Morning Yoga Poses

Let’s be honest – these days we often wake up after a fitful night’s sleep with our eyebrows already furrowed and our teeth grinding. The anxiety of what new developments happened overnight is enough for even the most optimistic among us to crawl back under the blankets.
On the mornings that are particularly challenging to get out of bed and start your day, spending a few minutes moving your body and minding your breath before your feet hit the floor may change your mood and set a positive tone for the whole day.
Here are some easy, accessible poses you can do right from your bed. You can linger in postures longer if you have the time, or move through the poses more rapidly if you are in a hurry. The most important part? Long, deep inhales to get that prana (life energy) into your body and brain.
  1. Lying Breath: In a comfortable position, inhale through your nose and fill yourself from bottom to top. Pause. Exhale very slowly through your nose. Pause. Repeat several times.
  2. Reclined Twist: Bring your left knee toward your chest and hold it with the right hand. Exhale and twist your knee across your body to the right, left arm extended to the left. Hold the twist for about 3 breaths.
  3. Hamstring Stretch: Extend one leg up toward the ceiling, holding it near the calf. Bend and straighten it a few times and then reach the heel toward the ceiling. Hold and breathe. Repeat on the other side.
  4. Seated Forward Fold: Sit up and extend your legs long. Inhale and sit up tall. Exhale and reach forward toward your toes. Allow your spine to round and your head to drop. Breathe.
  5. Cross Leg Fold: Sit with your legs crossed and gently fold forward, resting your forehead on your hands or a pillow. Hold fo a few breaths. Inhale to sit back up. Switch which leg is on top and repeat.
  6. Puppy Pose: From hands and knees, walk your hands forward as far as you can, keeping your tail up. Let your heart drop toward the mattress and rest your forehead on the bed (or a pillow).
  7. Pigeon Pose: From hands and knees, Move your right foot towards the outside of your left hip, then lower your torso towards that knee while straightening your opposite leg behind you. Rest your head on the backs of your hands. Take a few breaths and then switch sides.
  8. Figure 4: Move close to your bed’s headboard and rest your right foot there, so your right leg is bent at a 90degree angle. Cross your left ankle across your right thigh, just above the knee. Press your left knee away fro your body. Breathe and hold. Change sides.
  9. Frog: Starting on all fours, spread your knees wider than your hips and turn your feet out. Lower to your elbows, and maybe let your chest rest on the mattress. Breathe.
  10. Eagle Arms: Sit tall. Cross your right arm under your left and twist together so that your palms meet (if not accessible, keep elbows crossed and hold opposite shoulders with hands). Drop shoulders and lift elbows to shoulder height. Breathe and hold. Mindfully release and switch sides.

Yoga Builds Bones

How does yoga make us healthier?
Let us count the ways:
  • increases flexibility
  • increases muscle strength and tone
  • improved respiration, energy and vitality
  • maintaining a balanced metabolism
  • weight reduction
  • cardio and circulatory health
  • protection for injury
  • improves balance
  • improves mood and mental health
Add something else to this list – a benefit that is particularly important as we age: Yoga builds bones!
According to the National Institute of Health, yoga appears “to be a safe and effective means to reverse bone loss in the spine and the femur” by raising BMD (bone mineral density). Osteoporosis and osteopenia affects up to 200 million people worldwide, and with an aging population, that number will likely continue to grow.
As compared to medications and invasive procedures, Yoga classes are a low-cost and less dangerous alternative. Side effects of a yoga practice include “better posture, improved balance, enhanced coordination, greater range of motion, higher strength, reduced levels of anxiety, and better gait”. All of these side-effects also keep our bones safe by preventing falls, too. As an added bonus, Yoga lowers cortisol, a stress hormone that breaks down bones when it is chronically elevated, which is why even passive poses and restorative practices can help prevent bone loss.
The reason Yoga works to build bone strength, is that the postures pit one group of muscles against another. Bones are exposed to force by the pulling (contractions) of the and thereby the bone mineral density is enhanced. Specifically, the study looked at the benefit of twelve specific postures, all of which are accessible to most practitioners, especially if props are used (you can even practice while sitting in a chair), and proper instruction is provided. The postures are (see photos from the study above):
  1. Tree pose
  2. Triangle
  3. Warrior 2
  4. Side Angle/Side Warrior
  5. Revolved Triangle
  6. Locust
  7. Bridge
  8. Reclined hand to big toe
  9. Reclined revolved hand to foot
  10. Seated twist
  11. Half Lord of the Fish twist
  12. Savasana
Hold each pose between 12 and 72 seconds to allow the stimulation of osteocytes (bone building cells). When you build muscle, you build bone. So get on your mat!

