Yoga: A Remedy for Sleepless Nights?

Having trouble getting a sound sleep? Yoga might be the perfect remedy. A Harvard study on insomnia concluded people who practiced yoga consistently…

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Having trouble getting a sound sleep? Yoga might be the perfect remedy. A Harvard study on insomnia concluded people who practiced yoga consistently for eight weeks slept better and longer compared than those who did not practice.

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Helpful to Relax the Bodypic

Legs-Up-The-Wall(Viparita Karani) can be practiced at night before getting into bed or in the middle of the night, if you’re having trouble sleeping and waking up.  Try Nikole Fortier’s 7 minute class at Pilgrimage Yoga Online.  It’s ideal for beginners and advanced yogis.

Hope Knosher, founder of Hope’s Yoga, suggests: “Sit sideways with your right side against the wall. Exhale and gently swing your legs up onto the wall and your shoulders and head lightly down onto the floor. Coming into this pose may take some practice. Your sitting bones don’t need to be right against the wall, depending on the tightness of your hamstrings. Experiment with the position until you find the placement that works for you.

This pose is not intended to stretch the backs of the legs, so if you feel pulling in the hamstrings move farther away from the wall. Keep the lower back grounded to the floor. Make a small roll with a hand towel to place under your neck if the cervical spine at the base of your neck feels too flat. Open your shoulder blades away from your spine and release your hands and arms out to your sides, palms up.

Keep your legs relatively firm, just enough to hold them vertically in place. If you struggle to keep your legs upright, take a yoga strap or something similar and place it around your legs just below the knees and gently tighten to hold the legs up right, allowing you to further relax into the pose. Gently close and soften your eyes, then scan the body. Soften into any tightness you find along the way.” *

Calm, Steady Breathing

Practice for 5-20 minutes. Focus on calm and steady breathing.

When you are ready to come out, bend your knees halfway toward your chest and roll to one side. Use your arms to help you sit up, moving slowly and mindfully.

Raising your legs vertically, higher than the heart, can also help with blood circulation.

Hope cautions, “those who are pregnant or that have been diagnosed with glaucoma, high blood pressure, or any serious problems with the neck or spine, should consult their doctor first.”

If sleepless nights are on your mind, consider adding a meditation and relaxation class at Pilgrimage Yoga Online to your morning.

How do you deal with sleepless nights?

* Thanks to MindBodyGreen.com for permission to share this excerpt.

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Stressed at Work? Try Chair Yoga

If you’re stressed at work, one of the fastest ways to regain a sense of mindful clarity is to focus on your breath. Practice your pranayama (breathing)…

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If you’re stressed at work, one of the fastest ways to regain a sense of mindful clarity is to focus on your breath.  Practice your pranayama (breathing) in this 10 minute chair yoga video with Lena Schmidt. This includes a gentle twist and stretching of the joints. You can practice right at your desk.

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lena-schmidtLena holds degrees in ethnic studies and women’s studies and is dedicated to making yoga accessible to all. Lena’s background in gymnastics and dance has helped her finds the physicality of yoga to be a delightful and challenging way to move the body without competition.

Lena is intentional about taking yoga off the mat and loves finding the bridges between the heart and mind, the individual and community, and mindfulness and expression.

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Wisdom: Prana — The Life-Force

One of the great secrets of yoga is that breath, body, mind and emotions are all intertwined. Pranayama literally means…

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One of the great secrets of yoga is that breath, body, mind and emotions are all intertwined. Pranayama literally means breath-control. By controlling your breath you will strengthen your body, find peace of mind and gain clarity in your emotions. In just minutes a day you can gain incredible results.

by Sujantra McKeever

To achieve a complete understanding of the forces at work in our existence let us begin with the primary life-force of the universe—prana. Prana is the great vital energy breathing and circulating through all of existence. Breathing, the most basic and fundamental function of the living organism, involves the intake and regulation of prana. Review our Pranayama online classes.

Primary Life-Force

Prana is the life-force of the nervous system upon which we depend for existence. Once we become aware of the power of prana and the significance of each breath we take, we gain an immediate insight into the underlying principles upon which various Eastern disciplines are based. These include the martial arts, Chinese medicine, Indian medicine, Hatha Yoga (a branch of yoga which seeks to gain illumination beginning with a perfection of the body through various physical poses, or asanas), breath control—pranayama (prana = life force, yama = control). These and other practices stress an awareness of prana and control of life-force, via breathing. Without this life-force coursing through our system, we will quickly die. All that we do—move, think, feel—is dependent upon prana.

