Tag Archive | benefits of yoga off the mat

Insomnia or how to sleep well

Recently I have been having some problems with falling asleep (worrying and overstimulated by dancing).  Today in this LONG blog I will share my coping mechanism with you.  This might send you to sleep J.

If difficulties with sleep (falling asleep or waking up during sleep) occur at least three times a week or lasts longer than one month it is called chronic insomnia.

Good sleep is when it takes less than 30 minutes to fall asleep and one only wakes up once or twice during the night.  Sleep should be between 6 hours and 9 hours (more than 9 hours is not healthy).

The body needs sleep to rest, to restore and to recover for homeostasis.

General tips for sleeping well:

  1. Regular sleep and regular wake up. If wake up tired get out to sun for ½ hour,
  2. Sleep when fatigued,
  3. If cannot sleep get up and try again,
  4. Bedroom is for sleep,
  5. No naps during the day (or 20-40 min max.),
  6. Establish sleep routine,
  7. Eat right – at regular times,
  8. Exercise regularly,
  9. Keep daytime routine,
  10. Breathing exercises – see more on this later,
  11. No clock-watching if you cannot sleep (turn it away),
  12. Avoid caffeine, nicotine and alcohol at night,
  13. Stop staring at a screen at least an hour before you go to bed. Blue light / screen interferes with melatonin production,
  14. Try the poses below – before going to bed,
  15. Consider keeping sleep diary and/or gratitude diary,

Try one or all of the following RESTORATIVE poses before you go to bed.

  • Do not eat for say 1.5 hours before practicing,
  • Do your bathroom routine before you start,
  • Dedicate a quiet place,
  • Allow enough time (you might dose off like I do),
  • Wear comfortable clothing or your PJ’s,
  • Be warm,
  • Cover your eyes (use an eye-pillow, hand or face towel folded),
  • Do not worry about the props – substitute the bolster with a blanket folded to support the spine (and only the spine) and to lift the chest, use towels in additional to blankets. Books can be used for extra elevation.

Supta Badha Konasana (cobblers pose – laying down)

The aim is to open the chest, release tension in the abdominal area.

Soles of the feet are touching, gentle push the heels together (strap is optional).

Focus on your breath, inhale for the count of 4, exhale for the count of 4. If you are more experienced hold the breath after inhalation and after exhalation, so the cycle will be 4:4:4:4. or you can extend the exhalation to the count of 6 or 8. Return to your normal breathing if you experience any discomfort.

Try to take the breath up from the abdominal area towards the clavicles, shoulders. Notice how your abdominal rises and how your ribcage expands on inhalation.

Stay in the pose min 5 minutes – don’t worry if you dose off.

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Supta Badha Konasana

 

Pashimottanasa (forward bend)

The aim is to rest the forehead.  This helps to calm the mind.

Any chair will do and any elevation on it.  If you are more flexible a coffee table might do the job.  A modified version is to sit at the dining table and have some props to rest the forehead.

Keep the shoulders, try to keep the front of your torso long.

Stay in the pose for 5 minutes (gradually build up to it).

IMG_1708

 

Viparita Karini (legs up the wall or on chair)

This pose is everybody’s favourite.

The heart is resting, helps with swollen feet.

For support any chair or the coffee table will do.

Support your ankles on the chair.

Hips can be raised with blanket or bolster.

Focus on the breathing as noted earlier.

Stay in the pose for 5 to 10 minutes.

IMG_1688

 

For more experienced yogis the legs can be on the wall – vertical or at a slight angle.

Hips can be resting on elevation, folded blanket.

Though this photo was taken outside please do it inside for this routine.

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Savasana (pose of the corps)

It is said not finishing a practice with Savasana is a bit like not saving your document on the computer – however you might want to relocate from the floor to your bed – AND FALL ASLEEP QUICKLY.

For support under the knees/thighs use a small pillow. I find it helpful – it allows the lower back to soften.

This photo comes from the ‘relax at Christmas’ series – hence the eye cover

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Savasana

 

To go to sleep or to calm yourself down try the following pranayama (breath control) and meditation techniques:

Sit up tall, feel the ground under your feet.

Roll the shoulders back, feel that it helps to lift your chest.

 

Mindfulness of the five senses

Without trying to alter your experience bring your awareness to your five senses

  • notice one thing you can see,
  • notice one thing you can hear,
  • notice one thing you can taste,
  • notice one thing you can smell,
  • notice one thing you can feel,

Focusing on each of the five senses in turn takes you into the present moment.