Why Do You Practice Yoga?

Question:
Why do you practice yoga?
Not in a “why do people practice yoga” way, but rather in a personal examination: Why do YOU practice yoga?
Out of all the many activities you can do in your free time, why choose yoga?
What drew you to try yoga originally? Does that same reason still apply?
What do you hope to get out of the practice, if anything?
If you’ve been practicing yoga for a while, has your intent changed from when you first stepped foot on the mat?
What is it about your practice that keeps you coming back?
We invite you to use these questions to clarify your intention(s) and goals of yoga for you, at this moment in time. Of course, each day may bring different answers. But through regular examination, you can adjust and accommodate your practice to bring the most benefit to your life, physically and mentally (and beyond). Maybe you are ready to mix it up in a new class or with a different teacher? Perhaps you are needing to add more meditation – or more movement – to your practice.
You may also consider applying these same questions to other activities you do regularly, to clarify why you are spending your time, energy, money, and attention on those pursuits.
Explore more about wellness, the physiology of yoga, the science behind the practice, and the peaceful power that yoga cultivates in our classes, Y4A’s unique workshops, and on our Facebook page.

Yoga and Mental Health

In this time of uncertainty, anxiety, seclusion, and fear, we all need to find ways to improve our mental health. For centuries, yoga has given practitioners the tools live in a healthy way. Now is the perfect time to find a yoga class or deepen your yogic journey!
Effective yoga teachers seek to significantly improve students’ health and well-being. Traditional yoga practices (including movement, mindfulness, and breath work) can help everyone balance their nervous systems and stay healthy, mentally and physically. The methods taught in well-planned yoga classes build lifelong skills from the inside-out, teaching practitioners to recognize their present state, label the sensations in their bodies, and build a tool chest of coping skills to choose behaviors and responses that bring them back to balance in a healthy, sustainable way.
Yoga postures:
  • Yoga promotes balance in the nervous system by moving through both stimulating and calming postures.
  • You begin to recognize which postures make them feel energized and which make them feel soothed.
  • You notice how their bodies and minds react to stressful, uncomfortable sensations in challenging postures.
  • Moving the body is a healthy way to release stress, to focus attention, and to feel strong and capable.
  • Yoga postures build confidence and positive body image.
  • Yoga postures can build resilience by helping you physically release pent up trauma and tension.
Breath work:
  • Breath is our most portable form of stress management.
  • Long, smooth breaths calm the nervous system, particularly via the vagus nerve.
  • By experiencing a variety of simple and effective breaths, you gain the coping skills to choose which practice works best for you.
Mindfulness:
  • Through mindfulness practice, you become more aware of your feelings, sensations, thoughts, and emotions.
  • You learn to connect with and value your inner experience, rather than rely on outside stimuli.
  • Mindfulness improves self-regulation and confidence as you learn to control your own thoughts and actions.
  • With mindfulness practice, you learn to separate your feelings from your actions and choose healthy responses to outside stimuli.
  • Mindfulness is learning that you are not your thoughts, that you can shift from how you are currently being/feeling to how you want to be/feel.
Explore more about wellness, the physiology of yoga, the science behind the practice, and the peaceful power that yoga cultivates in our classes, Y4A’s unique workshops, and on our Facebook page.

