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Tag Archives: Yoga

Find Balance during the Holidays

Start your day with the stork pose to help you find balance during the holidays.

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What better way to center yourself during this busy time than with a yoga pose that promotes strength and balance? Yoga’s stork pose helps you focus the mind and calm the body. It’s just what you need when your days are filled with shopping, cleaning, cooking, travel and social events. Ready to be flooded with zen? Simply stand tall and focus your gaze at a point in front of you. Gently lift one foot and try to stand on the opposite leg for as long as you can. If you falter, just put both feet back on the ground and steady yourself; then try again. Keep your gaze on that focal point, breathing gently and evenly. If you’d like more of a challenge, rotate your raised ankle and draw circles in the air with your foot. Return your foot to the ground and repeat on the other side. You can even practice stork pose while standing on line at the bank or grocery store. It will help you float through your errands gracefully.

 

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Meditate Daily to Reduce Stress

Remember gazing at the clouds when you were a child? Meditation is a seated form of daydreaming. Do it daily to reduce stress.
Sitting still for an hour. Humming strange noises. Changing your religion. Ask most people what’s involved in meditation and the answer is likely to be any or all of these things. Actually, meditation is a simple way to quiet the mind and calm the body. Should be easy, right? Well, in our busy Western world, taking the time to sit quietly and breathe deeply seems to be an almost impossible task. Yet, study after study is proving that a meditation practice can help us to be less stressed, more focused and much healthier.

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Consider the facts: Chronic stress is at the core of many of our modern ills. We’re working more, exercising less and not always making healthy food choices. Genetically, we have the bodies of our ancestors — built to deal with the occasional threat of a wild animal attack but not the ongoing, daily stress of deadlines and overdue bills. Unchecked, this chronic stress leads to a whole host of physical problems, such as muscle tension, elevated blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, blood sugar swings, lowered immunity, increased pain and more. Our minds are affected as well. Chronic stress makes it harder to concentrate or to remember, disturbs our sleep, increases our anxiety and self-doubt, and gets in the way of our enjoyment of life. A regular meditation practice can help by focusing the mind, quieting that mental “chatter,” reducing tension in the body and calming the breath.

Do you remember lying on the grass and gazing up at the clouds when you were a child? You just watched the world go by without judging whether your experience or thoughts were good or bad. Meditation is a seated form of daydreaming (or you could lie down). To begin, take a few moments to move and stretch your body, loosening up tight areas like the shoulders and lower back. Next, find a quiet area and a supportive chair. Sit with your feet planted firmly on the floor, hip-width apart, with the knees directly over the ankles. Sit up tall and let your hands lie gently in your lap. Close your eyes and start paying attention to your breath. Try saying to yourself, “I am breathing in” on the inhale and “I am breathing out” on the exhale. As thoughts come up (and they will), just notice them like the clouds passing by and return to your breathing. At first, try this for about five minutes. Remind yourself that this is a practice, and with practice comes progress. It won’t take long to notice that your breathing is deeper and more even, your heart rate has slowed and you feel calmer. You may not know it, but you have reduced your blood pressure and your body is no longer pumping out the same quantity of stress hormones. This practice is so simple you can do it almost anywhere and at almost any time.

— from the Cleveland Clinic’s yoga program manager, Judi Bar, and certified yoga instructor Sally Sherwin
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Perk Up Energy, Reduce Stress and Alleviate Pain

Here’s how to perk up your energy, reduce stress and alleviate pain: Focus on taking deep, slow breaths.

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Paying attention to your breath — how fast, how deep — can help boost your energy, calm you down, lower your stress, and even help you feel less pain. Often called “belly breathing,” yoga’s three-part breath is one of the easiest ways to reap several different health benefits. This exercise will be most effective if you are lying on your back, either on the floor or on your bed.

Place your hands on your lower abdomen. Relax and take a couple of breaths. Just observe what happens in your body while breathing as you normally do. Now, think of taking a deep breath and expanding the area beneath your hands; it should feel as though you’re inflating a balloon deep in your belly. On the exhale, think of bringing your navel back toward your spine to empty your lungs. Feel your hands rise and fall as you inhale and exhale. Next, place one of your hands on your chest while keeping the other on your belly. Take another deep inhale and let some of that expansion reach your chest. You should feel both hands move — one on your belly, one on your chest. Exhale from your chest first, and then your belly. Repeat a couple of times and observe what happens with the movement of your body. Lastly, move the hand on your chest up above your heart. Inhale once again, this time expanding into the belly, the chest and then the upper chest. You should notice your breathing has slowed considerably, and you might even feel a bit light-headed. On the final exhale, empty your breath from the upper chest first, proceeding all the way down to your lower abdomen.

Because we don’t get air into the deepest part of our lungs, we have to breathe faster and more frequently in order to get enough. This shallow, fast breathing activates your fight-or-flight nervous system response, which can make you feel more anxious and stressed. Consciously slowing and deepening the breath turns off that stress response and leaves your mind and body feeling refreshed, calm and focused. — From Judi Bar, yoga program manager at the Cleveland Clinic, and Sally Sherwin, certified yoga instructor.

source:cleveland clinic

 

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Strengthen all of you Leg Muscles for Pain-Free Knees

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Work on strengthening all of your leg muscles — hamstrings to hips — for pain-free knees. This will prevent uneven strain on the joints.

Feeling weak in the knees? Well, it could be from falling in love, but it can also stem from out-of-whack muscles. Here are some tips for pain-free knees from yoga therapist Judi Bar, the yoga program manager at the Cleveland Clinic, and Sally Sherwin, a registered yoga teacher:
• Always keep the knees soft; avoid locking or hyperextending them.
• Keep your toes and feet pointed forward when sitting, standing and walking, with your knees hip-distance apart.
• Avoid sitting on your heels, especially with the feet turned out. This puts a lot of pressure on the knee joints and overstretches kneecap tendons.
• Before you exercise, warm up your leg and foot muscles as well as your hip and ankle joints. This will protect the knees and help prevent injuries. While standing, make gentle, circular motions with the hips to help warm and lubricate the hips, knees, and ankles. To tone your feet, try standing on tiptoe while you hold the back of a chair, if needed, for balance.
• Yoga can keep your knees strong and sturdy by helping to build and maintain proper alignment, strength and flexibility. Work on building strength and flexibility in your quads, hamstrings, abductors and adductors, because evenly balanced leg muscles keep the knees aligned. Chair pose is a great leg strengthener. Here’s how to do it: Stand tall with hips, knees and ankles in alignment. Knees should be hip-width apart with feet pointing forward. Gently bend the knees while leaning forward from the hips with a straight back (pretend you’re about to sit down in a chair). Once your back is at a 45-degree angle, hold the posture, keeping your knees hip-width apart (don’t let them roll in or out). Keep breathing gently and evenly. For a cardio benefit, raise your arms out straight at the same angle as your back. Try to build up to a longer hold.

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Posted by on September 10, 2013 in Cleveland Clinic Wellness Tips

 

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