Have you ever wondered why yoga teachers usually suggest you roll to your right side after savasana before pressing up to a seated position?
Well there are a few reasons, some physical, some energetic/philosophical. The physical reason we roll to one side is that it is gentler on your back to press yourself up from a side lying position rather than sit up directly from lying on your back in savasana. However, for pregnant people, we usually suggest rolling to the left side instead, so that the weight of the uterus doesn’t press on the liver, which is on the right side.
For those not pregnant, the reason we generally roll over to the right side is the energetic qualities of the left and right side nadis. Nadis are energy channels said to run throughout the body in traditional Indian and Chinese medicine. The Ida nadi is on the left side and the Pingala nadi is on the right side. The Ida nadi has cooling, calming yin energy, whereas the Pingala nadi has heating, energizing yang energy. The nadi ending in the right nostril is the Pingala, while the nadi ending in the left nostril is the Ida. After savasana, we usually want to continue to prolong the yin sense of calm, so rolling to the right side allows the left side nostril to remain stimulated and open.
Setting an Intention
If you practice yoga, you may have noticed we often start each practice with a sankalpa or intention. At the beginning of a new year, many of us often set bigger "resolutions" to start the year off on a positive note. Why not start small and set a sankalpa every day? It can be a new one or keep the same one for the whole year. Take a moment to determine what value you'd like to bring into your life and focus on the positive. Rather than resolving to eat less junk food, focus on eating mindfully and healthfully today. Instead of focusing on losing weight, why not give your body a daily dose of movement, whether parking further away and walking more, dancing to music on the radio, or doing some gentle stretches in your office chair.
Do you need less stress in your life? Then cultivate moments of peace and stillness with a few minutes of belly breathing. Sit tall or lie down and place one hand on your belly and breath in deeply until your belly pushes your hand out, when you exhale, notice how your hand comes in closer to you as your belly deflates. Repeat for 3 to 10 breaths and notice how you feel. Then take the next step. Sign up for a weekly yoga or meditation class. See if you can keep it up for a month and then maybe add another weekly class.
Find out it's March or June and you didn't follow through with or forgot about your intention? It's not too late to set a new daily sankalpa. Maybe it's time for a holistic one like cultivating gratitude, compassion or peace. Extend that compassion to yourself and acknowledge all the small steps you have taken already. Happy New Year!
Protecting Your Wrists in Yoga
Are you one of the many people with wrist pain on and off the mat? To better understand why, when the wrist is extended in downward dog, plank, and arm balances, it puts stress on the soft tissue, such as tendons in the wrist. If you type on a computer with wrists in that extended position (rather than the recommended neutral position) and doing other common activities like driving and writing, the top of the forearm can become tense from overuse.
What can I do?
You don’t have to give up yoga if you have wrist pain. There are a few things you can do:
Talk to us if you have wrist pain so we can offer alternatives.
We’ve heard about many potential clients who are reluctant to join a group yoga class because they feel intimidated to join a large group. Taking a few private yoga sessions will be well worth the investment and also can help you muster up the courage to participate in a group yoga class. Here are some things to consider:
Yoga Asks Your Body to Take Some Unusual Positions
One of the reasons yoga is beneficial for the body is that the poses put stress on the bones, causing the body to deposit more calcium and therefore, strengthen them. However, since your body is not generally accustomed to moving this way, you can also be prone to more injuries.
Going into a big yoga class with students at different levels can lead you to perform yoga poses without proper alignment. If it’s difficult to see the instructor you might be inclined to simply follow what others are doing. And if the person next to you is doing the pose incorrectly, you might also have improper form and leave yourself open to injury.
A private instructor will take the time to show you how to get into and out of every pose properly. A good instructor will also offer yoga props to assist you in the beginning until your body gets used to the poses.
Comfort in Sharing Your Personal Health History
In a group class, it can be challenging to approach the instructor with your health history. And even if you do, he or she might not be able to help you modify poses throughout the entire class. However, it is helpful for an instructor to know if you’re getting over surgery, an injury, or an illness. Just because yoga can look easy and relaxing, doesn’t mean it’s harmless.
As instructors, we like to know if our clients are suffering from a chronic disease, have had any recent sports injuries, or even if they haven’t exercised in 10 years. We wouldn’t want to push a client into doing a pose that he or she is not ready to do. A good private instructor will be able to help you modify poses and offer alternatives until you feel you can do the poses on your own.
