Feel the Peace Blog is Moving!

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Peace out!

Pranayama

Having just held a free Pranayama clinic yesterday, I thought I’d share more about the meaning of Prana. We often refer to it as the life force and the management of this life force being the breath. According to the ancient Indian system of yoga, prana is identified as the universal life force. It is the energy that distinguishes the living from the dead. This life force flows through thousands of subtle energy channels called nadis and energy centers called chakras.

Prana is the vital energy needed by our physical and subtle layers — it’s what keeps us alive! It has many levels of meaning, from the physical breath to the energy of consciousness to the original creative power. Yogis say that the entire universe is a manifestation of prana. 

In yoga class we work with prana through different breathing practices that accomplish different things. Some practices highly oxygenate the body, while others are more calming. Some cleanse the body of toxins. One practice in particular, increases the levels of nitric oxide in the body which cultivates increased immunity. It also fights parasitic organisms and viruses. So good to know these days!

* Information from Art of Living

A Brand New Offering

Demystifying Meditation – A New Mini Series (Virtual)

The benefits of meditation (physically and psychologically) are endless. In this new offering, you will:

Stretch, Breathe, and Meditate in order to calm the nervous system and balance the body/mind. Students will also experience a Short Teaching/Sharing. All practices in this series are instructor led with written teachings to take away and use in your own meditation practice. This class can be experienced seated in a chair and standing for movement. You don’t need to be on the floor.

The short teaching/sharing portion will include:

-More about what meditation is and is not
-Some of the misconceptions about meditation
-The benefits of meditation
-Self guided meditation techniques
– Instructor and non-instructor guided meditation techniques


Thursday’s 4:00-5:00 p.m. beginning 5/20 including (5/20, 5/27, 6/3). Series Cost: $30 ($10/class). Drop in to any individual class for $15, drop ins welcome. Please note that if you need to miss a class, you can request a complimentary copy of the class recording so you don’t ever have to miss class!
For more information about class content, wellness information, background, registrations, Q&A’s and to add a friend or relative to the email list (in the registration section), please visit: http://www.feelthepeaceblog.lynsirota.com

Issues in our Tissues

We all have issues in our tissues. It’s where our life story is housed (happiness, sadness, scars, trauma, blockages, etc.). Our tissue is our connective tissue and that’s a broad term that means our fascia, tendons, ligaments, bones, and even blood.

What’s really interesting about our tissue is that it both separates AND binds together muscles, organs, and other tissues of the body. It’s made up of ground substance, elastin, fibroblast cells, collagen, and more. And our fascial system (also called the interstitium) is now classified as its own organ. The interstitium is the source of lymph fluid. So when we move and stretch, we’re moving lymph which makes for a healthy immune system.

Have you stretched your tissues today? In yoga we move our tissues in all directions for optimal health. Come practice and feel the peace!

The Vagus Nerve

This week’s yoga class theme was the Vagus Nerve. It’s one of 12 cranial nerves known as the wandering nerve (vagus means wander in Latin). It has multiple branches that diverge from two thick stems rooted in the cerebellum and brainstem that wander to the lowest viscera of the abdomen touching the heart and most major organs.

Tapping into the vagus nerve can create a state of inner calm, taming inflammation and thus enhancing wellness and reducing chronic pain. In addition to what we practiced in class, here are a few other ways to stimulate the vagus nerve:

-Chew gum; chewing gum boosts the release of hormones from the gut which enhance brain/gut communication.

-Get direct sunlight. UVA rays increase hormones that stimulate the vagus nerve.

-Sleep on your right side. Lying on your back decreases vagus nerve activation, but sleeping on the right side shows greater vagus nerve stimulation compared to left side sleeping.

-Meditate and practice yoga. Meditation and certain breathing practices in yoga increase vagal tone. Chanting OM is a great example that will increase vagal tone. Yoga boosts mood and lowers anxiety while also increasing vagus nerve and parasympathetic system activity. Slow, deep exhales activate pressure receptors in the heart and neck that send signals to the brain to activate the vagus nerve.

Every Day Asana

Yesterday’s Yoga Clinic was about recommended asanas (yoga postures) to practice every day. Please note, this is a personal opinion explaining which pose along with a short explanation as to why.

1. Tadasana and Raised Tadasana (Mountain Pose)

-Good for balance, anxiety, and a preparatory pose for balancing poses. Good for postural awareness, creating a neutral pelvis, elongating the spine (pushing up, rooting down). Good for generating strength for difficult times as you’re channeling the strongest structure you can. Beautiful, expansive, rooted and stable. In raised Tadasana, you rise up from your heels as you expand and lift your arms while focusing on a drishti (focal point).

