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Monthly Archives: June 2014

One Strategy to Reduce Anxiety and Tension

PWDP3476During our sunrise and sunset shoots, one of the members of our group remarked several times on how calming and soothing Yellowstone is in the early morning and late evening. I took this picture near the lower falls in the Canyon area. It was the crack of dawn and we were the only people around. The sounds of the waterfall, the crisp morning air, the stillness of the forest, all combined to form a very serene atmosphere.

Early morning is my favorite time of the day. I love the calm of morning and all the possibilities that a new day brings – before the rest of the world wakes up and the hurry, scurry of life begins.

When I look at this Yellowstone picture, it reminds me of my favorite time of day and the serenity of being in nature.

Nature has a way of balancing us emotionally. I read recently that scientists are relating a lack of being outdoors and in nature to the increased levels of anxiety and various emotional disorders in children. Nature helps us to feel connected, grounded and balanced, and emotional balance is critical for a vital life and total wellbeing.

Conscious breathing has the same anchoring, connecting and balancing effect. It is a very useful tool when a rebalancing of our emotional energy is needed.

The ancient yogis classified our emotional energy into 3 categories and understood that human beings fluctuate between these states.

  1. Balanced (Sattvic)
  2. Active (Rajasic)
  3. Low (Tamasic)

Ideally, we are often in a balanced or sattvic state. Here our body and mind are in equilibrium and we have clarity of mind, emotional serenity and physical well-being. Emotionally we feel happy, joyful and appreciative. When do you feel sattvic (balanced)? Maybe it is during a hike in nature or in a yoga practice. What makes you feel total serenity?

Sometimes we experience the active or rajasic state. This energy is action oriented and creative, and we need it to get things accomplished. The trouble arises when our emotional energy is primarily or always in this active state because it makes us hyperactive which can lead to anger or anxiety. Road rage is an extreme example of rajasic energy, which has moved from being productively creative to being angry and destructive. Anxiety is another example of excessive rajasic energy. It ranges from mild worry to panic attacks and worse.

Sometimes we experience the third state, which is tamasic or low emotional energy. We experience this state in order to relax and wind down and to sleep. Carried to an extreme, this state results in inertia and potentially depression.

Most of us experience tension and anxiety (rajasic energy) at various times in our lives. Yoga can be used strategically to help re-balance our energy during those times. (Although yoga has been used successfully in more serious situations such as obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic attacks and post traumatic stress disorder, it is also important to seek professional help.)

When feeling anxious, overwhelmed and extremely tense, our minds experience hyper arousal and our bodies feel the effects, which can make us feel shaky, agitated, uneasy and unfocused. It is difficult to sit still. It is important to acknowledge your body’s reaction to the mental anxiety and to calm the body first.

From a yogic perspective a strategy for managing anxiety would include the following approach:

  • Create an asana (posture) practice that moves your body at an initial intensity that equals your body’s reaction to the mental anxiety.
  • Slow the movement down as your body and breath become more relaxed.
  • Introduce a conscious breathing pattern that calms the mental agitation through deep slow breathing.

SUMMARY: All 3 energies are present in us and we need all 3 to be fully human. Rajasic energy helps us get things done and fulfill our obligations in life. Tamasic energy helps us get the rest and relaxation we need to function from day to day. Sattvic energy helps us feel calm and balanced and able to appreciate life. It is when we become hyper active, or lethargic, or out of balance that we need a way to re-balance. Yoga with its emphasis on movement, breath management and meditation provides an effective tool for doing that.

Yellowstone Adventures

I just returned from an amazing photography trip to Yellowstone National Park. I am relatively new to photography and this adventure expanded my horizons and stretched me physically, mentally and emotionally.

We were on the road every day by 4:00 AM but it was all so exciting that I didn’t mind losing sleep. One day we were in the field for 18 hours shooting sunrise through sunset. Yikes!

I am departing from our “normal” blog post and sharing some of my pictures. It was my first trip to Yellowstone and I can’t wait to go back.

PWDP2607                           PWDP2326                 PWDP2315

 

PWDP2659                        PWDP3249                 PWDP2855

 

PWDP3500                       PWDP2389                  PWDP2801

 

Manage Emotions Without Medication

Do you know one of the greatest secrets of yoga? Most folks know of the exercise benefits of yoga and more and more are recognizing the power of meditation. But, very few have experienced the powerful healing abilities of breathing.pills

I became fascinated with breathing and breath management during my yoga teacher training. Viniyoga emphasizes the breath more than most traditions so we spent a lot of time learning about its powers during our training. My teacher said that if we practiced breathing techniques (pranayama) every day for a year it would change our lives. He challenged us to do it. I took up the challenge, and it most definitely was life changing. I was hooked and continue to be totally amazed at the physical, emotional and mental healing powers of pranayama.

