Daily Dose of Yoga: February 21, 2012

Is Ashtanga Yoga the right choice for you?
 
Yoga has become more and more popular over the years as it has made its way into health and fitness centers across the world. Include the pantheon of dedicated yoga centers to the mix and you begin to see just what an integral aspect of society it has really become. One form of yoga that is a bit more athletic is called “Ashtanga Yoga”, sometimes written as “Astanga”. It has been and is still being offered in a variety of guises and forms today. If you have ever attended a “Power Yoga” class, it was likely to have essentially been an Ashtanga class.When we speak of Ashtanga, it is important to note that we are speaking of the style being taught and propagated by Sri K. Patthabi Jois of India, who is still likely teaching it today. The more traditional concept of Ashtanga is as a general path of yoga consisting of eight aspects. There has been some confusion between the two due to naming conventions, although one does essentially integrate the other. Regardless, if you are taking an Ashtanga or Power Yoga class then it is likely the type taught by Mr Jois. It has been popularized extensively over the years by various popular media personalities, including such icons as Madonna.

The reasons for its popularity are likely, in part, to its athleticism and flowing style. To do another less fluid style and then to do Ashtanga makes one wonder why all yoga practices aren’t structured as fluidly as Ashtanga is. It is truly graceful and efficient, which leads to a healthy and enjoyable practice. It can be athletically challenging, if not prepared, and it is likely advisable to take some introductory yoga classes prior to diving into a full series of Ashtanga. If, however, you are fairly physically fit then you may want to just go for it and get started with Ashtanga right away.

In either case, you should enjoy whichever class you start with and remember that the journey is the destination. There is no rush and there certainly should be no feeling of competition whatsoever. Due to the somewhat rigorous nature of this particular yoga style, athleticism and feelings of competitiveness have actually been issues that occasionally hinder or distract beginning students. This is obviously to be expected when studying such an ancient tradition in a fitness club setting. Regardless, students generally get beyond this and go much deeper into the practice reaping its true rewards which far surpass basic aerobics.

Once ready to begin Ashtanga, it is recommended that you pick up a “sticky mat”. This is a rubber mat that essentially enhances your ability to maintain various postures you will encounter in the class. In India the students of Mr. Jois actually use carpets, but this will likely be much less convenient and will likely be somewhat cumbersome.

Now that you have an introduction to the basics and a shiny new sticky mat, you are ready to jump in a most literal way into Ashtanga yoga training!

Daily Dose of Yoga: February 20, 2012

Understanding Chakras

Muladhara (The Root Chakra)

Appearing as a yellow, square lotus with four red petals,  Muladhara or Root Chakra is located at the base of your spinal cord. Muladhara is considered the ‘root’ or ‘foundation’ chakra, and is the transcendental basis of physical nature. It is also the seat of kundalini awakening, which begins its ascent here.  It is associated with the element of earth, and the sense of smell, and the action of excretion.

Daily Dose of Yoga: February 19, 2012

“Practicing yoga is like performing a beautiful dance”

Daily Dose of Yoga: February 18, 2012

At-Home Yoga Studio

While surfing the internet, I came across an interesting article via styleathome.com. It was a blueprint for creating your very own yoga space at home. It is great for the times you can’t make it to your local studio, or when you get that sudden urge to practice on the spot. Here are some tips from the article that can help you.

Ideally, your yoga space should have a hard floor, such as wood, rather than a carpet. This makes it easier to hold balance poses, and natural materials such as wood and stone create an earthbound connection that enhances the spiritual element of your practice. However, some practitioners feel carpeted floors are safer should you fall. Your yoga mat should be thick enough to provide cushioning and traction during your practice. Synthetic mats are less expensive than those made from natural materials.

Remove all clutter from your yoga space. Walls should be unadorned or hung with simple, uncomplicated artwork that sets a peaceful tone. Avoid wallpaper or strong colours, which can interfere with concentration. The addition of a large mirror will help you check your posture and can also assist in balance poses.

Lighting should be soft and calming. Natural sunlight is optimum, since it energizes you (especially in winter, when lack of sunlight affects both mood and health); but if the sun is too direct, consider soft sheers over the windows. At night, or if you don’t have a window in your practice space, use candles or soft incandescents. Avoid harsh, artificial fluorescent light.

The room should be comfortably warm. Unlike more vigorous workouts, yoga slows down your metabolism, making you vulnerable to drafts. (It’s hard to relax into postures when you’re shivering.) The practice of “hot yoga” adds to the physical benefits of the art by making you sweat and release toxins, but even a gentle yoga session should be done in a warm room.

If you use a CD or DVD player during your practice, make sure it’s positioned well away from your workout area. Along with yoga instructional media, look for CDs of natural sounds such as birdsong or Eastern-influenced music, to help centre your mind to the spiritual nature of your practice. Some practitioners enjoy low-key classical music, since it helps focus the brain, while others find it distracting. But avoid pop or other upbeat music, which is too energetic.

Try to place your yoga space out of the mainstream of family life. It should be a refuge, not a small island in a sea of chaos. If you can’t dedicate a whole room to your workout, at least try to block it off with a beautiful screen. Eventually, you will find that your mind will automatically start to relax as soon as you enter the space.

Daily Dose of Yoga: February 17, 2012

Star Wars Yoga

Namaste, and may the force be with you as you practice these poses young jedi.

