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

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.

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!*

Your Presence is a Present

“If you are depressed you are living in the past.
If you are anxious you are living in the future.
If you are at peace you are living in the present.” Lao Tzu

Staying present can be challenging all the time. Add a global pandemic to the mix, and our minds and thoughts travel everywhere! To stay present, it’s helpful to anchor attention on something where we can keep bringing our focus back when the mind strays. It can be frustrating to experience constant drifting back to the past or into the future, imagining things that will likely never happen. It takes a big toll on the nervous system and thus our overall health and wellness.

Try to use breathing as an anchor (it’s my favorite). And, it’s right under your nose! When the attention begins to wander away, just think “not now” and bring the focus back to the anchor with compassion and not judgement. Perhaps even acknowledge and accept the wandering. With practice this will become more fluid. Remember too, that practice isn’t for perfection. Practice is for navigating in the light, what we may truly need in the dark.

During this season of light and holy days, may your presence be a present!

Saffron For Health

By Guest Blogger: Rae Steinbach

Have you considered the health benefits of adding saffron to your diet?

A range of health benefits may flow from simply consuming natural ingredients. Consider saffron. Research shows it can boost health in numerous ways when taken as a saffron drink or ingested with food. Here’s more:

It helps protect the heart

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S.  Saffron might help. This is because it reduces the stress on arteries and blood vessels. What this means is less risk of heart attack and similar cardiovascular health problems.

Managing anxiety

There’s evidence that saffron can improve mental and emotional health. Specifically, saffron has been shown to reduce anxiety to a degree. Its mood-boosting qualities also make it a powerful aphrodisiac for some. 

Improving immunity

Just as important as treating illnesses properly, is guarding against developing illnesses in the first place.

Saffron may help in this capacity: Research indicates it boosts the immune system. This makes colds, viruses, and similar illnesses less likely.

Adding saffron to the diet can be very beneficial for health and wellness.

Possible option if looking for a saffron drink

Please note: With the introduction of any new product, herb, or supplement, please consult with your healthcare professional before partaking, to ensure there aren’t any contraindications.

More about Rae Steinbach:

Rae is a graduate of Tufts University with a combined International Relations and Chinese degree. After spending time living and working abroad in China, she returned to NYC to pursue her career and continue curating quality content. Rae is passionate about travel, food, and writing. Twitter: @araesininthesun

Essential Oil and the Limbic System

By Guest Blogger: Beverly McGivney

Ever wonder why a certain smell can bring up memories and even elicit a physical response? Our sense of smell effects the limbic system in the brain — it has powerful healing capacities!

Our limbic system is a combination of higher mental functions and our emotions. It is directly linked to parts of the brain that control heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, memory, stress levels and hormone balance. It’s because of this, that the smell of essential oils can produce profound positive effects. Essential oils can help support overall wellness. They consist of over 100 different natural organic compounds that supply support for every system in the body. When inhaled, the aromatic molecules of an essential oil interact with sensors in our nasal cavity, lungs, and pores. Once engaged, the sensors emit strong emotional signals starting from the limbic system, then the hippocampus, and spread throughout the rest of the body to places like the heart and the digestive tract.

Some essential oil examples are:

Citrus oils: orange, lemon, lime or grapefruit. Known for uplifting aromatic qualities.

Floral oils: geranium and rose. Known for an aromatic quality that encourages peaceful feelings. Does all this make scents?

Read more about Beverly McGivney (YL # 1149206) here:

Facebook: www.facebook.com/thebodhiseed1121; Instagram: @thebodhiseed1121
Beverly, the creator of the Bodhi Seed, has a passion for whole person wellness. During her personal exploration of whole person wellness body, mind and spirit, Beverly was inspired to create The Bodhi Seed. The Bodhi Seed is a platform to educate and advocate on wellness using nature’s energy while inspiring purpose and abundance! She believes in creating non-toxic living mentally, spiritually, emotionally and physically!

Don’t Blink…or you might miss what’s coming up!

There has never been a better time to close your eyes or soften your gaze. To look and to feel deeply within yourself at the center of consciousness and your being. Where a divine light exists and every answer to every question about your truest self lives. ~LLS
Coming soon:

Virtual Gentle Yoga for Computer Users – Saturday, May 30th 9:00-10:30. Looking to counter the effects of heavy computer/device use? Are your shoulders, neck, upper back bothering you and maybe even your wrists or eyes? Look no further, this Gentle Yoga class is for you! Cost $10. Registration is open. Join from anywhere in the comfort of your own home.

The Basics of Meditation – Saturday, June 27th 9:00-11:00. There has never been a better time to begin a meditation practice. Have your heard about the many benefits of meditation for your health and for anxiety? Come learn the background, benefits, and practical techniques in order to get started right away. Cost $25. Registration is open. Join from anywhere in the comfort of your own home.


Weekly Programs (open registration):

Virtual Gentle Yoga and Meditation – Friday Mornings at 9:00. New session beginning 6/12 (five classes: 6/12, 6/19, 6/26, 7/3, and 7/10). Registration is open. Cost $40. Classes left in the current sesson are: 5/29, and 6/5. There will be subsequent sessions, so please reach out if you’re interested. Join from anywhere in the comfort of your own home.

Virtual Mindful Chair Yoga and Meditation  – Tuesday mornings at 10:00 a.m. beginning 5/19 (includes 5/19, 5/26, 6/2, 6/9, and 6/16) Cost: $40.
 There will be subsequent sessions so please reach out if you’re interested. Anyone who lives anywhere can join from the comfort of home and even in PJs!

