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“I have had a holiday, and I’d like to take it up professionally.” ~~ Kylie Minogue

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All month, I’ve been centering my blogs around how yoga can help us in controlling and reducing the stress in our lives. As I mentioned in an earlier blog this month, the holidays can be one of the biggest stressors for many people. However, this is your chance to replace whatever your priorities are (i.e., work) with that of leisure. Use this time to explore, travel, and/or learn. Spend time with your loved ones, as I think many of us have become painstakingly aware these last couple of weeks how fleeting life can be.

Indulge yourself a little in this last week of the year, so that you give yourself the opportunity to grow into the person you were meant to be. You won’t regret it!

I hope to see you in class at the start of the New Year. Please have a safe and happy remainder to this wonderful time of year. My thoughts are with each and every one of you, hoping that you get the chance to come back to class with a mind and body that is refreshed, renewed and rejuvenated. Rediscover your life…the time has never been more ripe!

Namaste,

Melanie

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We’ve been covering ways that yoga can help us with relieving stress each week during December. We started the month by focusing on hip and shoulder openers, followed by twists last week. This week marks the last week I’ll be teaching this month, due to the holidays. As I mentioned in my first blog this month, there are SO many ways yoga helps with relieving stress, so I pondered about what this week’s focus should be. I finally settled on Savasana (also referred to as “Final Relaxation” or “Corpse Pose”).

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(Savasana)

 

In my experience, all the last minute preparations that need to be taken care of can be overwhelming in a variety of ways, and sometimes, we just need to take a moment to be still. To just stop, breathe, and focus. Enter Savasana.

 

Savasana is a restorative pose that works on our autonomic nervous system (ANS). The function of the ANS is to control the various physiological changes that are initiated to enable “fight or flight” when we encounter any sort of stress, whether it be emotional or physical stress. Savasana is known to provide the following benefits:

 

  • Removes physical and mental fatigue
  • Relaxes and soothes the parasympathetic nervous system, which is part of the ANS
  • Helps with high blood pressure and relieving stress-related headaches
  • Helps regulate breathing
  • Helps regulate sleep

 

In order for Savasana to help in times of stress, it is best to practice it daily for at least 5 minutes. However, if you can devote 10-15 minutes of your time in this pose, even better!

 

To perform the traditional version of Savasana, simply lie flat on your back with your arms beside you, palms facing up. Keep in mind the following things to get the most out of this pose:

 

  • Place a pillow under the knees if you have lower back problems.
  • Make sure you are warm. Use a blanket, or add clothing, as needed.
  • Covering the eyes with a washcloth or eye pillow can help to facilitate deep relaxation.
  • Allow your breathing to be soft, quiet and gentle…don’t force it.
  • Try to direct your passive breath into the body/mind, especially into the areas where you feel tense or tight.
  • Focus on releasing tension in the jaw, brow and facial muscles.
  • Pay particular attention to relaxing the shoulders and arms, allowing them to “be heavy” and supported by the floor
  • Try to release tension in the lower back by relaxing the legs and the feet

 

Have a safe and happy holiday season! I look forward to seeing you in the new year!

Namaste,

Melanie

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“In times of stress, the best thing we can do for each other is to listen with our ears and our hearts and to be assured that our questions are just as important as our answers.” ~~ Fred Rogers, from The World According to Mr. Rogers: Important Things to Remember

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As we begin week 2 of December, we will continue our focus on stress reduction. Last week in class, though we practiced a variety of different poses that are known to reduce stress, we focused on hip and shoulder openers in terms of physical work. This week, our physical focus will be on twists.

Twisting poses not only detox our bodies of waste, they also offer us the chance to listen to and communicate with many areas of our bodies that store stress and tension. So when we twist, it’s like wringing out a dirty washcloth, ridding our bodies of unnecessary physical and emotional “filth”.

Have you ever taken the time to notice where in your body you clench or tighten your muscles during a stressful situation? If you’re like me, you’ll most likely find that you’re clenching your abdominal and pelvic floor muscles, along with your shoulders and neck. If you can learn to let go and relax these areas of the body using any kind of twisting pose, you may find that it’s easier to let go of mental and emotional baggage. You may even find some physical relief as well, since twists are known for helping to tone the abdominal muscles, promote circulation and improve digestion.