Boosting Your Confidence
You wouldn’t believe, as instructors, how many times we hear, “I’m just not flexible.” While some yoga students look like professional gymnasts, most are beginners who have little idea what they’re doing. It’s easy to get overwhelmed, and lose the confidence that you mustered up to walk into the class in the first place.
If you’ve never done yoga before, chances are you aren’t that flexible. You can’t expect to walk on a golf course for the first time and play like a pro either. Increased flexibility comes with practice. The discipline of yoga is a journey that is between you and yourself. There is no competition in yoga, or rather there shouldn’t be.
A private instructor will be encouraging and help you understand the mechanics of the poses. Even in a few lessons you will see yourself getting more flexible and you’ll have greater confidence in your movements.
Sometimes you may go to a yoga class really needing a certain pose, and waited and waited only to be disappointed by the end. The great aspect of a private yoga session is that your instructor can tailor your class to you and your needs. If you need greater hip flexibility, you can have an entire class just focusing on the hips. Or if you are super stressed out, you can work on your breathing for 20 minutes.
You’re paying to get out of the class exactly what you need for that particular day. It’s very different from personal training in that you aren’t paying the private yoga teacher to push you to your limits. You are paying to help access your inner strength and balance through yoga poses and breathwork, or simply give you some stress relief.
Tools You Will Have for a Lifetime
The right private yoga teacher will give you the tools you can always use outside of a class, or as we say in the yoga world, “off the mat.” Everyone could use tips on how to stand taller, sit upright, and stretch properly before exercise. Moreover, certain breathing techniques will get you through the tough times in life. But the best thing a private yoga instruction will give you is the opportunity to help you see yourself in a positive way.
Yoga Styles 101
You’ve decided to finally start practicing yoga — but after Googling classes in your area, your head is spinning. Should you try Ashtanga or Iyengar? And what’s the difference between Hot Yoga and Vinyasa? The array of options can be enough to scare you off the mat for good.
But here’s why you shouldn’t be scared: Like cross training, incorporating a variety of types of yoga into your regular practice can help keep you balanced. Try a few different studios, teachers and styles. Then, stick with the one that resonates with you for a good amount of time and be dedicated to the practice. The first day you don’t like a class shouldn’t be a reason to bolt and try something new.
Yoga isn’t necessarily a ‘one-size-fits-all’ practice, either. Different types of yoga might be best for different people. A 20-year-old and a 70-year-old probably don’t need the same things. Someone who is hyper-mobile and flexible doesn’t need the same thing as someone who’s muscular and stiff.
So with all the choices out there, where do you start? Don’t lose your ujjayi breath (that’s yogi speak for calming inhales and exhales. We’ve got your list of classes that specialize in yoga for beginners — plus tips for identifying the style you might like best.
Yoga Styles 101: The 9 Types You Need to Know
1. Hatha Yoga
It’s all about the basics in these slower moving classes that require you to hold each pose for a few breaths. In many studios, hatha classes are considered a gentler form of yoga. However, the Sanskrit term “hatha” actually refers to any yoga that teaches physical postures or asanas.
Best for: Beginners. Because of its slower pace, hatha is a great class if you’re just starting your yoga practice.
2. Vinyasa Yoga
Get your flow on in this dynamic practice that links movement and breath together in a dance-like way. In most classes, you won’t linger long in each pose and the pace can be quick, so be prepared for your heart rate to rise. Teachers will often pump music, matching the beats to the sequences of the poses. THIS IS WHAT WE TEACH HERE!
Best for: Intense exercisers might enjoy Vinyasa because of its faster pace. Runners and endurance athletes are also drawn to Vinyasa class because of the continuous movement.
3. Iyengar Yoga
Here you’ll get nit-picky about precision and detail, as well as your body’s alignment in each pose. Props, from yoga blocks and blankets to straps or a ropes wall, will become your new best friend, helping you to work within a range of motion that is safe and effective. Unlike in Vinyasa, each posture is held for a period of time. If you’re new to Iyengar, even if you’ve practiced other types of yoga, it’s good to start with a level one class to familiarize yourself with the technique.
