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Monthly Archives: March 2014

Posture Matters

Many years ago when I was a newbie banker, we had a Chief Credit Officer who struck fear in the hearts of all commercial lenders. Tad_BeigeThankfully, I never had to interact with him directly. He retired shortly after I got to the bank and before I earned my lending spurs.

Occasionally, I saw him in the employee cafeteria and was fascinated with the way he walked. Actually, it was more of a shuffle than a walk. I had never seen that before. All the “old” people in my world walked.

Years have gone by since I first saw that shuffle. Now, I understand that it’s a postural issue caused by tight muscles and inflexibility. Over time, muscles tighten and shorten unless they are stretched resulting in diminished range of motion. This lack of flexibility creates postural issues, which is what caused the Chief Credit Officer’s shuffle.

Muscle strength is another key to maintaining good posture. For example, strong core muscles prevent slumping and leg muscles are critical to standing without swaying.

Good posture comes from flexible, strong muscles and relates directly to an ability to balance. A Harvard Medical School publication, “Better Balance”, explains that good posture helps maintain good balance, resulting in a healthier, less accident-prone life.

And for great posture give yoga a try.

Brain Booster … Improve Concentration

It can be a challenge to focus in our modern day world. We all have endless things to get done. And, we have so much coming aBalancet us from every direction. Technology is terrific and most of us wonder how we ever functioned without it. But one downside, for many of us, is that our attention spans are getting shorter and it can be a challenge to concentrate on one task at a time. Have you noticed?

In prior blogs, I’ve described how yoga, in general, improves brain function. In particular, the balance postures are known for improving focus and concentration. It’s almost impossible to balance while planning your day or thinking about anything else.

There are a variety of balance postures in yoga. A good place to start is a standing posture called Tadasana …

  1. As you Inhale, sweep your arms out to the sides and over your head and lift your heels to come up on toes.
  2. Pause after Inhale
  3. As you Exhale, lower your arms down to your sides and bring heels down to the floor.
  4. Pause after Exhale 
  5. Repeat steps 1 – 4 four to six times
  6. Make the posture more challenging by staying in the posture (#1) for several breaths before exhaling down (#3)
  7. MODIFICATION: If you feel unstable with both arms over your head, place one hand on a wall to stabilize and raise the other arm over head as you come up onto your toes.

Some Tips:

  • Focus your eyes on a point that isn’t moving
  • Keep a gentle firmness in your low belly
  • Keep your focus on your breath. Gently bring your attention back to your breath when it wanders.

 

Your ability to concentrate and balance can be impacted by various things:

  • The time of day can make a difference
  • Fatigue and a poor night’s sleep diminish focus
  • The food you eat and when you eat can matter
  • Simply being too distracted

If you are having trouble maintaining balance, observe and ask yourself why. Some days are better than others. So, if you’re too distracted, save Tadasana for another day.

Austin Update

Last week I was in Austin, TX at a continuing education workshop for certified Viniyoga teachers. It was an intensive on breathLady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center management (a/k/a pranayama) and the critical role of breath in yoga.

As many of you know, this is a fascinating subject to me and it was wonderful to have several days devoted exclusively to exploring pranayama in great depth. It was also a wonderful opportunity to reconnect with old friends and make new ones. Several of us stopped by the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center on the way back to the airport.

Pranayama is a powerful tool. My teacher loves to ask, “What’s more important, your hamstrings or your liver?” The answer is obvious. Then he goes on to say asanas (yoga postures) are to hamstrings as pranayama (breath management) is to liver. Practiced regularly, it’s life changing.

Here are a few of the reasons for including pranayama in your yoga practice:

  • Influences well being and manages stress
  • Promotes good sleep
  • Increases vitality and enhances energy
  • Balances emotions
  • Clarifies thought and focuses the mind
  • Prepares for meditation

Whether you’re focused on your hamstrings or liver or both, all yoga is an opportunity to explore and observe, to go more deeply into understanding your own body, mind and emotions.

Better Than Caffeine?

The other day, I hit one of those late afternoon slumps. We’ve all experienced them. Running out of energy way before running out of To Do’s. A cup of coffee would have been great but it was getting too late in the day for that. So, I decided to try a yoga breathing technique that is very energizing yet calming and focusing. No caffeine jitters. IMBRFS-00073263-001

And, it worked! The brain fog lifted and I felt steady and ready to get through that To Do list. I know these techniques work but it’s always fun to re-prove it to myself. I still love my cup of coffee but in the morning when the day is young.

Energize Without Caffeine

This technique is called Viloma Ujjayi. It’s the opposite of the sleep inducing technique we discussed a couple of weeks ago. This time we use the Ujjayi breath for exhalation and alternate nostrils for inhalation. Only use the Ujjayi breath on exhale – not inhale.

  • Take several easy breaths through your nose to begin relaxing and bring your focus to your breath
  • Eyes are closed or softly focused
  • Raise your right hand to your nose
  • Fully seal the right nostril with your thumb, partially seal the left nostril with your ring finger, inhale through your left nostril
  • Lower your hand to your lap
  • Exhale through both nostrils using Ujjayi
  • Raise your right hand to your nose
  • Fully seal the left nostril with your ring finger, partially seal the right nostril with your thumb, inhale through your right nostril
  • Lower your hand to your lap
  • Exhale through both nostrils using Ujjayi

This completes one round. Complete several rounds. You’ll go back to your day with renewed energy and a clear mind.

Enjoy and Breathe Easy

 

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