Tag Archives: Stress-free

Smile, It’s summer!

summer-quote-heart-Favim.com-543473We’ve waited all year for this moment to arrive and finally summer has arrived! It’s the season of endless days, warm nights, laughter among friends, summer romance, beach days, boat trips, camping holidays and just good ol’ fashion summer play.

While doing a little research for one really amazing quote to inspire a vibrant and fruitful summer we came across a few that were too good or fun to pass up. So go ahead and indulge yourself with these summer quotes.

LakeJump“One must maintain a little bit of summer, even in the middle of winter.”
~ Henry David Thoreau

“A life without love is like a year without summer.”
~ Swedish Proverb

“If a June night could talk, it would probably boast it invented romance.”
~ Bern Williams

“Deep summer is when laziness finds respectability.”
~ Sam Keen

“And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.”    ~ F. Scott Fitzgerald

“There shall be eternal summer in the grateful heart.”
~ Celia Thaxter

“The summer night is like a perfection of thought.”
~ Wallace Stevens

Photo: The Daily Andy

Stay Cool!

Cooling-Breath-Sheetali-PranayamaThe summer heat can be so thick, steamy and stifling sometimes that just a few minutes outdoors can make breathing feel like too much of a tiring activity. The good news – the traditional yoga practice of pranayama has gifted us with a breathing technique that essentially makes you your very own walking A/C unit. The word “sheetali” means cooling in Sanskrit, it is taken from the original word “Sheetal” which is soothing or cold. The pranayama practice of sheetali breathing calms the mind, reduces stress and helps cool the body and mind.

The purpose of Sheetali breathing not only helps calm stress and relax the body but is mainly used to cool down our body temperature. The ancient text of Hatha Yoga, Pradipika, states that this pranayama removes excess heat accumulated in the body and all our our organs. It can reduce excess bile and helps to reduce fevers. Sheetali breathing can keep our organs from ‘overworking’ in the heat thus keeping you internally and externally cool. It also has a calming effect on the nervous system, especially as it stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which induces muscular relaxation and is very effective in stress management.

In this pranayama the tongue is rolled in a specific manner as shown in figure. But many people can not roll their tongue in this fashion. If rolling your tongue is not accessible try pressing your teeth together leaving no gap between your jaw open your mouth and breath through your teeth while keeping your jaw sealed. You’ll feel a cool air stream through your teeth.

Sheetali (Cooling Breath)

cooling-breathBegin in a comfortable seated position and give yourself a minute to relax your whole body. Release any tension in your neck, spine, legs, etc. Really allow your body to release feeling completely relaxed.

Start by rolling your tongue and inhale through your mouth feeling the cool air enter your mouth within your tongue. Inhale for 4 seconds. Exhale through your nose for 6 seconds, make sure your exhales are a little bit longer than your inhales. Repeat and practice for about 5 minutes.

Source: Yoga Point 

Ins and Outs of Prana

6-Breathing-Exercises-to-Relax-in-10-Minutes-or-Less_0Humans have been known to survive for months without water and weeks without food yet die within minutes when deprived of oxygen. Respiration represents the power of prana, the ultimate expression of energy and life. When prana flows abundantly through our beings we become aware of a special glow to our skin and eyes, a spring to our step and the pulse of energy in every cell, vibrating vitality through every thought, word and deed. Conversely, an impeded or deficient flow of prana is marked by constant fatigue, dull skin and eyes and loss of enthusiasm. Breathing exercises are the easiest way to increase the flow of prana in our body and to unleash dormant prana.

What is Prana?

”As the spokes are attached to the hub, so on this life breath, all is connected”   – Ancient Indian treatise

In the ultimate sense prana is the subtlest form of all energies that permeate and sustain life in the cosmos. It is the underlying power supplying all universal forces allowing the ocean to surge, the sun to rise, flowers to bloom and the earth to revolve. The localized aspect of prana is the force uniting mind, body and spirit together known as the bio-energy field in humans. This flows from the spirit and is also absorbed from the atmosphere instantly through breathing oxygen and slowly through the colon with the transformation of food into energy.

Prana travels through our bodies via channels known as nadis, a concept similar to Chinese medicine’s chi, which travels along meridians. Absorbed through the medium of breath, prana has specifications on the respiratory, digestive, circulatory, cardiovascular, lymphatic and nervous system functions. Most importantly prana governs all the mental processes including thoughts, feelings, the will and reason. Longevity, health and vitality are all determined by the quality of prana flowing in our bodies. Taking in all this new information can be a bit overwhelming so now would be a good time to take a deep breath!

