The Benefits of Yoga - Journey to Peace in Body & Mind!

Whether you are doing a gentle flow, are a beginner, or are ready for advanced practices, there are multiple reasons why you might want to try your hand or whole body in the practice of Yoga. While getting out and walking in the local park or walking your dog down the street might be one amazing reset for your mind and body, Asanas (poses) can be a whole new world to introduce yourself to.  

With just a short moment, you can improve your balance, strength and flexibility by starting off slow and learning how to feel your body. Raise your arms high above your head. Now, take notice of how the muscles from your fingertips following down to the lower part of your back feel. Tense? Maybe you just gently lean your neck to one side. Feel the tendons and muscles creating space. Bring your head back to a neutral alignment, take a deep breath in, noting the feeling of how your navel rises and how the air moves through your throat. Feeling more relaxed already? 

This is just a small look into taking time for yourself and creating space. Taking the time to notice how your body feels while you move starts to bring awareness to your inner self. This is a great start to cultivating self care and feeling some peace. Taking just a couple minutes out of your day to practice just a few poses can help not only in boosting mood and rid those holiday blues, but can help your body lubricate your joints and get the lymphatic system moving! (help fight those bugs). 

After taking some time for your body to get moving now is the best part. SAVASANA! Take about five minutes to lie down and reset your nervous system, palms facing upward, not touching anything. Maybe you cover yourself with a cozy blanket and throw on some soothing music to help take your mind elsewhere—and just breathe. Notice your breath, how it feels. With every breath just let your tension go, this is your time. Once you have taken some time to let your body relax, (take more if you want!) return to a comfortable upright seated position. Take a few breaths here and slowly return to your daily activities. Take this peace with you in everything you do. 

Other Basic Poses You May Try:

Mountain Pose 

1. From a standing position, bring the feet hip width apart & parallel. Lift up the toes, spread them wide and place them back on the floor. Feel your weight evenly balanced through the bottom of each foot.

2. Flex the thighs and allow the tailbone to drop slightly. The legs are straight, but the knees are soft.

3. Inhale and lift the crown of the head up towards the ceiling, feeling the spine long and straight.

4. Exhale and drop the shoulders down and back as you reach the fingertips towards the floor.

5. Breathe and hold for 9 breaths.

6. To release: exhale & relax the arms down to your sides or bring the palms together in front of your chest.

Standing Forward Fold

1. From Mountain pose, exhale forward hinging at the hips. Bend the knees enough to bring the palms flat to the floor and the head close to the knees.

2. Feel the spine stretching in opposite directions as you pull the head down and in and press the hips up. Work on straightening the legs to deepen the stretch in the backs of the legs.

3. Breathe and hold for 4-8 breaths, actively pressing the belly into the thighs on the inhalation.

4. To release: bend the knees keeping the back straight, inhale and slowly roll the spine up and open the shoulders at the top returning to Mountain Pose.

Warrior One

1. Step the right leg forward with the right knee bent, engage the legs to ground down through the feet. Use the arms to draw the torso back slightly. Make sure the right knee is directly over the right ankle.

2. Bring the hands to the hips and square the hips and the shoulders to the front wall. Relax the shoulders down and draw the shoulderblades towards the spine to open the chest.

3. Inhale, place arms over the head in a H position with the palms facing each other. Keep the shoulders relaxed and the chest lifted.

4. To go deeper, bring the palms together and carefully arch back and look up towards the ceiling.

5. Inhale deeply into the belly and chest, exhale, press into the feet, fingers and crown, feeling your body expanding out in 5 directions.

6. Keep breathing and hold for 3-6 breaths.

7. To release, exhale and step back into Mountain Pose. Repeat on the left leg.

If you enjoyed this brief intro to yoga, or are interested in getting back into yoga, we have NEW YOGA CLASSES, hosted by the wonderful Nikki Prell. Nikki is an experienced instructor, and will help guide you through YOUR Yoga Journey in a safe, welcoming, and non-judgmental atmosphere! All proceeds to Nikki’s “Mindful Movement Intro Class” benefit the PTSD Relief Project, a non-profit supporting Veterans and their families.