So take the time this week to really listen to your body. Listen with your mind, your breath, your ears, and your heart. Notice all the nooks and crannies that need your attention and then focus on those areas. What is it that they are asking of you? Listen and respond. Try to incorporate even just a simple seated twist into each day, and see what happens.

I’d love to hear about your discoveries as you really start to listen to your entire being.

Namaste,

Melanie

“I was a little excited but mostly blorft. “Blorft” is an adjective I just made up that means ‘Completely overwhelmed but proceeding as if everything is fine and reacting to the stress with the torpor of a possum.’ I have been blorft every day for the past seven years.” ~~ Tina Fey, Bossypantsstress-fry-futurama-300x279

Lately, I’ve been doing a weekly yoga focus, which has been receiving some great feedback. However, for December, I have decided to focus on stress reduction for the entire month. It’s so prevalent in our society at the moment that I feel it deserves to be the focus for more than just one week. As you know, the holiday season can be a time of great joy, but also of great stress. There are gifts to buy, parties to attend, family issues to deal with. All the while, we’re expected to continue doing everything else we normally do (like go to work, school, etc.). The “busyness” of everything thrown at us during this time of year can be overwhelming, and if we’re not careful, it can become detrimental to our health.

Personally, this season is proving to be quite stressful for me. I can’t exactly put my finger on why, but I’m noticing that my insomnia is back with a vengeance, I’m getting short of breath and short of temper, and generally just don’t feel like myself.

Two weeks ago in my blog post about starting over, I mentioned that I was going to make sure I get on my mat every day for at least 30 minutes. For the most part, I have been able to do this. I’ve only missed two days, and there have been a couple of days where I’ve only had time for 20 minutes. But you know what? It’s a start, right? At least I am getting more mat time than I have been lately, so I’ll take it!

Yesterday, I started wondering, “Why am I so stressed, then, when I am getting on my mat MORE? What gives?!” I’m not sure I can answer this yet, but I do know that though yoga as a whole is a great form of exercise for stress relief, it’s essential to make sure to include certain types of poses.

So for December, work on making sure to incorporate a variety of the types of poses mentioned below as a way to center yourself, and to become more mindful of the true meaning of this time of year.

  • Warrior Poses: Any of the three warrior poses (Warrior 1, Warrior 2 and Warrior 3) are great to incorporate into your practice…choosing to do all three will provide you with the maximum benefits. These standing poses encourage the building of physical strength and stamina. They are also wonderful in nurturing our internal strength, and are excellent in improving self-esteem.
  • Twists: Twists are very beneficial for the health of the spine by encouraging spinal circulation, and helping relieve blocked energy channels to the spine. Twists also detoxify organ systems. For example, digestive organs get massaged when you twist, which helps to digest, assimilate and eliminate food. Also, twisting stimulates the whole lymphatic system, which encourages it to release toxins and waste products.
  • Inversions: Inversions help our bodies in so many ways! They help detoxify and re-balance the whole body, regulate the thyroid, calm the nervous system, and improve sleep. It doesn’t have to be as complicated as a Headstand. My favorite one, that is accessible to most everyone, is Legs Up the Wall pose (Viparita Karani).
  • Backbends: Any backbend will do, but even a simple supported backbend is an antidote to our habitual posture of rounding forward, and will leave you feeling refreshed. To perform a simple supported backbend, all you need is a towel or blanket, and a bolster or firm pillow. Just lie down on your back, and place the bolster or pillow under your shoulder blades, and the towel (slightly rolled) under your neck. Bend your knees and relax your arms above the bolster or pillow on the floor. Stay in the pose for one minute.
  • Forward Bends: Again, any forward bend will do, but I love the Ragdoll version of Standard Forward Fold (Uttanasana). Use this as an opportunity to let go of all the tension in your jaws, shoulders, and head. Bend the knees if you have to, and just play with letting the back roll down and relax.
  • Centering: Always return to a pose of centering to finish your practice.  Final Relaxation (Savasana) is ideal. If you have the time, try to make time for at least 5 minutes in any pose that you find relaxing.

So what are your favorite poses to do when you’re stressed? What about other things that you do to rid yourself of stress (i.e., meditation, breathing exercises, shopping)? I love hearing what works for all of you out there in Blog Land, so please comment and share your tips and tricks. One of my hopes is that by sharing our knowledge with each other, we can truly make a difference in each other’s lives. It’s what yoga is all about!

Namaste,

Melanie

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