About Pranayama 

“As wind drives away smoke and impurities from the atmosphere, pranayama is a divine fire which cleanses the organs, senses, mind, intellect and ego.”      – BKS Iyengar

Pranayama is the art of breath control whereby the mental and physical state is brought to a harmonious state of health and serenity. It is a technique that increases, controls and frees the flow of prana throughout the entire body. The practice of pranayama brings awareness to the breath, which then connects us rapidly with our inner physical and emotional state.2786-22

Our relationship with life is mirrored in our breathing. When we’re nervous or excited our breathing becomes shallow, jerky and rapid. A relaxed, quiet state will create slow and deep breathing. Humans breath about 16-18 times a minute, inhaling about 13,000 litres of air every 24 hours. Due to exercise, anger, passion and anxiety the respiration rate increases, straining the heart and decreasing the life span. The slow, deep breathing and retention of breath in pranayama helps to compensate for the damage incurred by rapid, shallow breathing.

Pranayama also ensures a rhythmic harmony between the left bodily channel (ida) and the right bodily channel (pingala). This is important as these nadis govern opposite polarities in the body. Pingala which is stimulated by right nostril breathing promotes heat, masculinity, extroversion and digestion. Left nostril breathing stimulates ida which encourages cold, femininity, introspection and fertility. Roughly every hour our breathing shifts from one nostril to the other whereas pranayama encourages us to breath through both nostrils in order to maintain our bio-energetic balance.

Let’s Get Breathing!

For a beginner unfamiliar with pranayama please read the few guidelines below to help you set up for a healthy and sustainable pranayama practice.

 The full Yogic Breath

  1. Lie down on your back, placing your right palm flat over your lower abdomen and your left palm at the top of your chest. The palms help to monitor the wave-like motion of the full yogic breath.
  2. Exhale, emptying the air from your abdomen and chest.
  3. Inhale deeply feeling your abdomen fill with air and rise then your chest up to the clavicle should fill with air and rise. Pause when you feel you have inhaled to your full capacity then inhale further.
  4. Exhaling the chest will first lower as the air is expelled then the abdomen will empty and contract.
  5. Continue this for 5 cycles. Once you have achieved a smooth rhythm proceed to pranayama exercises. The full yogic breath is to be observed whilst doing all pranayamas unless stated otherwise.

Ujjayi Pranayama (Baby’s Snore)
Best time for practice: Before meditation, before bed, and during yoga

Method:
1. Sit in a comfortable position with a straight back and neck.
2. Place your hands on the knees and close your eyes.
3. Exhale through the nostrils emptying your lungs and abdomen of air.
4. Slightly contract the throat and breath in deeply through the nostrils, keeping your mouth closed, for the count of 4. This will make a ‘sa’ sound similar to the gentle snore of a baby. The abdomen and chest should fill and rise.
5. Hold your breath at the top for the count of 2 then straighten head and exhale through the mouth to the count of 4. A ‘ha’ sound will be made on exhalation.
6. Repeat this cycle five times.
Benefits:
1. Calms and focuses the mind.
2. Useful in respiratory tract disorders, hypertension, insomnia and fatigue.
3. Relieves nervous tension and anxiety

Guidelines for Pranayama

  1. The best time to practice pranayama is in the morning when the air is cool and the mind and body are fresh or at dusk.
  2. The bowels and bladder should be emptied.
  3. It is best to practice pranayama after exercises and before meditation.
  4. Find a secluded, quiet, clean, well-ventilated space, preferably free of insects.
  5. Sit in a comfortable position on the floor or in a chair with the back erect and the head straight. Vajrasana or sukhasana are good positions.
  6. A folded blanket, flat cushion or mat may be placed on the floor for comfort.
  7. Keep all your facial and bodily muscles relaxed.
  8. Close the eyes and rest the tops hands on knees.
  9. Breathe only through the nose unless stated otherwise.

This article was beautifully written from the folks at: Ayurveda Elements

Photos: Yoga Journal

Melt Away Tax Deadline Stress

We all now April brings showers, cherry blossoms, open-toed shoes as well as today’s tax deadline. As you scramble to finish your taxes and then rush to the post office for a April 15th postmark, to only get there and wait on a longer than usual line, you begin to feel your stress level bubble to new heights. Instead of getting caught up in a storm of stress and anxiety that tax season can bring on, melt away   tension and fatigue with a therapeutic massage, which will nurture you body, mind and overall well-being. Read on for a few delicious reasons to treat yourself to a massage today.

Melt Stress

massage31For the same reasons that a massage is relaxing, it can also soothe anxiety, stress and depression. Massage reduces levels of the stress hormone cortisol resulting in lifted spirits and often lower blood pressure. It can also boost the neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine, which are involved in depression.

Improve Sleep

ManSleeping1If you’ve ever dozed off on a massage table, you don’t need to be convinced that a massage can promote a good night’s sleep. A number of studies have examined this link, and chalk it up to massage’s affect on delta waves, the kind of brain waves connected to deep sleep, according to Health magazine.

Boost Immunity

A traditional massage or deep tissue massage can help improve the functioning of your immune system. In one 2010 study, researchers found massage increased a person’s disease fighting white blood cells.  Also helping to aid the body in breaking up and releasing toxins found in the body a massage will have you feeling healthier,  lighter and more energized.