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Five Categories

The life-breath, prana, when thought of as sustaining life in the human body, is classified into five main categories according to the various functions performed by the energy. The five categories into which life-force is classified are: apana, which moves in the region of the lower abdomen and trunk and presides over the lower functions; samana, which maintains the equilibrium of the vital forces and stokes the gastric fire and digestion; vyana, which distributes the vital energies derived from food and breath throughout the entire body; prana (here the word is used to note a particular aspect) which dwells in the upper part of the body and controls the heart and respiration, in effect, bringing the universal force into the physical system; and finally udana, which moves upward from the body to the crown of the head and controls the intake of food as well as channels the communication between the physical life and the greater life of the spirit.

Three Principle Channels

There are three principle channels, or nadis, through which life energy flows throughout the human organism. These channels are ida, pingala, and sushumna. Ida carries prana from the left nostril through the left side of the body and down to the base of the spine. Pingala carries prana from the right nostril through the right side of the body and down to the base of the spine. Ida is the nadi of the mood and Mercury and is felt in mildness, calmness and coolness; pingala is the nadi of the sun and Mars and is felt in power and heat. Our “health”—both emotional and physical—is based upon the balancing of these different aspects of our being: masculine-feminine, yin-yang, power-calm, heat-cool. This essential balance can be maintained and regulated through constant awareness of our breathing patterns and their regulation when necessary. This practice is known by the Sanskrit word pranayama.

Bring Balance

The regulation of breathing which occurs naturally is an excellent way to regulate prana and bring vigor and balance to our system these include times of deep, relaxed breathing such as the regulation of our breathing during and after exercise and developing a keen awareness of our breathing. Physical exercise brings peace, calmness and a natural balance to our system. Any further regulation of prana should only be done under the careful guidance of a knowledgeable yoga teacher.

Author Sujantra McKeever founded Pilgrimage of the Heart studio in 2006. He began exploring yoga and pranayama at the age of 12. Sujantra has authored five books on eastern philosophy, success motivation and meditation. Since 1987 he has delivered over 1000 lectures on meditation and yoga in over 30 countries. Sujantra studied meditation with spiritual teacher Sri Chinmoy.

 

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5 Yoga Tips for Healthy Skin

Admiring those glowing faces in beauty cream advertisements, we often wonder if we too could have a skin so young…

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by Pritika Nair

Admiring those glowing faces in beauty cream advertisements, we often wonder if we too could have a skin so young and beautiful. Well, it’s not a far-fetched dream anymore! Now you too can flaunt healthy, radiant skin that draws attention. And the good news is: no chemicals and no pricey beauty packages. Just a simple four-letter word –yoga – and a glow on the face that lasts for long is yours to keep.

5 yoga tips

  1. Practice asanas (yoga postures) which help increase blood circulation to the head and face area. These postures also increase oxygenation to the system; as such are called chest openers. All inverted postures and forward bends, which increase blood supply to the head, can help achieve clean, glowing skin.

  2. Cooling pranayamas (breathing exercises) can help provide a cooling effect to the skin and retain its glow.

  3. To improve the digestive process, try doing Alternate Nostril Breathing on empty stomach.

  4. Meditate twice a day, every day. The more you do, the more you will radiate from within and without. Meditation will be your natural make-up that lasts long and makes you look beautiful!

  5. Practice at least 20 minutes of facial yoga exercises everyday at home. These will help tighten the face muscles. Massage your jaws to reduce stress, massage your eyebrows for a dose of instant relaxation, try the ‘kiss and smile technique’ (push out your lips as though to kiss a baby and then smile as broadly as you can) to exercise your face muscles.

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Other tips to keep your skin glowing

  • Drink lots of water: Lukewarm water with lemon and honey helps detoxify your system while keeping your skin clean and healthy.

