Improve Bone Health with Yoga

 

How tall are you? When was the last time you had your height measured? Many people believe themselves to be taller than they really are. In a French study, researchers measured 8,610 women over 60 and found that they overestimated their height by an inch, on average, and had lost about 2 inches from their tallest recalled height. Is it wishful thinking? Woefully, it is not.  It is a sign of aging. So, how much height can you expect to lose?  Based on research from the Baltimore Longi­tudinal Study of Aging, women lose 2 inches between ages 30 and 70, while men lose more than 1 inch by age 70.

Why Do We Shrink as We Age?

Shrinking is normal for those who’ve had the  good fortune to live a long life. People typically lose about half an inch each decade starting at age 40, according to Harvard Medical School.   As we age, the gel-like discs between the spinal vertebrae dehydrate and thin out, compressing the spine. The spine can also become more curved.  Weak abdominal muscles can add to a more stooped posture. Osteoporosis (low bone mass and loss of bone tissue that can lead to weak and fragile bone) and flattening arches can also add to loss of height.

How to Slow Shrinkage as We Age.

It is important to know that your bones are living tissue. While bone loss is part of aging, there are things you can do.  Genetics and the bone density you built in the past do play a large role.  But you can slow shrinkage by taking the following steps.

  1. Start with feeding your bones. Consuming enough calcium and vitamin D can help keep your bones strong.
  2. Quit your vices! Nix that smoking habit. It damages your bones by lowering the estrogen levels in men and women, making calcium absorption more difficult.
  3. Start or continue weight-bearing exercise, such as yoga.  Studies have shown that adults who exercise after the age of 40, lose half as much height as those who never exercise or stopped working out.

What Can Yoga Do For Me?

Yoga is a great way to strengthen your bones without putting too much pressure on your joints.  According to Wolfe’s law, bones grow along lines of stress. When we practice yoga, the yoga postures apply weight upon our body. It then send signals to your brain to strengthen your bones and promotes new bone mineral density.  Encouragingly, yoga has been proven to improve bone mineral density according to a study by Loren Fishman. Yoga can also help with balance and coordination, which help lessen the risk of falls.

Standing Tall with Yoga

Yoga is used by millions of people. Not only will yoga help reduce stress, improve health, enhance athletic ability, recover from illness and/or injury. But now it has been discovered that yoga can help maintain and even build mineral density in our bones.  Yoga is a great exercise for everyone. Regardless if you are concerned about the natural process of aging or not, yoga can simply improve the enjoyment of your daily life.

Tiffany is a certified Yoga Instructor with Yoga Alliance.  She is currently a Yoga Therapist in-training.  She can be found teaching therapeutic yoga classes at the Center for Relaxation & Renewal.

 

Raja Dhiraja Yoga, the classical Yoga to enhance your life.

“What is Raja Dhiraja Yoga?”

As a yoga teacher, I frequently hear the same questions; “what is Raja Dhiraja Yoga? Why would practicing this style benefit me?”.  Raja Dhiraja Yoga, or Raja Yoga is called “Royal” yoga. In Sanskrit, raja means king or one who has achieved self-mastery.  Raja yoga is a yogic lifestyle, more than just a “type” of yoga. Raja yoga is the most scientific, and complete form of yoga.  It is based on the 8 limbs of yoga.  Raja yoga has an emphasis on proper breathing, (pranayama) and a continuous flow and proper form in asana. Raja yoga is more than just breathing and asana. It is also a path to enhance and enrich our lives.   Learn more of the history of Raja Dhiraja yoga here.

Raja yoga is also referred to as the “yoga of the mind” because of its strong emphasis on meditation and benefits. A practice of meditation improves focus and calms the mind as well as an improvement in the general feeling of well-being.

“Raja Yoga is a science, art and a path in life to enhance, enrich and strengthen our spiritual focus.”

-Walter Baptiste

 What can I expect from a Raja Dhiraja Yoga class?

When you come to a Raja Yoga class, leave all expectations and self-doubt at the door. Walk in, and fully commit to the possibility of inner illumination. Raja Yoga’s authentic and inclusive nature gives you the freedom to be truly you.

A typical class will start with  pranayama, the exercise of controlling your breath. This practice helps to move vital life energy, or prana throughout our body. After pranayama, we will have a guided meditation to help ground you into your body, and increase your body awareness.  This short meditation helps you to focus on the reason why you came to class…You! After the beginning meditation, we will then perform series of traditional asanas, or postures  to improve muscle tone, strength, and flexibility.  Finally, we will end the class with a guided meditation and a deeply relaxing savasana. You will emerge from the class recharged, with a sense of well-being, calmness and positivity.

I encourage you to come to Raja Yoga. Give it six classes and see how remarkable you can feel, not only in your body, but also your mind.

Blue Cat Yoga holds Raja Yoga classes Monday-Friday at 9 AM, and on Tuesdays at 3:30, and 7 pm, (starting Aug.1st). Blue Cat Yoga can be found in the Waves Float Center  211 DeMers Ave., (located inside the River Cinema Mall) in East Grand Forks, MN. Please check the services tab to contact Tiffany if you have any questions. All are welcome!

