New Yoga Class Offering

Sarah will be teaching a special 4 week Introduction to Yoga class at Wellness 365 every Wednesday night in January.  All are welcome.  The class will feature a slow flow Vinyasa style with heavy use of props and modifications lead by a licensed physical therapist and registered yoga instructor.  Pranayama (yogic breathing) and meditation will be included in every class.

This is the perfect class for beginners! Pre-registration is recommended to ensure your spot, but drop-ins are welcome as space allows.  Please call Wellness 365 at 847-637-1600 for additional information and to save your spot.  Be sure to wear clothing that stretches and please arrive at least 10 minutes early.

When: Wednesdays in January 7:15-8:30pm

Where: Wellness 365: 125 S. Wilke Rd., Suite 100 Arlington Heights, IL 60005

Cost: $80 for all 4 classes or $25 for a single class

 

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Join Me to Complete Yoga Journal’s 21 Day Challenge

During the holiday season, even the most well disciplined individuals end up overindulging in rich foods and decrease their exercise frequency.  Of course, the result is low energy and extra pounds.  Many people make vow to diet or exercise more starting January 1st only to give up a few days later.

Yoga Journal’s 21 Day Challenge is a great tool to help get back on track.    You are challenged to practice yoga daily, meditate for 15 minutes and eat at least one vegetarian meal a day.  Starting January 9th, participants receive a daily email with a link to either a beginner or intermediate yoga routine, guided meditation and vegetarian recipe.  The entire program is free, so there is no excuse to not give it a try.

I completed last year’s 21 Day Challenge and really enjoyed it.  The commitment to 3 weeks of daily practice re-energized my personal practice and I strongly recommend all of my readers give it a try.  I will definitely be participating again this January.

In order to participate, click on this link to sign up for the emails.

Photo Credit: yogajournal.com

Candle Focus Meditation to Increase Concentration

What do a gymnast on the balance beam, an elderly patient modifying their gait pattern and a jazz musician improvising have in common?  CONCENTRATION

Single pointed focus is an essential skill to maximize the human potential with any activity, yet can be very difficult to achieve.  Concentration is so important, Patanjali made Dharana (Sanskrit for single pointed concentration) one of his 8 limbs of yoga.

Fortunately, through practice anyone can improve their ability to concentrate.  Below I describe a very easy exercise to practice concentration. It is best to practice after your physical yoga practice or some other physical activity to prepare both the mind and body.  Enjoy!

Flame Focus Meditation

Instructions:

  1. Light a candle in a dim, quiet room.  Set it on the floor or a low table. 
  2. Sit in a comfortable cross-legged position facing the candle. Allow the hands to either rest at heart center or on your thighs. Utilize any props to make your body comfortable in this position.
  3. Once comfortable, begin to focus your gaze on the flame.  Use all of your mental energy to focus on only this flame and keep the body perfectly still.
  4. Continue with perfect concentration for as long as you can.  Do not be frustrated if the single pointed concentration only lasts for a few moments initially.  Work up to 15 minutes over time.

 

Cyclic Meditation, a More Relaxing Way to Meditatate

Cyclic meditation is a special type of meditation that combines yoga postures with supine rest, joining stimulating and calming practices together.   Beginning meditators are usually able to maintain their focus for longer periods of time due to the changes in position.  This allows for longer periods of successful meditation and consequently, more relaxation.

A research study by Sarang and Telles studied oxygen consumption during cyclic meditation vs. traditional meditation in supine and found that combining yoga postures with supine rest reduces the oxygen consumption more than resting supine alone.

So what does that mean?  Cyclic meditation is more relaxing then traditional meditation.  It is speculated that is could be more beneficial as a result.

Follow the instructions below, holding each position for at least 2-3 minutes.  Mountain pose is used as an example, but a different yoga asana could be used if desired.

STEP ONE: Mountain Pose

  • Stand with your legs shoulder width apart with toes pointed ahead.  Press your feet down into the floor.
  • Tighten your thigh muscles and pull in the abdominals.
  • Elongate your back and neck as you pull the shoulder blades down and in.
  • Relax your arms down by your side.
  • Stand tall in this position, focusing on deep even breath for desired length of time.

