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Category: Yoga

5 Simple Yoga Practices to Bring You Lasting Peace of Mind

5 Simple Yoga Practices to Bring You Lasting Peace of Mind

During yoga and meditation practice, even beginners notice a shift toward silence—their minds are relieved by a sense of quieting down. But first impressions of silence in yoga gradually lead to the realization that for lasting peace, many layers of mental activity will need to be digested.

Five stages of practice can help us acquire a deeper level of silence within:

  1. Body awareness The path toward inner stillness begins with asana work. Asanas help us reconnect with our body and start to quiet verbal chatter. They supply just the right combination of physical engagement and internal feedback to hold our attention. When our energies are collected and focused on simple posture work, the intensity of mental distractions is naturally diminished.Postures create a subtle shift in the mind. No longer drawn from thought to thought by an unfocused chain of associations, asana sessions replace noisy thinking with the relatively silent work of stretching, strengthening, lengthening, aligning, and integrating. Like a musician completely absorbed in the sound of his music, asana work focuses the mind thoroughly, so that other levels of experience do not intrude.
  2. Body and breath awareness combinedThe quieting influence of asana work is deepened when postures are linked to breathing. Lift your arms to the side and then overhead. You will probably find yourself inhaling. Bend forward even a little and most likely you’ll exhale. These and many other movements naturally coordinate with breathing. When awareness of breathing and movement are combined, distracting thoughts become less intrusive.But some movements are too fast or too slow for a direct correspondence with breathing. For example, swing your arms forward and back to warm up the shoulder joints, and you’ll find the movement is too fast to link with breathing. Shift to very slow motion or hold postures still, and again your movements will lose their direct correspondence with the breath. Despite this, you can keep both the body and breath in awareness. Breath awareness transcends awareness of the body alone. It acts like a thread that runs through every phase of posture work, quieting the nervous system and mind.

    The process of observing the breath makes us aware of the subtle differences between involuntary breathing, voluntary breathing, and non-voluntary breathing. Involuntary breathing is breathing that is generally out of our awareness. It flows automatically. Voluntary breathing is the result of conscious control. We use it to speak, to hold the breath, or to whistle. Breathing impacted by pain, emotion, and stress is sometimes called non-voluntary breathing. Simple examples include the forced breathing resulting from anger and the tense breathing often caused by stress.  Fortunately, the deep effects of stress and emotional reactivity on breathing can be quieted. When you encounter stress in your breathing you can modify it—restoring calm, even breathing. In other words, you can reduce sensations of anxiety and pain by breathing deeply and smoothly. This is how breath work leads the nervous system and mind toward silence.

  3. Breath awareness aloneWhen you are performing postures, your efforts to coordinate body and breath contribute to a natural refinement of your mental focus and a deepening of inner quietude. During periods of relaxation and meditation, breath awareness transcends bodywork altogether. Metabolism slows and physical demands are minimized. Then, awareness of the body becomes transparent (the body barely intrudes our awareness at all), and the mind is filled almost exclusively with sensations of breathing. It is then that you will learn the art of effortless breathing.Breathing flows involuntarily most of the time. But by becoming aware of the breath, shaping it, and then returning it to a relaxed and effortless flow, you can become the calm witness of your breath. This helps to quiet your mind even further.

    During relaxation and meditation, outer distractions and physical discomforts are greatly diminished. The mind’s quiet is disrupted instead of memories, wants, wishes, and cravings arising from within. A steady, relaxed breath makes it possible to reduce the energy we give to these forces—and to remain less reactive in their presence.

  4. Breathing combined with mantraUltimately, however, the mind is not fully quieted by concentration on the body or breath. Postures and breath awareness reduce mental chatter, but they do not fully relax the mind. To accomplish this, we’ll need to meet the process of thinking even deeper in the mind.This involves supplying the mind with a verbal focus, internal support, in which to rest. In the yoga tradition, this is accomplished through the use of a mantra. Most meditators begin with the mantra Soham (pronounced so-hum). This mantra is said to be the natural sound of breathing and means “that pure and infinite Self within—That I am.” By reciting the mantra in coordination with the breath (so on the inhalation, hum on the exhalation), the mind reaches a deeper level of self-awareness.

