Asana for Mental Health

Yoga is an important tool for mental health and wellness because it allows a person to mentally and physically relax. Different elements of yoga can assist a person in different ways, achieving different mental benefits. Depression and anxiety are the most commonly diagnosed disorders in today’s society. It is very common for people to be not able to cope with the rising pressures of society. This is why it is so important that individuals maintain their physical and mental health. Asana is particularly important for people to perform to support physical health, which in turn fosters mental health. In fact, many asanas can physically and energetically stimulate the body’s energy centers, chakras, to support mental wellness. 

Physical relaxation is very important for overall health. Research says that being able to relax positively impacts the brain by balancing the neurotransmitters responsible for mental health issues. Through this, we can alter the way we interpret a stimulus that may seem threatening to us. We can reduce the level of hormones, like cortisol and adrenaline, when they are not needed and positively impact our stress levels, which also assists in maintaining physical well-being. When our body is not in a state of arousal and instead in a state of balance, it is better able to heal itself.

Sirsana (headstand) is considered the king of all asanas. It is a very effective pose for conquering fear. It is an inversion and a balancing posture. It sublimates the energy of arousal into Ojas energy which can bring peace and calmness. It also changes the blood pressure of the body and can allow the organs to function better. This pose could be performed wearing leggings, yoga pants, or bootcut yoga pants.

Another one of my favorite asanas for mental health is the matsyasana (fish pose). This is a heart-opening pose. It stimulates the anahata chakra (heart chakra) which allows us to release worries, fears, and anxieties. It is believed to be a treatment for anxiety and depression. Individuals who experience these disorders will often find themselves rolling their shoulders forward, turning themselves inward, keeping their necks tilted down and covering their torso into itself. By opening the heart and rolling back the neck in a fish pose, the body is energetically more open and is in the opposite form than what it usually is. Instead of being afraid, it is open and brave. Simply performing this asana by regularly wearing simple yoga shirts and yoga shorts or cotton yoga shorts can help alter the physical manifestations of mood disturbances, ultimately altering the mental processes as well.

The last asana I will mention is the savasana (corpse pose). This asana is said to be the hardest of all the asanas, and this is likely because it requires the student to totally relax. In the Sivananda lineage tradition of Hatha yoga, every class begins with a savasana that includes tensing and releasing each body part. I find these to be a very effective tool for anyone, especially those treating mental health issues. As you tense and release your body, you notice where you hold extra tension. Noticing where this tension is can help bring insight into what can be worked on. If you are holding tension in your neck, this could be related to your throat chakra. Maybe you need to stimulate your throat chakra by finding your voice and releasing things through open communication. This may be a window into releasing anxieties, worries, and stresses that are impacting your mental health!

Here Are 7 Top Yoga Pants For Women To Stay Comfy And Supported While In A Yoga Pose

A great way to keep motivated and stick to your yoga practice is to buy the best yoga pants. A good number of leggings look fantastic in the shop, making it difficult to tell which of them will be flattering, comfortable and give your body enough space to breathe when practicing yoga poses such as Shavasana and downward dog. Knowing the yoga pants that will make you stay comfortable without stretching or going transparent is the hardest part.

You can only enjoy your yoga practice or workout with suitable yoga pants and attires. Here are yoga pants for women to make your yoga movements easy.

1. The Wunder Under Pant

You will look nice and comfortable in these pants because they are super comfortable and will endure the trickiest of the yoga poses without feeling as if you are stretching them. Moreover, they are not transparent. You can also wear these pants for a walk or to the gym if you are not a hardcore yogi. These pants have concealed waistband pockets where you can keep your essentials.

2. Gede Side Stripe Leggings

If you are looking for leggings that cling to your figure comfortably, this is the perfect yoga pant for you. One great thing about Gede side stripe leggings is that they are not as taut as other pants and let you continue with your practice without having to bother about whether they’ll shift out of place or slip down, whether you’re just stretching or in a handstand. They are warm and breathable due to their soft polyamide fabric.

3. Chandrasana Reversible Yoga Leggings

Reversible yoga leggings have got you covered if you are easily tired of yoga kit. They won’t restrict your movement, they are flattering and don’t go see-through after stretching. In addition, the fabric is breathable, meaning that you won’t get excessively hot and sweaty in yoga class. 

