Wellness

How and Why Yoga Reduces Stress

There is growing evidence that yoga is a science.

We all experience stress and anxiety. For some of us it is temporary and for others it is long term or chronic. Eddie Stern has studied yoga and the science behind it. In his new book, One Simple Thing- A New Look at the Science of Yoga and How it can Transform Your Life, he offers a comprehensive explanation of why yoga is a science based on movement and breath. Stern says, “By doing a regular practice, we begin to create an underlying mental trait of awareness, which is more dependable and more open than the changing states. Through our practice we develop a trait of awareness that is calm, has perspective, and can help us pause so that we do not get swept away by overwhelming emotions.”

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How Yoga Decreases Stress:

  • Creates connection ( the Sanskrit term yoga means union)

  • Increases awareness

  • Creates acceptance of our selves & others

  • Gives a feeling of lightness

  • Slows and deepens our breath

Knowing how to calm our nervous system when in the fight or flight respense is essention for living the life we love.

 I often share with my yoga students that the awareness starts on the mat and then carries into every aspect of life. It is truly magical. In yoga we often use what is called Ujai Breath, which is deep inhales through the nose and deep exhales through the nose and we then move the body with the breath. When we get anxious our breath becomes shallow. Practice the pause and allow your “yoga breath” (Ujai) redirect your thoughts. By slowing the breath and returning to deep inhales through the nose and deep exhales through the nose we literally slow our heartrate and calm ourselves down. The body breathes shallowly when anxious because our nervous system is literally preparing us to fight or run away.

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Understanding Yoga and Why it Reduces Stress

Yoga is more than a physical practice on the mat. The asanas, or physical postures, are great for increasing stability and balance, increasing flexability and increasing strength. The philosophy, as detailed in the 8 Limbs of Yoga, teaches us ethical guidelines. Yoga breathing connects the body and mind through movement. 


Our nervous and immune systems become resilient and balanced through our yoga practice. Each posture can be modified to fit your ability or skill levels. Some postures are as simple as standing in equal balance rooting into the earth while growing tall toward the sky. Other poses are more challenging. There is no competition in fact, as you progress with a regular practice you tune out the external world and focus on your movement and breath. Sometimes I even stop hearing the music that is playing! Yoga can even be practiced in a chair. But, if you experience a lot of stress or anxiety I cannot urge you enough to make time and inetegrate yoga into your life. If you can manage to practice first thing in the morning you start your day with positivity and that momentum can build throughout the day allowing you to manifest your goals and dreams. 

I described my first yoga class as feeling as if I had just received a relaxing massage but also muscles shaking in places I didn’t know existsted. I have since heard this feeling referred to as “the yoga high”. You will feel the effects after your first practice but the more disciplined and regularly you practice the more you will feel the benefits on body, mind, and spirit.

With Support,

Libby

P.S. Stress certainly takes its toll on us but chronic stress causes many serious illnesses. Please take a moment, if you have not already, to read my last blog titled Stress Effects and how to Mindfully Cope. I look forward to working one on one with anyone who feels overwhelmed and would like an ally to improve life.

Simple Yoga Stretches to Relieve Low Back Pain

The Growing Epidemic of Back Pain

At some point in your life, if not already, you will most likely suffer from low back pain. If you have, or currently do suffer, from back pain you know how painful and at times even debilitating it is. According to Mayo Clinic, “Back pain is one of the most common reasons people go to the doctor or miss work, and is the leading cause of disability worldwide.” Many factors contribute to this growing problem including sedentary lifestyles, poor core strength, tight hips & shoulders, and obesity. Back pain is most commonly treated with opioids, which as you know, are very addictive and can then lead to the addiction of other drugs such as heroine when the prescription runs out.

We can prevent back pain, in many cases, by increasing low impact exercises, building core strength, increasing flexibility, maintaining a healthy diet and controlling our weight, and avoiding smoking.

Causes of Low Back Pain

In some cases you should consult a doctor. Low back pain could be muscular strain, degenerative or slipped disc, compressed nerves, or sometimes is even a sign of internal organ problems such as a kidney infection. Doctors will often order an x-ray or MRI to check for signs of a more serious issue. However, if it is muscular strain there are quite a few simple yoga stretches that can offer great relief without turning to prescription drugs. Our body is designed to heal itself, we just need to help it along at times.