    But the idea that the mind can be quieted by the recitation of a mantra may appear at odds with itself. How does the recitation of a mantra lead to silence? The answer to this important question has two parts. First, a mantra quiets the mind in the same way that all forms of relaxed concentration reduce mental noise. It replaces distractions with an object of concentration. Since this object supports the mind’s efforts to become quiet, it is called an alambana in Sanskrit—a supportive factor. The mantra focuses attention deep within the mind, at the place where thoughts arise, rather than at the levels of body or breath. With this core level of support, meditation feels especially quieting.

  5. Mantra aloneWhen your attention rests in the gentle pulsing of a mantra, and even your breath has become a distant awareness, a more refined level of silence awakens within. (This answers with even more clarity the question, “How can the mind be silent if it is reciting a mantra?”) Silence is an experience of being. When the everyday mind, the mind of thoughts and sensations, is restfully focused, a transformation occurs that engages us with this experience of being. We become a witness, an observer—most importantly, a silent observer. We see the mind resting in its focus. But we do not speak about it, even to ourselves. We enter a realm of silence that exists unceasingly within us, uninfluenced by passing thoughts and desires.This experience of silence is amplified by concentration. Conversely, when the concentration is abandoned, silence is diminished as well. A mantra, then, is a sound that leads to silence. This silence, gradually acquired through an awakening of the inner observer, is both transforming and lasting. It is the culmination of a climb to a higher place—a place that, like Cadillac Mountain, gives a breathtaking view of dawning light.

Article from: https://yogainternational.com/article/view/5-simple-yoga-practices-to-bring-you-lasting-peace-of-mind

5 Yoga Poses to Reduce Hypertension

Chances are at least one person in your life—a family member, someone you work with, or a good friend—has high blood pressure and takes one or more pills a day to bring it under control. Why so likely? Because high blood pressure—what doctors call hypertension—affects one in three adults in the United States.

The following sequence is designed to prepare you to work toward the practice of inversions safely and without raising your blood pressure. At no time should you feel agitated or uncomfortable in any of these poses. If you feel flushed, hot, or dizzy while practicing, come out of the pose and rest in balasana (child’s pose) until you feel normal again.

End your practice with at least five minutes of savasana, using a blanket, if necessary, to support the back of your neck so it stays long and your face can completely relax toward your chest.

(Downward-Facing Dog Pose) with Support

Begin on your hands and knees and place two or three blankets (folded lengthwise) underneath your chest. Press the weight evenly through the hands as you straighten your arms and lift up through the inner edges of the arms. Release your shoulder blades away from your neck toward your hips, straighten the legs, and lift your pelvis up into adho mukha svanasana (downward-facing dog pose). Separate your feet wider than hip-width apart.

Pranayama for High Blood Pressure

Lift the pelvis away from the wrists and, keeping the legs firm, press the fronts of the thighs away from the torso toward the backs of the legs and lengthen your calves down toward your heels. Extend the inner arms from the wrists toward the shoulders as you move the shoulder blades away from the neck toward the pelvis.

Let the back of your neck release down so that your head (somewhere between the top of your forehead and the crown of the head) can rest on the support. If your head doesn’t comfortably reach your support, add another blanket. You shouldn’t have to bend the elbows in order to reach the blankets. If your neck feels compressed or your head jams into the blankets, lower your support.

When you can balance the dynamic action in the limbs and torso with the rest and relaxation in the head and neck, you’ll be able to hold the pose for a few minutes without feeling strain. When you come down, separate and bend your knees, sit on your heels, and release your head to the floor in balasana.

Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend Pose) with Head Support

Separate the feet as wide apart as the narrow side of a yoga mat. Align the outer heels and little toes on the edges of the mat, and place a block at its tallest height between your feet and in line with your big toes. Depending on your proportions and the flexibility of your hamstrings, you may need more or less support. Stack a couple of blocks, if necessary, or put the blocks or a folded blanket on the seat of a chair to rest your head.

Pranayama for High Blood Pressure

Bend forward, straighten your legs, and place the crown of your head on your support. Hold the ankles and spread the elbows apart from each other. Move your shoulder blades away from your neck, but let the back of your head descend toward the floor. Even though your head is resting on your support, keep the majority of your weight in your feet, balancing the weight evenly between the front, back, inside, and outside edges of the feet. Lift your thighs firmly and press the thigh bones toward the backs of the legs without disturbing your head. The back of the neck should feel long and the chest broad. Breathe normally and stay in the pose for as long as you like, up to three minutes. Place your hands on your hips, inhale, and come up.