4. Yoga Capris Yoga Pants

These leggings for women are exceptionally comfortable with the perfect material for hot Bikram yoga sessions. They’re loose, allowing for a free flow of air but also tight at the bottom for simplicity and suppleness in poses. They’re so comfortable for lounging around the house.

5. Digital Wave Panel Leggings

The double layer of fabric offers these women yoga leggings a premium feel, and the splash of color down the sides won’t divert your attention while performing the downward dog. They are a good choice if you like practicing yoga at home. However, they are a bit too thick for hot yoga classes.

6. Rockwell 7/8 Vie Active Compression Leggings

These are the silkiest and softest leggings for women. In fact, you hardly notice you’re wearing them, even in hard yoga poses. In addition, Vie active compression leggings provide excellent support, and the waistband doesn’t feel excessively tight in the stomach region. They are not only excellent for yoga practices; they’re also appropriate to wear to the gym. 

7. Heavenly Harem Yoga Pants

Harem yoga pants are made from ethical, and eco-friendly fabrics made generally of bamboo. They are comfortable, and the material does not slip, even when you rest your foot on them. It makes it easy to hold yoga poses. They are great leggings for beginners, yogis, or whoever desires a comfortable pair of trousers to wear around the house.

The Energy of Ten Rupees – Swami Vishnudevananda’s story

Vishnudevananda was a great Yoga guru. The energy of ten rupees, as he said, prompted him to travel the world spreading the Yogic philosophy.

The Beginnings of Swami Vishnudevananda

Vishnudavananda was born in Kerala, in the south of India, on the last day of 1927. His family belonged to a high caste and his father was a Brahmin.

While he was in the military, his turning point came when he read Sivananda’s Spiritual Instructions in a pamphlet: “A gram of practice is worth as much as tons of theory. Introduce Yoga, religion, and philosophy in your daily life, and you will achieve personal fulfillment.”

These simple lines propelled Vishnudavananda to meet Sivananda in Rishikesh at the Himalayas on the banks of Ganges river. Sivananda taught humility to proud Vishnudavananda his guru.


An Important Mission

Vishnudavananda joined the Sivananda Yoga Center in Rishikesh and became a monk at the age of 20 years. He taught Hatha Yoga classes to many students including some Westerners residing in India. Their numbers kept growing.

Vishnudavananda continued to learn from Sivananda for the following 10 years. One day the Guru entrusted to him an important mission: taking Yoga to the West. He gave him ten rupees and had him leave without knowing English beyond a few short phrases.

Vishnudavananda Goes Mainstream

Vishnudavananda traveled to Canada and opened the first of Sivananda Yoga Centers in Montreal in 1959. Other centers followed in the subsequent years. Some of them are in the Bahamas, California and New York.

Vishnudavananda’s idea was to train new teachers so that they could spread Yogic philosophy around the world.

He met The Beatles in the Bahamas where they were shooting their film “Help.” They became friends. Once, Vishnudavananda told the four of Liverpool they would come to perform Sirsasana or Posture on the Head. To which Ringo Starr responded: “How am I going to stand on my head if I cannot even stand on my feet?”

Ringo’s joke reflects how impossible this posture seemed to them, but they did it! After this encounter, The Beatles contributed to the diffusion of Yoga to Western audiences.

The Airplane for Peace (and Yoga)

This is the reason why he is called “The Aviator.” During the era of political upheaval in the ’80s, he thought of a way to reduce tension through Yoga. He found a way by painting a plane with bright colors and called it “The Airplane for Peace.” He traveled to many countries in need of peace like Ireland, Egypt, and Pakistan in this plane.

His motto was “We don’t drop bombs. We throw flowers.”

The Wall

In August 1983, he announced he would fly from West to East Berlin. “We want to symbolize that we cannot cross borders with weapons, only with flowers,” said Vishnudavananda. “If they shoot me, what does it matter? Many have died from war. I will die for Peace.”

Despite announcing the flight and its peaceful nature, Soviet authorities arrested and interrogated him for hours after he landed in East Berlin in the middle of a farm. They sent him back to West Berlin with a cheese sandwich for lunch.

