YOGA – Tips & Info

Tips and information on poses and how Yoga affects your health and body.

Yoga In Bed

Yoga Poses You Can Do Without Leaving Your Bed

 Good news for yogis and sleep-enthusiasts alike: You can take your practice to bed.

And there is good reason to do so: The ancient practice of yoga promotes a bounty of mind and body benefits, including things like strength and flexibility, stress relief and even a sunnier disposition.

“People underestimate the power of those few minutes before we get out of bed and rush into our day,” says Vyda Bielkus, co-founder of Boston’s HealthYoga Life,  “In those moments, we can set up some clear intentions and choices.”

According to a 2014 survey, most of us aren’t giving ourselves this moment to be mindful: 89 percent of 19-24-year-old smartphone owners reach for their cell within 15 minutes of waking up. Swapping that phone-checking habit for a a few artful stretches could be your ticket for a better day or a more restful slumber (63 percent of  a similar demographic take their devices to sleep with them). “Quieting the mind brings us back to center,” the yoga instructor says. “Yoga is a great way to unwind from stress or greet the day.”

Before you get moving atop the covers, there are few things to keep in mind. Know that you won’t be able to go as far in a posture on the bed. A floor’s hard surface offers more support and resistance for stretch. And, take note of the sensations in your body: If anything hurts or feels too intense, plop yourself into child’s pose (see below) to recover. Now, check out these nine, mattress-approved poses below.

Reclining Goddess Pose

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Lie with the soles of your feet touching. You can keep your arms by your side or stretch your hands above your head — whatever feels best. Bielkus says this is a good pose to do before you go to sleep — it’ll settle the mind and help you unwind.

Legs-Up-The-Wall Pose

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This is an especially soothing meditative posture, one that Bieklus calls a “time out for adults.” “Doing this inversion will ease tension in your legs,” says the yoga instructor, who recommends the pose or anyone who’s active on their feet all day or may have over done it at the gym. Turn your hips toward the wall and kick your legs up and lean rest them vertically against it. “People who have a hard time meditating may find this as an easier way to clear their minds,”

Bieklus adds. Tight hips? Put a pillow under your seat to ease any discomfort.

Forward Bend

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Sit up on your bed and fold forward, reaching for your heels, toes or shins. “Wherever your hands land is fine,” Bielkus says. If you feel tight in the backs of your legs, be sure to bend your knees. This move is great for winding down: It is relaxing and cooling. Be sure to focus on your exhale — it’ll deepen the stretch.

Easy Supine Twist

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Try this move before you get out of bed in the morning: It’ll awaken your spine and prepare you for the day ahead. While on your back, hug your knees to your chest. Hold your legs behind the knees with your right forearm and bring your knees to the bed on your right side. Now, gently look left. Repeat on your other side.

Fish Pose

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While lying flat on your back, bring your hands underneath your hips. Lift your chest and heart above your shoulders and stretch your head back. Bielkus says this pose is energizing, so do it as the sun comes up.

 

Happy Baby Pose

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This pose is mentally calming while physically stimulating, which makes it perfect for a day when you have a lot on your plate. Lie flat on your back with your feet in the air and grip the outside of your feet with your hands. Open your knees a little wider than your torso, then bring them up toward your torso. Gently rock in a way that feels comfortable, while pushing your feet into your hands as you pull your hands down to create a resistance. “Find a still point in your body and focus on driving the rail bone down,” Bielkus says. “This will elongate the lower back and allow the hips to stretch. It gets the blood flowing.”

Child’s Pose

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This simple, calming pose is easy to do in bed. Kneel on the mattress and allow your big toes to touch. Separate your knees as wide as your hips (or as far as is comfortable) and lie down between your thighs. Stay here as long as you like — this pose is restorative

Corpse Pose

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This pose may look like sleeping, but it’s really a practice, as Bielkus describes, of consciously resting. “This is an awesome state for the mind to be in. It’s about awakening within the self.” Lie on your back with your arms by your side, with the palms facing upward. “This is when you come out of your human doing and come into your human being,” the instructor says. “It’s about fully being present.” This pose is quite versatile: Do it as a wind-down before bed to empty your thoughts so they don’t keep you up or night, or use the time in the morning to set an intention for the day ahead.

Pigeon Pose

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Pigeon pose is an intense leg stretch that’ll open your hips and leave you feeling revitalized. With your hands shoulder-distance apart, come onto all fours. Bring your right knee forward between your hands so your outer right leg is resting on the bed. Make sure your left leg is in line with its own hip socket and that your left foot is laying flat. With an exhale, fold forward over your right knee. Stay here for as long as you need, then repeat on the other side.

By Kate Bratskeir for the Huffington Post

 

 

 

 

Tips to Improve Your Downward Dog

 

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It’s got to be the most recognised of all yoga poses, right? Adho Mukha Svanasana, or Downward Facing Dog appears in most styles of yoga as either a strengthening pose, a transition pose or a resting pose. Getting the alignment right is not only important for your anatomy, it also helps you to love this pose.

