Defuse Anxiety

how to diffuse anxiety through yoga practice

Setu Bandha Sarvangasana
to diffuse anxiety

Defuse Anxiety With Yoga Practice

Are you anxious or irritable? Do you feel emotionally vulnerable or prone to mild depression? If you are nodding here, then you may want to read on. 

Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Supported Bridge Pose)

In this variation of setu bandha sarvangasana, the supported expansion of the chest helps to stabilize the chest and calm anxiety. It is a backbend, and because the heart is above the head, it is also considered a mild inversion.

Benefits

This is a pose that helps you rest, and quiet the brain. It can also help to relieve diarrhea, and stabilize the thyroid and parathyroid, as it engages the chin lock. The open chest helps you to access a relaxed breathing pattern. It can therefore be practiced prior to a formal pranayama practice or as a restorative pose at the end of an active session.

How to practice

Set up a bolster on the floor, not a mat, at a right angle to a wall, in such a way that when you stretch out over it, the top edge of the bolster is at your lower rib area and your feet touch the wall. Place an upright yoga block against the wall for your feet in line with the center of the bolster. Sit on the edge of the bolster, close to the wall. Secure a strap on the top thighs to help the abdomen staff soft, and compact the hips. Curve your torso back over the bolster so the shoulders and back of the head are on the floor ( you can always have a thin blanket under these areas). Allow the soles of the feet to touch the wall.

Roll the shoulders back and down and the upper arms out, palms up. Breathe smoothly. When the breathing is quick and choppy, it is a sign of alert and anxiety. When the breath is calm, mind quiet, thoughts quiet, these feelings can be diffused, and peace can set in.

To come out, bend the knees, feet to floor, beside bolster. Remove the strap, and let the lower back settle. Tip: Not a wise posture if you have a herniated disk.

Healthy habits

Favouhabitsrite quote of all-time

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act but a habit” ~ Aristotle

Healthy habits: creating healthy habits and encouraging positive transformation is built into the yogic system

I think I also read ‘we form habits then they form us’. As a Yoga professional, I see Yoga as much more than fitness, it is self-transformation (agree with Joel Kramer)…As a balanced system and practice, gives us tools to substitute comfort for tension, peace for panic, and emotional perspective instead of blockages.

What are some of your healthy and unhealthy habits? Are there any you would like to change? Day to day life loads our system with obvious and subliminal stress which depletes our energy and leads to restlessness and fatigue, among other issues. Asana and pranayama become yogic tools to benefit us by releasing tension  and bringing us to a state of conscious relaxation ~ being aware and also, relaxed. In this state, we tend to make better choices. One of the most interesting things I have read is a statement by Gary Krafstow, that “asana practice is not fundamentally about the asanas, but about the practitioner…As a tool of personal transformation, asana can function at many levels of our human system.”

 

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

Yogic breathing and stress relief

Yogic breathing and stress relief.

BKS Iyengar wrote; “The diaphragm, according to yogic science, is the seat of intelligence of the heart and the window to the soul.  During stressful situations, however, when you inhale and exhale, the diaphragm becomes too taut to alter its shape. Yogic exercises address this problem by developing elasticity in the diaphragm so that, when stretched, it can handle any amount of stress, whether intellectual, emotional, or physical.”

New students often feel their breath is caught some place, although as a teacher, I often notice that even people who have ‘done’ yoga are not actually breathing into their bodies and are also kind of stuck someplace. It takes diligence and commitment to understand our own breathing patterns, learn and/or unlearn chronic unhealthy ones.  Generally when the breath and the asana are done in unison, with a mindfulness and focus, it actually brings tranquility to the cells, releases held tension, and aids in bringing the mind into a stillness, rather than a stuckness. I think the word ’embodiment’ is a good one here. Smiling inside further helps solicit this response. If you ever practiced and held tension in your face or clenched your teeth, that pattern is not doing anything to create extra ease in body/mind/spirit. The advise below may help you develop, deepen, refine your practice!

Yogic breathing and stress relief

simple stress relief

Nurturing The Spirit With Yoga

Nurturing The Spirit With Yoga

“It is not selfish to love yourself, take care of yourself, and to make your happiness a priority. It’s necessary.” ~ Mandy Hale

According to the yogic system, it is the fluctuations of the mind that impose themselves on the body  and thus bring about mental and physical imbalance. The remedy if you will, is a focused and dedicated practice of asana and pranayama to calm the agitated mind, or wake up the sleepy mind, and balance out our system, thus preventing disease. While this may mean that restoratives are called for, it may also mean that a stronger practice (like standing poses) is a better recipe.

As always, you need to start where you are. Usually we just do more of the same, whereas your practice should be organic. The balance between the more active and passive postures will vary from person to person, and season to season. Too much of the active practice can still exhaust you, too much passive can lead to lethargy. I usually teach both constituents in my classes but in private yoga lessons,  the practice will specifically address the student. I also have two upcoming workshops which will give you some idea of how restorative practices can be used to enhance calm and support the immune system.

I find this interesting: “Lymph glands are scattered throughout the body, including between muscle fibres. The muscle is literally helping to pump the gland to effectuate lymphatic flow.  Hence, inactive muscles impact on the lymphatic function” ~ Pete Egoscue

Always add relaxation. It is the integrating factor.