Massage and Manual Healing

Yes, our studio is named Yoga4All – and we mean that! Yoga is for everybody and every body. Did you know that Yoga4All also offers several massage and manual healing therapies, plus acupuncture? We are truly your oasis of healing, right here in Seminole!
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Massage can help specifically address a number of health issues. Bodywork can:
  • Alleviate low-back pain and improve range of motion.
  • Assist with shorter, easier labor for expectant mothers and shorten maternity hospital stays.
  • Ease medication dependence.
  • Enhance immunity by stimulating lymph flow—the body’s natural defense system.
  • Exercise and stretch weak, tight, or atrophied muscles.
  • Help athletes of any level prepare for, and recover from, strenuous workouts.
  • Improve the condition of the body’s largest organ—the skin.
  • Increase joint flexibility and improve arthritic pain.
  • Lessen depression and anxiety.
  • Promote tissue regeneration, reducing scar tissue and stretch marks.
  • Pump oxygen and nutrients into tissues and vital organs, improving circulation.
  • Reduce postsurgery adhesions and swelling.
  • Reduce spasms and cramping.
  • Relax and soften injured, tired, and overused muscles.
  • Release endorphins—amino acids that work as the body’s natural painkiller.
  • Relieve migraine pain.
Yoga4All therapists are expert practitioners with many years experience. In our studio you can find several types of massage therapy, from CranioSacral to Reiki, visceral manipulation and Swedish massage, pre-natal and deep tissue.
Learn more about how a holistic healing system can bring you relief from pain, regain your sense of balance and harmony, and simply live your best life! Call and discuss treatment options at 727-392-9642 or contact our therapists directly through our website. MM38401
Explore more about wellness, the physiology of yoga, the science behind the practice, and the peaceful power that yoga cultivates in our classes, Y4A’s unique workshops, and on our Facebook page.

Yoga is Union

Let’s get back to the basics, to the very beginning.
What IS yoga?
Is it the postures? Is it flowing from pose to pose? Is it the movement or is it the stillness? Is yoga meditation or is it breathing? What is this practice we call yoga?
Yoga means union, the union of the body with the mind and the mind with the soul. According to Iyengar, “The science of yoga helps us to keep the body as a temple so that it becomes as clean as the soul. The body is lazy, the mind is vibrant and the soul is luminous. Yogic practices develop the body to the level of the vibrant mind so that the body and the mind, having both become vibrant, are drawn towards the light of the soul.”
Yogic philosophers tell us that there are many paths to that union, to that mind-body-soul connection. The science of the mind is called Raja Yoga, the science of intelligence is Jnana Yoga, the science of duty is known as Karma Yoga and Hatha Yoga (the one we in the West are most familiar with, the practice of the postures) is the science of the will. ‘Ha’ means sun (the sun of your body being the soul) and ‘tha’ means moon (your consciousness). The energy of the sun never fades, but the moon’s energy changes each day, monthly rising and fading. The sun in all of us, our souls, never fade even during the fluctuations and modulations of the moon energy (our awareness). The practice of Hatha Yoga is a celebration, an honoring, of those moments when the the consciousness of the body and energy of the soul come into union with one another. This is freedom.
Yoga is “the path which cultures the body and senses, refines the mind, civilizes the intelligence, and takes rest in that which is the core of our being…It is cellular, mental, intellectual and spiritual – it involves man in his entire being.” (BKS Iyengar)
So the next time you roll out your mat, take a moment to honor the task you are undertaking. Hatha Yoga is the science of WILL (not strength, not flexibility…will). You are purposefully and mindfully volunteering to move your body in ways that may be challenging and difficult but that, through patience, through breath, and through awareness, might just change your life. Celebrate that union between body, mind, and soul. It is a privilege not everyone is afforded.
Explore more about wellness, the physiology of yoga, the science behind the practice, and the peaceful power that yoga cultivates in our classes, Y4A’s unique workshops, and on our Facebook page.

How Does Your Yoga Garden Grow?

