10 Yoga Poses That Fend Off Stress During the Holidays

Source: By Jenna Saunders

http://www.chopra.com/articles/10-yoga-poses-that-fend-off-stress-during-the-holidays

Child's Pose

Child's Pose

Stress and fatigue are often unwelcome guests during the holiday season. Stress might join you while cooking a holiday meal, decorating your house in preparation for a party, or shopping at a crowded mall. It can manifest as aches and pains, prevent you from sleeping through the night, and dampen your spirits during the holidays

You can beat back stress, and the inevitable fatigue it causes on your body. Fend off feelings of stress by stretching your body and encouraging healthy and restorative movement. Enjoy learning this gentle yoga flow that will help you relax, recharge, and restore your mind and body through the entire holiday season.

This yoga flow will take you about 10 minutes and should be done in a quiet space. Hold each pose for about five deep breaths. Holding these poses for a longer period of time will allow your body to fully adjust and align properly, assist you in building strength, and give your mind a restorative rest. There is no mat required, just you and your breath.
 

Tadasana - Equal Standing Pose

Tadasana is the perfect pose to close your eyes and take a few moments to breathe. This pose induces a meditative state and allows you to find some balance and calm your mind. This pose encourages both physical and mental relaxation. Tadasana is also a great opportunity to take a deep breath and set an intention or take a moment of gratitude for your practice.

Stand with your feet parallel to one another and about hip-distance apart. Distribute your weight evenly on your feet. Keep a very small bend in the knees by engaging your thighs in order to discourage locking your knee joints. Place your hands together at your heart center. Close your eyes and take five deep breaths.
 

Urdhva Hastasana - Hands to Sky

Urdhva Hastasana is a pose that helps you move stagnant energy that may be weighing you down. This pose encourages openness and flexibility in your shoulders, spine, and heart center.

From your Tadasana pose, take a deep inhale as you reach your hands up to the sky. Root your feet down into the earth and extend your finger tips to the sky. Spread your fingers wide and the palms of your hands will face one another. Gaze straight ahead or slightly upwards, if you do not have neck sensitivity. Hold for five deep breaths.

 

Uttanasana - Forward Fold

Uttanasana can help calm your mind and relieve stress and anxiety. We often carry stress and tension in our neck and shoulder area; this pose physically takes the tension off of that sensitive area, while allowing your entire upper body to release and relax. While in this pose, focus on letting go all of the tension in your neck. Perhaps gently shake your head “yes” and “no” to ensure that your neck is completely relaxed. Imagine all of your worries and stress rolling off of your back.

From Urdhva Hastasna, exhale and then hinge at your hips and forward fold. You can rest your hands on the floor if they can reach comfortably. You can also reach for the backs of your thighs or for opposite elbows with your hands. Release all tension in your neck and allow your head, neck, and upper torso to completely relax. Close your eyes and hold for five deep breaths.
 

Adho Mukha Svanasana  - Downward Facing Dog

Adho Mukha Svanasana encourages fresh blood to flow through your body, allowing you to feel energized and rejuvenated. This pose is considered a mild inversion because your heart is higher than your head. Inversions boast a list of benefits to help relieve stress such as encouraging fresh blood to flow to your brain, which helps calm the nervous system.

From Uttanasana, bend your knees and plant your hands down on the mat. Walk your feet toward the back of the mat so your body resembles an upside-down V shape.  Spread your fingers wide on the mat and press down with all four corners of your hands. Draw the sit bones up and back simultaneously and release your heels to the mat as far as they will go. Close your eyes and take five deep breaths.
 

Balasana - Child’s Pose

Balasana is considered one of the most restorative postures in yoga. This gentle resting posture stretches the entire backside of the body, including your shoulders. With each breath, you can melt deeper into this pose and encourage your body to completely relax. This pose helps quiet the mind. By placing your forehead on the floor, you are allowing your body to ground down and enhance relaxation. Balasana is known to soothe the nervous system and aids the lymphatic system.

From Adho Mukha Svanasana, release down to a table-top position with your hands directly under your shoulders and your knees directly under your hips. Take your big toes in to touch one another and spread your knees wide. Begin to release your hips back over your heels and extend your arms in front of you. If this pose is uncomfortable for your hips, place a large pillow under your torso and between your knees and rest your head on the pillow for support. Close your eyes and hold for five deep breaths.
 

Dandasana  - Staff Pose

Dandasana stretches your shoulders, upper back, and chest. This pose allows for improved posture and alignment. Dandasana is a great static pose that encourages your mind to calm and focus. By lifting your chest in this pose, you’re encouraging your heart chakra to open, which is associated with compassion, love, and joy.