Nurturing The Spirit With Yoga

Nurturing The Spirit With Yoga

proper breathing

proper breathing: “without proper breathing the yoga postures are nothing more than calisthenics” R. Schaeffer

Asana is a great forum to discover who you are as a breather. You know from past posts of mine that breathing is a vast topic, with many therapeutic uses and applications. I often work with private clients to dive into their breathing persona and uncover the areas that could benefit from specific asana to help them move toward “proper breathing”.

proper breathing

For some, and I think this is what the above quote refers to, the tendency is to hold the breath or use stressed out breathing (short and shallow) while holding a posture, especially in a challenging pose. This creates more stress and tension in the body. In yoga, we want to create a calm and relaxed body, breath and mind through the conscious use of the breath in asana.

In asana, the break is the link between the mind and body, so that as you learn the  coordination of breath and movement, your practice becomes harmonious, and your breath deepens of its own accord, therefore increasing circulation and stimulating metabolism … Also since there is a huge correlation between emotions, thoughts and breathing practices, one can direct the breath to enhance muscle relaxation by concentrating on tense areas of the body and consciously relaxing those parts with each exhalation.

 

proper breathing

proper breathing

simple restorative yoga postures

simple restorative yoga postures

viparita karani

viparita karani is one of the more simple restorative yoga postures:

Some of the benefits of this restorative posture include:

  1. regulation of blood flow,
  2. alleviation of menstrual cramps,
  3. relieves swollen ankles
  4. relieves varicose veins
  5. helps the reproductive organs in both males and females (increase of circulation in pelvic floor)
  6. improves digestion
  7. relieves tired legs and feet
  8. stretches the back of the neck, the front torso, and the back legs
  9. relieves problems in the eyes and ears
  10. relieves mild backache
  11. provides migraine and headache relief
  12. helps keep you young and vital
  13. calms anxiety
  14. relieves symptoms of mild depression and insomnia

In a past post, I included a short video using the 3 Minute eggs, as I had them with me when I was traveling and I always include restorative yoga postures in my yoga life. This is a really go-to one cause it can be spruced up or simplified… Depending on who you are in your body structure, and what you have as props, there are many ways to set up for this. In looking at the above list, the thing is, if you are menstruating, better not use a bolster, just lay flat, if you have serious restrictions in your hamstrings, be cautious. Be your own GPS. This is a really great pose if you have only 10 minutes. To make it really restful, cover your eyes.

yoga backbends

Yoga backbends: the cobra, or bhujangasana, is one of the basic prone backbends in yoga. The spine extends in its entirety, from base of spine to base of neck. As well, there is a strong working action of the serratus posterior superior (under the armpits) which helps the chest expand, and works synergistically with the erector spinae group. The front core of the body has to help, providing support for the lumbar area. Additionally although you don’t want to push too much with the arms, any tightness in the biceps and triceps will affect the height the pose. The fingers, when used with interest, can also help access additional information in the shoulders, neck, chest and mid back.

The legs are far but passive in this pose, even though many students leave them behind in order to force height in the pose. This also leads, can lead, to disc compression which is not good. The legs should really be kept in alignment, especially for the SI joints. The glutes and hamstrings are working in this pose, especially to maintain adduction and internal rotation. If your legs externally rotate, you may have weakness in the medial hamstrings, which can cause the gluteus maximus to harden and overwork.

The baby below, makes the pose look simple and supple, which is what we hope for in this backbend, that there is a sense of extension throughout the entire spine. One tip is to move into it on the exhale rather than the inhale. I have tried this and it gives the pose lightness. Never throw your head back. :-)

yoga backbends

yoga backbends

yoga for balance

yoga for balance : The most important pieces of equipment you need for doing yoga are your body and your mind (I would add, and your breath) . Who are you when you begin your yoga mat time? Do you notice any imbalances or is it just when you start moving? Is there anything you can choose to do in the rest of your day to bring balance of any kind to yourself? We tend to think of balance in yoga as standing on one limb – yes, this is a part of it, however, I think the quote below sums the situation up nicely. In case you don’t know, BKS Iyengar passed away recently. His style is alignment oriented, as opposed to flowing from one posture to another. This is incorporated into the yapana® style, which you can find in my classes or work with me privately.

yoga for balance

Balance: Evenness Is Harmony

Through yoga one can begin to develop a perfect balance between both sides of the body. All of us begin with imbalances, favoring one side or the other. When one side is more active than the other, the active side must become the guru for the inactive side to make it equally active. To the weaker side, we must apply attention. We must also show more care. We show keener interest to improve a dull and struggling friend than for an eager and intelligent one. In the same way you have to show yourself this same compassion and act on the weaker side of the body while taking pleasure in the achievement of the active side. ~ BKS Iyengar, Light on Yoga

Yoga In the Subway

Yoga in the subway: I was just sent a link to this article, with lots of pretty cool photos of people in yoga poses in the subway. I think it is very creative, though the subways are pretty dirty and I would not want to put my mat down let alone my hands for a handstand. When I take the subway, I usually just focus on being mindful of my surroundings and my breathing and that is sufficient for me.

The byline for the article is : Are Yoga Enthusiasts The New Acrobats (you can read it by clicking HERE). As with any topic, there are many perspectives, and, I sometimes am inspired to move into a pose outdoors so I am in no place to judge. In the article, they say,  “on one level, it’s pretty impressive (and perhaps even inspiring) to see all these flexible people strutting their stuff on subway cars.”  On the other hand, it does border on “attention-seeking”.

yoga is apractice

I suggest we come back to the origins and spirit of Yoga for a moment, and just reflect that “Yoga is a Practice Not a Performance” so maybe “yoga in the subway” is like performance art…Weigh in.