Ideally, your time to look inside would come on a yoga mat, surrounded by scents and your favorite soothing sounds. If you’re like most people, though, you might find that your need for peace doesn’t always come when you have access to your yoga home. That’s especially true this time of year, when you probably feel like the mall, rather than your yoga studio, is your second home. In the rush of “to-do’s” it’s even easier than usual to feel pulled off your mental axis by the pressure and stress of the season, not to mention ads screaming at you from the TV, radio and even your mobile phone telling you all the things you have to buy to keep up with the Joneses.
Obviously, if you can get to a yoga class and lose yourself in the peaceful atmosphere of letting the day go and focusing only on the moment and your breath, that’s a shortcut to calm and putting your mind where it needs to be. If you can’t do that, though, you can find calm in your mind in the midst of all the rushing.
Sometimes, having a mantra is the simplest way to make your introspection portable. At the beginning of the day, set an intention that will help bring you back to the present moment. You might try something like “ I will strive to fully experience every minute of today without worrying about what I have to do next.” Then, no matter how stressed out you feel, take a moment to think about what you are doing—whether it’s checking out at the mall, hanging garlands or baking—and contemplate how each sense is affected. How are you seeing, hearing, feeling, smelling or tasting it? As you work through your perception, let yourself feel the rushing slowing back down to a controllable level. Repeat that throughout the day, letting your surroundings wash over you, even if they are mundane. Resist the temptation to “think ahead.” Being prepared is one thing, but try not to let yourself get overwhelmed by that feeling of “I’m already late.”
However you find contemplation in your daily life, the important thing to remember is that you don’t have to go on a retreat to find serenity during the holidays. Remind yourself of the central message of the season—the love and generosity we all share. Forget the iPhone 5 or the mountain of cookie baking!
Yoga breathwork to help you relax
Yoga for stress relief
Yoga pose library
"Life's challenges are not supposed to paralyze you, they're supposed to help you discover who you are."
~ Bernice Johnson Reagon
What does “avoiding difficulty” really mean?
Avoiding – to go around. To detour. To take the easier path. To manage
not to do something or stop something from happening.
I watched today as this guy struggled to go into a back bend. His arms
flopped open, elbows taking the strain, shoulders collapsing.
Desperately trying to push up through a weak foundation. He could
spend years like that, slowly making the weakest parts of his
shoulders weaker and wearing out his elbows: until finally something
breaks. OR he can go a step backwards, he can learn to look at the
part which he finds difficult (in this case holding the elbows in and
the shoulders in their sockets) and work their before even lifting the
head off the floor. Identify the work. The real work. The work that
will bring about positive changes’, that will give you strength; that
will give you a different outcome.
IT IS hard. I know it is hard. That’s why we avoid it. We do it the easy way because we think it will get us to the end result faster. But that is just an illusion. It’s simple not true. All it will do is keep us from the right path. Stop us from heading in the right direction. It actually prevents the results that we desperately seek.
So how can this important lesson be reflected into our day-to-day lives?
If we have the same problem occurring over and over again we to have
to take a step back. Re-asses the situation and identify the weakness.
What is it that we do that avoids dealing with the difficulty? What is
it that causes the same results over and over? For me I am trying to
learn how to act and not react. I tend to get defensive and when I
respond emotionally it is normally unpleasant and vicious. Like a
scorpion, I have a sting in my tail and when I react with my sting, it
hurts. It also drives people away. Scared of being stung again, the
attacker retreats. This has resulted in me being left alone; not the
outcome that I desired.
So, working within my difficulty, I have to take s step backwards. To
recognise what I am doing wrong. See how to change it. Learn how to
act, not react. Let the emotions drain out of a situation before I
respond. Come from a calm and nurturing place. Not a defensive and
stubborn place, unwilling to back down. It IS hard! That’s the real
work. The work that can bring about change. The work that will set
about a different cause and bring about a different effect. The work
that will bring me the results that I want.
Sometimes when we feel bad about ourselves we do things that avoid
dealing with the real issue. We drink alcohol, we smoke : we do things
to numb out the pain. This in turn makes us feel bad, we feel worse
about ourselves and so we drink to hide from it. To avoid dealing with
the real difficulty. What we really need to do is be nice to
ourselves. To work within the difficulty. To take rest, do more yoga,
eat good food, laugh and be with people who love us. Do the hard work
to feel good about ourselves. To get the result that we really want.
To be a fitter, healthier and happier person.
And there you have it. Working within the difficulties. Doing the hard work. The real work. Seeing the faults and putting in lots of effort to correct them, to rebalance them. In the case of the back bend, if you work on the foundation then you will lift up higher. From strong roots we grow tall. And so it is the same with my own issues off the mat. Work on the foundations. Come from a good place, have strong
roots. Work within the difficulties and do the work. Start to get the results that you want.
By changing the way we do things daily, allows a new person inside of
us to grow.
~Laura Grace Ford
Ashtanga Yoga Devon
If you’re interested in practicing yoga, then you may want to learn a bit more about meditation as well, since it is one of the Five Principles of Yoga. Meditation is a practice of being in the now, the present moment. It’s a constant observation of the mind that requires a still mind in order to perceive the true self.