Everything I offer you in my blogs is based on personal experience. Lately I have been having pretty consistent back pain that comes and goes based on my activity level. One day, several months ago, it hurt so bad that Chris had to literally lift me out of bed. He took me to the hospital and we both had hoped for x-rays to find out what was causing the pain. No avail, the doctor was certain my pain was muscular because she could press on my spine and I felt relief rather than increased pain. She suggested yoga which I chuckled about since I practice daily. I asked if I should avoid any postures like twisting and she said no. I then started going for regular massage therapy. Turns out the massage therapist helped me more than the doctor, shocker right?! She said in so many words I have a tight ass lol. But, in all seriousness it made total sense. My piriformis muscle in my glutes were extremely tight. I knew right away what stretches I needed, I just would not have known that my low back pain was caused by my buttocks muscles. So, I hope that if you are experiencing back pain these postures and stretches will help!

Simple Yoga Postures & Stretches to Relieve Back Pain

 

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TADASANA, OR MOUNTAIN POSE:

  • Practice equal standing (with big toes together and heels slightly apart or you can have feet hip width apart), distributing the weight evenly between both feet as well as evenly through all four corners of each foot.

  • place your hands tohether at heart center OR turn your palms forward drawing the finger tips toward the earth

  • Root down and grow the crown of your head high toward the sky, engaging your uddiyana bandha (pull in core) and drawing up the moola bandha ( similar to a keegle exercise)

The beauty of this pose is that it can be practiced anywhere at anytime. Try it in line for the grocery or really any time you are standing. The benefits of this pose include increased awareness, improved posture, iproves arches in feet, and increases stability.

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ADHO MUKHA SVANASANA, OR DOWNWARD FACING DOG:

  • From plank position lift your hips up and back working to get the heels toward the floor

  • spread fingers wide and press into all ten fingers, pads, and palms

  • engage your core, relieving the spine, and preventing you from caving through your chest, creating an inverted V. Relax your neck and take 3-5 breaths.

As you strengthen core muscles you are also improving flexibility through the hips and shoulders. This posture truly works the entire body. If you practice Ashtanga Yoga you know that most down dogs are followed by upward dogs which move the spine in the opposite direction. Normally keeping this balance is good, however upward facing dog is hard on people with low back pain, soI recommend doing a pushup and skipping up dog. Also important to note this stretch can be modified and preformed my placing your hands shoulder width apart onto the back of a chair or even a wall. Walk your feet back until arms are straight. Stretch your hips back toward the wall behind you. Stay here 3-5 breaths.

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NAVASANA, OR BOAT POSE:

  • Sit back on your tailbone lifting toes to eye level. Feel free to hold the backs of legs for added support as you continue to build core strength, other wise reach fingers toward toes.

  • leen upper body back rounding shoulders up and back, elongate the spine, keep shins parallel to earth

  • If you feel strong you may straighten the legs or perhaps lean torso back further and begin to lower legs toward earth

Strengthening the core protects our back. this pose also improves posture.

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PARSVA UPAVISTA KONASANA, OR SEATED WIDE LEGGED STRETCH:

  • Inhale, sit tall and exhale right shoulder to right thigh, gazing upward

  • Extend left arm over left ear and reach out through your finger tips

  • feel the long side body stretch as your ribs expand, loosening the “cage” that holds our heart

This stretch lengthens and strengthens the spine and back muscles, improves spinal alignment, and improves posture. It also opens the hips, groin, and pelvis and increases blood flow to these areas.

 

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THREAD THE NEEDLE:

  • Laying flat on back, bend knees with soles of feet on ground

  • Cross left foot over right knee and raise right toes to eye level (parallel to ground)

  • Thread arms around right thigh and gently pull thigh toward chest and using core to push low back into earth. Hold 3-5 breaths and then switch legs.

This pose feels highly therapeutic to my low back. It stretches the hips which reduces stiffness in both the hips and low back. This is a milder version of pigeon pose.

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SUPTA MATSYENDRASANA, OR TWO KNEE RECLINED SPINAL TWIST:

  • Laying flat on your bend knees

  • Lift hips and rotate both legs to the far right. If this is too much pressure on knees or hips support the legs with a pillow or rolled blanket

  • Take arms out to your side in a “T” or place in “bank robber” position. Turn head to your left. Stay 3-5 breaths and repeat on the opposite side.

This pose stretches the upper and middle spine. It alleviates stiffness and low back pain. If you have furry friends they will offer assists ;)

Staying Mobile

If you sit at a desk the majority of the day for work or school try a few of the above stretches periodically. Change positions often and get outside for a short walk any time opportunity allows. Movement not only benefits the body, but it connects the body with the mind allowing us to become more mindful. If you are active at work and need to lift heavy items lift from the legs to protect your back. These stretches will also benefit you. If you found this article helpful please scroll down under the tags and click the heart on the left to give some love and let me know if I am doing a good job delivering helpful information.

