Tag Archives: beginner yoga
Lots of us suffer from one type of sleep deprivation or another in our lifetimes. Kids, work, stress or illness can keep us up well past a healthy bed time. What to do when you wake up at 3 a.m. and can’t get back to sleep? Here are some great techniques for calming your energy down and avoiding that frustrating feeling.
Move. Once you are sure that you aren’t falling back to sleep, change your surroundings. Often frustration can build while you lie there, just staring at the ceiling or tossing back and forth. Find a quiet corner of the house, even if it is the bathroom!
Support your body. There are a few great yoga poses to support your endocrine system and nervous system, the two systems that are often put under duress when you are dealing with insomnia. The thyroid and the adrenals are put under pressure (or may be the reason for your insomnia in the first place) and they can be supported through Viparita Karani (Legs Up the Wall Pose) or Setu Bhanda (Bridge Pose).
Viparita Karani. Take a pillow and place it about six inches from the wall (you can also do this pose in bed). Sit on the pillow, with your legs parallel to the wall. Swing your legs up the wall and lay back, so that the pillow is gently supporting your lower back and your hips are on the floor. Slide yourself away from the wall to account for tight hamstrings. A yummy addition to this pose is an eye pillow and fuzzy blanket to keep you warm. Once you are in the pose, you can do some relaxing breathwork.
Viloma Pranayama. This breath work is a great way to active your parasympathetic nervous system. Take a gentle breath in, focusing on inflating your low belly. Take a tiny pause, then keep inhaling into your chest. Take another tiny pause, and fill your lungs to absolute fullness. Then slowly and gently exhale through the mouth. Do this as many times as you need to feel relaxed. For me, it usually only takes 5 or 6 rounds to feel some stress relief.
Setu Bhanda or Bridge Pose. This pose is excellent for those with thyroid issues. To begin, start on your back, feet on the floor. Press your feet firmly down into the floor and lift the hips up. You can support underneath your low back with pillows or blankets. The light pressure at the base of the throat can stimulate or calm the thyroid and bring the throat chakra back into balance. Stay here as long as you like, making your exhales longer than your inhales.
Any of these techniques can be really helpful in balancing out your energies and bring you back to sleep land. Give them a try and tell me if you are successful!
A new Yoga Quickie! This is a preview of my full 60 minute video, Freedom of the Heart: Upper Body Therapeutic Yoga. Enjoy!
Hey All! Here is my first Yoga Quickie – It’s a quick 5 minute cardio series to energized your body, mind and heart! Spend 5 minutes and change your world!
Like what you see? I make personalized Yoga DVDs that will fit any home practice! Check it out here.
One of the fundamental questions of mindfulness practices is: When do you press in and when do you let go? When do you push your limits and when do you gracefully take a back seat? The answer is at the same time more simple and more complex than you might think. I am finding the answer is that I do both, at the same time. Sounds kind of confusing? Yep, it is the concept of paradox in your mindfulness or yoga practice. I’ll illustrate with a few examples to help you understand what I mean:
Asana or Posture Practice
When I am doing a strong yang energy practice (moving, sweating, breathing deeply and generally vigorous poses), I find that softening my intentions and using certain mindfulness cues can help me achieve this paradox. For example, if I am doing a really challenging pose, say Ardha Chandrasana or Half Moon Pose, and I am efforting very strongly with my body, if I relax my eyes and think about softening my heart, the whole pose becomes soft yet VERY strong in a way that is subtle yet very real. It’s the same thing in a less strong pose, say Bhujangasana or Cobra Pose. As I inhale and raise my chest, pull my elbows back, engage my belly, etc., I soften in my intentions in the pose. I might repeat a mantra, “I am whole, I am peaceful.” I am still strongly lifting my body into the pose, but the difference is I have softened my mind and allowed more space in my heart to be easy within the effort.
Put the Practice Into Action
Try it right now with a pose of your choice. Arrive at the proper alignment and form for the pose that fits your body best. Once you have arrived in the pose, take a body scan and see if you are pushing yourself to your edge in this moment. Your edge may be different today from all other days – it is today, right now, that is important. Once you are at your edge and pushing yourself strongly for this moment, take your attention to your eyes and literally allow them to soften. Soften your face, ears, nose, throat and back of your head. Allow that softness to ripple down into your heart. Feel space and ease created there. Stay in the pose for 5-10 more breaths, but come out when you can no longer maintain that sense of ease within the effort. Come to a comfortable seated pose and take 10-15 breaths to reflect on the experience. You may wish to write it down.