I recently read a physician’s observation that “meditation” is only one letter off from the word “medication,” and yet the two approaches couldn’t be more different. For example, if someone suffers from an unquiet mind – troubling thoughts, negative self talk and so on – traditional medicine as it’s often practiced today might offer prescription antidepressant or anti-anxiety medications as a solution. This solution treats the symptom rather than the problem.
Meditation, on the other hand, serves to get at the problem (an unquiet mind), through practicing stillness.
What is meditation?
According to Dr. Joan Borysenko, a pioneer in the field of mind/body medicine, meditation is anything that brings us to the present and keeps us there. This makes meditation easy for us to incorporate into our lives. [Read more]
How do yoga and meditation go together?
Meditation is one of the Five Principles of Yoga. It is the practice by which there is constant observation of the mind. It requires you to focus your mind at one point and make your mind still in order to perceive the 'self'. Through the practice of Meditation, you will achieve a greater sense of purpose and strength of will. It also helps you achieve a clearer mind, improve your concentration, and discover the wisdom and tranquility within you. [Read more]
In light of the holidays and the seduction of excess they can bring, this would be a wonderful time to move your focus inward. Find a quite space to just be. Close your eyes, take deep breaths, and settle into a relaxed state of being. Release the "To Do" lists, expectations, and stress from your space with each breath. Now recall forgiveness, love, and peace into your body, aura, and Chakras. No need to put too much "thinking" into this, just know your intention is allowing the energy to move, not effort. :) Sit with this for 5 - 20min and feel refreshed, revived, and present. Your body, soul, and spirit will thank you for it!
“You must love yourself before you love another. By accepting yourself and fully being what you are, your simple presence can make others happy.”
As those who have been practicing yoga for a long time will agree, there is a strong connection between your body and your mind. When your mind is under stress, your body reflects it in many ways – poor posture, low back pain and tense muscles, just to name a few. It’s no wonder, then, that people who are under a tremendous amount of stress seem to age faster than those who have learned to manage it. Stress – and gravity, of course – is what makes us age.
There are seven basic attributes that characterize someone who’s vibrant and healthy, someone who seems to defy the effects of aging:
- Supple skin that radiates beauty
- Strong, shiny hair
- Well defined muscles and bone structure
- Boundless energy that lights up a room
- A light but firm and confident step
- A positive, well balanced attitude toward life
- A calm demeanor
Are you feeling it yet? Believe it or not, this can be you, and it has nothing to do with age. Enter yoga, the great age-defying stress reducer. Though not necessarily Ponce de Leon’s famed fountain of youth, practice yoga on a regular basis and you may just start to notice some welcome benefits. To start your own anti-aging campaign, try practicing the following a few times per week:
Flex Your Spine
Your spine is the foundation of everything you do. It helps your body maintain its structure, supports your head, arms and legs, and provides shock absorption for all of your activities. In addition, it houses your central nervous system, the highway that connects your brain to the rest of your body. With all of that work to do, it’s no wonder your spine gets tired on a daily basis. Even those with the best posture find themselves slouching at the end of a particularly stressful day. Give your spine some love with asanas (yoga poses) that elongate, strengthen and stretch your spine. Alternating cat and cow pose is a great start. A spine that’s flexible promotes good balance and strength.
Release Your Muscle Tension
Body aches and pains are often the result of tight muscles. From headaches
to back problems, tight muscles can slowly leave you permanently hunched over and limit your ability to perform activities that you love. Over time, range of motion can diminish and the activities you once loved can become challenging. Self-massage can improve circulation and warm up your muscles, encouraging them to release the toxins that cause you pain. A rule of thumb is to use light circular motion over joints and areas of pain and sweep with long strokes over areas such as the front of the thigh and arms. Self-massage is particularly useful to help you relax during the day – even if you spend just a couple of minutes massaging your neck. Another great time for self-massage is while you shower. Your skin and senses come alive in the steam of the shower and self-massage relaxes your muscles, readying you for the day ahead or preparing you for a restful evening.
Breathe in Life
Breathing correctly delivers oxygen to your bloodstream, nourishing every
single cell in your body. Breathing also acts as a purifier to help you rid your body of toxins collected throughout the day. The breath, or prana, is life. Pranayama is both the extension and the control of breath, and indeed the subtle energies of the body. Although there are many different schools of teaching, the most basic approach is breath awareness. Lying or sitting in a comfortable position and just noticing your breath for a set period of time reaps powerful benefits. You become more focused and relaxed. You can either simply notice your breath without judgment or focus your breath on a particular area of your body, such as that catch in your neck. With each inhale, you send the breath to your neck, extending love and compassion to that area that’s been crying for attention. With each exhale, you release, allowing tension and pain to leave your body with your breath. Pranayama is a gift you give to yourself.
Ready. Set. Meditate!
Looking for inner calm and a positive outlook on life? Take a minute – or ten – to bring your body, mind and senses into balance. Once you achieve this
balance through meditation, your nervous system will calm down, you’ll be less anxious and you might actually gain some powerful insights. About what? Only you can determine. There are a number of ways to meditate. You just need to find what works for you and stick with it. The process will show you the way. For starters, just focus on your breath with no judgment, as we discussed above. Just notice how it flows in and out of your body. Set a timer for five minutes and let go. If you notice your mind wandering away from your breath, gently bring it back to the breath. The breath is the beginning and end of all things.
Practicing Yoga at Home
Yoga and Stress