Curb Headaches

Studio-M-Salon-and-Spa-Just like muscle and back pain, headaches can also be alleviated thanks to massage. A regular rubdown can reduce a person’s number of migraines, as well as limit how painful each headache feels, according WebMD. A 2009 study found that a 30-minute massage decreased pain for people with tension headaches, and even curbed some of the stress and anger associated with that pounding head.

Ease Cancer Treatment

Because of many of the benefits listed above, massage is particularly helpful for people living with or undergoing treatment for serious illnesses, like cancer, and some studies have shown that massage can relieve fatigue, pain, anxiety, and nausea in cancer patients.

Source: Health Magazine
WebMD
Huffington Post

Morning Pranayama

6-Breathing-Exercises-to-Relax-in-10-Minutes-or-Less_0Start your day off with a quick and easy pranayama breathing exercise that will leave you feeling energized, light and sunny, even on a cloudy day like today. Adopting a daily pranayama practice has many health benefits; one of my favorites includes coping with and lowering stress levels. Intentionally slowing your breath down helps to calm the mind and nervous system, which reduces the amount of stress hormones released when those firey moments arise. So start your weekend off stress-free and relaxed by taking 3 minutes of your day to practice the below pranayama.

Sit at the edge of your chair.
Try to straighten your spine.
Put one hand on your navel.
Put the other hand on your heart center. Inhale through your nose.

Exhale out your nose.

Notice the position of your tongue. Let it soften, loosely placed.
Blubber your lips.
Roll your shoulders back.

Inhale through the nose for 1-2-3.
Exhale out for 1-2-3.
As you inhale, feel the breath in your lower hand, then upper hand.
As you exhale, feel both hands sink back in.

Put your full attention on the breath.
Inhale to the lower hand 1-2- to the upper hand 3-4. Pause for 1.
Exhale out the nose 1-2-3-4. Pause for 1.
Continue this pattern.

Inhale to the lower hand 1-2- to the upper hand 3-4-5.
Pause for 1.
Exhale out the nose 1-2-3-4-5.
Pause for 1.

Move away from your computer when you finish reading this for your pranayama breath work. Turn away and close your eyes. Let your eyes soften and relax in your head. Do at least 10 rounds of this breath.  After 10 rounds bring your hands to your knees and take a few deep inhales and exhales here for at least 3 rounds.

Inhale 1-2-3-4.
Exhale 1-2-3-4.
Stay aware of the breath as you move through your day and if anything pops up during your day that may be less than ideal and you begin to feel the stress rise, come back to this breath. A few deep breaths can make a huge difference

Making Peace With Paradox

“Water is fluid, soft, and yielding. But water will wear away rock, which is rigid and cannot yield. As a rule, whatever is fluid, soft, and yielding will overcome whatever is rigid and hard. This is another paradox: what is soft is strong.”
― Lao Tzu

Such a beautiful quote to remember as you move through each day. Where can you find softness and vulnerability in your life? Maybe it’s with a person, situation or possibly yourself? Wherever you may feel or sense rigidness, give in to it – loosen your grip, thoughts and judgements around it and start to find a sense of ease, pleasure and empowerment within this softness. Truth and beauty always come from one’s ability to open up, to truly open and give in to vulnerability. Embrace the paradoxes of life and while you may think of this as having or giving in to breakdown, it’s actually breakthrough.

Friday Breathwork

When you’re in the midst of trying to finish your Friday deadlines before the week’s out and new projects are piling up around you, you may feel your anxiety starting to build. Yes this situation may be less than ideal but with a few minutes of breathwork you can easily take back control of your nerves and anxiety. You’ll be pleasantly surprised how well you preform after taking 3 minutes for your self to just breathe. So go ahead and take a comfortable seat.
Sit at the edge of your chair.
Try to straighten your spine.
Put one hand on your navel.
Put the other hand on your heart center. Inhale through your nose.
Exhale out your nose.
Notice the position of your tongue. Let it soften, loosely placed. Blubber your lips.
Roll your shoulders back.
Inhale in through the nose for 1-2-3.
Exhale out for 1-2-3.
As you inhale, feel the breath in your lower hand, then upper hand.
As you exhale, feel both hands sink back in.
Put your full attention on the breath.
Inhale to the lower hand 1-2- to the upper hand 3-4. Pause for 1.
Exhale out the nose 1-2-3-4.

Continue this pattern.

Inhale to the lower hand 1-2- to the upper hand 3-4-5.
Pause for 1.
Exhale out the nose 1-2-3-4-5. Pause for 1.
Move away from your computer when you finish reading this:
Turn away and close your eyes.
Let your eyes soften and relax in your head.
Do at least 10 rounds of this.
After this, let your hands go to your knees.
Do 3 rounds of this:
Inhale 1-2-3-4.
Exhale 1-2-3-4.
Stay aware of the breath.
Keep it as you go about your daily activities and work day.

Try this throughout the day and see if you can gradually and comfortably increase the number of rounds. Taking a few minutes a day for breathwork offers delicious health, emotional and physical benefits, such as strengthening and exercising your heart and lungs as well as aiding in stress reduction.