Add some Yin to your Yang

My favourite type of yoga is more yang oriented, I tend to avoid the more passive, slow styles of yoga as in my mind, it’s boring! However, I’m starting to realise and welcome the holistic health benefits of yin yoga and try to merge both elements into my practice. Still probably not as much as I should!

Doing a calming yoga practice such as yin yoga with a focus on stress reduction is a good start to helping to balance the adrenal glands which can affect many other glands if they are overworked.

Be aware that not all yoga practices are stress-reducing. Yes, you read that right! Some vigorous yoga practices may cause your body to release endorphins – those “feel-good” hormones associated with “runner’s high”, but, at the same time, they may actually be stressing the body and adding to the load on the adrenal glands. Some workouts including running have shown to actually increase the levels of the stress hormone cortisol in the bloodstream. And ever notice how after a power yoga class, some people walk out feeling worse than when they actually started? I’m not saying don’t push yourself because otherwise you won’t know how far you can go! But just be aware that over-exerting, even when it comes to yoga, could be compromising to your health. Like with everything, it’s all about balance!

Realisation

Lately I’m becoming more aware of this as I’ve just been pushing my body everyday with emphasis on both strength training and cardio. I admit, I love the endorphin rush post-workout, whether it’s from Yoga, HIIT or free weight workouts.

I’m pretty sure my endorphins are responsible for these post-workout highs!

As I’m not one to sit still for too long, this current lockdown situation has put pressure on myself to move and workout hard. But now might be the time to roll out some yin and find more balance in my daily activity. Deeper, gentler movements can have major health benefits and it may be a good idea to start including them into your regular practice too.

I’m still not sure if yin yoga is for me but I am sure that incorporating both yin and yang elements in whatever form, is a win, win.

Yin vs Yang yoga

Yin is more internal, passive, cooling and downward. While Yang is more external, dynamic, warming and upward. When these terms are applied to yoga, Yin Yoga is a slower practice where poses are passively held for longer, working on the deep, dense connective tissues and joints in the body. Whereas Yang Yoga relates to more active, dynamic and strengthening styles of yoga (think Vinyasa and Power yoga).

Yin yoga for hormonal balance

Both yin and yang yoga poses engage the muscles, send blood flow and oxygenated blood to organs and send the brain’s attention to these areas of the body. It is well supported that yoga can have a beneficial effect on our stress responses. Read more from the Harvard Health Publishing here.

Interestingly, it’s been said that yin yoga practices helps to pressurize and depressurize specific glands and these subtle compressions and decompressions can regulate hormone secretions to improve the functioning of our glands.

NOTE: Remember yoga’s effect isn’t limited to hormones and the endocrine system. There are studies on how it affects all of our systems – from muscle and skeletal to excretory!

Simply put, all yoga poses can technically support hormone balancing because all poses target some part of the endocrine system.  Don’t get too caught up in the yoga poses themselves, rather it’s the overall practice of yoga, and particularly, yin yoga practice can help to maintain a happy endocrine system… Adios PMS, insomnia and all the rest of you unwanted hormonal demons.

That said, here are some top yin yoga poses you can do on a regular basis that are particularly good for the endocrine system.

My Top Yin Poses

  • Supine Spinal Twist
  • Open Wing pose
  • Sphinx pose
  • Garland pose
  • Shoe lace pose (with eagle arms or cow face variations)
  • Butterfly
  • Child’s pose

How long to hold the poses?

Yin postures are generally held for at least one minute, and for some people as long as twenty minutes! (I have never done that!) It is becoming increasingly popular with athletes as this style of yoga, enables them to work deeper into the muscles to transform the way the body and mind moves.

Given that yin poses are held much longer than a yang-style yoga practice, you will notice all the physical and mental sensations from hip mobility to thoughts about past experiences, yin allows these physical and mental emotions to rise and be released through the power of passive movement.

