meditation for your muscles

meditation blog at ranawaxman.com

meditation

Meditation: For the mind and also for the muscles

Today I want to talk about using meditation for your muscles. I am preparing for my restorative yoga class, and came across an interesting article this week which focused on tight muscles and why not to actively stretch them. You can read it by clicking here; where the author says insightful things like “We have been conditioned to think of the tightness itself as the problem, thus the automatic tendency to try to stretch. But in reality, sometimes tightness is a result of the problem. In those situations, stretching is not the answer–at best it gets you nowhere, and at worst, it aggravates the problem. So the key to correcting the issue is figuring out why a muscle is tight. It might even clue you in to a problem you didn’t know you had….TIP: Not all tight muscles need to be or should be stretched;  sometimes the real problem is weakness not tightness. This needs to be considered when inflexibility persists despite consistent attempts at stretching.”

Why meditation for your muscles?

Where meditation comes in is that once your mind is calm, you get the space necessary to allow yourself to to move away fro “automatic tendency” and more towards a balanced and thoughtful approach that could include rest, postural changes or other modifications that are actually at the root of your tightness. So let’s allow our meditation to inform our muscles! See you on the mat or meditation cushion! Check out my Yoga Mind Cd for portable peace :-)

meditation ~ Rana Waxman Yoga Yoga Therapy

Breathing and the Art of Relaxation

Rana Waxman yoga

The Modern Yogini in Savasana

Breathing and the Art of Relaxation: The photo itself is full of life and energy. There is a vibrant stillness and you can almost hear the sound of the babbling brook. Your breathing is naturally going to reflect the slower pace that your eyes are taking in. If you live a stressful, city life, the concrete and hustle and bustle, sirens, cars and general noise probably affect your breath tempo and quality in quite the opposite way.

It doesn’t have to be this way if you learn how to consciously relax, how to consciously monitor and pace your breathing. That is what the art of pranayama is about. Using techniques that can effect changes to heart rate, digestion, cellular function. To disengage the mind through your breath can induce a more calm feeling throughout. You certainly will have a harder time clenching your jaw or stiffening your shoulders when you are using relaxed, and conscious breathing. This will signal the nervous system that you are safe, in ‘control’, calm and prepared.

In the restorative yoga class I often teach passive chest openers to soften the restrictions in this area, in the shoulders, and upper back. Tight muscles often reflect in a tight and short breath. There are certainly some easy and fulfilling set ups with props that can do the trick, so if you want to learn, book a private or come to class

breathing for relaxation

breathing for relaxation

 

 

Benefits to using yogaprops

Benefits to using yogaprops

Understanding the benefits to using yoga props will help the student access the skill of a particular pose.

yogaprops

Why use the yogaprops ?

While it is true not everyone has a rope wall as in Figure A, the block stack is easily obtainable for a home practice. In fact, some students may even benefit from subbing blocks for a chair. The primary reason for this is to bring the pose closer to the student rather than having the student risk misalignment and overstrain. In both these photos, the student is able to access the skill and stability in the pelvis and legs by bringing hand(s) to blocks to lift and open the chest and lengthen the spine without losing that skill. It can be harder to use props than you would think!

Revolved Triangle Pose

As you can see, in addition to the strap and blocks, the wall is used as a yogaprop in order to stabilize the back leg. Your balance and the rotation of the torso grow from the stability of the legs. She has that, and is using the strap and blocks to help initiate the twist from the back ribs.

Standing Wide Angle Pose

In the variation pictured below, the blocks are used to help extend the breastbone forward and the pubic bone back. Reaching to the floor, if this is a strain for the student, can end up tipping you backwards rather than having the legs vertical with hips above feet.

Yoga Props To Increase The Benefits

Supported Pranayama Practice

Supported Pranayama Practice

Supported Pranayama Practice can be used as an alternative to classical Savasana, and has many benefits, especially when the right props are used

Using props to support the torso in Savasana has many benefits:

  1. Especially with beginner students who tend to fall asleep during relaxation, this variation keeps students more alert than in classical Savasana
  2. Due to the elevation of the torso, it reduces nasal congestion
  3. The props help to support the shoulders and neck as well as open the chest
  4. The strategic placement of yoga props will aid students in feeling the alignment of their back ribs and the different components of breathing
  5. The support will help to roll the tops of the shoulder blades back, whereas many people suffer from the postural imbalances of rounding shoulders and forward head
  6. Improves breath awareness and helps to teach proper breathing patterns
  7. Is a lovely alternative to seated mindfulness, as the student can relax the lower body.