From Balasana, inhale back up to your table-top position with your hands directly under your shoulders and your knees directly under your hips. Gently take your legs to one side to make your way down to the floor in a comfortable seat. Extend both of your legs out in front of you. Place the palms of your hands a few inches behind your hips with your fingertips facing your feet. Engage your feet by flexing your toes back toward you, engage your thighs, and engage your lower belly. Relax your shoulders down your back and draw your shoulder blades toward one another. Release your chin toward your chest, close your eyes, and take five deep breaths.
 

Janu Sirsasana - Head to Knee Forward Bend

The hip area is also a very common place in the body to hold onto emotions and stress. Janu Sirsasana is a gentle hip opener and forward fold. This pose also stretches the spine, shoulders, and hamstrings. By opening the hips, spine, and shoulders, you are encouraging release of the residual tension that often resides in these areas.

From Dandasana, bend your right knee and open it toward your right side. Place your right foot inside your left thigh with the heel towards your pelvis. Turn your torso toward your extended left leg and reach your hands toward the sky on a deep inhale. As your exhale, begin to hinge at your hip and forward fold over your extended left leg. Depending on your flexibility, you can gently place your hands on the floor on either side of your left leg. If you have deeper flexibility, you can reach for your left shin, ankle, or foot. Close your eyes and hold for five deep breaths. Inhale as you rise your torso up, extend your right leg straight to meet your left, and repeat on the left side.
 

Supta Baddha Konasana - Reclining Bound Angle Pose

Supta Baddha Konasana is a classic restorative posture. This pose stimulates the heart and improves circulation that allows the body to move stagnant energy. This pose also helps reduce nervous tension and gives the body an opportunity to completely relax. Supta Baddha Konasana encourages relaxation of the abdominal muscles, which can be soothing for many digestive issues caused by stress.

From Janu Sirsasana, extend both legs out in front of you and slowly lower down onto your back. Once you’re on your back, bend your knees. Relax your knees out to the sides and place the outer edges of your feet on the ground. The heels and soles of the feet will touch one another. Gently allow your hips to open. Rest your hands on the ground on either side of your bent legs with your palms facing up. Release any tension or tightness in your body, allowing your body to completely relax into the pose. Close your eyes and take five deep breaths.
 

Viparita Karani - Legs Up The Wall

Viparita Karani is a wonderful pose to fully relax and explore your breath. By placing your legs up the wall, you’re allowing stagnate fluids to release, and fresh blood to flow through your body. This circulation boost allows your body to restore its balance. By doing this pose, you will encourage your entire body to relax and transition from activity to receptivity, which allows your mind to quiet.

From Supta Baddha Konasana, take hold of the backs of your thighs as you gently guide your knees in to touch one another. Give your knees a hug with your arms wrapped around your legs. Gently rock yourself up to a seat and position yourself next to a wall. Sit upright against a wall with one hip touching the wall. Slowly roll down onto your back and let your legs rotate up and rest against the wall. You may need to scoot your body closer or further away from the wall in order to find a comfortable position. Rest your arms out to the sides of your body or gently place one palm on your belly and one on your heart. Once you’re comfortable, close your eyes, and hold for five deep breaths.
 

Savasana

Savasana is your reward after this gentle stress-relieving yoga flow. After flowing through these grounding and calming postures, Savasana will give your body the opportunity to receive your practice, and allow the restorative work you did to sink into all of the cells of your body.

From Viparita Karani, gently slide your legs down the wall toward your right side and roll over to the right side of your torso. Use your hands to press up to a seat and move your mat away from the wall. Gently lie all the way down and completely surrender. Allow your legs to extend down on the mat and your feet to relax open to the sides. Release every muscle in your arms, legs, torso, and face. Close your eyes and allow your body and mind to be completely still.

Coconut Oil: Like Duct Tape For Your Health (Funny Video) & 21 Ways To Topically Incorporate It Into Your Life

You can put it in your hair, put it in your food, and even use it to get to party going under the covers. But is coconut oil really that good for you? YES!

Coconut oil has been touted as the remedy for everything from acne cure to zinc alternative, but you can't argue that it has some proven health benefits when topically applied or moderately ingested.

Almost 50% of the fatty acids in coconut oil is the 12-carbon Lauric Acid. When coconut oil is enzymatically digested, it also forms a monoglyceride called monolaurin. Both lauric acid and monolaurin can kill harmful pathogens like bacteria, viruses and fungi. This includes bacteria such as Staphylococcus Aureus and Candida Albicans, the cause of most yeast infections in humans. These antibacterial and anti-fungal properties hold true both when ingested and when used topically. 