As you practice these poses regularly, over time, you’ll learn to let go and allow your body to go deeper into each pose.  This is how yoga builds flexibility, and this is how yin yoga allows you to go deeper and restore the layers of both body and mind.

Open yourself up to the possibility of wellness, health & vitality!

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Your first line of defense is to choose a healthy lifestyle

There’s nothing new to report in this post, but it does serve as a wake-up call considering the ‘current situation’. While we can’t eliminate all threats to the community, we can take preventative steps to minimize risk. You know by now that personal hygiene and avoiding close contact are two of them. But did you know that yoga practice provides a gentle, natural means of supporting the immune system on a day-to-day basis? Now is as good a time as any to take action and choose a healthy lifestyle.

Although there’s still too much we don’t know to make decisions about how COVID-19 will or won’t transmit, we can at least consider being extra cautious about boosting our immune systems. Along with this wake-up call has come fear, panic, anxiety, and stress… all commonly touted reasons to start/continue practicing yoga!

Yoga for Immunity

Regular yoga asana practice helps lower stress hormones that compromise the immune system, while also conditioning the lungs, stimulating the lymphatic system to better oust toxins from the body, and bringing oxygenated blood to the various organs to ensure their optimal function. Yoga works on everything – mental and physical!

‘Yoga for immunity’ is a thing. A consistent yoga practice along with certain poses in particular can help to support the immune system. An article from the International Journal of Yoga found that, “Yoga resists the autonomic changes and impairment of cellular immunity seen in examination stress.”

If you are in good health, why not consider strategies to optimise your immune system? Every part of your body, including your immune system, functions better when stress is reduced. Here are some healthy-living strategies to reduce stress and boost your immunity:

  • Exercise regularly
  • Eat a diet high in antioxidants, vitamins & minerals
  • Get adequate sleep
  • Reduce caffeine and alcohol intake
  • Laugh more!
  • Do yoga!

In other words, yoga helps keep you and your cells healthy even when you’re stressed. And while yoga as a whole supports optimal wellness in our minds and bodies, there are certain yoga poses for immunity that can help if you’re feeling exhausted, sick, or simply looking for a healthy dose of prevention.

Try these yoga poses:

Spinal twists such as Half Lord of the Fishes (demo vid below) gently compress, twist, or stimulate the stomach and can help with some digestive issues. Digestive problems can cause a build up of toxins. Our gut is the major channel between the external environment and the internal systems of our body so yes, the digestive system is connected to your immune system.

Chest opening poses can help open up and relieve congestion in the lungs and reduce stress through diaphragmatic breathing. Supported Fish Pose is one of the best poses to access a deep diaphragmatic breath, and helps balance an agitated nervous system. Other great chest-opening poses include: Upward-Facing Dog, Bow Pose and Bridge or Wheel Pose.

Wheel Pose:

Inversion poses & Forward bends such as Standing Forward Bend and Downward-Facing Dog, bring blood flow to the sinuses, which can help ease congestion. Sinuses and our mucus membranes are our body’s first line of defense against infection, so keeping them healthy can boost immunity. Legs Up the Wall pose is one of the most relaxing inversions for your whole body. It allows lymph drainage, blood circulation, releases pressure from your back, and helps you feel grounded, so in turn your nervous system can completely relax and reset.

Yoga can be one of the best tools in supporting a strong immune system and keeping all our body’s systems working optimally to prevent sickness, help us recover quicker and boost our overall health.

NB: This article and all included information is not intended as medical advice and does not treat or diagnose. 

Sun Salutations for Beginners

We salute the Sun to give thanks for a new day filled with life – giving light, energy and sustenance. The Sun Salutation, or Surya Namaskar, is a series of yoga poses performed in a continuous flowing sequence and can even be a complete practice as the poses lengthen and strengthen, flex and extend many of the main muscles of the body while distributing the prana flow throughout the system. You can repeat sun salutations for as many times as you like. Follow the instructions below for a traditional Sun Salutation sequence for beginners.