Here’s a question: What’s your meditation style? Are you someone who concentrates best by repeating a mantra? Singing or chanting? Mindfully listening to music, following the vibrations and melodies? Maybe you gaze at a photo or inspirational image? As you try different meditative practices, you’ll find what settles your mind and body best.
If you are just beginning your exploration of meditation, you may find that your mind wanders after just a few minutes of trying to remain still. For most of us, our minds are like an untrained puppy, following an interesting scent or sound and wandering off into trouble.
It is normal to be physically uncomfortable and mentally scattered when you first begin meditating. Your internal dialogue may be something like this, “OK. I’m going to sit still and meditate…is my stomach grumbling? What will I make for dinner? Oops! That’s a thought. OK, let’s try again…My nose itches. Dang! Another thought…” If this sounds familiar, don’t worry or become frustrated. Each time you notice a break in flow of concentration, just guide your attention back to the music you are focusing on, the mantra, your breath, etc.
Here’s a basic meditation exercise of visualization, based on one by Doug Swenson, master yoga teacher. Just follow the instructions below to help release stress and enhance your mental well-being:
  1. Choose a comfortable seated position. You could lie down, but that often leads to falling asleep. Sit up tall and close your eyes if comfortable.
  2. Begin to notice your breath, moving air slowly and deeply through your nose. Breathe in to the bottom of the lungs first and fill to the top. Exhale from the top to the bottom. Listen for your breath sounds. Feel the texture and temperature of your breath.
  3. Begin to withdraw from the external world. Try to bring your entire awareness to your posture, your breathing, and your calming thoughts.
  4. Visualize different areas of your body (body scan), starting at the bottom and working toward the top. For example, as you exhale name and isolate an area of your body to purposely release and relax.
  5. Visualize a flower – whatever flower you’d like. Use all of your senses to explore every aspect of this flower: color, texture, scent, weight, etc. Let the vision of your flower fill your mind. If the picture fades or changes, notice that it is happening and then return to the vision of the flower. Just like your earlier body scan, scan your flower from its roots to the top of the petals. Perhaps you follow the blooming of the flower, from see to full blossom.
  6. Now imagine resting in an entire meadow full of your flower. What does it feel like on your skin? Can you smell the fragrance of all the flowers? Is there a breeze? Notice that you, the flower, the meadow and the whole universe are all sharing the same energy.
  7. Stay in this meadow as long as you’d like. When you are ready to step out of your mediation, take a few mindful, deep breaths. Slowly open your eyes and stretch.
Explore more about wellness, the physiology of yoga, the science behind the practice, and the peaceful power that yoga cultivates in our studio classes, Y4A’s unique workshops, and on our Facebook page.

Namaste: Honoring Our Light

If you’ve attended a yoga class, chances are the class concluded with your hands in a prayer gesture at your heart while saying, “Namaste”. While closing a yoga class with “Namaste” and a bow doesn’t come from ancient tradition, It’s a fairly common way to close a yoga practice here – and for good reason!
In a very basic way, namaste simply means “I bow to you” (namah or names means bow and te means you in Sanskrit). Likewise, using Anjali Mudra, or prayer position, symbolizes basically the same thing. The right hand represents the physical activities. The left hand represents mental activities including both intellectual and emotional. The heart center represents the self. Bowing our head down toward our hands and heart then can represent bringing all of our faculties together indicating “I am full and I recognize the fullness in you”. It is not uncommon for people in India to greet each other, family and strangers, with their hands together and their head bowed, and a spoken “Namaste” out of respect.
The most common, more spiritual translation of namaste is “The divine light in me bows to the divine light in you”. Other translations of namaste include:
  • I honor the place in you where the entire universe dwells.
  • I bow to the place in you that is love, light, and joy.
  • When you and I bow to our true nature, we are one.
  • My soul recognizes your soul.
  • We are the same, we are one.
  • I honor the place in you that is the same as it is in me.
In a very real sense, the utterance of namaste to another person represents the idea that we are all one. It is a true expression that you see yourself in others. According to Deepak Chopra:
“As a human being, it is in your nature to forget this truth—that every person, thought, feeling, and experience is a perfect expression of the one Divine awareness. When a being does forget (by feeling separate, less than, better than, or identifying with any external, impermanent aspect of being more so than its true nature), it suffers. What would life be like if you saw others as perfectly whole? What if you saw yourself this way? A namasté between two yogis is a pact made to honor the highest, truest, most authentic parts of themselves, and let their limitations fall away. “
You might not greet your neighbors with a friendly bow and, “Namaste” at the grocery store, but maybe you can see people as equal, as whole, as an extension of yourself. Wouldn’t that be a beautiful way for us all to live and work together in the world?
Explore more about wellness, the physiology of yoga, the science behind the practice, and the peaceful power that yoga cultivates in our studio classes, Y4A’s unique workshops, and on our Facebook page.