Best for: Detail-oriented yogis. If you like to geek out about anatomy, movement and form, you’ll love Iyengar — teachers share a wealth of information during class. Iyengar can also be practiced at any age and is great for those with injuries (though you should consult with a doctor first).
4. Ashtanga Yoga
If you’re looking for a challenging yet orderly approach to yoga, try Ashtanga. Consisting of six series of specifically sequenced yoga poses, you’ll flow and breathe through each pose to build internal heat. The catch is that you’ll perform the same poses in the exact same order in each class. Some studios will have a teacher calling out the poses, while Mysore style classes (a subset of Ashtanga) require you to perform the series on your own. (But don’t worry — there will always be a teacher in the room to offer assistance if you need it.)
Best for: Type-A folks. If you’re a perfectionist, you’ll like Ashtanga’s routine and strict guidelines.
5. Hot Yoga
Hot Yoga is practiced in a heated room. While the heat will make you feel like you can move deeper into some poses compared to a non-heated class, it can be easy to overstretch, so don’t push beyond your capacity. WE OFFER THIS IN THE WINTER!
Best for: Hardcore sweat-lovers. If you love a tough workout that will leave you drenched, sign up for a beginner-friendly heated class.
6. Yin Yoga
If you want to calm and balance your body and mind, this is where you’ll find your zen. The opposite of a faster moving practice like Ashtanga, Yin Yoga poses are held for several minutes at a time. This meditative practice is designed to target your deeper connective tissues and fascia, restoring length and elasticity. You’ll use props so your body can release into the posture instead of actively flexing or engaging the muscles. Like meditation, it may make you feel antsy at first, but stick with it for a few classes and its restorative powers might have you hooked.
Best for: People who need to stretch and unwind. Keep in mind, Yin yoga is not recommended for people who are super flexible (you might overdo it in some poses) or anyone who has a connective tissue disorder.
7. Restorative Yoga
While it may feel like you’re not doing much in a restorative yoga class…that’s the point. The mellow, slow-moving practice with longer holds gives your body a chance tap into your parasympathetic nervous system, allowing you to experience deeper relaxation. You’ll also use a variety of props including blankets, bolsters and yoga blocks to fully support your body in each pose. WE OFFER THIS CLASS AS WELL!
Best for: Everyone. In particular, it’s a good yoga practice for anyone who has a hard time slowing down, who has experienced insomnia, or who struggles with anxiety.. It’s also great for athletes on recovery days.
Going on our first yoga retreat to Yogaville, VA last year was a major turning point in our lives. These are truly transformative experiences and we believe that anyone who enjoys a lifestyle of health and wellness can greatly benefit from a retreat, whether local, or further away.
Here Are 10 Reasons to Go on a Yoga Retreat:
1. You'll take your yoga to the next level. Practicing yoga regularly can be challenging if you have a busy schedule. But when you’re on a retreat, chances are you’ll have 2 classes offered a day, which will ensure your progress and you will see the positive effects more quickly.
2. You'll get a new perspective. Going to a new place creates an opportunity to see the world, and yourself, in a new light. Experiencing the unknown is an accelerated way to grow and learn.
3. You'll *actually* meditate. When you have extended free time, it’s a lot easier to meditate. No cell phone buzzing or boss reminding you about deadlines. On retreats, it feels a lot more natural to breathe deeply and be present in the moment.
4. You'll detox digitally. One of our favorite things about a retreat is shutting off the technology. While lots of resorts have wifi, you don’t feel the need to constantly tweet, text, update facebook or call friends. It feels good to unplug.
5. You'll relax and de-stress. Sometimes we have to be far from home to give ourselves the permission to truly relax. Being on a retreat allows you to listen to your body, rest when you need it, and be free from stress.
6. You'll eat well without having to do all the work. If your retreat is all inclusive, you get three healthy and delicious meals a day without the need to find recipes, go grocery shopping, prepare the food, or clean up. Getting the nutrition you need has never been easier. All the work is done for you.
7. You'll replace old habits. The best way to break a bad habit is to replace it with a new healthy one. When you get out of your regular routine for a week, you can replace unhealthy habits with conscious new behaviors that support you in being your best self.
8. You'll make new friends. Undeniably, you will meet individuals with similar interests. Even if you go alone, you have a chance to make friends with people from around the world who you might know for the rest of your life.