 

Grounding calming breath for sleep

Breathe through your nose

  • Inhale for the count of four (4)
  • Exhale for the count of eight (8). If 8 is too long try 6.

Repeat three times or until desired effect.

Using the diaphragm; breathing fully into the belly and expelling all the air can help activate our parasympathetic nervous system, relaxing the body and mind.  If it is uncomfortable return to your normal breathing.

 

4:4:4:4 – this technique was listed under the poses as well.

  1. Inhale for the count of four (4)
  2. Hold the breath for the count of four (4)
  3. Exhale slowly for the count of four (4) – or longer for experienced yogis
  4. Hold for the breath for the count of four.(4)

This is one cycle. Repeat four more times.

If you experience any discomfort return to your normal cycle of breath.

Thanks for reading!

Sleep well – live well!

lotus yoga

 

 

Benefits of yoga for older people

lotus yoga

In August 2015 I attended The Australian Yoga Therapy Conference which was organised by Enlightened Events. Various speakers covered a number of areas where yoga practice can be helpful, such as managing heart problems, increasing the immune system and mental illness in children.

The topic which was closest to my heart and body was about the benefits of yoga for older people. For this purpose I believe over 60 is when we are called an “older person”.

With ageing we experience some level of decline in vision, hearing and memory. Balance and muscle strength are often affected and anxiety and depression may increase along with sleep disorders.

 

So what can yoga offer us as we age?

 

Dr Shirley Telles, is an internationally acclaimed Yoga therapist, medical doctor and neuroscientist. She is the director of the Patanjali Research Foundation in Haridwar, India. Dr Shirley Telles presented the findings of her research into yoga and ageing (Oxford University Press will publish it sometimes in 2015).

Dr Shirley Telles’ studies have shown that:

  1. Yoga can increase bone mineral density (Judith et al., 2009)
  2. Yoga can increase muscle strength and prevent deterioration (Telles et. al., 2014)
  3. Yoga can reduce central obesity, associated with increased risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease (Telles et al., 2014
  4. Yoga can improve glycemic control and HbA(Ic) – useful to avoid and manage diabetes (Beena et al., 2013)
  5. Yoga can prevent deterioration of lung capacity (Manjunath et al., 2006)
  6. Reduce blood pressure (Chobanian et all., 2003)
  7. Improve cardiorespiratory efficiency (Papp et al., 2013)
  8. Improve primary working memory (Laveretsky et al., 2013)
  9. Enhance sleep (Manjunath et al., 2005)
  10. Induces a positive mental state (Wood, 1993)

 

Please note the above benefits are only achieved through regular yoga practice – over an extended period of time. It might take a few months before you notice the difference!

 

My students are typically over 50 and most of us have a number of pre-existing health conditions.

So how do I teach a class where there are several different “contraindications” are present?

I teach small classes (maximum 12 students) and modify the poses to suit the individual. It is not unusual that we have two or three variations happening for the same asana. Some students might need to use more props (blanket, block and maybe a chair) to gain the benefits of the poses. In my sequences I include ‘exercises’ which open the chest, keep the spine mobile and upright and we almost always practice standing poses to increase strength and balance. Whilst preparing for inversions fresh blood rushes to the brain and thus increases memory function. Of course students with high blood pressure would do modified inversions! Forward bends tend to calm the mind and slowing down the breath (especially lengthening the duration of the exhalation) reduces anxiety. I also believe in the social effect of practicing in a class environment. My aim is to teach the students poses which they can practice at home or during their travels.

For more information on my yoga background please refer to: About Mary

For timetable refer to: Classes

If you have any queries please do not hesitate to contact me: tranquability@gmail.com  or 0408 29 6670.

Hope to see you on a mat near me!

yoga mat

The benefits of yoga OFF THE MAT – part 2 – the support of the yoga community

Following on from part 1 of the benefits of yoga OFF THE MAT now I would like to share my experience with you about the support I have received from the yoga community over the years.

I clearly remember attending a morning class as a student not long after my husband suddenly passed away, many years ago.  I was sitting on a yoga block and as the sun softly shone in the room I was thinking that this was familiar environment and I should keep coming here to allow this part of my life to go on as it used to.

In May this year on a Thursday morning the phone rang from Hungary and I learnt that my Mother had peacefully passed away a few hours earlier. As a good yogi she went with a peaceful exhalation. We were talking and crying with my friend on Skype for more than an hour.  Obviously there was no time to find a replacement teacher with such a short notice so I got ready to teach from 10.00 am. My students are regular in my class so my initial thought was to tell them about my loss at beginning of the class but changed my mind and taught the class without saying anything about Mum.   At the end of the class one of my students asked how was my Mum and then the tears started to roll again. Another student offered to drive me to my Aunt’s place after the class to share the bad news.