The People's Pharmacy specifically recommends it as a lubricant for women experiencing vaginal dryness, noting that its natural antibacterial and antiviral properties can help maintain vaginal health. (It does weaken latex condoms however so it's best used for situations where they are not called for.)

This is what makes it effective as a mouthwash as well. Coconut Oil Pulling, an ancient Ayurveda dental technique that involves swishing a tablespoon of oil in your mouth on an empty stomach for around 20 minutes has been used for ages for oral hygiene. When used in conjunction with a natural toothpaste, floss, and healthy diet, you can throw out that toxic fluoride (which has even been shown to reduce the brain's IQ... yikes!)

Source: The Coconut Mama

Source: The Coconut Mama

In beauty, coconut oil makes an amazing alternative for everything from a base for home body and lip balms, to shaving cream and hair conditioner. Mix it with coarse salt or sugar, and your favorite essential oil, to make your own DIY body scrub. You can mix it with Rosehip for oilier skin and Sweet Almond oil for dry skin. Here's an antioxident Coffee Body Scrub recipie from The Coconut Mama. One life hack even suggests mixing it with the loose particles of broken eyeshadows or blushes to make a creamier stay put version of your favorite colors. You don't have to throw out shattered blushes or eyeshadows anymore!

Coconut oil while beneficial topically and orally is also high in saturated fat, so as with anything, be mindful and moderate. Hazelnut, flaxseed, and avocado are all good cooking alternatives to cut out the bad fats. Replacing other oils in your cabinet with any of these can have a favorable effect of you lipid profile (the blood tests that screen for abnormalities in lipids, such as cholesterol and triglycerides), and help reduce the risk of cardiovascular events.

Here's Popsugar's tips on  21 ways to topically incorporate coconut oil into your life! 
 

Your Brain on Om: The Science of Mantra

There is a vast science of sound in yoga used for increasing awareness and expanding emotional states

In response to my first post on yoga and the brain, I received a thoughtful question from a reader: "Why would my brain want to love saying Om?" We have often heard (or heard of) yoga students or ourselves chanting the sound Om or Aum at the beginning or end of a yoga class. When I first took a yoga class, I was curious as to the reason and significance of using this sound, feeling slightly awkward uttering aloud this unfamiliar sound. Indeed, in some of my yoga classes, there may be students who opt out of participating in this part, instead choosing to remain silent. As a scientist by birth, so to speak, and thus a true skeptic in the sense that I enjoy questioning unfamiliarities to a healthy degree – rather than the self-serving doubting of everything that doesn't agree with the limited convictions of the personal mind – I figured that chanting such a sound may have a functional purpose if I experimented with it. I soon discovered that there is a vast science of sound in yoga used for increasing awareness and expanding emotional states of the human personality in ways that align with some recent investigations in neuroscience.

In the course of human evolutionary history, the auditory faculty evolved to process some set of constant features in nature, which make up the core grammar of auditory perception. These are the bite-sized pieces of sound information that the brain has evolved to process and of which to make sense. Through our sense of hearing the brain detects forms in space, much like echolocation in bats, by recognizing the sounds of interactions among solid-object physical events. Imagine that you hear the sound of a car's tires screeching, followed by a crash, and then the reverberation of the impact. What you've just heard is a series of events: a slide (tires screeching), a hit (the impact) and a ring (the reverberation), the three major types of physical interactions. Neuroscientist Mark Changizi has posited that the major phonemes of speech have evolved to resemble these kinds of interactive events, in a sort of onomatopoeia, where the sounds of the words resemble the events themselves, such as in "screech" and "crash." Speech, and even music as an ordered narrative of sounds, make use of our brain's evolved capacity to perceive natural sounds.

[Read: Yoga with Down syndrome: Sarah Schaffer's Story.]

Mantra is a Sanskrit word for "sound tool," and Om is one of myriad such mantras. Sanskrit and some other ancient languages such as Tibetan, prototypical Egyptian and ancient Hebrew evolved as complex systems of onomatopoeia, where the sounds evoke movements of energy. This evocation is qualitative and subjective and is linked with interoception (inner body sensations) and emotional sense of self, both predominantly represented in the right hemisphere of the brain. Conversely, the narrative strand of sounds in which we give them meaning is done predominantly through the left hemisphere. What is fascinating about mantras is that from a physics standpoint, the sounds themselves, before they are assigned meaning, will resonate in different parts of the body and mind, creating actual interactions or events. Mantras are information, in the literal sense of in-forming: the creation of form, or interactions. The Sanskrit language is an information sequencing system that mimics the process of nature's repeating patterns. As the Sanksrit scholar Dr. Douglas Brooks has said, "Sanskrit tells us what Nature shows us. A limited number of rules gives an arbitrarily large number of outcomes. The way Nature goes about its business, Sanskrit goes about its language." Much like the emotive quality of immersing oneself in music, mantra uses sound to evoke movement of physical and emotional energy through stimulation of the nervous system, from which emerges meaning and narrative.