For a limited time, I am offering a free virtual Yoga Nidra and Meditation experience. Gather your props in advance: mat, cushion, blanket/s, pillow/s. Meet me in cyberspace!

~Virtual Yoga Nidra (Deep, Profound Relaxation) and Meditation – Tuesday evenings 7:30-8:15 p.m. This can be practiced reclining or seated. Yoga nidra takes the student on a journey within connecting the mind/body through a series of steps to a quieter place for meditation. Ongoing until further notice.Register for Yoga Nidra/Meditation with this link: https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/v5Akde-ppzsid3XXbWe7mZw1DtClCDlp8Q

Clear the Path

It’s the time of the year for stuffiness, allergies, and blocked sinuses. There are many great methods to cleanse the nasal passages – saline sprays and gadgets galore! My favorite is very simple. It is one that a dear friend introduced me to years ago that I never thought I could use – a plastic netipot. Now, please do your research about the use of netipots. Learn how to use them properly. Learn how to clean them and what type of water to use. The best way to describe the feeling after using one is this: Image stepping outside on a snowy winter’s day and inhaling deeply (sorry, if you’re in a warm climate!).

Another practice I’ve come to love is the use of organic oil in my sinuses. Ayurveda (yoga’s sister science) recommends using nasya oil, or putting oil drops in your nose. Here are some of the many benefits:
  • It’s balancing and calming.
  • It soothes and moisturizes dry sinuses.
  • It is said to improve the quality of your voice, strengthen your vision and prompt clarity. It helps to release tension in the head and mitigate the build up of stress.
  • Nasya promotes clear breathing and supports the flow of prana (life force).

You can find netipots and nasya in stores and online. It’s something worth experimenting with. Who nose?

Please note: As with any new practice or substance used in your body, please check with your medical professional to ensure there are no contraindications or issues with use.

Yoga In Place

While we’re sheltering in place (and even afterward), virtual yoga can be accessed from anywhere. If you’re enjoying the content I share, you may enjoy my virtual classes as well! If you’d like to be added to my email list for regular updates of virtual and in person offerings (some are free), it’s easy. Just email me at: lyn.sirota@gmail.com. See below:

For a limited time, I am offering a free virtual Yoga Nidra and Meditation experience.  Please ensure your account and device are set about 15 minutes in advance and gather your props: mat, cushion, blanket/s, pillow/s. Meet me in cyberspace!

~Remote Yoga Nidra (Deep Relaxation) and Meditation – Tuesday evenings 7:30-8:15 p.m. This can be practiced reclining or seated. Yoga nidra takes the student on a journey within connecting the mind/body through a series of steps to a quieter place for meditation. Ongoing until further notice.

~*New* Remote Mindful Chair Yoga and Meditation  – Tuesday mornings at 10:00 a.m. beginning 5/19 (includes 5/19, 5/26, 6/2, 6/9, and 6/16) Cost: $40. There will be subsequent sessions so please reach out if you’re interested. Registration is now open. Anyone who lives anywhere can join from the comfort of home and even in PJs!

~Remote Gentle Yoga and Meditation – Friday Mornings at 9:00. New session beginning  Friday, May 8th (five sessions: 5/8, 5/15, 5/22, 5/29, and 6/5). There will be subsequent sessions so please reach out if you’re interested. Cost $40. Registration is open. Join from anywhere in the comfort of your own home.

~*Hurry* Remote Gentle Yoga for Anxiety and Busy Minds – Saturday May 16th, 9:00-10:30.  In this class we’ll practice poses to calm the nervous system blended with mindfulness practices for anxiety. Cost $10. Registration is open. Join from anywhere in the comfort of your own home. This class is free for Healthcare professionals.

~Remote Gentle Yoga for Computer Users – Saturday, May 30th 9:00-10:30. Looking to counter the effects of heavy computer/device usage? Are your shoulders, neck, upper back bothering you and maybe even your wrists? Look no further, this Gentle Yoga class is for you! Cost $10. Registration is open. Join from anywhere in the comfort of your own home.

Enlightened Readers Book Group – Lyn/Lilavati leads these discussions on mostly historical fiction titles (with some exceptions). Next meeting TBD in June via Zoom. Princeton Integral Yoga Community Center, 12:00. Book discussion:  The Rules of Magic. This is a free offering.

Testimonials

“Chair yoga is a practice that nourishes the mind, body, and soul! I have found it outstanding “exercise” for arthritis as well. Instructor, Lyn Sirota understands joints and how movement and breath can relieve pain. For me, chair yoga is gentle impact and far better rehab than any physical therapy I’ve done. Give it a try!”

~Lynn R

“I’ve been a student in Lyn Lilavati Sirota’s Gentle Mat Yoga classes for several years now, and can’t imagine a week without this type of yoga practice that stretches my body and mind. During her class I can just focus on myself, learn breathing practices that help me cope with life and stress, practice staying (and living) in the moment, and of course stretch out my body. I feel renewed, less tense, more flexible, for the whole day!”

~Stephanie C

“I just wanted to thank you one more time for that amazing class this morning. You are truly so talented and I feel like this is the class I’ve been looking for all my life LOL! I loved the little extras that you added like explaining what each pose was and the reason for doing it, the reading of the passage, incorporating scents like lavender and eucalyptus. I defuse it with essential oil’s, but I really loved how your house smelled and so many other little things that really made it the perfect class. I look forward to joining more in the future.”

~Joanne H

“Thank you for giving so much of yourself to your students. I feel so calm and safe in your classes.”

~Tamar B