Want To Kick A Bad Habit? Try Yoga.

yogaaWhether it’s smoking, drinking or eating unhealthy foods, we all have bad habits we struggle to work through. There are many ways to attempt to eliminate such tendencies, but most of them don’t work. We can try to painstakingly hack away at the problem or deprive ourselves, but old behaviors are relentless – and they often come back to haunt us. To tackle those unhealthy habits for good, try a more holistic approach: yoga. Here’s why it works:

1. It cultivates self-awareness.
Most bad habits are so deeply rooted that they become your default response. When you go to reach for that candy bar or cigarette, for instance, you don’t think about it, you simply react to your craving. You need to force yourself to slow down and notice your compulsive behavior – that’s the first step to eliminating it. And, that’s where yoga comes in.

Perhaps the greatest teaching in yoga is to pause and make thoughtful decisions instead of mindlessly going with your knee-jerk reaction. When you practice, you deepen your breath and sync your movements with it. To do that, you must pay attention to how you are feeling and how your decisions affect your body and attitude. Your connection to your breath tells you if you are pushing too far or moving too quickly. You want to maintain full, deep inhalations and exhalations throughout your practice. When you’re gasping for air, you’re no longer in control. In that case, you need to stop until you can reestablish control over your breath and maintain a calm state of mind. Eventually, you’ll be skilled at stopping yourself to process your thoughts before you act – both on and off the mat.

2. It requires commitment.

If you have tried to deprive yourself of something you enjoy, like carbohydrate-rich foods, you know you will most likely give in and cheat once in a while. This happens to all of us, and it’s OK as long as it doesn’t happen consistently. What matters is that you are making progress and you stick with your plan.
When you practice yoga, the poses challenge you to balance – sometimes on one leg. You are going to fall repeatedly. But more important than accomplishing the pose is the commitment to getting back in it and trying again. This cycle of attempting a pose, falling and then recommitting to it teaches you not to get discouraged and to stay with it until you reach your goal. Consistent effort over a long period of time adds up to incredible progress in all areas of your life.

3. It gives you perspective.

In a culture obsessed with instant gratification, yoga gives you a broader outlook on what you really want for sustained happiness. There is an underlying philosophy in yoga that helps you become honest with yourself. This attitude helps you realize there is something greater you are working toward, and to savor every step of the way. It demands that you look beyond physical accomplishments and recognize that anything worth doing takes time.
In yoga poses, you strive to advance toward more challenging variations. As a beginner, you are given clear, physical landmarks to know when you are ready to move onto the next stage of the pose safely. Yoga provides a light-hearted and playful atmosphere while working toward a goal pose.

Take the time to acknowledge your progress and don’t be too tough on yourself. When you recognize what you are capable of, it motivates you to advance. This feeling empowers you to make strides toward meaningful changes off the mat.

4. It provides a supportive and healthy community.
Nothing is more disheartening than finally taking the first steps to change your bad habits – only to be discouraged by your peers. Yoga brings together like-minded people who willingly choose to do something healthy for themselves every time they step on their mats. If you surround yourself with supportive people who are positive and want you to succeed, you feel stronger and more capable to take on obstacles. Knowing there is a whole community you don’t want to let down also encourages you to keep moving forward.

5. It holds you accountable to your goals.

While most of the time we practice in groups, yoga is a very personal experience. You are asked to be honest with yourself and notice your alignment in poses before advancing. It demands that you check in and never push into pain just to keep up with those around you. This outlook takes some time to cultivate and is humbling, but it’s crucial to hold yourself accountable to your body and ego. After a couple weeks, you will start to notice that this attitude translates to your life off the mat, and you’ll become more sensitive to what you say and do. You’ll develop a new appreciation for yourself and the effect you have on others.

6. It offers role models and coaches.

Everyone needs a teacher or a coach who has faced similar obstacles and can guide you along your path. Seek out teachers whose classes you enjoy the most and with whom you connect. Most teachers love to answer questions. If you feel stuck on a certain pose or otherwise, ask the teacher before or after class for advice. Remember: Your teachers are people, too. They might not have all the answers for you, but they are great resources to help you move past any difficulties that arise. This relationship is invaluable and the right teacher could evolve your yoga practice into a complete wellness lifestyle.

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5 Stress-Busting Yoga Poses You Can Do At Your Desk

12345It’s hard to get away from work. It follows us everywhere. Forty-plus work weeks are the new normal. Most of us eat lunch at our desks, increasing the number of hours we put in day to day.
Working so much, it’s normal that most of us experience that mid-afternoon slump when our blood sugar drops and a nap would come in handy. Too many of us head to the vending machine or to Starbucks, when a little yoga would instead stave off those sugary cravings and boost energy levels.

Karen’s Yin Yoga

smallWhat is yin yoga?
Yin yoga is a slow-paced, meditative style of yoga, we hold each asana (pose) for a period of time, usually around 3-5 minutes. In our yin practice we are focusing on our joints, applying moderate stress to the tendons, fascia and ligaments of the joint with the aim of increasing circulation and improving flexibility. A yin class can bring a lovely balance to a (usually yang) yoga practice, giving you time to slow down; softening, yielding and accepting yourself just as you are. The classes can still be quite challenging though, as holding a pose for a long time takes both mental and physical commitment.

What are the benefits?
We work mainly with the joints, the connective tissues of the hips, pelvis and lower spine. Yin aims to keep these joints flexible and juicy! There is also the meditative benefit, we try to come to a complete stillness in each pose; body, mind and breath all quietening and slowing down.

Who is it suitable for?
Yin is suitable for everyone, especially for those who are maybe more ‘yang’ in nature, if you find yourself busy and stressed then a yin class might help provide some much needed balance.
karen lotus pose small picture sizeIs there any preparation needed?