2. Balasana (Child’s Pose)

-This is a pose where magic happens when the breath is engaged. It’s a resting pose during a vigorous practice, a transitional pose or segway-going from belly to back or to standing, a Yin pose with thighs touching or wide and also a restorative pose. It brings gentle length down to the tailbone, balances out backward bending poses, stimulates/activates the digestive system and is an inversion (heart above brain). In balasana, the student is folding forward so it’s a good pose for anxiety.

3. Salabasana (Locust or half locust pose)

-Locust pose is a back bend and backward bending poses stimulate and tone the sympathetic nervous system (the fight or flight response in the body). It energizes the body and helps to improve focus. Practicing locust pose involves core strength when practiced on the floor. As we engage the core muscles, we’re also lengthening and extending the entire spine, thus strengthening the back muscles, particularly the low back. Some other amazing benefits of this pose are that it opens the chest, which we all often collapse during the day due to our posture and how much time we spend sitting. Locust is great for strengthening the gluteal muscles in the butt that support the back, and it tones the inner thighs, hamstrings, adductors and calf muscles. When we put our body weight and balance into our abdomen (if practicing the mat version) the internal organs get a massage and we activate our digestive system, getting everything moving along effectively.

4. Setu Bandhasana (Bridge Pose)

-Stretches the chest, neck, and spine. Builds butt muscles that support the back, specifically gluteus maximus. Calms the brain and helps alleviate stress and mild depression. Stimulates abdominal organs, lungs, and thyroid. Bridge pose rejuvenates tired legs and improves digestion. It helps relieve the symptoms of menopause, relieves menstrual discomfort when done supported, reduces anxiety, fatigue, backache, headache, and insomnia. It is therapeutic for asthma, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, and sinusitis

5.  Viparita Karani (Legs up the wall or legs up the chair)

One of the best yoga postures to use for back issues and overall relaxation. While not considered an inversion, it benefits the body by helping the blood circulate toward the upper body and head, thus creating a feeling of restoration. It helps realign the body after prolonged standing or sitting and is particularly nice if you’re feeling stressed, fatigued, or even jet-lagged. It’s a posture that promotes the feeling of the myriad of positive results of doing less, not more. It creates a paradigm shift in the mind and activates the relaxation response in the parasympathetic nervous system (a countering of the fight or flight response in the sympathetic nervous system).

In Yin Yoga, a more passive and meditative form of yoga, this posture targets the kidney and benefits the urinary bladder meridian. It helps to reduce swelling in the body and tempers overall anxiety. It’s also effective for fatigue and insomnia. Note: Another variation of this posture is legs up the chair. Contraindications: Glaucoma, Hypertension, and Hernia.

6. Surya Namaskaram (Sun Salutation)

-Considered a complete warm up for the body and a regular practice promotes balance in the body/mind. It improves blood circulation, strengthens the heart, tones the digestive tract, stimulates abdominal muscles, respiratory system, lymphatic system, spinal nerves and other internal organs. Tones the spine , neck, shoulders, arms, hands, wrists, back and leg muscles prompting overall flexibility. Psychologically, it regulates the interconnectedness of the body, breath, and mind, thus making the student calmer and boosting energy levels.

7.  Cherry pick body segments from Yoga for Arthritis practice (taught twice a month) based on what the student is feeling in that particular body part. But also keep in mind that everything is connected and what might be, for example, the shoulder, could be the neck so good to look at the “neighbors” too.

A Mindful Launch

I was recently asked about the best yoga poses to start the day. It got my engines revving! What’s a good way to launch into the world we live in? After giving this a bit of thought, here are my recommendations:

In Bed:

1. After waking up I love 9 very slow and very deep yogic breaths. In my yoga therapy program it was 36 breaths, but that is throughout the day, so you could insert 4 more sets of these breaths into your day and do the 9 at the very top of your day. This is very effective for helping to quell anxiety and promote wellness.


2. On your belly in bed, practice a few 1/2 circles with your ankles. Tops of the feet on the mattress, shift both big toes in toward each other and then shift them away from each other to your range of motion. Use the breath as it will enhance your range.


3. Press your shoulders into the mattress and release them while still on your belly. Inhale press, exhale release.


4. Bring your hands next to your chest, spread your fingers, forehead is on your mattress, inhale and lift the head, neck, and chest coming into Bhujangasana (Cobra). After a few rounds you may want to push in a little deeper and raise up higher coming into a raised cobra.


5. With your hands next to your chest, press down and lift your body up, widen your knees and bring your big toes toward each other and sit your bum back toward your ankles into Balasana (Child’s Pose). While enjoying this, wiggle your fingers and maybe circle your wrists. You can also do the same movement with your hands as you did with your ankles by shifting side to side into your wrist joint.


