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Yoga Insights

Building Strength in Asanas

One thing I love about yoga asanas is that I can build strength simply by using my own body—I don’t need any weights or expensive machines. Holding the body in yoga’s various poses while resisting gravity builds muscle strength, while also helping build strong bones. Even moving into and out of poses, especially when done slowly and with awareness, helps gain strength throughout the body.

Take Triangle Stretch, for example. As you slowly move into the pose, so many muscles, big and small, are involved in helping you make the transition from standing upright to the side bend. The muscles of your feet, legs, hips, torso, shoulders, neck, and arms are all active. They are stretching and contracting, constantly readjusting to help you stay balanced as you move. Once you are in the pose, your body doesn’t stay perfectly still. You’re aware that you need to stay focused to maintain your balance and to feel the finer aspects of the pose—pressing the back heel down, opening the chest, reaching the top arm up, and so on. All of these small movements help to build strength—even if you’re not bench pressing 100 pounds!

By the same token, yoga also offers us a variety of poses where we do feel most of our body weight. In Imaginary Chair (Utkatasana), when we bend our knees, our body moves out of its natural alignment and we can feel our thighs strengthening as we hold the pose. In Toes and Palms Balance (Plank) we bear all our weight on our hands and feet. Holding this pose requires us to engage most of the muscles in our body. It specifically targets and strengthens the core muscles.

We’ll also build strength in a variety of poses simply by holding them a little longer. Don’t come out of Warrior 2 when your body first tells you to. Stay up in Bridge for a few extra breaths. Of course, listen to your body—you don’t want to hold the pose so long that you strain or pull something. But it’s often possible to hold a pose quite a few seconds past the moment when your mind first tells you to come out—breathe into it. And don’t neglect your transitions into and out of the poses as strength-builders. They also give you greater body awareness and are just as important as “getting there,” so enjoy the journey!

Simple Tips for Relieving Shoulder Tension

I don’t think I know anyone who doesn’t suffer from tight neck and shoulder muscles at least some of the time. Well, maybe my grandkids don’t. But for many, shoulder tension can be chronic. Left unchecked, we can get used to the discomfort and not even realize how much it’s restricting our movements. Of course, if we don’t do anything about it, at some point, it is likely to become quite painful and even cause headaches, backaches, and other problems.

3 Steps Towards Developing a Higher Consciousness

As yoga becomes an integral part of our society, people are looking to this ancient science and wondering whether it can offer them something deeper and more meaningful. The answer, of course, is yes.

Practicing yoga and living a yoga lifestyle can have a profound effect on our consciousness. If we want to experience deeper meaning in life as well as true happiness, we need to elevate our consciousness. If we want to know what truth is, to understand the real nature of ourselves and the world around us, we need to delve more deeply into the practice of yoga.

Stretch Your Hamstrings the Easy Way

If the backs of your legs scream at you whenever you do straight-leg forward bends, it may well be that your hamstrings are tight. If you don’t stretch them regularly, they’ll stay that way—or even get stiffer. That’s not a good thing because tight hamstrings affect more than just our ability to bend forward with straight legs. They can make us more prone to injury—especially if we play sports. They can also interfere with good posture, which, in turn, can contribute to back pain.

The Secret to Successful Meditation

It’s really not hard to practice meditation. Anyone can do it—even you. Having a successful meditation practice doesn’t mean you have to conquer your mind by the strength of your will and clear it of all thoughts. If you have tried to do this and have become frustrated, I’m not surprised. The mind is notorious for jumping around from one thing to another—in fact that is its nature. But don’t despair.

5 Yoga Tips for Over-Achievers

Do you have a Type A personality—always busy, a real go-getter, pushing yourself to achieve goals at home, at work, and even at play? If so, my guess is that you could be transferring that goal-oriented mindset to your asana practice as well, and this may not be in your best interest. If you always focus on a vigorous asana practice, pushing yourself to exhaustion, perhaps feeling disappointed that you’re not as “advanced” as you’d like to be, you may not be experiencing the amazing benefits yoga has to offer. Yes, a good asana session can be a great workout, but yoga is so much more than that.

Heal and Dissolve Stress with Yoga Nidra

Do you ever dream of just lying down and doing nothing for a while? Wouldn’t that be nice—to just stop and rest? Maybe you should—it will do you more good than you can imagine. Yoga’s deep relaxation, called Yoga Nidra, gives the body and mind much-needed downtime.

I’m sure your days are as busy as mine—perhaps you work, then rush home to prepare a meal, to help kids with homework, or throw in some laundry. The pressure of trying to fit it all in is added to the already stressful situations we experience in life—difficult relationships, health problems, stress at work, to name just a few.

Practicing Yoga Asanas with Osteoporosis

Whether you have just started practicing yoga exercises or have been doing them for some time, keep it up and you’ll be reaping the benefits for years to come. Aside from managing stress, improving concentration and balance, and maintaining muscle strength and flexibility, doing yoga asanas regularly also helps keep our bones strong. This means we’ll be less likely to suffer the painful fractures that many people experience in old age.

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