  • Eat fresh: Make sure you include lots of fresh fruits and vegetables rich in Vitamin C in your diet. Papaya can work wonders for your skin. You can either eat it or apply it on your face for a massage. Potato is also effective in reducing dark spots and scars, tan and sunburn. Also, try and avoid too much of fried or junk food and excessive spice or sweets. Substitute chips or fried rolls with dry fruits or some other healthy snacks. It’s also a good idea to check your body type – Vata, Pitta, or Kapha (an Ayurveda doctor can help you find this) – and know the kind of diet that is suitable to your unique body constitution.

  • Rest well: When your body is deeply rested, it automatically shows on the face. A minimum of eight hours of good sleep is ideal.

  • Apply natural stuff on your skin: Go for Ayurveda facial packages. These treatments are chemical-free, made from natural herbs and leave your skin fresh, rejuvenated and glowing. Use Ayurvedic face scrubs once a week and massage your face with an oil that is particularly suitable for your skin type. Vitamin E oil is recommended. Moisturize your face twice a day and make sure you wash your face after returning home from a long day. Also, splash water on your eyes at least 2-3 times a day. Give yourself a weekly body massage with an oil suitable to your body type. It cleanses the toxins away.

  • Smile: This is the best and the easiest make-up you can apply on your face. The more you smile, the more your face would naturally glow! Also, keep a positive attitude. How you look at yourself reflects on your face. Yoga practice can help you become positive about yourself and others around, and this positivity will make you glow!

Thanks to Art of Living for this contribution to Pilgrimage Yoga Online.

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Pranayama – Energize your Life Force through Breathing

Prana what? – My boyfriend thought I was talking about some new motorcycle when I tried explaining what Pranayama is and what…

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Prana what?

My boyfriend thought I was talking about some new motorcycle when I tried explaining what Pranayama is and what it can do for you – or more precisely what your breath can do for you. I had just watched one of Pilgrimage of the Heart’s Yoga videos on their online studio called “Pranayama energizing flow – 10 minutes with Lauren McLaren” and I couldn’t believe the different ways someone could breathe and even more importantly the enormous benefits that could be attained in just a few minutes. According to my boyfriend, “a breath is a breath” and he couldn’t understand how I could be so excited about something you don’t have to do anything about. But that’s the whole point. You CAN do something about your breath and it will improve your health!

Pranayama is a Sanskrit word meaning “extension of the life force”. The word is comprised of two Sanskrit words, Prana or life force (breath) and ayama meaning to extend or draw out. In the video the instructor focuses on two breathing techniques designed to expand the life forces we already possess. It also highlights the importance of doing these exercises properly and with a split screen gives the viewer a great means of how to do just that. The first technique is called Kapalabhati breath – Kapal means skull and bhati means polishing or shining. Kapalabhati, as the name suggests, is a method to make the head “sparkling clean” and devoid of toxins. On first glance, it sort of looks like you’re panting like a dog on a hot day, but you quickly build up an energy that moves through your limbs and your whole system. The other technique is called Nadi Shodan Pranayama or alternate nostril breathing. This is where you block one nostril at a time while breathing in and out. The video lays out very clearly how to hold your fingers and how to properly breathe using this technique.

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Benefits of Pranayama

While the ultimate goal of Pranayama is to enter higher states of consciousness, there are many immediate benefits. When we can control our breath we can keep our physical body healthy through the intake of oxygen and we can help affect our emotional and spiritual state through the meditative practice of breathing. These breathing exercises also help in calming and centering the mind, which brings the mind back to the present moment. Through this practice we can also release accumulated stress toxins and that in turn brings clarity to our mind and energy into our body. And all of these benefits come with just a few minutes of practice! The other underlying benefit of Pranayama (and this video) is that it brings attention to your breath, which a lot of us (including my boyfriend) don’t even think about. As an athlete, I’ve always sort of noticed that there are times in intense situations when I stop breathing and now I will not only be more aware of my breath, but also have options for improving my breath and my health.

Application: Pranayama in everyday life

Pranayama can easily be applied in everyday life because you don’t need a yoga mat or props to do it. Everything you need you already carry with you – your nose, your lungs and your fingers. Once you learn the techniques you can practice anywhere, anytime – waiting in a long line, on a break from work or even riding on the back of a motorcycle where the driver can’t see you 😉 My boyfriend is cool, but I disagree with his assessment that “a breath is a breath”. I mean really, are all motorcycles the same? Pranayama shows us that not only can you breathe in different ways, but there are enormous benefits in doing so.

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