STEP TWO: Corpse (Relaxation) Pose

  • Slowly transition down onto your back with your legs hips width apart and rotated out.
  • Rest arms comfortably at your sides with palms up.
  • Relax every part of your body and breathe deeply.  Remain in this position for the desired length of time, focusing on the breath.  Feel free to use a pillow under the head or knees for comfort.

STEP THREE: Repeat

Repeat the cycle at least 2-3 times.  Begin with 10 minutes total, working up to 30 minutes for maximum relaxation and health benefits.

Reference:

Sarang, P.S and Telles, S (2006). Oxygen consumption and respiration during and after two yoga relaxation techniques.  Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback.  31, 143-153.

Photo Credits: Yogajournal.com and personal photo

Medical Benifits of Meditation and Mantra Meditation

Meditation has been an area of interest for researchers in both the medical and psychology worlds for several decades due to the many physical and mental benefits. Below is a list of proven benefits that can be achieved through regular meditation practice. Most experts agree that regular practice is 20-30 minutes 3 or more times a week. Many different styles of mediation exist and will be covered in future blog entries.
Health benefits achieved through regular mediation:
 Decreased pain
 Decreased stress hormones
 Decreased muscular tension
 Calms emotions
 Promotes peace and serenity
 Decreased heart rate
 Decreased respiration rate
 Decreased blood pressure
 Brain activity slows down
 Improved attitudes towards pain
 Increased self-awareness
Many of these benefits are direct result of tapping into the Autonomic Nervous System and creating Parasympathetic dominance. This is the reverse of the well-known fight of flight response that occurs with stress and pain. Training the body to achieve this state of nervous system relaxation is the ultimate medical goal of practicing meditation.

New to meditation? Try small with 5-8 minutes of meditation. Slowly increase a few minutes at a time over several months to eventually achieve 20-30 minutes of practice. Mantra meditation is an easy way to begin experiencing the benefits of meditation.

Mantra Meditation Instructions:
 Sit in a comfortable position (either cross-legged on supported on a chair) and rest your arms on your legs. Chose a word to be your mantra, either a word with positive connotations or a nonsense word.
 Close your eyes and begin to breathe through your nose.
 Silently say your selected word, repeating your word over and over. Focus all of your attention on your word.
 If your thoughts drift, refocus on the word. Continue for the desired length of time.

References:
1. Cappy, Peggy (2006). Yoga for All of Us; a Modified Series of Traditional Poses for Any Age and Ability. New York: St. Martin’s Press.
2. Miller, Olivia (2003). Essential Yoga. San Francisco: Chronicle Books.
3. Davies, W. R.(2008). Mindful meditation: healing burnout in critical care nursing. Holistic Nursing Practice. 22: 32-36.

Photo credit: YogaJournal.com

Tai Chi Circle Drill

Tai Chi Circle Drill

Tai Chi can be thought of as a moving meditation.  The participant performs gentle, flowing movements with mental focus on coordinating the breath and movement in perfect harmony.  For most people learning Tai Chi, fluid slow movements can be difficult to achieve.  The circle drill is an excellent technique to practice timing movement with breath.  Once this coordination is achieved, the body and mind become relaxed, helping to provide the health benefits associated with Tai Chi.

Instructions: Practice each step for 1-5 minutes, working on slow, fluid circles

—  STEP ONE

     Stand with your feet 2’ apart, knees bent, arms relaxed and spine straight.  Take a moment, practice your tai chi breathing, center your mind, prepare your body

—  STEP TWO

     Inhale as you raise up your R arm in front of your sternum (chest bone).  Circle the R arm clockwise slowly.  Exhale when your hand reaches your head and complete the circle returning to your original position repeat

—  STEP THREE

     Relax the R arm and raise up the L arm in front of your sternum.  Circle the L arm counterclockwise.  Exhale when your hand reaches your head and complete the circle, returning to your original position repeat

—  STEP FOUR

     Add R arm circles to the L, keeping them coordinated in opposite positions repeat       Tip: think of double dutch jump rope.

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