STEP 2 – Total Wellbeing

Last month we focused on the Physical Body, which is the first step to total wellbeing. We explored how the Ancient Yogis moved their spine in 5 different directions as part of their practice to keep their bodies physically healthy.

This month we drill down another layer to the Energetic or Vital Body. The Energetic Body involves our life force and the importance of emotional balance for a vital life force. Just as we related asana practice to the Physical Body, we relate pranayama to the Energetic Body.

Prana means life force in Sanskrit. Prana flows throughout the body, mind and spirit and is managed and influenced by regulating the breath. The Ancient Yogis knew that our breath is impacted by state of mind (emotions) which, in turn, impacts our ability to think clearly, digest food and absorb nutrients from food, have good circulation and have appropriate energy levels.

What happens to your breath when you become angry, anxious, stressed out? How does that compare with your breath when you feel calm, relaxed, contented? The emotions are very different and the breathing is very different. Our breath tells us about our emotional state.

Modern science is beginning to understand the connection between emotional imbalance and disease. There appears to be a strong link between emotions (state of mind) and physical health. Evidence shows that chronically stressed people have more digestive, respiratory and cardiovascular disease. Heart disease is directly related to chronic anger and hostility. Anxiety is directly related to gastrointestinal problems.

Step 2 is all about our emotions and the importance of emotional balance to health and wellbeing.

BENEFITS

Pranayama allows us to heal and balance our emotions through various breath management practices. And, with the balancing of emotions, we also begin to calm and uplift the mind and heal our physiology. As my yoga teacher knew when he challenged us, becoming more consciously aware of the breath is a powerful tool for self-discovery, self-development and self-improvement.

During June, we will explore breathing techniques to manage anger, anxiety and depression. Emotions that all of us, because we are human, have experienced.

The #1 Health Trend in the World

Wellbeing is the #1 trend in the world according to some health professionals and there are 5 Steps to Total Wellbeing. Over the last several weeks, I have blogged about the first of these steps – physical fitness.images

The Ancients, those earliest inhabitants of the planet, brought us yoga and used asana, or physical movement through postures, as a place to begin. They knew the importance of physical activity.

To review, the spine can move in 5 directions and each week for the past 4 weeks we have explored a yoga practice designed for a specific direction. We have experienced a practice focusing on forward bends, twists, backbends, lateral bends and axial extension.

And, this week we bring all directions of movement together in one practice. Click here to try the 7-Step Combination Practice. You can complete it in under 10 minutes – just like the others. By the way, you can still do one of the practices designed to focus on one particular direction. The combination practice just gives you the option of bringing it all together.

Please Note: If you have not received these 5 free practices and would like to, please opt-in at www.yogaforself.net In addition to the practices, you receive information and tips on the why’s, wherefore’s, benefits and cautions when practicing each particular direction of movement. It’s a great way to initiate your Home Practice or breathe new life into your current Home Practice.

Tips for Your Home Practice

Yoga practices do not need to be long or intense to be effective. According to Prevention Magazine’s June issue, scientists are learning that even the gentlest yoga can make life better. It is the connection between mind and body that yoga fosters that is important. This connection creates deeper awareness and that can happen in gentle or strenuous yoga. Following are some things to consider as you practice.

  1. Focus on your breath as you practice to stay engaged. When your mind wanders away, gently bring it back to your breath with no judgment. A wandering mind happens to everyone.
  2. Be mindful of how your body feels in each posture. Where are you feeling the pose? It is okay to feel a stretch but if you feel pain, please do not continue. Adapt the posture or stop what you are doing.
  3. What time of day works best for you to practice? You’ll be more likely to stick with a home practice if you do it around the same time each day. It’s also helpful to practice in the same place each time.
  4. Decide how much time you have to do your practice. I’ve kept all these practices under 10 minutes because just a few minutes will produce visible benefits over time. Practice as often as your schedule permits but, again, don’t beat yourself up about it. Self-compassion is another lovely benefit from practicing yoga.
  5. Please do the postures in the order presented. There is a science around the sequencing that helps protect your spine.

Enjoy and Breathe Easy

 

 

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