Curious about this super mat I’m practicing on? Check out the Manduka EkO SuperLite Yoga Mat from Amazon. It’s really cool!

SUN SALUTATIONS – STEP-BY-STEP INSTRUCTIONS:

  • Start in Mountain pose with feet together, back and neck aligned, shoulders relaxed. Knees slightly bent if you like.
  • Inhale and sweep the arms up overhead, look up to the sky and reach to the sun. Remain in strong mountain alignment. Engage the core to support the slight back bend.
  • Exhale and dive to the floor, leading with the chest, hinging at the hips and come into Standing Forward Bend.
  • Inhale into Halfway Lift (place your hands on your chins and maintain a flat back; look forward.)
  • Exhale back into Standing Forward Bend
  • Inhale the right foot back, come into Equestrian pose (low lunge with knee resting on floor). Make sure the front knee is over the ankle and the front heel is flat on the floor.
    Place hands on the mat or the top of the thigh. Press the pelvis slightly forward to feel a stretch in the hip flexor.
  • Exhale back into Downward Dog (feet together) Inhale for one breath in Downward Dog pose.
  • Exhale into 8-point pose (i.e. 8 points of contact with the floor: knees, chest, chin, toes, hands on mat with bum towards the ceiling)
  • Inhale into Baby cobra with arms bent and shoulders in towards your sides.
  • Exhale back up into Downward Dog pose.
  • Inhale into Equestrian pose (left side)
  • Exhale bring both feet together into Standing forward bend
  • Inhale into Halfway Lift.
  • Exhale arms up and inhale into Standing Prayer Pose

TIPS

  • Start these exercises at a slow pace so that you gradually warm up the body.
  • Ensure that have proper and rhythmic breathing in order to focus on the inhalations and exhalations into each pose.
  • Do not begin in a random order as salutations are a set series of poses – follow the sequence.
  • Do not be in a hurry about the total number of times covered in a day. As a beginner, you could start with two to four rounds and then gradually go up to as many as you can comfortably do. It is a great warm-up or start to your morning on an empty stomach!

BENEFITS

  • Increases energy and awareness, so it’s great as a morning ritual!
  • Improves digestion such as regulates your bowels and can decrease bloat
  • Promotes weight loss – the more you do, the better!
  • Improves blood circulation and heart health
  • Tones muscles and improves flexibility. You’ll notice a huge difference if you make this a regular practice.
  • Unwinds the mind and body, especially if you have the breathing down!

Have a look at my previous blog post for: 10 Simple Yoga Poses for Beginners.

Best Yoga Mat for Travel

Tried & Tested Yoga Mat for Travel

As someone who travels a lot and practices yoga on a regular basis, I need a reliable, good quality, pack-up-and-go, value-for-money, yoga mat. Are there any out there that ticks all of those boxes? Hello Manduka!

For me I need something that can fold away in my suitcase, is light weight, durable and preferably made from something biodegradable.

I did my research, read the reviews and ratings, asked for recommendations and decided to go with the Manduka SuperLite eKOⓇ 

Get your Manduka SuperLite now

Manduka, is a quality, responsible brand that makes effort to minimize environmental waste. Their eKo mats are made from biodegradable natural tree rubber, manufactured with zero waste and with no harmful plasticizers.


Why I love the Manduka eKo SuperLite Yoga Mat?

