How to perfect your yoga balance

Yoga_May25_ADespite being an athlete who sweats it out nearly every day, you still find yoga difficult to perform. If you’re an avid exerciser, you’ll most likely have tight and firm muscles, which is all fine. However, your muscular body is an obstacle in yoga, since it is less flexible and can give you a hard time balancing on some poses. That’s not to say you should abandon yoga completely – even the most experienced yogis have difficulty in balancing from time to time.

Let’s take a look at a few methods to perfect your balance and avoid toppling over every time you try for a balancing yoga pose.

Don’t lock your standing leg

Some yoga moves require you to balance on one leg while moving the rest of your body. It may seem like a good idea to get your base leg as straight as possible. But when you lock it straight, you’re no longer engaging your muscles – you’re putting bone on bone. The best way to increase balance is to put a tiny bend in your standing leg. Keep engaging your quadriceps, and this will help give you the power to stabilize your balance.

Breathe properly

Attempting a difficult yoga pose can be intense – so much so that it forces you to hold your breath. But breathing actually helps when it comes to balancing, since the quality of your breathing is so intimately related to the state of your nervous system and body. It releases physical tension and relaxes your mind, allowing you to stay calm and focus better when performing yoga poses. So make sure you keep a consistent breathing flow in and out of your nose.

Calm your mind

Yoga aims to unite the mind and body. In order for the balance to be there in a pose, you need to calm your mind. If your mind is distracted by what happened before class, or all the things you have planned for afterwards, it won’t be able to focus on balancing in the moment. Find a nice, quiet spot to meditate for a few minutes before your class in order to restore your mind’s focus. A determined mind gives you a better chance to ease into your yoga practice and maintain your body balance.

Take it slowly

All too often, people rush into poses and then get frustrated when they can’t maintain their balance and end up falling over. There are simple ways to fix this. You should start building balance from the foundation up by moving slowly and mindfully without rushing. Distribute your weight evenly to all your body parts. Spread your toes to give a wider, stronger balance. Whatever you do, don’t rush things! Whether you had too little to sleep or are dehydrated – all these factors add up. Don’t push yourself too hard – simply do your best and move on.

Looking to add yoga to your exercise program? Contact us today and our trainers will be more than happy to help guide you in the right direction.

Published with permission from FitnessAdvisory. Source.

How yoga can help you age gracefully

164_Yoga_AIt’s a fact of life. As your 30s dissolve into 40s and then evaporate into 50s, your body doesn’t function like it did when you were twenty. That’s why as a mature adult it’s important to place a higher emphasis on health and exercise so that your body stays in good condition. And with its low-impact nature, yoga may just be the perfect physical activity for the older generation. Here are some of the unique ways it can help mature adults everywhere.

Lower your stress levels

As you age, life’s big stresses are inevitable: parents pass away, kids grow up and leave home, friends fall out of touch. Feeling the stress of these changes is natural, and yoga can give you an effective way to deal with them. Just like meditation, yoga helps practitioners develop focus and mental calm. Because of this, you’ll be able to better put big changes in perspective and be less emotionally shaken by the waves and tumbles of life.

Additionally, yoga can do wonders for your body in terms of lowering the physical symptoms of stress. With regular practice, it can lower blood pressure, stimulate your immune system and regulate your heart rate.

Sharpen your mind

As you grow older, it’s important to find ways to keep your mind sharp. Yoga requires you to focus on both your breath and body postures. In a typical session, you need to listen carefully to your instructor to follow instructions and move your body correctly into the right position – all while paying attention to your breath. All of this mental activity helps your mind stay sharp, fresh and alert.

Build stronger bones

One way your body deteriorates when you age is through bone density. And if you’re inactive, the loss of bone density is even greater. The weight bearing postures of yoga help strengthen your bones. In fact, studies have even shown that yoga can prevent and slow bone density loss.

Of course, depending on your age and physical ability, it may not be wise to be doing an intense bikram yoga session five times a week. A gentle yoga practice works just as well to keep your bones strong and healthy.

Connect with others

It’s sad to say, but growing older usually also comes with fewer social connections. We live in a youth-centric culture, and unfortunately older adults don’t get the attention or respect that the younger generations garner. The result of this can often be loneliness. One way to prevent this and create new social connections is to get out of the house and join a class. With yoga, you’ll have the opportunity to meet other individuals while keeping your body in good shape. This can lead to new friends, connections and social opportunities.

Ready to give yoga a try? Have questions about our classes? Get in touch today to learn more.

Published with permission from FitnessAdvisory. Source.

Martial arts principles for better yoga

164_YogaWhen you unroll your yoga mat and lunge into warrior pose, do you ever feel like you’re just going through the motions? As your yoga practice develops from an exciting new venture and becomes a weekly routine, it’s not surprising that it can start to feel a bit stale after a while. That’s why it’s important to find ways to keep it fresh. One such way is to combine the principles of martial arts with your yoga practice.