6. Make your way to your back, bend and widen your knees, soles of the feet on the mattress and windshield wiper your knees from side to side moving comfortably and in your range of motion within your hip sockets.

Edge of Bed:


7. Sit on the edge of your bed. Point and flex the feet. Spread and splay the toes. Fold the toes in and out (toward the soles of the feet).


8. If your feet reach the floor (depends on how high the bed is), do the pumping movement with the feet rocking from heel to toe on both feet. Sends blood, oxygen, lymph to upper parts of the body as the “circulatory system below.”


9. Extend each lower leg out and in – this lubricates the knees with synovial fluid and stretches the calves.


10. Bring hands to tops of thighs and do a few seated cow/cat movements for the spine. Inhale cow (belly and belly button moving out) and exhale to cat (rounded back and belly button moving in and back toward the spine).


11. Lower right ear to right shoulder relaxing both shoulders and breathe, close eyes, and soften for a count of 30 or for however long you have time for. Slowly come back up and repeat on the other side. Look over your right shoulder, inhale center, and look over left shoulder.


Slowly make your way to standing to launch yourself into a spectacular day!


*Feel free to print this. Keep it next to your bed and follow along!*

Protect your Neck

Rolling your head around and toward the back of your neck may be in your regular movement practice (and feel good), however, there are some risks to be aware of. Dropping the head back increases the risk of vertebral damage and stroke. There have been reports of injury in cervical hyperextension including joint damage, impaired blood flow, and stroke. Be especially mindful during salon hair washing as the neck is in this vulnerable position. The risk is increased as we age, though women in their 20s-40s are having strokes. Some risk factors are smoking, pregnancy, migraines, and the use of birth control.

To mitigate any risk, during yoga classes I always teach the three finger rule. Put three fingers on the back of your neck and gently shift the head back. When you reach the place where your fingers are crunching together…that’s when to stop moving back.

Reference: Science of Yoga by Ann Swanson

Eye Love

We’re looking at screens more than ever these days! Excessive screen usage can cause the eyes to feel very unhappy, strained, dry, irritated and unloved.

What to do? One thing that’s very helpful is practicing the 20-20-20 rule. I read about this a few years back. It was recommended by optometrists:

For every 20 minutes of screen time, look 20 feet away from you for a total of 20 seconds. Twenty seconds is right about the amount of time it takes for the eyes to relax.

More tips:

-If you blink a few times you can generate more natural fluid in the eyes too. Tears regenerate and replenish.

-Drinking green tea during your break may help even more. Green tea contains antioxidants that may help your eyes produce tears for better lubrication.

-Sit a little farther from your screen, at least arm’s length.

-Artifical tears and humidifiers can help keep eyes from getting too dry.

-Set a timer on your phone or watch to remind you to take an eye break.

Eye love when my eyes feel relaxed. Don’t you?

Your Inner Coach

By Guest Blogger: Anne Macaulay

As a spouse, parent, or dog owner, you may know the value of catching someone doing something right–noticing and reinforcing desired behavior right in the moment. “Thank-you” for making me dinner, “What a good puppy” for peeing outdoors, etc.

But, how often do you do the same for yourself?

When we’re trying to improve our health, we often focus on the end result: getting cholesterol numbers down or running a 5k. What if instead we focus on the process, the little decisions and steps taken throughout the day to support health goals? What if we support ourselves by really noticing, acknowledging, and becoming grateful to ourselves for these steps?

To give yourself timely, positive feedback, you first need to be aware of your inner dialogue. If this is new to you, journaling and meditation can build this awareness. If you are already conscious of how you talk to yourself, you can focus on catching yourself doing something right. Be sure to use phrases that feel authentic to you. Here are some examples: “Nice choice!” or “You’re on your way!”.

You, yourself, are the best person to provide reinforcement at just the right moment. This is a habit that can be learned. It will support all other habits—it’s a virtuous cycle!

Try starting out by spending a week listening to the inner coach while letting the inner critic know you’ve got this! It may be surprising how good it feels to give yourself that same warm, caring feedback that you give so generously to others. 

Way to go!

More about Anne Macaulay:

Anne Macaulay is an ADAPT Certified Functional Health Coach. Anne helps people sidelined by health challenges to get their lives back on track, one step at a time. She is an avid gardener, professional dog trainer, and hiker who uses functional medicine principles to live well with autoimmune disease. She lives in Franklin Park with her husband, Jeff and Vizsla, Cash. https://www.ongoodbehavior.com/coaching.html