The Energy of Ten Rupees

Before his death in 1993, Vishnudavananda said everything he had done was all thanks to his Guru who gave him a life lesson in humility.

“The ten rupees given to me by Sivananda have taken me around the world. It was the energy of those ten rupees that made me capable of everything I’ve done.”

Upon dying, following an Indian ritual, they placed his body in the Ganges River, which was the same place where Sivananda and Vishnudavananda met.

Does Your Outfit Affect Your Practice

When you roll out your mat, many yogis are most concerned with their sequencing, alignment, and breathing than they are with their outfit. While those things are certainly important aspects of a well-balanced and safe yoga practice, your outfit may play a bigger role in your routine than you think. It may seem shallow to some yogis that something as simple as what you put on your body could be just as important as the things you put into your body, but how does your outfit really affect the way you practice? 

The biggest priority (besides embodying yogic principles off the mat) for any practicing yogi should be safety. Your outfit can play a huge role in your ability to move through vinyasas and other sequences. Pants that bunch uncomfortably can take your focus off of alignment as you move around to readjust the fabric. Pants that are too long can cover the bottom of your feet, preventing a firm grip on your yoga mat in standing poses.

The bottom part of your outfit is the largest culprit when it comes to compromising your ability to practice safely, but your top can play a role as well. Tops that are too loose can leave you exposed during inversions or forward bends, forcing you to contort your body out of the proper shape to prevent further exposure during class. Tops that are too tight can restrict breathing and comfortable movement.

Having an outfit that fits you properly can make a significant difference in your ability to practice yoga safely. The way an outfit fits you is more important than the way it looks on you. Comfortable and safe movement are critical components that can’t be underestimated when selecting an outfit.

Your outfit can play a role in boosting your confidence. There’s truth in the old adage that says, “When you look good, you feel good.” If your outfit makes you feel more attractive, look slimmer, or just generally gives you confidence in your outward appearance, you have more space to think about your practice instead of self-conscious concerns.

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter whether your yoga outfit consists of high-waist Capri leggings with a crop top or yoga pants and a sweatshirt, as long as you feel good about the way you look in it.

A quick increase in confidence can give you the courage to try harder poses or to remain in uncomfortable ones for just a few breaths longer than you usually would. You may see significant gains in your personal practice physically, which can carry over to psychological gains off the mat. If you find yourself more capable during your practice, the self-esteem boost could play a role in your performance at work, in your presence in relationships, and in the embodiment of yogic principles throughout your life.

Thinking about the outfit you’ll practice in doesn’t seem like it should top your priority list when there are more pressing concerns that match your intentions and the basic principles of yoga. However, we think you’ll agree that your outfit can certainly influence the way you feel and your ability to practice safely.

Hummus With Every Meal of the Day

I believe that surviving healthy on the go has everything to do with meal preparation. Actually, surviving anywhere has everything to do with preparation. Here are a few ways in which I simplify daily meals. Take note, however, that change doesn’t happen overnight and you need to get a hang of things to make your days easier. It has also been scientifically proven that it takes 21 days to form a habit. So when deciding something is right for you, stick with it and be patient. Results will show in forms of you having more energy, being more positive, and being uplifted in your thinking, or even looking more toned and leaner.

Food is our primary source of energy. I also believe that 80 % of healthy lifestyle derives from your food choices, here are some simple recipes with their healthy nutritional properties.

I, for example, love hummus. That doesn’t mean I eat it all day, every day. But I stick it in my meal plan every second day for a different meal if I can.

As it is a bean-based spread, it boasts with protein, carbs, and fiber and it is at the same time low in fat. It has the capacity of balancing out blood sugar levels. Beans are also full of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. Such spreads are not only super easy to make, but they also stay fresh in your fridge for days, and they don’t break a buck in your wallet either.

The recipe is fairly simple. I like to start mine from scratch.

Grind sesame seeds well to get tahini or sesame paste. Add a little olive oil for a smoother mixture, but any other plant-based oil works as long as you know its taste will blend in with the rest of the ingredients. Cook the pre-soaked garbanzo beans until they soften. Cool them and add some more olive oil, a little bit of water, a pinch of sea salt, a tiny bit of pepper and some ground red paprika and a clove of fresh garlic. Mix them all together in a blender and cool before serving. It is as easy as it sounds.

