A guest post by Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.
When people practice mindfulness they say things like, it makes me calm, it softens my body, it helps me be more aware of choice or I seem to be more clear about what matters. The question I love to follow with is, “what would the days, weeks and months ahead be like if there is more of this in your life?”
It is important that we change with the seasons just as nature does by adapting our daily habits, yoga practice and food choices. During the winter season, the energy of the Earth and its creatures is drawn inward. We can use this time for restoration and introspection, just as many plants and animals use it for hibernation. In preparation for the spring, it is important to slow down and rejuvenate.
An Ayurvedic approach to winter
There is a rule in Ayurveda that “like attracts like.” That is why the kapha and vata doshas can become provoked and aggravated during the dry, dark, cold months of winter. This is because the climate is alike the qualities of these two doshas. If kapha or vata are triggered, digestive fire plummets, leaving you more susceptible to colds, poor circulation, joint pains and negative emotions. Here are some yoga and lifestyle tips that can help you to balance your doshas this season.
It feels like with every passing year, the holiday craziness creeps up a little faster. While I love the true spirit of the holidays — time with family, generosity, celebration — I do find that the stress of keeping up with everything makes for some sleepless nights.
Apparently I’m not alone. Many people say that they have trouble calming their minds at night as the year dips into winter and the holiday festivities begin. Some people even resort to sleeping pills to get through until the New Year.
Fortunately, I have found that meditation works so much better than sleeping pills — and there are no troublesome side effects to worry about. The following meditation techniques are favorites of mine, and they work wonders to help me slip gently into sleep at night.
For both of these techniques, start by getting comfortable in your bed. Lie on your back with your arms resting lightly at your sides.
A yoga teacher’s suggestion to invert has the power to illicit a range of emotions from students: bewilderment, fear, anxiety, aversion, rejection, excitement, butterflies — you fill in the blank.
Purposely turning ourselves upside-down is contrary to our physical nature, and yet the benefits of upending ourselves are many. Just as yoga gently encourages us to move away from any unconscious habitual patterns, the invitation to invert is simply another way to shake things up, step out of a rut.
In theory, evening is a glorious time of day — a time to eat and spend time with loved ones and then unwind before bed. In reality, though, it’s often a stress fest – feed the kids, put the kids to bed, answer some emails, fall into bed. Or simply lost time – eat whatever, channel surf, cruise the Internet, then look up and wonder how it got to be 11:30 already.
Luckily, it doesn’t take much to transform your evening hours into the respite they ought to be. Here are four of my favorite tips for a peaceful evening. I’d love to hear yours!
By The FIRM Master Instructor Robyn Smarr
I love summer! If you were listening to this post rather than reading it, you would surely hear me shouting this sentence as loudly as I possibly can.
Maybe it’s because I was born in the crazy heat of August. (I have a theory that people tend to favor the season in which they were born.) Or maybe it’s because I practically lived at the pool and the beach as a child. Or maybe it’s because I can wear flip-flops every day during the warm summer months (the best “shoe” ever invented)! Regardless of the reason, I find so much joy and rejuvenation during the summer.
Here are my favorite tricks for making the most out of your S-U-M-M-E-R:
Have you ever wondered what to prioritize when you are doing a yoga pose? What is the most important thing to focus on when doing Triangle? Or Downward Dog? Or Savasana? Ask 15 different yoga teachers from different yoga lineages and you will likely get 15 different answers. Is alignment the most important? Is it the breath? Awareness? Eye gaze? What is it?
I have wrestled with this question myself and have attempted to deconstruct hundreds of poses to figure out what is most important … but after 29 years of practice (yep, I’ve been practicing since I was a kid!) there is one element that I come back to again and again — and it might surprise you!
When I demand that my clients incorporate rest into their intense workout schedule, I’m always met by googly eyes and a surprised “You want me to do nothing?!” But it’s a matter of fact that no workout plan works to its fullest potential if you don’t rest properly.
As with everything else in life, there are huge benefits to finding the right balance between active exercise and recovery. During the rest and recovery time (which of course includes enough hours of sleep every night), cells heal, your body re-boots and energy stores replenish. That’s why it is extremely important to let the body heal for one or even two days per week so you can reap the benefits of all your hard work. And if you are on a plan that has you working out almost every day of the week, that’s never going to happen!
Whenever my friend Shannon can’t sleep because too many thoughts are barreling through her mind, she calls it “riding the A train.” She’ll text me at 3 a.m., “I’m on the A train again.” Of course, I get the message because I’m awake, too. My type A personality and business responsibilities are battling it out with my dire need for some mental stillness and rest.
Fortunately, I have a snooze-inducing ally in yoga, and when I get up and do the following sequence, miracles happen. In about 10 minutes, I’m back in bed, shifted toward sleep in a natural, easy way that no pill can provide.
Peep into any of the thousands of yoga classes across the globe and you will find that students are donning more than just yoga outfits. In addition to the latest leggings and tank tops by Zobha, Gaiam and Alo, you’ll also find students of every age, both male and female, sporting a different kind of accessory. These, however, are not made from lycra, mala beads or precious metals, but rather from an overzealous nervous system.
Glance around the room after the teacher calls out “Twisted Half Moon” (Pavritta Ardha Chandrasana) and you’ll see students with arms akimbo, clenched toes, fingers curled and faces contorted beyond recognition. These students are “accessorizing” their poses with parts of their body that don’t actually need to be involved.