Pashchimottanasana (Posterior Stretch Pose)

Sit on two folded blankets and extend your legs straight in front of you in dandasana(seated staff pose), feet hip-width apart. Place a bolster lengthwise on top of your legs, with a folded blanket on the bolster closer to your feet. Lift the sides of your torso up. If you find that you’re slumping backward, sit on more support. Extend forward and hold the outside edges of your feet with your hands. Lengthen your abdomen over the bolster and rest your forehead on the blanket.

Pranayama for High Blood Pressure

If you can’t reach your feet, hold a belt around the feet; if your head doesn’t reach the blanket, rest it on a chair instead, padded with at least one blanket. Straighten your legs and press the thigh bones toward the floor as much as you can without allowing your heels to lift. Relax the forehead and spread your elbows as you release the shoulders apart and away from your neck.

Extend through the backs of the heels and move your back ribs toward your front ribs down onto the bolster. Keep the back of the neck long and soft and relax your facial features. Hold for two minutes and then return to dandasana.

Halasana (Plow Pose)

Experiment with this pose using blankets, a bolster, and a chair for support. If you feel any discomfort, simply come out of the pose and rest in shavasana. Stack three folded blankets at the end of your mat. The smooth, folded edges of the blankets should be in line with the edge of your mat. Open another blanket on the floor in front of your mat for the back of your head, place a bolster on the mat behind your blankets for your pelvis to rest on, and position a chair on the floor in front of your mat and folded blankets. Lie down with your shoulders, upper back, and base of your neck on the stacked blankets, your head on the blanket on the floor, and your pelvis resting on the bolster.

Reach your arms overhead and hold the feet of the chair. Push the chair away from you until your arms are straight. Bring your arms back by your sides and place your palms on the bolster. Rotate your upper arms outward and open the chest. Pressing your hands into the bolster, bend your knees toward your chest, lift your pelvis off the bolster, and take your feet overhead, toes onto the seat of the chair. Separate your feet as wide apart as the seat of the chair, toes curled under.

Pranayama for High Blood Pressure

Clasp your hands behind your back, straighten your arms, and roll onto the outer front edges of your shoulders. Press your wrists into the bolster and lift the sides of your chest away from the floor. Relax your throat and allow the back of the neck to softly lengthen.

Pressing your toes down, lift the fronts of your thighs away from your head and straighten your legs. Release the clasp of your hands and rest the backs of your hands on the floor besides your head, elbows bent at a 90-degree angle. Keep your legs active but your head and neck passive, and your throat and face completely relaxed. To come down, bend your knees and slowly roll your upper, middle, and then lower back to the floor, keeping your head down. Rest on your back for a minute before rolling to your side to sit up.

Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge Pose)

Sit on the front end of a bolster and belt the tops of your thighs together. With your knees bent and your feet on the floor, lie back onto the bolster. Using your feet to push against the floor, slide off the bolster just until your shoulders reach the floor and are at the same level as your head. Then extend your legs straight, backs of the heels on the floor.

Pranayama for High Blood Pressure

Roll the outer edges of the shoulders underneath you and broaden your chest as you lengthen your arms alongside the bolster. Turn the upper arms out and the palms toward the ceiling. If your lower back aches or feels compressed, elevate your feet on a support and lengthen the sacrum and buttocks toward your heels.

Article from: https://yogainternational.com/article/view/5-poses-to-reduce-hypertension

5 Yoga Poses to Reduce Hypertension
How Yoga Changes Your Body, Starting the Day You Begin

How Yoga Changes Your Body, Starting the Day You Begin

The mind-body practice is frequently touted for its ability to reduce stress and boost well-being, but it also offers wide-ranging physical health benefits that rival other forms of exercise.

After Yoga

Improved Brain Function. Just 20 minutes of Hatha yoga — an ancient form of the practice that emphasizes physical postures rather than flow or sequences — can improve cognitive function, boosting focus and working memory.