[Read: The Brain in Four Dimensions.]

In order to have insight into and validate a mantra for ourselves, it must be experienced and felt through introspection. Let's take the mantra Om, or Aum, one of the most common in Sanskrit and Tibetan. If Aum is indeed onomatopoeic, then performing it can create an event inside the nervous system, which can then become an object of concentration and meditation, and thereby a focal point for expanding physical and emotional awareness. In terms of phonemes, we notice that it does not have any plosives or fricatives, only sonorants. From the types of solid-object physical events that the brain evolved to perceive, this respectively corresponds to an absence of hits and slides, and the presence of only rings. A, U and M are sonorants or rings, so this particular mantra qualifies an object that inherently has no interactions (hits or slides). In terms of physics, this means our object is formless. Try resonating the mantra aloud, allowing air to flow through the nasal passage, smoothly transitioning between the three sounds. If you do not wish to disturb anyone that may be around you, you can whisper the sounds subvocally. The A (pronounced ä, as in "car") can feel like a wide opening and has a broader vibratory effect on the physical body, approximating the gross consciousness of the waking state. The U (pronounced o͞o, as in "soup"), has a funneling effect, narrowing the consciousness into subtler sensations such as thoughts and impressions, approximating the dream state. The more nasal M sound is like the drone of a bee; it makes the cranium vibrate in a kind of undifferentiated and ubiquitous earthquake over the convolutions or valleys in the cerebral cortex, approximating the deep dreamless sleep state of consciousness. Traditionally, Aum represents and has the capacity to progressively open up the practitioner to the ever-present formless and timeless reality, the background radiation of the cosmos that echoes the Big Bang. Aum is found in the form of Amen in Christianity, Judaism and ancient Egyptian, where it also codes for the immutable eternal aspect of consciousness.

[Read: Benefits of Yoga: How Different Types Affect Health.]

The feelings and symbolic representations of the sounds will differ from person to person because, like any tool, the effects of the sounds depend on the user operating them and the object of use, namely the condition of the body and mind. The practitioner should first develop a state of relaxation through proper breathing. It is also important to take interest in or to have a healthy curiosity for the practice so that the effect of actually enjoying the learning process may help the mantra get a foothold in the system. Mantras can be done vocally, sub-vocally (whispering) or silently in the mind. It is recommended to start aloud, and then proceed with the more silent variations. Silent repetition does have an effect; when the frequency of any sound is high enough, it extends beyond the human range of hearing and eventually achieves stillness, which is beyond sound itself. It has been demonstrated in a double-blind study that ultrasound probes applied to the skull can improve subjective mood, and it has been evidenced that even imagining performing musical exercises rewires and strengthens nerve connections. Both of these studies speak to the capacity of mental recitation of mantra to activate and affect the physical nervous system. Moreover, group chanting or recitation of mantra can synchronize the brainwaves between the participants, achieving yet another level of collective effect, ashas been shown between musicians, which can help to understand the functional basis for group chanting in many of the world's wisdom traditions.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe once said: "Architecture is frozen music." The Sanskrit language is code for the patterns of nature, sonic representations of the way nature works. Mantras hold within them the latent forms of the universe. From supreme stillness and subtle ultrasonic vibrations, these latent forms cascade into being as audible sound, which then has the capacity to in-form, or shape reality, as has been demonstrated bycymatics. By practicing mantra, we can tap into the source of that power to manifest – we can drive our awareness deeper into the bones, muscles and tissues of the body to gain a greater sensitivity and understanding of our makeup and amplify the emotional energies latent within, much like the potential energy present in mountains that then becomes kinetic in the form of an avalanche when the earth quakes. By aiming with intention the practice of mantra into progressively deeper layers of ourself, we can bring more of ourself online, as it were, and therefore more on board the journey of health and fitness towards union and wholeness. Through mantra, we have the opportunity to practice yoga.

[Read: 5 People Who Are Changing the Face of Yoga.]

The Prison Yoga Project: Stories From The Inside

FEBRUARY 02, 2013 07:53 PM
BY JC WHITTED / PERSPECTIVES: PRISONER.