  • Firstly, because it’s only 2lbs in weight
  • Secondly, it’s perfect for travel as it folds up, rolls up and even scrunches up and can fit in my hand bag or backpack, let alone my suitcase!
  • I love purple, so I have it in ‘acai’, which looks amazing!
  • Because it’s eco-friendly (made from biodegradable natural tree rubber)
  • I’ve used so many mats that felt comfortable but offered terrible grip. The Manduka SuperLite offers perfect grip and stays in place even after a sweaty workout!
  • And, last but not least, it’s affordable at under $50
Quality material; superb colour
1.5mm thick; Eco-friendly material, sweat proof and non-slip
Durable Yoga Mat; folds easily
Durable, flexible and strong
Full length of Manuka SuperLite EKO Yoga Mat
180cm long
Cow pose on my new yoga mat
Thinness of the mat still supports my knees
Comfortable for floor poses such as Sphinx Pose
Great for floor poses as it’s non-slip, gives amazing grip and is thin enough to still feel grounded in poses



Manduka Unisex’s eKo Superlite and Pilates Yoga Travel Mat, Midnight, 71-Inch

A Relationship is like a Yoga Pose

Love is similar to yoga in that each is both a practice and the experiences that arise from the practice.  Loving is a mutual immersion into each other.

I could also say that a relationship is like a yoga posture. Getting into a relationship, everything is rosy bliss. The stars glitter in one another’s eyes. You feel like the glorious hero of an action movie who has just saved the world from a great enemy.

I see a lot of media posts of couples, which begs me to wonder if most of them come from individuals who really understand the true meaning of a soulmate or the inner workings of what a relationship is.

We’ve all made mistakes and learnt our lessons from the relationships we enter and exit.  At this point in my life, I want a partner who speaks to and lifts my soul.  I have found someone who does, but we’re still exploring each other.  Time will tell if we’re meant to be.  But this can never be forced.

Sometimes we need to give each other the space and time to delve into ourselves before we’re truly ready to commit to being side by side for a lifetime.

As someone who has experienced a rough road on the relationship path, I’ve come out learning (or at least think that) a healthy, stable and loving relationship requires a number of things:

  • The both of you remaining forever curious about each other
  • Never truly stop listening to each other
  • Rejoicing in how you complement each other
  • Embracing all the ways in which you are not just similar but also different
  • Effortlessly supporting, encouraging and inspiring one another to achieve their personal and professional goals
  • Being compassionate, patient and present and not expecting anything in return from this
  • Never ceasing to surprise each other
  • Never stop seeing the reasons which made you choose each other in the first place
  • Never taking one another for granted
  • Always finding your way back to each other amidst the conflict, obstacles or disagreements
  • Forever being playful and spontaneous with each other
  • Laughing at and with each other

In yoga as in love, the point is allowing the process to happen.  Love is after all a process.  The balance needed to create a haven of communication, a space to rest in the relationship.  Saying “Yes” to each other means, “yes” to giving each other space, and “yes” to just being together in silence.  It means saying “yes” to each other’s mistakes, unforeseen expectations and weaknesses.  This spiritual wisdom can bring the strength not to fall out of the yoga pose.

Witnessing the process of a relationship, of a yoga pose, needs faith, commitment and strength.  Sometimes I have to make extra space between my shoulders in a pose.  That means slightly adjusting one here and maybe lowering the other there.  Watching my breath.  There is discomfort, but these are my shoulders, and they are not going anywhere.

Whether it is a yoga pose, or a relationship, doubts may come up when something unexpected or disappointing happens.  Sri Sri Ravi Shankar says even doubt can be positive.

A couple can take the time to nourish their smiles both together and individually. Practicing yoga together, is a way to stay spiritually connected. And that giving of oneself in love will flow back into the relationship.  It is a law of the universe.

Becoming intimate with yourself is a necessary prerequisite for intimacy with a partner. Simply put, you need to be comfortable with yourself before you can be comfortable with anyone else.  Intimacy is connection.  Connection with your partner is not unlike connection with your own body.  There are restrictions, limitations, and discomforts.  There are tight spots in our relationships.  We need to know when to push into those spots in an effort to open them up, and when to give our partner some space.

How many relationships have ended after a prolonged dispute in which both partners are aware of the issues but cannot or do not act to address them?  How often have you spoken with someone whose relationship ended without them knowing why?