Daily Dose of Yoga: February 16, 2012

Objective Music – Sound for Enlightenment

Twitter is a very interesting meeting place. For those of you who are active on twitter know this. During the daily greetings and meetings I was followed by @objectivemusic. I tend to look into those who follow me and see if there is a commmon interest. I noticed that Sanjiva (@objectivemusic) was actually music for meditation and yoga. I gave it a listen and have been hooked ever since.  Here is a little more info about Sanjiva and also some of his music.

Born in Québec in the late fifties, Sanjiva began his musical journey at the age of six. First studying flute, piano and guitar. In high school, he was blessed with the possibility to play on the pipe organ in the little church located within the school.

Every day, he spent the lunch hour, playing, exploring with this huge wind instrument. the church natural reverberation and the power of the sound creates amazing patterns and he could feel the strong effect of the music and the richness of the interplay of harmonics. He realized how music, specially when using harmonic  sequences, had an effect on the mind, helping reach a state of inner silence. He understood how music and meditation were closely related.

At that time he also came in contact with Indian music, specially the sitar. This was the beginning of a new way to explore the resonance of sound on the body. The sitar also gave him the possibility to play different moods, while staying in the same key. Harmonic and modality as he discovered, were different in terms of rhythms and melodies if he changed the tonal.

He soon started yoga class and raja yoga intensive retreat. There he found understanding and guidance. Practicing yoga, he started to understand the complexity of the human body. with raja yoga, he went deep into the emotional, the mental and psychic reality. He had also the opportunity to play music with meditators and create spaces with music and silence.

Since 2002, he has been in retreat, mainly focussing on meditation, meditation music, deepening the Kyotaku, and playing mostly Satsang, music and silence. He practices Tibetan Pulsing Healing. For music and more info click here.

Daily Dose of Yoga: February 15, 2012

Yoga & ADHD*

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a behavioral condition found in 5% of school-age children that is characterized by lack of attention, problems with impulse control, and difficulty in adherence to rules. Common behaviors include hyperactivity, difficulty following instructions, restlessness, impatience and low self-esteem. Although children with ADHD have normal intelligence, school performance is often poor.

Although the exact cause of ADHD is still unknown, several factors increase the risk including lead exposure and mother’s use of alcohol, tobacco or drugs during pregnancy. These factors are believed to influence brain development; specifically to alter the function in the part of the brain that controls impulse control and attention. It is also thought that deficiencies in certain vitamins may be a contributing factor as well.

A common treatment for ADHD includes stimulant drugs like Ritalin or amphetamines. Stimulant drugs work by increasing blood flow and boosting levels of dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine in the brain. However, up to one-third of children are not responsive to this treatment and the side effects are significant and include weight loss, insomnia and nervous tics. Not only that, psychiatric problems, sudden cardiac death and possible interference with normal brain development have been linked to long-term Ritalin use.

In children who cannot tolerate medications or when medication is ineffective, behavioral therapy has been suggested as a treatment alternative. Although behavioral therapy has shown some benefit in adult ADHD, most research has shown little or no effect in children.

Clearly, alternative treatments for ADHD are needed that are effective yet safe.

Yoga is a great alternative to medication. Yoga incorporates deep breathing exercises that enhance relaxation and improve self-control. These benefits spill over into the daily lives of children with ADHD and help them to improve self-esteem, do better in school and get along with others. Yoga also emphasizes maintenance of poses and relaxation. During yoga classes, teachers offer detailed and frequent instructions about muscle and joint awareness. Overall, yoga students will ultimately develop greater attention and ability to concentrate; qualities that are deficient in children with ADHD. Yoga also reduces depression, anxiety, anger and neurotic symptoms. This results in overall improvements in mental health and better behavior in social settings.

The beneficial effects of yoga are largely the result of the deep breathing patterns practiced in yoga. The rate and depth of breathing have distinct effects on heart rate and the autonomic nervous system. By practicing yoga on a regular basis, children with ADHD learn to control their responses in stressful social settings.

Numerous research studies support the use of regular yoga for kids with ADHD (Rojas 2005, Weber 2007). One study showed that yoga improves attention and behavior in school-age boys that were already stabilized on medication, compared to boys on medication only (Jensen 2004). Furthermore, the boys who practiced yoga more frequently had even better outcomes. Another study randomly selected children with ADHD to practice either yoga or traditional exercise (Haffner 2006). The children who performed yoga improved attention and had fewer ADHD symptoms versus the exercise group.

Overall, yoga can have similar effectiveness to medication and better effectiveness than behavioral therapy for the treatment of children with ADHD. Furthermore, there are no side effects whatsoever except for improved behavior, better school performance and higher self-esteem.

Coupled with the calming effects of yoga, it goes without saying that children should be offered a healthy diet abundant in fruits and vegetables offering beneficial plant based nutrients called phytonutrients. Sugary and junk foods should be kept to a minimum. On occasion, supplementation with vitamins may be in order. However the use of synthetic vitamins is contraindicated and natural alternatives such as additive free aloe vera juice should be explored.

All in all, yoga, proper foods with supplementation, monitoring by the family physician with plenty of hugs and positive reinforcement, should help to greatly improve the outcome of a child experiencing the symptoms of ADHD.

Contributed by:
Dr. Linda Kennedy MS SLP ND

 
*this post was taken from ABC-of-Yoga.com