Having been involved in the Hatha Yoga program at San Quentin with an instructor for two hours a week for over two years, the benefits have been immeasurable. My very perception of reality and events, all sensory stimuli, thoughts of life, purpose, and being have been affected. Having served 21 years in prison on a ’15 yrs. To Life’ sentence, I’ve been involved in all types of Self Help groups over the years. For almost four years I’d Facilitated Non violent communication and Conflict resolution classes. I have worked on my personal violence, and the roots of violence, but dealing with other people’s violence had often been difficult to say the least. In prison the penalties and consequences of your actions are more severe. The Ripple Effect becomes the Tidal Wave Effect, a simple disagreement can become another Life Sentence, real fast.

Image from The Prison Yoga Project

Image from The Prison Yoga Project

Not long ago my new cellmate and I had a serious disagreement over an item of his personal property. An item, if found in the cell would be a minor infraction for him, but would cause for me to never be given a release date. There are two sets of rules. One for ‘short- termers’ and one for lifers, and the system punishes the most anyone who trys to do what is right, welcome to prison. I had offered solutions to him for a week or so and his reaction was always the same: ‘F— You! Mind your own business.’ So one morning when I suggested that he find another cellie that he would be more compatible with, his reaction was the same. That afternoon when I got ‘home’ from work and was bending over to untie my shoes, he dove on me from my left side in the tight confines of the cell! My focus went to the core of my being, (where your center of gravity is) in the area of the first two chakras. I simply stood up and let his motion continue, and pushed him to the right side of me. I said, ‘You need to chill out!’ and I exited the cell. I immediately went to my breath and noticed my calmness, and my balance. I wasn’t breathing heavy or fast, my adrenaline wasn’t pumping and I really wasn’t even mad. I had no ‘ill will’ towards my cellie, just a little sad that things had to be this way. But I knew that the feeling, like a cloud, would pass. After I ate dinner I had an evening self-help group to attend so I went.

I returned to find oId cellie had moved out and a new cellie there. My new cellie said that while he was moving in and the other cellie was moving out, the other cellie was trashing the place. I noticed several items of my personal property destroyed. He’d also taken a black magic marker and written profanities on the wall. He took my toothpaste and squeezed the whole tube onto my blanket. And some of my ‘goodies’ form the commissary was missing! Still I did not think or feel there was a need to be upset, I took a deep breath, paused for a moment, and then introduced myself to my new cell-mate and began cleaning up the mess.

The next day the word on the yard was that I owed that dude a complete ass kicking, and that none of ‘his people’ would retaliate be cause of the way he had disrespected me. Everyone was mad at me for not beating the guy up and kept asking me when I was going to do it? Some of the people who I thought were my friends told me they were told that they were not aloud to talk to me anymore, unless I go smash on that guy right now! I told them I’m due to go to the parole board and the last thing I need is a ‘write up’ for fighting. How could I then say: Oh but I’m ready for parole now! Later that same day they all said, ‘Ok’, when you get done going to the parole board, then you can beat him up. They just didn’t get it.

Only one person commended me for showing tremendous control, and he just happened to be another one of our fellow students from the yoga class! At the next class I took the time aside to personally thank our Instructor. Also to let him know that it was only because of the inner peace and trust that was instilled, developed, and nurtured in the Yoga class, that I was able to respond to that situation with calm. Calmness developed over years, through the months, week to week, day after day, hour by hour, minute by minute, one breath at a time.

– B.T.

Source: http://prisonyoga.org/stories/developing-calmness/

What's really happening in your body during Pranayama? The science of 20 minutes of yogic breathing

Dr. Sundar Balasubramanian, PhD, a research assistant professor in the Department of Radioation Oncology at the Medical University of South Carolina and Pure Action council member, shares the results from his work on lowering the risk of Alzheimer’s disease with yogic breathing in a TED Talk in Charleston!

He tells the  audience how he blends his modern biochemistry background with the ancient traditions he learned growing up in India,  learning from his father and other relatives.

Watch his presentation here.

            Dr. Sundar Balasubramanian, PhD

            Dr. Sundar Balasubramanian, PhD

He has the crowd take a deep breath and hum, one of the simplest techniques. The packed auditorium at the Charleston Music Hall fills with a chorus of oms. “Now, you’ve learned one yogic breathing technique, and you’re one step closer to your better health.”

Balasubramanian knows this because he measures compounds found in saliva of those who practice it and has seen how the breathing potentially increases anti-inflammatory biomarkers.

“It is not just a digestive fluid. It has proteins, hormones and growth factor – and so on. One of them was nerve growth factor, which is a protein that helps the nerve cells, neurons, to grow, withstand stress and live longer.”

Yogic breathing has another benefit. Minding the breath helps control the mind. “We all want to control our minds, but controlling the mind is not easy. As the Eastern philosophy puts it, ‘Mind is a monkey.’ It’s not a normal monkey. It’s crazy. It’s like a drunken monkey, stung by a scorpion.”