 How to use props in supported pranayama practice

supported reclining pose for pranayama

supported reclining pose for pranayama

In the photo above, please note that we used what we had at hand. In lieu of an eye bag, we used the student’s soft sweatshirt. We also had one yoga mat, 4 of the 3 Minute Eggs and one standard bolster. For my favorite yoga props, click here. You can make substitutions or additions as needed. I will give you the directions for what is pictured.

  1. Position your bolster parallel to the mat with 2 eggs underneath the top end.
  2. Recline over the bolster, keeping the small of your back against the bottom end of your bolster.
  3. Allow your arms to rest, here we used the eggs to alleviate the pull and meet the students needs.
  4. Allow your legs to stretch out , and separate, and relax.
  5. Breathe

meditation is simple

meditation is simple, as those of you who have purchased my Yoga Mind Cd have found.

We live in a pretty fast-paced lifestyle. Most of us feel like we wake up and hit the ground running, without a feeling of being rested. One of the ways to address the stress so to speak, is to find and utilize the tools of Yoga, not so much for the body, although yes, this is key, but also for the mind.

rule your mind

Science is showing more and more studies that mediation practice makes the mind clear, focused, and calm. It has this effect because it creates a change in brain wave chemistry, especially to the Alpha state, which is associated with relaxation. Silence is not something we are used to but it has many benefits

Meditation is simple

Meditation is simple

“When you talk you are only repeating what you already know. But if you listen, you may learn something new” ~ Dalai Lama

The term meditation conjures up someone sitting for prolonged periods of time. This very image can deter you from actually starting a practice. If you think “Oh I have to find an hour” you may still be procrastinating… This is a reason I love the restorative practices in Yoga, where you cultivate presence, and an opportunity to be, to watch, to stop chasing.

Mindfulness is a practice of observing without holding thoughts or judgements about what you are present with. It allows what you may be pushing away to rise up softly to the surface and allows for some inner silence and inner spaciousness. So sit, breathe softly, and as you breathe, just for a bit, repeat: Sitting and breathing softly I calm my mind.

Mickey Mouse in Meditation

mindfulness training

mindfulness training…

Last night I babysat for a three and a half year old, lovely bubbly little girl, full of energy. SO much energy that she was running up and down the halls, climbing on furniture, playing with my neighbour’s dog, etc. She finally cuddled in front of the tv but kept on rolling around. I took my eye off her to look at the older child next to me for a sec, and the cutie patootie had rolled around and ended up bumping her head, ouch it hurts. Woooaah I thought. please no concussions on my watch! so I said hey come snuggle on my lap and watch for a bit. She couldn’t sit still.

There is a certain fascination that little children have with their experiences. They go up to the TV to touch it, thinking it is real. Imagination and exploration are key components of their day and waking life is fun, they go from activity to activity with novelty. And, every moment has the potential for huge joy.

mindfulness training

mindfulness training

Fast forward to the adult mind where the more wandering there is, the more stress, anxiety, drama, sadness. We tend to fall out of love with the present moment and lose a connection with gratitude and our authentic peaceful, wonderful self.  A moment gets lost in phrases like “I have no time” or “there isn’t enough time” and “I don’t have a minute to breathe”.

Well it may be true that you live with time constraints and a full schedule. Sometimes though, we waste our time and energy by making non-nourishing choices. If you want to change those habits moving forward, train yourself..Just momentarily checking in with yourself, with your breath, not your thoughts, is what mindfulness training begins with. If you want a five minute practice, check out my Yoga Mind Cd or just give yourself permission to check in and let go right now with your breath and heartbeat, slowing them down, and giving up the need to evaluate yourself…how do you feel?