I attended The Australian Yoga Therapy conference on the coming weekend. I have known some of the fellow teachers for a decade or more. During the two day conference I cried a bit here and there and everybody was sympathetic, accepting and allowed me space to be. Again I felt the support of the yoga community.

Yoga is a holistic system made up of 8 steps or stages which relate to the progress of our practice – from social conduct to enlightment.  In a general yoga class we practice poses and breath control (steps 3 & 4 of the 8 limbs). It is said that Ayurveda (Indian health science which focuses on Agni, the digestive fire) is yoga OFF THE MAT.

Regular yoga practice teaches us both perseverance and letting go, listening to our body.

I have attended a few yoga retreats over the years (Satyananda yoga ashram at Mangrove creek, Billabong to mention the ones closest to home). Some people attend these retreats to deepen their yoga practice or to “have time off” to deal with issues they need to deal with such as relationship breakdown, difficult children or work problems. Yoga retreats are a good way to travel, to meet like minded people, to cleanse your digestive system with good vegetarian food and to get clarity of thought. It all helps to come back to balance. My experience in these retreats that someone will always be available to have a chat or just to listen to you.

I find it reassuring to practice with regular fellow students and have regular students in my class. Over time we get to know each other and friendships are born from the common shared interest.

Over the years I witnessed dancers/artists/film makers / food provedores marketing themselves in their yoga community. If I have a chance I will attend the show or exhibition promoted by fellow yogis.

Once you become a yogi you become a yogi for life. The benefits of yoga “OFF THE MAT” are almost as important as the practice itself.

The benefits of yoga OFF THE MAT – part 1 – posture, confidence and being in the present

The numerous health benefits of yoga are well documented and generally known. In this two part series I would like to talk about the benefits of yoga OFF THE MAT as I experience it.  This blog will show the portable benefits, transferable skills of yoga to the business world in and in the next post we will focus on the support the yoga community.

I have been practicing yoga regularly since 1989 and have been teaching for four years so I speak from the trenches.

I recently changed the jobs and the process of applying for positions and attending interviews was made easier by my yoga practice. Though I am not a recruiter I would like to share my thoughts on how to prepare for a job interview.

Apart from standing tall (in Tadasana which is our basic standing pose) include asanas which open the chest (to increase confidence), think of the Warrier 1, 2 and 3 poses (virabhadrasana 1,2 and 3 in Sanskrit). Move the shoulder blades in and down to open chest and to lift your sternum. Have energy in your arms and fingers, keep your chest facing the front. Work your legs and feet without gripping the mat with your toes! Legs they are the foundation of the Worrier poses!

Worrier 2 (Virabhadrasana 2)

Warrier 2 (Virabhadrasana 2)

Just watch the “All blacks” at the beginning of a game! The posture, slightly bent knees, chest open. The chanting is getting the team ready for action, focusing their mind for the task ahead! The eye-rolling and poking the tongue out sends out a strong warning to the opponent “we mean business”. We use these latter moves in yoga too, to exercise eyes which strained by looking at a computer screen for too long and in the lion pose we extend our tongue to “clear” it – however I do not recommend it as interview technique!

It is also important to be in the right frame of mind, so regulating the breath (maybe slowing it down whilst waiting for the interviewer, inhale for the count of 4, exhale for count of 4 or 6 if more experienced). During the interview be alert, be in the present by sitting tall, keeping your face relaxed, throat soft, chin parallel to the floor and look the interviewer(s) in the eye. State and quantify your achievements and be aware of and accept your weaknesses.

Yoga teaches us to be strong and flexible on the mat, have perseverance and to know when to have a rest.  All these skills are transferable to the business world!

Dress for the interview in comfortable and appropriate clothes (just as you do for yoga). Arrive a few minutes earlier, just as you come to class on time, ready to start.

Once you know the outcome of the interview be gracious in accepting  “No thanks”. Try to learn from the experience.

After the interview (or any other time) relax in some restorative pose (legs up the wall or lay down and support your calves on a chair). Whichever pose you choose make sure you are warm and stay there for a minimum of  5 minutes, the longer the better. You will be refreshed and ready to start a new day or have better sleep at night.  These restorative poses are also beneficial in the evening, before going to bed – especially if you had a stressful day!