Hummus is a super easy, healthy addition to your menu as it only takes a few minutes to prepare if you don’t count the cooking time of garbanzo beans, which you can anyhow purchase pre-cooked and canned. It is moreover a great addition to fresh vegetable salads. Or to enjoy as a snack next to sliced cucumbers, bell peppers or tomatoes.

It is so versatile that it can be paired with various dishes. A recent favorite of mine is paired with zucchini cookies (yes, cookies, you’ve read right). 

Here’s the recipe:

Use two regular sized zucchini, 1 cup of rice flour, 1 cup of crushed almonds, 1 tablespoon of olive oil, a pinch of salt and a tiny bit of baking soda.

Preheat the oven, mix all the ingredients together well (if it’s too sticky add some extra oil), shape into preferred size bites and bake at 356°F for a good half-an-hour. Store in a tightly sealed container in a cool place.

With the hummus spread or without, they can serve as a great appetizer or even dessert. They are cookies after all.

Spreads, in general, are also convenient as they go well with various foods and you can take them with you wherever you go. You’ll become a rock star in your friend’s eyes when you show up at their picnic with this tasty treat.

Japa Mala Beads

Perhaps you have already seen a few yoga practitioners going around wearing those long-beaded necklaces and wondered why they are so common amongst yogis. Well, these strings of beads are more than a regular fashion accessory; they go by the name of Japa Mala Beads and are also known by many simply as prayer beads. Their history remounts since approximately 3,000 years ago and having their roots in yoga, Hinduism, and Buddhism they were initially used for a type of meditation known as Japa; a Sanskrit word standing for “to recite.” Just as its definition implies, japa meditation consists of quietly using mantras or a divine name as you focus on quieting the mind. Mala on the other hand, means “meditation garland;” implying the way this item stands as a symbol of one’s own spiritual intention, practice, journey, and destination.

Each mala consists of 108 beads in addition to one on the top called Sumeru, literally translating into “wonderful Mount Meru;” a sacred mountain in Hindu, Buddhism, and Jain cosmology that is considered as the center of all physical, metaphysical, and spiritual universes. The idea is to hold the beads in between your thumb and forefinger without touching them with your middle finger (as it is considered a sign of disrespect) progressively moving from one bead to another by using your thumb. As you switch from bead to bead you concentrate your mind not only in your fingers’ movement but also in reciting mantras in sets of 108 repetitions. Once you reach the 109th upper bead you can show gratitude to your guru, teacher, and/or important people in your life. In Hinduism, the number 108 has for long been a sacred and divine number and though its interpretation varies substantially, some say that the number 1 represents God, your highest self, or the universe; 0 symbolizes humility and emptiness with regards to the spiritual practice and 8 timelessness and infinity.

The use of japa mala beads is especially relevant when practicing Dharana and Dhyana, the sixth and seventh limbs of yoga that seek single pointed concentration for later developing an uninterrupted concentration next to stillness, quietness, and awareness.

Now a-days malas are being manufactured by various suppliers inside and outside India and Asia, usually using materials such as seeds, sandalwood, rosewood, or gemstones. It is recommended to choose the one you feel attracted to and identified with the most, as well as to wear it during your meditation practice and throughout the day. It is said that the japa malas absorb the energies of your practice and thus mirrors them back to you later in your day to day life.

Ten Short Yoga Quotes to Improve Your Practice

Sometimes other people say it best. They find a way to express a thought or a feeling in a way that makes perfect sense to you, or their words open a new line of thinking. Quotes can be beautiful, sad, or just philosophical. They can offer comfort when you are in need or express an emotion that you were barely aware of. Quotes can enhance every part of your life, including your yoga or meditation practice. Here are ten quotes to make you think about yoga, and life in a new and deeper way.

