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!*

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

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!

Go Nuts!

Well, not literally, but we’re already a little nuts in different ways!

Did you know that some recent research has found that incorporating walnuts into meals on a daily basis has been linked to a reduction in the concentration of inflammatory biomarkers? While they may not be the go-to nut for meals and snacking (that would be pistachios for me!), walnuts do have essential omega-3 fatty acids (alpha-linolenic acid). This plays an important role in the functioning of the brain (and have you noticed, they look like a brain?). And it helps mitigate heart disease and inflammation.

Try some as a snack maybe mixed with other nuts you like, add them in a salad, or to cookie/cake recipes or even make a walnut (instead of pine nut) pesto. Experiment with them in other foods, chop them finely and sprinkle them. With the holidays coming up, try them in stuffing. Who knows, maybe you’ll discover something profound!

Reference: Mind Body Green Magazine, Scientists Find More Evidence For Adding This Inflammation-Fighting Nut To Your Diet

Mindful Moment

“Too many of us move through our lives with our true selves

buried below layers of repressed emotion. With so much

energy channeled toward sustaining the repression,

there is little left over for the deeper questions.

The consequences of our evasion are profound.

Our stockpiles toxify into a cache of weapons

that turn inward against the self:

quick fix, long suffering.

As Rumi said, “Most people guard against the fire,

and so end up in it.”

This is the power of then. If we don’t deal with our stuff,

it deals with us.”

― Jeff Brown, Soulshaping: A Journey Of Self Creation

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!

Should?

Just because you CAN do something, does it mean you should? I recently realized while practicing yoga, after years of thinking I can’t do Camel Pose (Ustrasana), I actually can. Imagine that! I felt accomplished, proud of myself. All from a discovery that if I widened the space between my knees, I’m able to bend back just a bit deeper and take hold of my ankles. Prior to this discovery, I’d been priming my back with other poses which created some space. So I was ready at that time for this epiphany.

Fast forward about 2-3 weeks and I decide to teach it in class. First I demonstrate the gentle version of it, which I really like. And then for those who want to try a fuller expression, I demonstrate. The next day, I noticed sensation in my mid-back. The only explanation is that I should have stayed with the gentle version knowing that when I teach, I have a harder time being mindful of myself, because I’m focused on students. I did not, in that moment, have the ability to discern my best course of action. The Sanskrit for the concept of discernment is Vivek. I’d been learning about Vivek in a weekly class through the Princeton University Hindu Life Program. I had discovered the perfect lesson in Vivek (the hard way).

How can we take this lesson into our every day lives? Discerning how much we want to take in. One more news segment? One more Netflix series? Reaching, striving. One more commitment on the calendar? Should? Should not? Pause, breathe, think, weigh, assess…

Read more here about Camel Pose: https://www.yogajournal.com/poses/camel-pose

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.