For some people whenever the teacher asks you to “rest” in Downward Dog it doesn’t feel anything like a “rest”.  A form of scoliosis combined with an extremely tight psoas and hamstrings mean that often there is a pronounced bulge in the  lower thoracic spine in Downward Dog and for  others it  may be their wrists,  particularly in the morning before  warming up. Don’t be fixated with placing your heels on the floor, as if that is the measuring stick, it only serves to compress the spine and create a whole lot of discomfort.
1. Hands Should Be Shoulder Distance Apart.
Spread your fingers wide and align your wrist crease to the front of the mat. Use the whole surface area of your hand including your 5 finger pads and emphasise pressing the index and thumb pads into the mat.

2. Feet Are Sit Bone/Hip Distance Apart.
Glance back and check your feet. If you can see your heels, try turning them out slightly so you can’t see them anymore.

3. Activate Your Arms.
As you press down through your wrists, feel the energy draw back up to activate your arms. Feel as though your thumbs want to draw in magnetically towards each other which will slightly rotate your forearms inwards, towards each other.

4. Upper Arms Externally Rotate.
I know it sounds tricky to internally rotate the forearms and externally rotate the upper arms, but anatomically, the arms are up for it. It’s a fairly subtle action like  imagining that you are hiding your underarms from the person on the next mat. This will also keep your shoulders away from your ears, giving more space in the neck.

5. Neck And Head Continue Along The Same Line As The Spine.
It’s super important to be aware of where your head and neck are in space in any yoga pose, this one is no exception. The neck is part of the spine, so it should follow the same natural line. In a person with text book alignment, the head will be between the upper arms—but of course, exact placement of the neck will depend on your specific anatomy. The key thing to be mindful of is that you’re neither letting the head just ‘hang,’ nor crunching the neck too far up.

6. Firm Shoulder Blades And Broaden Across The Upper Back.
Loads of yogis scrunch up through the tops of the shoulders and around the neck in this pose, which can create even more tension and make it really uncomfortable. By firming the shoulder blades and feeling them draw down towards the tail and broadening across the upper back, you can provide space as well as stability.
7. Engage The Lower Belly By Drawing The Navel In Towards The Spine.
A firm core is key and can help to take some weight out of the shoulders and wrists, and back into the legs. Draw the lower ribs in and keep this core activation going throughout the pose. 

8. Bend Knees A Little (Or A Lot) And Send The Sit Bones And Tail Bone Up And Back.

Feel the difference this makes in your spine. If you have tight hamstrings, for the sake of your back you are far better to practice this pose with bent knees rather than force the heels down and compromise length in the spine.  Let your focus be spine first, heels down second (check out the photos above to see the comparison).

9. Inner Thighs Rotate Inwards As You Firm The Outer Thighs.
Do this, and notice how much easier it becomes to lift the sit bones up and back.
10. Straighten Legs Without Changing The Shape In The Spine Or Pelvis.
Once you’ve reached this point, you can start to lengthen the heels back. Perhaps they reach the floor, perhaps they don’t. One of the great benefits of this pose is lengthening out through the legs, but by prioritising the heels down last,  you may enjoy a much better experience in your spine, which should always take priority.
When the muscles in the backs of the legs are ready to lengthen, they’ll lengthen. Be patient and embrace your point in the journey.

These are general tips, which means they don’t take into account any specific injuries or conditions. As an example, if you have a wrist injury you may need to modify to the forearms (Dolphin) or try this pose against a wall. If you do have any specific conditions then ask your yoga teacher in person about modifications suitable for your totally unique self.

~ Erin Motz

HOW YOGA CHANGES YOUR BODY

How Yoga Changes Your Body, Starting The Day You Begin

The Eastern practice of yoga has become a modern-day symbol of peace, serenity and well-being in the West. More than 20 million Americans practice yoga, according to the 2012 Yoga in America study, with practitioners spending more than $10 billion a year on yoga-related products and classes.

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. While the scientific research on yoga’s health benefits is still young, here’s what we know so far about its potential effects on the body.

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AFTER CLASS

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. In a University of Illinois study, participants performed significantly better on tests of brain functioning after yoga, as compared to their performance after 20 minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise.

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, according to a study published last year from University of California, Los Angeles researchers.

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 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.

 

Steadies 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.

AFTER YEARS

Stronger Bones.    A 2009 pilot study by Dr. Loren Fishman showed that practicing yoga could improve bone density among older adults.

“We did a bone mineral density (DEXA) scan, then we taught half of them the yoga, waited two years, and did another scan,” Fishman previously told The Huffington Post. “And not only did these people not lose bone, they gained bone. The ones who didn’t do the yoga lost a little bone, as you would expect.”

Healthy Weight.    Researchers from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle found an association between a regular yoga practice and decreased weight — or at least a maintained weight — among more than 15,000 healthy, middle-aged adults.

“Those practicing yoga who were overweight to start with lost about five pounds during the same time period those not practicing yoga gained 14 pounds,” study researcher Alan Kristal, DPH, MPH, told WebMD.

Lower Risk Of Heart Disease.     As part of a healthy lifestyle, yoga may lower cardiovascular risk factors such as high blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar, according to Harvard Health Publications.