Meditation or Mindfulness Practices
Meditation practices are by nature, more about letting go and being receptive to what is, in this very moment, your reality. However, they require a strong push of determination, repetition and dedication to form the habit of using mindfulness techniques on a daily basis. You can meditate here and there haphazardly and find some benefits, but the real juice of the meditation realm of practices comes with the push towards doing it every day. This phenomenon of pushing towards change is called tapas in yoga, and it can be translated as heat, discipline or determination. When I focus on doing my meditation in small chunks (10-20 minutes at a time) daily, I find the same paradox exists. I feel the slow transformation of my perceptional abilities start to change over time (months and months), while I get a daily benefit of a more spacious frame of mind and more awareness towards my treatment of others. I find I can let go of things that upset me more quickly on a daily basis, and over the long term, I change my attitude towards those things that upset me completely. I may do a complete 180 degree turn in how I understand something about myself or another, and that can change my whole world view overnight.
Putting the Practice Into Action
Start by finding a comfortable seat. You can sit in a chair or on the floor with a cushion under your sitz bones, but don’t lie down or lean back on a couch. Make sure your spine is straight and your head is positioned over your spine. You can find this out by leaning forward and leaning back, and when your sitz bones sink down into the chair or cushion (like they are getting heavier in that one moment in time), you have found the point where all the weight is over your spine. Now set a timer for 5 -20 minutes. If you are new to meditation, try 5-10 minutes. First, write down a word that describes how you are feeling before you meditate. Now, the pressing in comes from learning to focus your mind during this time period. For today, use this mantra: Inhale: “I am whole.” Exhale: “I am peaceful.” Pause with the breath out: “I hold my own space.” When you are finished with your time period, pause and reflect on how you feel now. Write down a word that describes your state of being, post-meditation. You can take a few minutes to reflect on this, or journal about the experience. The letting go part happens naturally when you bring your attention to the meditation and let go of all other things that are occupying your brain and body. It’s funny – you are doing nothing, yet everything is happening, dropping away and leaving you clearer and more peaceful.
Paradox, Paradox – Are you everywhere?
Start looking for the existence of this phenomenon in your daily life. What do you have to let go of to make other things happen? What do you have to push into to let go of other things? This can be a very rewarding and interesting mindfulness practice in and of itself. Try it for a few days and come back and comment – tell me about your experience!
5. The bathroom. Maybe this seems like it would be your number one place that was wierd, but it’s actually not as wierd as you might think. It’s sometimes the only place where you can grab 5 minutes of peace and quiet, and you don’t necessarily have to have your pants down! Try this bathroom meditation tip: Take 5 minutes one evening, after its getting dark or dark already. Go in and set a candle near or across from you, somewhere where you can see it. Turn off the lights, lock the door (if you can) and set a timer. Just sit there, breathe and stare at the candle for 5 minutes. Try to keep your thoughts only on the candle, and every time you get distracted with a thought or a noise or whatever, just come back to staring at the candle.
4. Your car. Now, please don’t try to mediate while rolling down the highway! That’s not what I mean. What I do mean is between the grocery store and the post office, take 5 minutes to sit in your car and breathe. Set a timer on your phone or try this technique: Count your exhales for one minute (you can watch your car clock as you do this). Then take that number, whatever it is, and repeat that number of exhales 5 times. It may not be right on the money, especially as you start to concentrate on the breath, you are going to slow down your rate of breathing. It will be about 5 minutes and the resultant piece of mind will be priceless. And who can say you don’t have just a few minutes to pause in between going to one place or another? If you don’t run errands during the day, try this at the beginning of lunchtime. You will find you will make better food choices, once you are relaxed and aware of your surroundings!
3. In the middle of the supermarket. What??!! Yes, meditating in the middle of a busy crowd can be quite empowering. It can also be a test of your concentration skills. When I am feeling especially rushed or frantic, I will stop for a few moments and concentrate on my breath. Now some may argue that is more breath control work or pranayama, but they blend together a bit when you are using the breath as a concentration technique. So try this – in the pasta aisle, stop for a few moments and close your eyes. If you are concerned about looking weird to others in the store, turn and face the shelves so it looks like you are looking for the right pasta sauce at eye level. Then close your eyes and employ the breath counting technique employed above. Count your exhales for 2 minutes, and when you open your eyes, take note of how you feel, mentally, physically and emotionally. You will probably be clearer-headed and more relaxed as you move forward into your day with strength.
2. In an ugly and unwelcoming space. As westerners, we spend a lot of time making our spaces pretty or beautiful to us. There is a lot of serenity to be gained by sitting in meditation in a well-kept, peaceful space. But have you ever tried meditating in the middle of your garage or in a warehouse full of building materials? Again, this can be a challenge, especially if there is noise or other people around. Next time you are in a place that you just don’t like (not one that gives you the skeevies, mind – that’s not what I mean), take a moment or two and see what serenity you can tap into in that place. Maybe there is a rythym you can follow in your mind or a profound silence because no one is in there. Take a moment to methaphorically turn the ugly stone over and see if what is under it can be helpful in teaching you to control your mind.
1. I am going to leave this one up to the readers. Where is the weirdest place you have meditated? Please comment and let us all know!