Lower Stress Levels. Yoga’s stress-busting powers may come from its ability to lessen the activity of proteins that are known to play a role in inflammation.

Alter Gene Expression. A small Norwegian study suggested that yoga’s many healthy benefits might come from its ability to alter gene expression in immune cells.

Increased Flexibility. A recent Colorado State University study found that Bikram yoga — a form of yoga in which a series of 26 postures are performed for 90 minutes in a heated room — is linked with increased shoulder, lower back and hamstring flexibility, as well as greater deadlift strength and decreased body fat, compared with a control group.

After a Few Months

Lower Blood Pressure. People with mild to moderate hypertension might benefit from a yoga practice, as a study from the University of Pennsylvania researchers found that it could help to lower their blood pressure levels. Researchers found that people who practiced yoga had greater drops in blood pressure compared with those who participated in a walking/nutrition/weight counseling program.

Improved Lung Capacity. A small 2000 Ball State University study found that practicing Hatha yoga for 15 weeks could significantly increase vital lung capacity, which is the maximum amount of air exhaled after taking a deep breath. Vital lung capacity is one of the components of lung capacity.

Improved Sexual Function. A 2009 Harvard study published in the The Journal of Sexual Medicine showed that yoga could boost arousal, desire, orgasm and general sexual satisfaction for women. Yoga can also improve women’s sex lives by helping them to become more familiar with their own bodies, according to a review of studies published in the Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, as reported by CNN.

Reduced Chronic Neck Pain. A German study published in The Journal of Pain showed that four weeks of practicing Iyengar yoga (a type of Hatha yoga that stresses proper alignment and the use of props) is effective in reducing pain intensity in adults suffering from chronic neck pain.

Anxiety Relief. A 2010 Boston University study showed that 12 weeks of yoga could help to reduce anxiety and increase gamma-aminobutyric (GABA) levels in the brain (low levels of GABA have been linked with depression and anxiety disorders).

Relief from Chronic Back Pain. Researchers at West Virginia University found Iyengar Yoga to be more effective in reducing pain and improving mood than standard medical treatment among those with chronic lower back problems.

Steady Blood Sugar Levels in People with Diabetes. Adding yoga to a typical diabetes care regimen could result in steady blood sugar levels, according to a 2011 Diabetes Care study. Reuters reported that just three months of yoga in addition to diabetes care resulted in a decrease in body mass index, as well as no increases in blood sugar levels.

Improved Sense of Balance. Practicing an Iyengar yoga program designed for older adults was found to improve balance and help prevent falls in women over 65, according to a 2008 Temple University study.

Article from https://www.huffpost.com/entry/body-on-yoga_n_4109595

Photo from: https://www.gildshire.com/yoga-for-women-over-60s-why-how/

Yoga For Stress Relief

An estimated 80 to 90 percent of visits to the doctor are stress-related but only less than 3% of doctors talk to their patients about how to reduce stress. Yoga, meditation, and other mind-body practices train your body and mind to be able to cope with stress better and improve overall health and well-being.

In a national survey, over 85% of people who did yoga reported that it helped them relieve stress. Exercise is a very useful way to relieve stress, but yoga is different from spinning class or weight-lifting in that it powerfully combines both physical fitness with an underlying philosophy of self-compassion and awareness. One of the main concepts in yoga is being non-judgmental toward both yourself and others, which is a powerful tool for stress relief since much of our stress comes from us being hard on ourselves or frustrated with others.

A fundamental principle of yoga is that your body and mind are one and connected. Stress in one domain will affect the other and vice versa. Many of us live primarily in either our mind or our body, which creates imbalance and even a lack of awareness. For example, people with very analytical careers may spend a lot of time in their mind, and may not realize how much tension is stored in their body. Or if you’re an athlete, you may be keenly aware of your body, but could benefit from becoming more aware of your mental state. Wherever you fall on this spectrum, yoga helps balance and tone the connection between your body and mind.

Yoga also trains your counter-stress response system called the parasympathetic nervous system. With regular yoga practice, your chronic daytime stress hormone levels drop and your heart rate variability increases, which is the measure of your ability to tolerate stress. This has been shown to improve even after a few sessions of yoga.

 

Article From: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/urban-survival/201512/yoga-stress-relief

Yoga For Stress Relief