If the idea of mixing martial arts principles with yoga startles you, note that the two practices share a number of similarities: they both encourage strength, flexibility, breath control, discipline and focus. So while it may sound unconventional to mix these ancient eastern practices, there are certainly ideas from martial arts that have the ability to rejuvenate and deepen your yoga practice. Here are three.

Embody your yoga practice fully

In martial arts, practitioners spend hours repeating the same bodily motions to perfect a single block, kick, or punch. Paying attention to not only what you are doing, but how you are doing it, is of the utmost importance because when facing an opponent, mistakes can hurt – literally.

Next time you practice yoga, pay attention to the “how” of your poses and transitions. Feel the stretch in your legs as you hold downward dog. Embrace the ache in your arms as you bend into scorpion pose. Most importantly, be mindful that it’s not about the end result, but the journey.

Remember that a fundamental principle of yoga is to pay attention to your breathing. This helps you stay present in your body, one breath at a time. Try to synchronize your breathing to your movements. This will help you embody your yoga practice fully and breathe new life into it.

Wear a blindfold

Martial arts practitioners sometimes use blindfolds to improve muscle memory and bodily awareness. Transferring this practice to yoga can have a similar benefit. Not only will you be more present in your body, but you’ll also improve coordination and balance.

To incorporate a blindfold into your yoga practice, start slowly. Use it for only one pose at first. As you become more comfortable, add another pose until you can go through an entire yoga session blindfolded.

Yield, instead of force

“Be like water,” Bruce Lee once said. What does water have to do with martial arts? Water never fights or forces no matter what obstacle it faces. It is always soft, always flexible and can dissolve even the hardest of substances in time.

For many martial arts styles, yielding is a fundamental principle. The idea is to use the energy of your opponent against him or her, using as little force as possible. How can this apply to yoga? Don’t force yourself into poses. Instead, listen to your body. Breathe into your poses, and allow your body to deepen and soften into them in its own time. With practice, you’ll be able to ease more fluidly into your poses – as naturally as water itself.

Want more ideas on how to rejuvenate your yoga practice? Call us today to talk with one of our seasoned yoga teachers.

Published with permission from FitnessAdvisory. Source.

Tips to practice yoga outside

Yoga_May4_AOne of the many beauties of yoga is that it can literally be done anywhere. Whether you’re living in the city or the suburbs, you can always join a yoga class at the local studio or practice alone at home. But in addition to these controlled environments, you can enjoy the benefits of yoga by taking it outdoors too. Not only is practicing outdoor yoga totally free, the power of nature also offers incredible revitalizing effects to both your body and mind. So if you’re planning to take up yoga in the open air, we advise you to apply these tips for an exceptional experience.

Watch the time and weather

It’s best to practice outdoor yoga before 10am or after 4pm to avoid direct exposure to the sun. And since some yoga poses like savasana require you to lay flat on your back and look upwards to the sky, the bright sun can be damaging to your eyes. You can minimize the impact of weather conditions by bringing along equipment that allows you to adjust yourself comfortably, whether it’s sunscreen to protect your skin, a towel to cover your eyes and wipe off sweat, or clips to keep your hair under control in a windswept environment.

Pick a nice location

What’s the point of going outside to practice yoga when you’re doing it on hard surfaces or in confined spaces? You have enough of that during indoor yoga classes. It’s time to opt for nature oriented surroundings, like a nice grassy spot under trees with full or partial shade. If you’re tired of the plain view of buildings, roads, and the playground, try finding somewhere with a natural view, even if it’s only a cluster of trees or a small backyard. After all, you’re trying to find a spot where you can feel most relaxed when doing yoga, so avoid any places where you can be distracted by people or loud noises.

Ditch the music

We’re accustomed to practicing yoga in a controlled environment, where music is floating in the air and we’re surrounded by other people. But if you’re selective about the location, you won’t be disturbed by passersby or other practitioners – therefore you should have no need to plug in your headphones to make you less connected with your surroundings. In the absence of music, you can appreciate more fully the sounds of nature around you. Rather than compiling a playlist, enjoy the sounds of nature – birds chirping, leaves fluttering, and the wind blowing will help ease you into your practice.

Lose the yoga mat

Take advantage of the ultimate natural outdoor yoga mat itself: grass. When you’re practicing yoga in a studio, you need to bring along a mat to prevent parts of your body from making contact with hardwood floors. Now you can leave your mat at home, since it bunches up and moves around a lot on uneven ground – a distraction in itself. The contact between grass or the earth and your bare feet awakens your senses and helps you to feel more connected with Mother Nature.
The only way to find out whether outdoor yoga works for you or not is to give it a try. You’ve been spending so much time within four walls that it makes sense to go outside every once in a while and embrace freedom through outdoor yoga.

Interested to see how you can diversify your yoga practices? Drop us a line today and we’ll be in touch with more advice.

Published with permission from FitnessAdvisory. Source.