The crowd laughs, and some participants tweet the comment. This is one reason Balasubramanian and others take the time to do this. The TEDx platform, which posts videos of its speakers, offers an international platform to spread a message.

If something so simple as yogic breathing can enhance health, he wants people to know about it. It’s why he makes time for community outreach programs, and he jumped at the chance to do the TEDx talk, he says. “These activities are as important as scientific meetings and conferences.”

Researchers can communicate their ideas and key messages to the general public, not only for potential funding support, but to raise health and scientific literacy.

Source: http://purebikramyoga.com/scientific-findings-about-yoga/the-science-of-yogic-breathing/

Original source: http://academicdepartments.musc.edu/pr/newscenter/2015/tedx-charleston.html#.VWvZ1VxVjfD

Five Ways Yoga Is Changing My Life (from a male's perspective)

Source: Natural News

Written by Lance Johnson

Not long ago, I thought yoga was for girls. Striking an awkward pose on a mat looked geeky -- something a big 6'6" competitive guy like me would have nothing in common with. When my wife bought a yoga mat and an instructional DVD and tried following along at home, it all looked even more boring. Was I missing something? 

The mat went to the back of the closet. Still, something about it I wanted. I wanted the flexibility, the ease of motion these yogis displayed so fluently. Throughout my late teens, I grew quickly; somehow, my sciatica nerve was pinched during the growth spurts. If I sat too long, the pain became sharp, shooting down my legs. Over time, my quads tensed up to bear the pain. To relax while sitting, my muscles learned to automatically tense up. In my 20s, I made some dietary changes to bring the inflammation down, eliminating inflammatory dairy products and welcoming in anti-inflammatory spices like turmeric. Even though the pain had subsided, the tenseness remained, restricting my flexibility and range of movement.

Bronze figure of a Yogi in meditation

Bronze figure of a Yogi in meditation

Honoring where I am

At just the right time, my wife and I met a friend who happened to teach yoga locally. We went to one of her classes. I quickly found out that the best way to start learning yoga is to do it live, with a teacher right in front of you. The teacher made it look so easy. Being the competitive guy that I was, I fought to stretch as far as I could at first. I quickly learned my limitations, and instead of competing, I learned to honor where my body was. Instead of straining, I learned to start slow, work with my breath, and inch my way forward. In those first yoga sessions, my mind became aware of my body movements, why I was tense in certain areas. I had to then make a decision to change or stay the same.

Making mind-body connections

My decision to change led me to making conscious mind-body connections. After yoga at night, when I went to relax and sleep, my mind became aware of my muscle contractions in my legs. I could literally feel my spine and hips "waking up." I practiced a relaxing, circular low spinal movement at night and became aware of where my body automatically became tense from past learned pain response. Weeks later, my mind alerted me to the unconscious retracting of my bones that moved inward around my buttocks just before I went to sleep. They would tense up in response to pain I used to feel. I learned to consciously shift these bones back out, telling my lower body to relax -- telling myself the pain is gone. It's these interesting mind-body connections that are beginning to increase the quality of my relaxing state, opening up pathways for healing energy where I once learned to be tense.

Conscious control of breathing

The next lesson I've learned is how to consciously control my breathing. Yoga is excellent for restoring one's breath, bringing more oxygen to the blood and brain. While I was being non-competitive on the yoga mat, I learned to use yoga's principles of deep breathing while playing competitive sports. When I'm out of breath on the playing field, I now know how to "find my center" and regain control over my breathing. This now allows me to regain a tremendous amount of focus in the most crucial moments of playing any competitive sport.

Enhancing sleep and relaxation quality

I also applied the breathing techniques in my sleep. I learned how to match my breathing with the rhythm of the rest of my body right before and during sleep. This allowed me to breathe strongly through my nose and upper sinuses, instead of relying on just my mouth to breathe. My wife started noticing less snoring and I had less throat hack in the morning.

Becoming one

Even though I have a long way to go before I can stretch and move like the more advanced yogis, I have found incredible personal growth regardless, and I am thankful for that. After every yoga session, I truly do feel a sense of inner calm. Not only does practicing yoga take your mind off the pressures of life, but it also puts you back in the moment, as you become one with your inner spirit. I highly recommend that all men give it a try. You may just get addicted to the infinite challenges that yoga has to offer.

 

 

YUMMY RAW SPROUTED GRANOLA RECIPE

From the ever awesome: Cultures For Health

This crunchy, raw, sprouted granola comes together quickly once all of the seeds have been sprouted. It makes great use of several different types of sprouts and tastes wonderful. If dehydrated below 113°F, all of the enzymes of the grain and seeds will remain intact, for a delicious and light breakfast. Use buckwheat and sunflower seeds that are just beginning to show their sprouting tail.

