find.

 

*(Note: I do not subscribe to types of yoga, for me its all about the sequence that is put together, not the name given to a sequence or flow)

A Yoga Sequence for the Feminine

In honor of International Women’s Day, I wanted to share a sequence that is often used to specifically honor the feminine within. Now, this doesn’t mean that men can’t do this sequence. On the contrary, I believe this sequence can and will help anyone, whether its to honor the feminine or just as an alternative sequence.

Traditionally, it is called the Moon Salutation. One can consider it the sequence to honor the moon, like the Sun Salutations are used to honor the sun and fire within.

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Here is are the poses (pictured above) that make up the Moon Salutation Sequence. (Note, this is one variation of Moon Salutation. Many more variations can be found online.)

Standing Mountain Pose — Tadasana

Upward Salute Side Bend/Half Moon — Urdhva Hastasana

Goddess Squat — Utkata Konasana

Star Pose

Extended Triangle Pose — Utthita Trikonasana

Pyramid Pose — Parsvottanasana

Low Crescent Lunge — Anjaneyasana

Low Side Lunge

Garland Pose — Malasana

Low Side Lunge

Low Crescent Lunge — Anjaneyasana

Pyramid Pose — Parsvottanasana

Extended Triangle Pose — Utthita Trikonasana

Star Pose

Goddess Squat — Utkata Konasana

Upward Salute Side Bend/Half Moon — Urdhva Hastasana

Standing Mountain Pose — Tadasana

This sequence can be done any time of day. Morning or evening, when the sun in shining or the moon is beaming, the Moon Salutation sequence can be incorporated in any yoga sequence.

Go forth! Honor the feminine within!

Happy International Women’s Day!