1. For those who are always looking for something, even when they are certain that they will never find it.

“I have been a seeker and I still am, but I stopped asking the books and the stars. I started listening to the teachings of my soul.” – Rumi

2. For those who are unhappy and don’t understand why.

“Through practice, I’ve come to see that the deepest source of my misery is not wanting things to be the way they are. Not wanting myself to be the way I am. Not wanting the world to be the way it is. Not wanting others to be the way they are. Whenever I’m suffering, I find this war with reality to be at the heart of the problem.” – Stephen Cope

3. For happy people and a happy world.

“Healthy plants and trees yield abundant flowers and fruits. Similarly, from a healthy person, smiles and happiness shine forth like the rays of the sun.” – B.K.S. Lyenger

4. Beautiful words from the master of peace.

“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” – Mahatma Gandhi

5. Words we all need to listen to and live by.

“Life is way too short to spend another day at war with yourself.” – Sandy Kalik

6. The point of yoga is never the pose, it is always the practice.

“The prize is in the process.” – Baron Baptiste

7. An idea that applies equally to life and yoga. Anything that is worth having requires that we work towards it.

“No one is wise by birth, for wisdom results from ones own efforts.” – T. Krishnamacharya

8. Encouragement for those times when we feel like we can’t do anything right.

“By our stumbling the world is perfected.” – Yogi Bhajan

9. A reminder that we can always control our reactions to situations that are out of our control.

“You cannot always control what goes on outside. But you can always control what goes on inside.” – Mr. Yoga

10. This is a reminder that not everything can be the way we want it to be, and we would be much happier if we would accept that.

“Change is not something that we should fear. Rather, it is something that we should welcome. For without change, nothing in this world would ever grow or blossom, and no one in this world would ever move forward to become the person they’re meant to be.”

These are some yoga quotes that can improve and enhance your life and your yoga practice. Use them the next time you need a bit of inspiration or support.

Yoga for New Moms

Congratulations! You’ve just had a baby, so enjoy every snuggle from that little bundle of joy. It’s probably a huge relief to finally be holding him or her after growing them for 9 months.  Even so, after all the changes your body went through during those 9 months of baby growing, you’re probably excited to get your body back to normal. We all know that this can take time, and your body needs time to heal. If you had a vaginal delivery you can probably start doing light exercises as soon as you feel up to it, but you’ll still want to confirm with your doctor. If you had a c-section, check with your doctor before doing any physical activity. Once you get the go-ahead, yoga is a fantastic way to ease yourself back into exercising and building up your strength again. It can even help with the healing process, so let’s look into some different poses that can help you postpartum.

Once you’ve received the go-ahead from your doctor and you want to start rebuilding your abdominal muscles, try doing a modified Navasana.

  1. Sit on your mat with your knees bent and your toes just resting on the mat. 
  2. Use your abs to support your back.
  3. Hold your hands out in front of you just next to either side of your knees and hold the pose for about 10 seconds. 

As you become stronger you can gradually start lifting your feet off the mat to add intensity to the workout.

All those hours of feeding and staring at your new baby can take its toll on your neck and shoulders. There are several poses to help with this. You can simply do ear to shoulder stretches to help alleviate the tension in your shoulders or you can utilize your mat and practice thread the needle pose

  1. To do thread the needle pose, simply start in a tabletop position and then walk your left arm forward as far as you can. 
  2. Once it’s in place thread your right arm underneath of it. 
  3. You can even rest your right cheek on your right shoulder and relax into the pose. 
  4. For both of these exercises make sure you do both sides equally!

Last, to help with your leg strength and pelvic floor give Triangle Pose a try!

  1. Stand with your feet about five feet apart and turn your right foot so that your heel aligns with the left foot. 
  2. Keep your hips facing forward and extend your arms out to shoulder height. 
  3. Once you’ve achieved this extend your torso over your right leg and place your right hand next to your right ankle. 
  4. Make sure your left hand and arm are extended toward the sky.

   

As with all yoga poses, make sure you repeat the exercise on the other side!

The mental benefits of yoga can also be extremely helpful during those first few weeks as a new mom. It’s a challenging time full of exciting but overwhelming experiences. The emphasis that yoga puts on simultaneously moving with a breath helps to calm the brain which can benefit both baby and mom! As much as you love your new baby, they still require a lot of patience. A consistent yoga practice can help instill more patience in a new mom so you can feel more relaxed when trying to figure out why your little one won’t stop crying!

Yoga is a fantastic way to safely rebuild your strength after giving birth. Be sure to always consult with your doctor first before beginning exercise. Yoga cannot only rebuild you physically but also help you mentally during those tough first weeks or months! Remember that it’s important to take care of your little one but you also need to take care of yourself as well!