9. You'll appreciate home. While a few days or a week in paradise is always nice, we often come home with a refreshed appreciation for life. You feel happier, healthier, and re-energized to jump back into your routine with new vigor. Heck, it might even feel fun!
10. Because you deserve it! Thoreau said: “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you’ve imagined.” While this quote might be on your refrigerator, chances are you make excuses about why you can’t YET. Often times the excuses are about money, time or circumstances but guess what, you deserve a break. You work hard for a reason and you can always find reasons why you should or should not do something. The key to happiness is deciding what you really want and (as Marisa says) “making it happen”. No excuses. You deserve to invest in yourself!
11. BONUS: Our one-day retreat at Blueberry Gardens is booked for September 29, 2018. We’d love for you to join us! This retreat is specifically designed to help you experience bliss and all of the 10 delightful benefits listed above. With yoga for all levels, body treatments, goal-setting, a delicious lunch, and plenty of time to relax, this retreat will be a dream come true.
"Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor.”
― Thich Nhat Hanh, Stepping into Freedom: Rules of Monastic Practice for Novices
“At this moment, you are seamlessly flowing with the cosmos. There is no difference between your breathing and the breathing of the rainforest, between your bloodstream and the world’s rivers, between your bones and the chalk cliffs of Dover.”
― Deepak Chopra, The Book of Secrets: Unlocking the Hidden Dimensions of Your Life
“The Tantric sages tell us that our in-breath and out-breath actually mirror the divine creative gesture. With the inhalation, we draw into our own center, our own being. With the exhalation, we expand outward into the world.”
― Sally Kempton, Awakening Shakti: The Transformative Power of the Goddesses of Yoga
What is Pranayama and why is it important?
Pranayama is a Sanskrit term referring to the regulation of the breath through certain techniques and exercises. Prana means energy or life force, while yama means to control. Ayama means to set free. Therefore, pranayama can both control your life force energy and set it free. Pranayama is a freeing of the breath and of the spirit. What sets yoga apart from other forms of physical exercise is its emphasis on the breath. Without the breath, there is no yoga. In fact, breath control, or pranayama, is the fourth of Patanjali’s eight limbs of yoga.
Pranayama can reduce stress, improve our health and improve our quality of life. Scientific research is showing that mindful breathing—paying attention to your breath and learning how to manipulate it—is one of the most effective ways to lower everyday stress levels and improve a variety of health factors ranging from mood to metabolism.
Manipulating the breath can alter how we feel, accounting for as much as a 40 percent variance in feelings of anger, fear, joy, and sadness, according to findings in the journal Cognition & Emotion. Yogic breathing practices increase levels of leptin, a hormone produced by fat tissue that signals the brain to inhibit hunger, according to research from Shirley Telles, PhD, director of the Patanjali Research Foundation in Haridwar. A cardiologist at the University of Pavia, Italy, a group of mountaineers who practiced slow breathing an hour a day for two years before attempting to climb Mount Everest to a group who didn’t. The breathing group reached the summit without needing the supplemental oxygen the other group did, and their blood and exhalation samples showed they were using 70 percent of the surface area of their lungs, an amount that maximizes the O2 taken in.
Just one session of relaxing practices like meditation, yoga, and chanting influenced the expression of genes in both short-term and long-term practitioners, according to a Harvard study. Blood samples taken before and after the breathing practices indicated a post-practice increase in genetic material involved in improving metabolism and a suppression of genetic pathways linked with inflammation. Since chronic inflammation has also been associated with such deadly diseases as Alzheimer’s, depression, cancer, and heart disease, it’s probably fair to say that better breathing may not only change your life but may also save it.
How does it work? Basic breath physiology
The autonomic nervous system governs the body’s sympathetic (fight-or-flight) and parasympathetic (rest-and-restore) responses, regulating heart rate, respiration, and digestion up or down as necessary in response to potential threats. Breath changes in response to emotion: You’ve probably observed in yourself, when you feel panicky and anxious, your breath becomes shallow and rapid. We now know from a number of studies that actively changing the breath rate can actually change autonomic function and mood state.