With Health & Gratitude,

Libby

P. S. Have you seen our new logo? If not visit our home page on the website! The yin yang symbolizes balance and reflection. The lotus flower represents our growth up through the muck and mire and into the light where we bloom. Green is the symbol of growth, abundance, harmony, and nature. While you are on the website please sign up for the newsletter. Stay tuned for next Monday’s blog on Stress Relief During the Holiday Season.

 

Just Breathe, A Simple Tool to Reduce Stress

At birth, the very first thing you do is gasp for your first breath. Your breath is your life force and energy flowing throughout your body. Being mindful of our “in breath” and our “out breath” connects the body and the mind. When we feel stressed, angry or anxious, our breath tends to be rapid and shallow depriving us of sufficient oxygen. This is when we need to practice THE PAUSE, and direct our attention to our breath.

In the 8 Limbs of Yoga as described in the Yoga Sutras of Pantanjali, Pranayama or breath life force is described as a tool to help us reach a higher level of concentration and connection with the self. There are many styles of breath work and in India, for example, people take classes specifically for breath work because it is highly regarded as part of their health and vitality. I use Ujaii Breathing in my yoga classes and many times I incorporate other techniques. 

“For breath is life and if you breathe well, you will live long on earth.” Sanskrit Proverb

This style of breathing will increase the heat in your body, which helps create flexibility in your yoga and other athletic practices, but you can use Ujaii breath anytime. Breathe in deeply through your nose and then breathe out deeply through your nose. Continue breathing in through the nose and out through the nose simply observing the effects. That is all there is to it. It is one of the simpler breathing techniques. You can add a slight pause after your inhale and after your exhale if you want to take it a little further into breath retention. 

By practicing Ujaii Breathing where we inhale through the nose deeply and exhale through the nose deeply, we are able to slow and deepen the breath. This calms the parasympathetic nervous system and thus relieves stress and improves our mood. As the holiday season approaches, use this breathing technique to relieve stress and tension. 

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Draw awareness into your breath and into your body language when you are stressed, anxious, nervous or angry, and then when you are happy, relaxed and at ease. Notice how you hold your hands, your posture, your shoulders and your breath. When we are relaxed our breath tends to be fuller and deeper, which oxygenates our blood and our brains, lowers blood pressure, and stabilizes our bodies. 

Your breath allows you to pause and respond rather than react. Your breath is your gift of life. It gives you the path to mindfulness. Your breath connects your body, mind and soul. You are in control of your breath even when you are in control of nothing else in this life. 

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Breathe in, breathe out, all is here, all is now, all is well….

Mindfully yours,

Libby

P.S. - Breathwork has long been known to reduce stress and improve the quality of life. Dr. Andrew Weil has proven many breathing techniques that you can learn at this link:  https://www.drweil.com/health-wellness/balanced-living/meditation-inspiration/the-art-and-science-of-breathing/

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Reasons to Consider Yoga Teacher Training for the Summer of 2016

There are sooo many reason’s to consider yoga teacher training, even if you have not considered teaching! Teacher training will boost your self confidence, offers the freedom of self employment, and will challenge you mentally and physically.

What to expect from Yoga Teacher Training at Yoga Fit Boutique:

1.     We take our program seriously, however, it is Yoga and we encompass the rules of acceptance and can work with you both financially and with schedule conflicts within reason. We want our program to be accessible to everyone.

2.     Expect to grow spiritually. Yoga is not religious specific, however we do believe you will grow in many ways spiritually.

3.     Learn correct and healthy alignment for your body and then how to share that with others.

4.     Deepen your own self study, svadhyaya. The 8 limbs of Ashtanga Yoga teach you to live your yoga rather than just practice the physical aspect.  

5.     Yoga will add more meaning to your life. You will create an awareness on the mat that will eventually carry off the mat and into your daily life. This awareness will grow into cosmic consciousness allowing you to stay centered and focused in each moment free from judgement.

Our program is different from other training programs.  We will prepare you to lead multiple styles of yoga.  You will develop your verbal cues and speaking skills right from the start.  We teach not only sequencing, but also how to develop your very own sequence to teach any class at any moment to any level practitioner including modifications and the aids of props.  Our program also has a very strong business and marketing module, which will prepare you to market yourself as a teacher, private instructor or business owner. 

Register TODAY! We have several spots available for our summer session.  WE meet the last weekend of each month, beginning Friday, June 24th, 5:30-8:00pm.  For more information please visit the Teacher Training Tab on our website www.yogafitboutique.com .  ****I will honor early registration through June 12th***

Namaste,

Libby McAvoy