Just wear comfortable clothes, as you would for any other yoga class. As we don’t move much, it could be good to have a warm top to keep cosy and it’s okay to keep socks on too. We use lots of props in yin, but these are all provided by the studio.

I look forward to seeing you in class one Sunday 🙂

Is Yoga Enough to Keep You Fit?

rubstr-bikram-yogaWe sent three yogis to the lab to test the theory that yoga is all you need for optimal fitness.
When it came to the fitness benefits, yoga can or can’t provide, yoga teacher John Schumacher had heard it all. A student of B. K. S. Iyengar for 20 years and founder of the Unity Woods studios in the Washington, D.C. area, Schumacher was convinced yoga provides a complete

New Study Shows Yoga Has Healing Powers

246 hp 101 2The more we learn about yoga, the more we realize the benefits aren’t all in the minds of the 20 million or so devotees in the U.S. Yoga helps people to relax, making the heart rate go down, which is great for those with high blood pressure. The poses help increase flexibility and strength, bringing relief to back pain sufferers.

10 Reasons to Practice Restorative Yoga

Sometimes you’ve just got to slow everything right down.ch2-0
When your life is racing full-speed ahead, so is your mind. Restorative yoga helps provide that physical and mental balance to prevent stress and anxiety, through the use of props that allow you to hold poses longer, giving you all the benefits of deep, passive stretching.
Poses like Child’s Pose, Legs-Up-the-Wall, and Savasana must be held for at least a few minutes, and you can stay in place for up to 15 minutes using bolsters, pillows, straps, blocks, etc. to support your body in a full, long, and comfortable stretch.
Here are the top reasons to spend a little extra time opening up and breathing in the benefits of this nourishing yoga practice.

1. Benefit from Full and Deep Stretches
Think you have to “work” to give your body benefit? Active practice is fabulous, but there’s only so long that you can stay in an intense backbend without feeling the burn. Long, supported poses help your body to fully engage, soften, and allow the precise positioning to work its magic.

2. Enhance Flexibility
All forms of yoga help make you bendier, but regular use of restorative poses leads you more quickly to this nirvana.
However, Restorative yoga is not a stretching class and there is no end goal involved, like being able to touch your toes after 10 sessions. You are exploring what happens when you release the tension your body habitually holds.

3. Find out Where You Hold Your Stress
Restorative poses give you the opportunity to notice where you hold this tension—kind of like a dye that sticks to the parts of you that are bound-up and dense. Once you come to this realization, you can make small changes in your everyday life to reduce the stress and tension you allow to build up in your body.
4. Trim Fat and Lose Weight
A 2013 study from the University of California, San Diego showed that restorative yoga helps overweight women trim fat. The study compared restorative yoga with a more active stretching regime over 48 weeks, and found that women practicing yoga lost more subcutaneous fat.
The yogis also lost more weight than the stretchers. One explanation may be that restorative yoga reduces cortisol levels—of which high levels are linked to increased abdominal fat.
5. Boost Your Immune System
A regular restorative yoga practice helps to improve your immune system and makes you less of a victim in the face of all those cold and flu viruses flying around.
6. Balance Your Nervous System
Use a restorative practice to engage your nervous system and take your body into a state that allows for renewal and rejuvenation. Benefits include optimizing energy flow to the organs, tissue renewal, and reduced “fight or flight” response.
7. Quiet Your Mind
Restorative yoga can be a calming hug for your overstimulated mind. Beware, though—it may look like the yogi is taking a nap, but once you get into them, you realize how challenging they can be. Be patient; just because your body is resting doesn’t mean your mind will automatically grow silent.
Over time, you will learn how to drop into a place of stillness and be content peacefully basking in the present moment.
8. Recover from Illness
We all need rest, whether or not you’re recovering from muscle strain, a broken bone, a bad bout of flu, or a chronic illness. Just because you’re not practicing more “active” asanas doesn’t mean you can’t benefit from yoga’s healing powers.
Restorative yoga allows you to practice when your energy is low and your body is building strength.
9. Heal Emotional Pain
Just as you need to build physical strength after illness, you need to heal emotional injuries. Restorative poses offer soothing care for when you are processing the loss of a loved one or a relationship, coming to terms with a change in your life, or dealing with depression or anxiety.
10. Segue to a Meditation Practice
If you want to benefit from meditation and you’re not sure how to start or how to continue, Restorative yoga provides a bridge between familiar poses and, to many, the unfamiliar and often intimidating practice of meditation.

You may feel vulnerable, emotional or anxious when practicing Restorative yoga—this is all part of the powerful process where you create space and let go. Wearing an eye mask, wrapping yourself in a blanket, or keeping your feet up on the wall can help ground and calm you.

Some poses help your heart, some assist your lungs. Others benefit the entire body. All are nourishing and life-enhancing when practiced regularly.

If you want to learn more: 10 Reasons to Practice Restorative Yoga

A Beginner’s Guide to the History of Yoga

Sanskrit, the Indo-European language of the Vedas, India’s ancient religious texts, gave birth to both the literature and the technique of yoga. One definition of the word Sanskrit, “well-formed, refined, perfect or polished,” connotes substance and clarity, qualities exemplified in the practice of yoga.

The Sanskrit word yoga has several translations and can be interpreted in many ways. It comes from the root yug and originally meant “to hitch up,” as in attaching horses to a vehicle. Another definition was “to put to active and purposeful use.” Still other translations are “yoke, join, or concentrate.” Essentially, yoga has come to describe a means of uniting, or a method of discipline. A male who practices this discipline is called a yogi or yogin; a female practitioner, a yogini.