INGREDIENTS:

Instructions:

  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the honey, cinnamon, vanilla, and salt. Add in the sprouted buckwheat, sunflower seeds, and flax seeds. Mix well to combine.
  2. Spread the mixture onto two dehydrator sheets, if using a dehydrator, or two sheet pans if drying in the oven. 
  3. Place trays in dehydrator or oven set to its lowest temperature. Dry 6-8 hours or until crunchy. 
  4. Mix chopped dried fruit into cooled granola.
  5. Stores well in an airtight container at room temperature.

The Fitness Store Challenging Lululemon With $400 Yoga Pants

Source: The New York Times

By ERIN GEIGER SMITH MARCH 22, 2016

Bandier is a two-year-old retailer that specializes in high-end activewear for women. Photo: Stefania Curto with The New York Times

Bandier is a two-year-old retailer that specializes in high-end activewear for women. Photo: Stefania Curto with The New York Times

 

On a recent Wednesday night, about 70 fitness devotees wearing in­the­know brands like Heroine Sport and Outdoor Voices were crammed into a studio in the Flatiron district, mastering their leg lifts while Pink Floyd’s “Comfortably Numb” blared overhead. Taryn Toomey, a founder of the workout program called “the Class,” led the group.

But this was not another fitness upstart in a body­obsessed neighborhood dotted with dozens of boutique studios and several major athletic clothing brand stores.

It was the new flagship store of Bandier, a two­year­old retail brand that specializes in high­end activewear for women seeking $400 yoga pants and other fashionable alternatives to giants like Lululemon and Athleta.

The boutique, which started in Southampton, N.Y., is the creation of Jennifer Bandier, a 47­year­old former R&B manager, vintage clothing peddler and fitness enthusiast, who comes across like a sweet and hyperactive cheerleader.

Jennifer Bandier, the compant founder. Photo: Stefania Curto with The New York Times

Jennifer Bandier, the compant founder. Photo: Stefania Curto with The New York Times

During an afterno with on visit at the store, she brought up such seemingly random topics as the Tennessee origins of her rescue dog, Dixie; her desire to flip houses after watching HGTV; and how she came to start a fitness retail chain with next to no sales experience.

“I’m the type of person who is either at a one or 3,000,” said Ms. Bandier, wearing wide­legged jeans, a pinstriped silk button­down and navy suede boots.

The concept for the store was born out of her own frustrations in 2013, when recovery from a broken foot had Ms. Bandier largely sidelined and living in workout clothes. Wanting her clothes to be as stylish as the Frame Denim and Isabel Marant she prefers, she scoured the web and found smaller brands, like Toronto­based Michi and Los Angeles­based Splits59. But she couldn’t find a boutique to try them on.

There's a seating area up front so shoppers can stay and hang. Photo: Stefania Curto with The New York Times

There's a seating area up front so shoppers can stay and hang. Photo: Stefania Curto with The New York Times

So in the summer of 2014, Ms. Bandier opened a 1,200­square­foot concept store on Main Street in Southampton that sold high­end fitness wear like a Michi “Feline” sports bra ($129) and technical fabric leggings from a London label, HPE ($125).

The store was a hit. At a time when Lululemon seemed like the only name in the game, the beach­body­conscious women of the Hamptons were drawn to the store’s well­edited selection of fashionable workout brands.

“If it doesn’t work in Southampton, where on earth would it work?” said Jayne Harkness, Bandier’s chief merchant. “Everybody who walked in the store looked around and took a minute to digest what it was, and then they engaged immediately.”

By November of that year, Bandier opened its store in Manhattan, a 2,300­square­foot­space at the corner of 21st and Broadway. “Once we saw it was going so well in Southampton, we quickly shifted gears,” said Neil Boyarsky, Ms. Bandier’s husband and the company’s chief executive.

Ms. Bandier’s career path is a colorful one. The daughter of Martin Bandier, the chief executive at Sony/ATV Music Publishing, she was once a manager of the hip­hop group TLC with her husband at the time.

Next, she started Luxorama, a company that sold bags customized with customers’ photos on QVC, and was briefly an owner of JBM Vintage, a byappointment­only vintage clothing store on East 75th Street, until she realized she was more interested in collecting vintage clothes than selling them.

“It took me a long time to find my way,” Ms. Bandier said. “Now that I have, I’m having so much fun.”