Stress is a part of daily life for most of us but the holidays tend to add a list of to dos that make stress more intense.  Stress will always be present—but finding ways to manage it will make this time of year more pleasant.  I challenge you to try a few of these tips to create a stress-free holiday!

First, try making sleep a priority.  If you have difficulty relaxing at night, consider a tea, such as chamomile, to sip and alongside a warm bath.  Keeping lights low a few hours before bedtime and either refraining from using devices, or wearing blue light-blocking glasses can be helpful for preparing the body for a restful night.  Once in bed, sometimes the mind tends to keep us awake with holiday lists.  Try to focus on breathing with one hand on the heart, and the other on the stomach.  Sleep will allow the body to rest and repair from all the holiday excitement.

Second, meditation can be extremely beneficial to lower stress levels.  Taking a few minutes to sit quietly, monitor breathing and tune into the body can make a huge difference in your resilience to stress.  Many apps are available that make it easy to drop into an elevated mindset easily.  My favorite is Headspace.  I find that my day has drastically less stress when I begin with meditation.  Also, meditating before attending social events, shopping trips or any other activities that create stress can do wonders for your nervous system.  

Lastly, be aware of what is causing the stress and allow yourself to remove or consider removing any unwanted traditions/events you find overwhelming.  Many times this is a difficult task.  Acupuncture can help with stress and emotions that arise when you are faced with difficult challenges.  There are numerous herbal remedies that are helpful as well. For stress that manifests as more wired than tired, a combination of rhodiola and schisandra work well. A combination of rhodiola and ginseng work well for stress that is more tired than wired. Both combinations are available through us from one of our favorite providers, Mediherb.

During this exciting close to the year, it can be very easy to allow stress to take over; but with a few simple modifications and awareness of your needs, this can be a joyful and exciting time.  

益母草 yì mǔ cǎo

Motherwort

Latin name: Leonurus heterophyllus

This bountiful herb produces rings of beautiful purple and white flowers above a thistle-like knob. Up close, the tiny flowers are quite lovely, but the plants will quickly grow to 4+ feet tall. All of the aerial parts are used and traditionally harvested when in bloom with the flowers and all generally around the time of the summer solstice.

In Chinese Medicine terms, this herb enters the Heart, Liver and Bladder, and acts to promote circulation, dispel blood stasis, regulate the menses, reduce masses, promote urination and relieves swelling and edema. The central stalks are hollow and tube-like following the doctrine of signatures in which plants with that kind of shape are often associated with increased urination. Because of the blood moving action and how it stimulates oxytocin production, this herb is generally contraindicated during pregnancy, but it is used in several formulas for postpartum conditions including abdominal pain after childbirth, delayed menses, and helping to clear the uterus postpartum.

Its action in the heart is reflected in its effects on calming heart rhythm, increasing circulation to the coronary artery, and decreasing blood viscosity and platelet aggregation rates. It can help lower blood pressure, relieve muscle spasms and neuralgias through the ability to increase blood flow through peripheral tissues and allow for better nourishment of the muscles.

It can be safely used as a single herb for tonic purposes and is traditionally combined with Dang Gui to help with postpartum recovery. The flavor is mild, and I recently combined some of the fresh aerial parts with mint, Jiao Gu Lian (a tonic and adaptogenic herb) with a little honey to make a lovely stress-buster tea that was both tasty and effective. I like to think of this tea as my own personal potion for recovery after a stressful day.

What would you call a potion to drink after a day spent slaying dragons? (or a mountain of paperwork at the office!)

As a single herb extract, it can be helpful for headaches, insomnia, vertigo and circulatory paresthesias. Sounds like a great potion for clearing the mind after exposure to evil spells by dark wizards (or that long commute that left you frazzled!).

We will have a dried version of this tea available for sale along with some of the single herb extract. I am looking forward to seeing what other formulas we can incorporate this lovely herb into!

The seeds are also used but considered more astringent and cooling for excessive uterine bleeding or red, painful, swollen eyes. More about those at a later time, so stay tuned...

Mind / Body / Healing
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