With each breath, millions of sensory receptors in the respiratory system send signals via the vagus nerve to the brainstem. Fast breathing pings the brain at a higher rate, triggering it to activate the sympathetic nervous system, turning up stress hormones, heart rate, blood pressure, muscle tension, sweat production, and anxiety. On the other hand, slowing your breathing induces the parasympathetic response, dialing down all of the above as it turns up relaxation, calm, and mental clarity.
Sit up tall. Begin by noticing where you already are with your breath. Where do you feel it in your body? Often just becoming aware of your breath tends to slow it down. Breathing through your nose, observe the inhalation and exhalation. Which happens faster? Which is longer? Don’t manipulate them and don’t judge. Just watch. Continue for 2–3 minutes.
If you or your family members ever feel stressed, try this simple “take five breathing” exercise appropriate for all ages (kids and adults too). Trace your hand slowly with your finger while breathing in and out. Breathe in as you trace up starting at your thumb, breathe out as you trace down. Do this for a few minutes and notice how it makes you feel.
Want to practice with a teacher? Join us on Saturdays at 7am for our Meditation Practice or come to any yoga classes at NiMaSte Yoga to learn more.
Resilience During the Holidays
The ability to bounce back from stress or adversity is important throughout life, especially in our later years. That's when we face many transitions, such as health problems; job, income, and home changes; the loss of loved ones; and isolation or separation from friends, grown children, and grandchildren. How we adjust to these changes helps determine what life will look like moving forward.
The Benefits of Resilience
Coping with stress in a positive way is known as resilience, and it has many health benefits. It's associated with longevity, lower rates of depression, and greater satisfaction with life. Likewise, a lack of resilience means that you may not handle stress well in difficult situations. Chronic stress is associated with harmful health consequences such as high blood pressure, a weakened immune system, anxiety, depression, insomnia, heartburn, indigestion, and heart disease.
Some people are born resilient, like a child who falls down and hops right back up without crying. If that's not you, take heart: resilience is a skill that you can learn and improve upon every day.
Meditate. Practicing a meditation technique counters stress by eliciting the relaxation response, which helps lower blood pressure, heart rate, breathing rate, oxygen consumption, and stress hormones. Enhance the response with yoga!
Reframe your situation. See the upside rather than the downside of a problem. For example, if you're sad that your grown child isn't communicating as often as you'd like, try instead to be proud and happy that you raised your child to become an independent adult.
Lean on your social network. Friends and family are important stress buffers. Sometimes all you need is a chat with a friend over a cup of tea to make things better!
Cultivate positive thinking. When you're stressed, it's easy to think about what's wrong. Think about 3 things that are going well instead.
Laugh more. Laughing can decrease stress hormones and boost the immune system. Try watching a funny movie, reading a funny book, or even forcing yourself to laugh. We took a class on “Laughter Yoga” at Yogaville in Virginia!
Be optimistic. Think of a positive outcome, not a negative one. Consider an upcoming situation, and visualize the positive qualities you want to bring to it.
Make It A Habit
Work on one or several of these resilience-boosting skills every day. The more you practice them, the better you'll become at dealing with stress. Good Luck!
WHAT POSE IS THAT?
THE ABC’S OF SANSKRIT NAMES
When we come to a yoga class, sometimes the instructor uses the traditional Sanskrit names for each of the poses. “Asana” means pose, so you can take those letters off the end of each word to break down the letters that come before it. Here is a guide to 25 of the more common poses:
Essential Oils Basics
We started selling doTERRA essential oils in Spring, 2017. We chose doTERRA since the company uses rigorous testing for standards of purity and potency. They source from growers around the world to get the best compound possible. They are a little more expensive than some other oil brands, but they are 100% pure, while others are not. If you want the best experience possible, doTERRA is the way to go.
There are three main ways you can use essential oils: aromatic (diffused in the air or inhaled), internal (certain oils only**), and topical (put on skin using coconut oil as a base). Here are some of the oils we carry:
We offer free one hour essential oil workshops every other month. You come away with more knowledge about the oils, and a small sample to take home. Our September workshop focused on a healthy immune system for the Winter. OnGuard and Breathe were the featured oils. Come to our Retreat on October 14th to get a personalized aromatouch treatment by our doTERRA representative, or look for an upcoming workshop in November. Happy Oiling!
The Namaste From NiMaSte Blog is written by the Nimaste Yoga staff.