When the lease for the Broadway space came up, she moved the store to a 3,000­square­foot storefront on Fifth Avenue and West 21st Street. Ms. Bandier wants shoppers to stay and hang out, so there’s a seating area up front. The fitness studio is up a staircase covered in spray­painted hearts.

Bandier also has locations in Southampton and the Upper East Side, as well as at luxury shopping centers in Manhasset, N.Y., and Dallas. Photo: Stefania Curto with The New York Times

Bandier also has locations in Southampton and the Upper East Side, as well as at luxury shopping centers in Manhasset, N.Y., and Dallas. Photo: Stefania Curto with The New York Times

Bandier also has locations in Southampton and the Upper East Side, as well as at luxury shopping centers in Manhasset, N.Y., and Dallas. Additional stores in New York, California and Florida are planned for this year.

Established companies have taken notice of Bandier. Reebok, for example, has introduced certain products exclusively at Bandier. “We really believe they are trailblazing and have kind of shaken up the world” of fitness wear, said Catherine Marshall, director of global business development at Reebok. “They have a hyper­engaged audience.”

New Study Shows Yoga Has Healing Powers

The more we learn about yoga, the more we realize the benefits aren't all in the minds of the 20 million or so devotees in the U.S. Yoga helps people to relax, making the heart rate go down, which is great for those with high blood pressure. The poses help increase flexibility and strength, bringing relief to back pain sufferers.

Now, in the largest study of yoga that used biological measures to assess results, it seems that those meditative sun salutations and downward dog poses can reduce inflammation, the body's way of reacting to injury or irritation.

That's important because inflammation is associated with chronic diseases including heart disease, diabetes, and arthritis. It's also one of the reasons that cancer survivors commonly feel fatigue for months, even years, following treatment.

Researchers looked at 200 breast cancer survivors who had not practiced yoga before. Half the group continued to ignore yoga, while the other half received twice-weekly, 90-minute classes for 12 weeks, with take-home DVDs and encouragement to practice at home.

According to the study, which was led by Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, professor of psychiatry and psychology at Ohio State University, and published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, the group that had practiced yoga reported less fatigue and higher levels of vitality three months after treatment had ended.

Yoga practitioners, like these students in the bow posture, could experience reduced stress and better sleep.  PHOTOGRAPH BY RENE JOHNSTON, GETTY IMAGES

Yoga practitioners, like these students in the bow posture, could experience reduced stress and better sleep.

 PHOTOGRAPH BY RENE JOHNSTON, GETTY IMAGES

Laboratory Proof

But the study didn't rely only on self-reports. Kiecolt-Glaser's husband and research partner, Ronald Glaser of the university's department of molecular virology, immunology, and medical genetics, went for stronger, laboratory proof. He examined three cytokines, proteins in the blood that are markers for inflammation.

Blood tests before and after the trial showed that, after three months of yoga practice, all three markers for inflammation were lower by 10 to 15 percent. That part of the study offered some rare biological evidence of the benefits of yoga in a large trial that went beyond people's own reports of how they feel.

No one knows exactly how yoga might reduce inflammation in breast cancer survivors, but Kiecolt-Glaser lays out some research-based suggestions. Cancer treatment often leaves patients with high levels of stress and fatigue, and an inability to sleep well. "Poor sleep fuels fatigue, and fatigue fuels inflammation," she says. Yoga has been shown to reduce stress and help people sleep better.

Other smaller studies have shown, by measuring biological markers, that expert yoga practitioners had lower inflammatory responses to stress than novice yoga practitioners did; that yoga reduces inflammation in heart failure patients; and that yoga can improve crucial levels of glucose and insulin in patients with diabetes.

Yoga for Other Stresses

Cancer is an obvious cause of stress, but recent research has pointed to another contributing factor: living in poverty. Maryanna Klatt, an associate professor of clinical family medicine at Ohio State University, has taken yoga into the classrooms of disadvantaged children. In research that has not yet been published, she found that 160 third graders in low-income areas who practiced yoga with their teacher had self-reported improvements in attention.

"Their teachers liked doing it right before math, because then the kids focused better on the math work," she says. "Telling a kid to sit down and be quiet doesn't make sense. Have them get up and move."

While it would be too complicated and intrusive to measure biological responses to yoga in schoolchildren, Klatt has done similar research on surgical nurses, who are under the daily stress of watching suffering and death. She said she found a 40 percent reduction in their salivary alpha amylase, a measure of the fight-or-flight response to stress.

And she's about to begin teaching yoga to garbage collectors in the city of Columbus before they head out on their morning shift. At the moment, her arrangement with the city is not part of a study. She just hopes to make their lives less stressful. And she does not plan to check their inflammatory response, though she admits she'd love to.


Source: 

By Susan Brinkfor National Geographic