Word of the day: acceptance

acceptance

acceptance

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Word of the day: acceptance. “Accept – then act. Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it. Always work with it, not against it…this will miraculously transform your whole life” ~ Eckhart Tolle

In working with the present moment, one of the qualities you can cultivate is acceptance. You may be familiar with the opposite of acceptance, resistance. In fact, you may encounter it on your mat, when you are attempting a forward bend, and your hamstrings say, “hold on a minute, not ready! not willing! not able” and instead of waiting or backing off, you push through…maybe injure yourself.

“Why are some people weakened by stress, while others gain strength from it? Basically the answer is simple: those who know how to transform a hopeless situation into a new flow activity that can be controlled will be able to enjoy themselves, and emerge stronger from the ordeal” Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

This is a quality that needs to be practiced (usually anything does) to see the results. There are times when we have to warrior it up to get through something, and these are times when our perspective either hinders or supports..

cultivating presence

Cultivating presence through yoga is a multi faceted process. I mentioned mindfulness the other day and suggested an exercise on my Yoga Mind Cd to help you along on the journey.

Eckhart Tolle is a wonderfully inspired and inspiring author on the subject of presence and the present moment; “Emotion in itself is not unhappiness. Only emotion plus an unhappy story is unhappiness”

presence

presence

Alertness, awareness, mindfulness are all words that require us to be with – be present with- experience. If you can be quiet enough inside to recognize what is happening (whether in your head, your body, your environment) you can react less and respond more. “Awareness is the greatest agent of change” (Eckhart Tolle, A NEW EARTH)

It is, of course, way more common to have a scattered mind, where, although the brain is active, it is unfocused typically, and just basically follows one thought after another. This creates stories and layers of confusion in the mind, as well as doubts and fears. On the other hand, the calm state, or sattvic state (you may have felt in touch with this after deep relaxation) will foster seeds of awareness, discrimination, positivity and an equilibrium which is less inclined to react and more inclined to respond (from clarity).

 

mindfulness matters

mindfulness matters on and off the yoga mat

mindfulness matters

mindfulness matters

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“The mind is the vital link between the body and consciousness. The individual can live with awareness, discrimination, and confidence only once the mind is calm and focused, Yoga is the alchemy that generates this equilibrium”

“When the mind is fully absorbed by objects seen, heard, smelled, felt or tasted, this leads to stress, fatigue, and unhappiness. The mind can be a secret enemy and a treacherous friend,. It influences our behavior before we have time to consider causes and consequences.” BKS Iyengar

The way yoga practice works is that it trains your mind to stay still instead of jumping around so much, therefore taming and quieting impulsivity and reactivity. Discrimination and evaluation faculties improve as well so that the objects and situations we “see” do not have such a powerful hold on us. The mature and practiced mind builds awareness and thus can target bad habits, improve mood, and take note of repetitive behaviours that are not so good for us and replace them with nourishing thoughts and actions.

I have an easy to practice 5 minute mindfulness of breath practice on my YOGA MIND cd. Keep in mind that this is a journey, and practice is cumulative.

yoga basics in Jersey City

yoga basics: come join me at 9:30 Sundays for yoga basics class in Jersey City

“yoga is not for the flexible, it’s for the willing” love it!

I am teaching this morning, a basics class, called FUNdamentals. Each week we break down some of the essential skills in asana and pranayama, and try to fit in a little practical yoga wisdom so that you leave feeling refreshed and inspired. Last week we worked on backbends. This week we are going to work on standing poses. All standing poses begin with Tadasana, mountain pose. Also referred to as samasthiti, which means pose of balance, this one pose establishes the fundamentals of alignment that are required for al other standing poses. Look for creating symmetry and stability.

The key ingredient to any pose is awareness, even if you can’t somehow access a certain area in your body, or movement that is asked of you. In this pose we look for a neutral pelvis, and a lengthening from kneecaps up.. It is also a great pose to investigate how you place your head, whether you thrust your chin forward or drop your head back. We look to lengthen the back of the neck and lift from the crown of the head upwards. Any gains in flexibility, by the way, happen when you are not struggling, and you are able to hold a posture for a length of time, as opposed to just 3 breaths. Join us or contact me for a one-one!

 

yoga basics

yoga basics