Yoga provides us with opportunities to practice intimacy and presence with ourselves in a way that helps us to extend those gifts to our partners.  Practicing solo is just so much easier.  On our yoga mats the stakes are relatively low.  If you incline toward overthinking and obsessing about details, you can use yoga practice to experiment with letting go of that tendency to mentally scrutinize.  If you tend to be emotionally unavailable, you can use the time on your mat to experiment with intimate attention to detail.

Ultimately, intimacy and presence comprise a complementary union that feels like fullness.   Simply allowing your partner to express him or herself, and remaining wide awake and present to all that is expressed, in itself is a powerful practice.

Allowing things to simply be, without any intervention or critique, will yield the greater intimacy and presence necessary for you to dance your relationship into deeper and more profound levels of immersion.

Allowing for time off to be alone individually is as important as the relationship. “For love to blossom, there needs to be longing… and longing needs a little space,” says Sri Sri. “Though it is a little painful, longing is inevitable.  If you don’t allow longing, then love does not grow.  So, give them some space…and take some space yourself.”

As time passes in a relationship, a couple witnesses that expectations and attitudes change.  The relationship can become better with more yoga and meditation practice.  We can learn how to communicate better in a relationship, to be more patient and forgiving.  Again and again, the cycle rotates from rosy and glorious bliss to momentary shakiness.  There may be confusion when little earthquakes shake.  Commitment is what holds the yoga pose together, when you decide not to fall.  Spirituality is what gives the strength to see it through.

Namaste!

References:  Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

7 reasons why I do weights and how it complements my yoga routine…

I’ve been loving the feel-good factor of weight training.  I also notice a pre-workout adrenaline that comes beforehand, which motivates me even more.  I’ve been doing weight training at home for nearly 2 months now (yes, still relatively new.)  Here are 7 reasons why I’m hooked.  These are based on my own personal experience and a bit of research: Continue reading “7 reasons why I do weights and how it complements my yoga routine…”

Travel… It can ‘make & break’

International living (especially in 3rd world nations) introduces you to world conditions that you might be uncomfortable with or psychologically disturbed by.  But with the challenge comes opportunity for personal change as growth comes through new experiences.

When you move to a new country, eating becomes a thrill as you relish in new flavours and tastes.  Driving becomes a challenge as you encounter new rules and conduct (or lack of, here in Vietnam!)   A trip to the supermarket introduces new sights, colours, customs and culture.  It’s these things that shape us and open our minds. Continue reading “Travel… It can ‘make & break’”

Yoga for Men: Breaking the Stereotype

Unfortunately, men still represent a small portion of the Western yogi community.   But why?

At its emergence, yoga was primarily a male practice.  But when it found its way to the West, middle and upper class women with the time and means to pursue self-care quickly became the target demographic.  Thus, yoga businesses began marketing to women with female models, a feminine voice, and women’s apparel.   With that kind of branding, it’s no wonder more men aren’t willingly exploring the benefits of yoga. Continue reading “Yoga for Men: Breaking the Stereotype”

Have you tried the king of hip-openers, Pigeon Pose?

pigeon pat busch

Yoga handles stiff hips in a variety of ways, but most directly through a family of poses that are known loosely as “hip openers.”

Pigeon Pose, or Eka Pada Rajakapotasana, primarily targets the external rotators of the hips. These tight and usually overworked areas breathe a sigh of relief when the time comes to settle into this healing pose. Continue reading “Have you tried the king of hip-openers, Pigeon Pose?”

Inspiration is the word of the month!

I’ve been conscious of how long it’s been since my last blog post.   Sorry it’s been a while.  The reason is mainly down to travelling and not having my laptop with me for over a month. I’ve been dying to post something and I couldn’t wait any longer so I went ahead with the tedious task of blogging via my phone.  Today I’m blogging from Cambridge, England. Continue reading “Inspiration is the word of the month!”