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Yoga Insights

Restorative Yoga Asanas

A common misconception these days is that in order to benefit from yoga asanas, we have to strive hard, work up a sweat, do extreme poses, and really push our limits. While there’s nothing wrong with challenging ourselves, practicing yoga asanas in a gentle, passive way has many benefits. It allows us to slow down and really check in with what’s going on in our body, to respect our limitations and work with them to gradually increase our well-being.

Sometimes, due to an illness or an injury, we can’t practice poses we normally do. Instead of being frustrated and leaving our asana practice aside altogether, we can practice restorative yoga poses. For example, simply lying back over a bolster with a folded blanket under the head is a great way to relax while gently opening the chest.

When we’ve had an especially hectic or stressful day, practicing easier supported poses with attention helps release tension in the body while calming the mind and soothing the nerves. This is far better than continuing our frenzied pace with a challenging class when our nervous system really needs a break (in spite of what the mind may be telling us). Gentle, restorative poses help us calm down and restore our energy, rather than further depleting it. These poses help bring both body and mind back into balance. So don’t feel guilty about taking some time to do passive stretches, using props to support you in sitting or lying poses. Slow down, get comfortable, feel your body, deepen your breath… relax!

One simple restorative pose is to lie with your legs up the wall. Or practice supported Cobbler. Get 2 folded blankets and sit against a wall with the soles of your feet together. Rest one blanket under each thigh or knee, so that you’re comfortable, maybe feeling a tiny stretch, then close your eyes and relax. Stay for 2 or 3 minutes or as long as you’re comfortable, depending on the pose. Enjoy the quiet time. Or practice Lying Butterfly, our pose for this week.These poses help to counter the chronic stress that is all too often a part of life these days. 

Yoga for Liver Health

Taking care of our liver is not something we think about very often, but our liver certainly takes care of us. This large organ is a key player in running the complex machine of the body—in fact, it performs over 300 functions. For example, the liver filters toxins in the blood that may come from drugs, alcohol, or other poisonous substances.  It breaks down protein into amino acids. It converts the carbs we eat into glycogen, which can later be converted back to glucose to give us energy. Bile, which is necessary for breaking down the fats we eat, is produced in the liver.

Yoga for Cardiovascular Health

Keeping the heart healthy is essential to living a long and active life. The heart works hard for us every day; its steady beat pumping blood through our arteries, bringing oxygen and nutrients to all the cells in our body. It’s common knowledge that a good diet and regular exercise are both key elements to keeping our cardiovascular system healthy. The American Heart Association recommends that we either exercise moderately for at least two and a half hours every week or exercise vigorously for 75 minutes per week. 

Yoga Poses to Prevent and Relieve Headaches

When we’re stressed, our muscles tense up—especially in the neck, shoulders, face, and jaw. We often don’t even notice that it’s happening. This unconscious buildup of tension can lead to headaches.

It can arise for many reasons: working long hours, holding the head in an uncomfortable or unnatural position for long periods of time, exercising excessively, regularly carrying a backpack or heavy load, and so on.

Meditation/Relaxation for Weight Loss

You may be surprised to hear that in addition to practicing yoga asanas, yoga relaxation and Yoga Sound Meditation can also help you lose weight.

One reason is because these techniques are so effective at reducing stress. Studies show that stress is one of the main reasons people overeat. Stress may also cause the body to hold onto fat, making it harder to lose weight. So by using these yoga techniques to reduce your stress, you’ll be well on your way to dropping a few pounds (provided you still watch what you eat, of course).

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