The Ethical Foundation of Yoga

While a physical yoga practice might get more attention on Instagram or YouTube, it is the inner-work of yoga that truly gives us a path to growth, inner-peace, and connection. Beyond postures, the practice of yoga provides a path for your life’s journey through the Yamas and Niyams as described in the Yoga Sutras. The Yamas focus on interactions with other people and the Niyamas discuss our relationship with our self.
YAMAS
Ahimsa means non-harm. Ahimsa means always behaving in a way to reduce injustice, violence, and cruelty.
Satya means to speak the truth. It means to be authentic and open.
Asteya translates to non-stealing and to not taking more than you need. Asteya goes beyond material possessions – it also includes stealing/wasting time, stealing someone’s voice or position, and being aware of our own consumer choices.
Aparigraha invites us to believe in abundance. It means non-possessiveness and letting go of attachment.
Brahmacharya asks us to manage our energy and cravings. It is the movement towards the most essential truth.
NIYAMAS
Saucha means cleanliness in body, mind, and emotions. Practicing saucha is the ultimate self-care.
Santosha is contentment and the practice of acceptance. We cultivate this through mindfulness practices.
Tapas translates to fiery discipline. This can refer to the work of your physical yoga practice, following your passions even through difficulties, or being persistent in your own beliefs.
Svadhyaya is about self-reflection and seeing yourself clearly and connecting with your own divinity (and thereby able to connect with others’ divine spark).
Ishvara Pranidhana means offering your actions to something bigger than yourself (God, nature, community service, etc).
Regardless of your religious or spiritual background, Yoga’s Yamas and Niyamas offer a simple but powerful guide for your life’s journey and moves us beyond our individual minds, bodies, and spirits.
Explore more about wellness, the physiology of yoga, the science behind the practice, and the peaceful power that yoga cultivates in our studio classes, Y4A’s unique workshops, and on our Facebook page.

Tame the Monkey Mind

Have any of these ever happened to you?
  • You walk into a room and forget why you went in
  • You try to fall asleep but a long list of to-dos begins to run through your head
  • You avoid sitting in silence, preferring music, TV, or podcasts because the quiet feels “loud”
  • You find yourself reading the same paragraph in a book over and over
If any of these situations feel familiar, then you are well aware of the chaos in your “monkey mind”. Your mind has been described as a drunk monkey getting stung by scorpions, leaping from branch to branch. In yoga, we call this mind chatter chitta vritti (chit-ta-ver-itty) and we use yoga and meditation to cease the constant thought parade. Chitta means “conscious” or “mind stuff” and vritti means “whirl” or “fluctuations”. In Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, he wrote Yoga chitta vritti nirodha which translates to “yoga is the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind”. In other words, yoga’s purpose isn’t to touch your toes or do a handstand. The big goal of yoga is to quiet your brain fluctuations, which cause us so much stress and pain. Yoga, meditation, and breathing practices were developed to stop the chatter so you can get in touch with your inner self with patient, peaceful awareness.
We specifically practice observing our vrittis while in meditation. Watching our minds as they drift to worries, to-do lists, music lyrics, and judgements, we practice bringing our attention back to the moment, whether that’s by following our breath, repeating a mantra, or noticing the floor underneath us. In this way, our monkey mind gets trained to pause before leaping to the next branch (thought). Eventually, the pauses grow longer and we are able to actually succeed in ceasing the fluctuations of the mind (even if only for a moment).
Explore more about wellness, the physiology of yoga, the science behind the practice, and the peaceful power that yoga cultivates in our studio classes, Y4A’s unique workshops, and on our Facebook page.