Using Dharana to Cultivate a Healthy Mind

 

Dharana can be described as exercising intellectual control over your mind and emotions.  Swami Vivekanada said the mind was like “a drunken monkey”.  When we begin to meditate, and lose our focus, dharana is your reset. It is when you regain attention and your concentration. We employ dharana when trying to calm our mind from sensory impressions, and to prepare our mind for meditation or to focus on one object or idea. When you go through major setbacks in life,  how can you use dharana to heal and help you get back on track? How can you feel in control at all when you are riding the wave of life at a frantic pace? How do you find your center when you are hit with one obliterating wave after another?  How can we cultivate dharana to improve our meditation and our health?

March Came in Like a Lion

We lost the matriarch of our family on March 1st. Caring for a loved one through their final journey can be a humbling experience, one that can be emotionally overwhelming at times. Imagine the journey to death as a climb up a mountain, when your loved one reaches the summit, their transition occurs, and they ascend to merge with the Divine.  We wanted this journey to be as comforting as possible, so we called upon the guidance of Hospice to assist. These Earth angels were as skilled as any sherpa, helping us traverse the ascent, assisting with any pitfalls of discomfort along the way. Our loved one reached the peak of her journey and left her Earth bound body with a serene peacefulness.  As I began the descent down the mountain, I felt on autopilot. I was so numb, both physically and emotionally. My feet were moving down the mountain with a momentum that was not my own. I was riding an avalanche, my feet not able to connect with the ground. The flurry of arrangements and planning rolled me down that mountain, until one day the frantic pace slowed to a stop. The whirlwind of activity had ceased. I was off the mountain, but I was helplessly sliding in a valley of grief. I had been pushing down emotions and feelings.  I had unknowingly been sinking down in despair, as if it was quicksand, rendering me unable to move, my feet stuck in the mud. Unable to shift my focus onto myself, and acknowledge my emotions, I continued to sink deeper. Each personal want and desire felt guilty, and I was feeling powerless to move, crippled by inactivity and disconnectedness.  Until quite literally, everything came crashing down.

 

It was a day that started with an ominous feeling. One, where you just can’t shake the feeling that something was off, but you were powerless to stop it.  My husband and I were feeling emotionally run down. Drained from the enormity of losing our loved one, we were looking forward to a little escape to a hockey game. We thought we were so fortunate to have rink-side seats! Shaking off the ill-feeling, we settled in to enjoy the game.

Suddenly a player was checked into the glass in front of us. The collision of the two players caused an explosion of glass that showered down on us. We were stunned. It was a surreal moment of time. We sat there thinking, did that really just happen?! Noticing my husband was bleeding, my focus was instantly on him. Jagged glass pierced across my boot, but I was so out of touch with my own body, that I didn’t even realize that I was hurt. See it all go down here. https://youtu.be/3yLsVDXbF8g

 Goes Out Like a Lamb

After weeks of feeling stuck in grief, I find it ironic that  a foot injury had propelled me to regain my control.  I was moving forward with  my own momentum and healing, which I found through dharana.  I found myself back on my mat, focusing on my breath, repeating my mantra with the slow inhalations and exhalations again and again. Tuning in and bringing my attention to my body, being aware of the tension in the muscle. Finding the point of resistance and breathing through the defiance. Through my yoga practice, I  allowed myself to be vulnerable,  acknowledging my feelings of grief .  Using dharana, or focus to pinpoint my physical and emotional pain, I could finally identify and  release my pain and feel a sense of relief.

Grounding Yourself

Finding motivation to get back on your mat, or even starting a yoga practice can be daunting, especially when life seems overwhelming.  If you are having trouble working through your emotional or physical pain, seek a qualified yoga instructor or yoga therapist. Here is sage advise from my own acharya, Ganga Devi to help you to beat resistence and get back onto your yogic path. http://us7.campaign-archive1.com/?u=2f281c8effabeb1ef0c2c1977&id=607594d1c6&e=54a0fa8d85

As you find yourself tossed in the waves of the ups and downs of life, let your mat be your beacon of light, your life preserver. Your vessel to bring you calmly back to shore.

 

You have taken this physical body only to achieve concentration and through concentration to realise the Self.

Swami Sivananda

Incorporate the Power of Ahimsa through Yoga and Meditation

Ancient Hindi Hamsa

What is ahimsa, and how does it relate to power? How can we practice this ancient ethical code in our modern day and improve our lives? To answer this, we first need to step back and discover what ahimsa is.

What is Ahimsa?

In Sanskrit, himsa means harm. Adding the letter “a” before the word means the prefix “non.” Ahimsa means non-violence or non-harming to ourselves and all living things. Ahimsa is one of the yamas, or ethical codes according to Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. The yamas are the first of Patanjali’s eight limbs of yoga. The yamas can be thought of as a standard of how we should conduct ourselves, or self-restraint. Ahimsa is the first of the five yamas.

Ahimsa can be regarded as a very strict code of absolute resolve for non-violence. You can shoo a spider out of your home, rather than squishing it. In more extreme cases,  you can remain in the dark at night in order to protect insects that might fly into the light. You can choose to change your diet and not eat animal protein.  But don’t worry, I’m not going to tell anyone to restrict their diet. I want to make people aware of the power that negative thoughts/feelings have on their body, and how to regain control through Ahimsa.

How do We Loose Power by Not Practicing Ahimsa?

Violence can disguise itself in many negative emotions, it does not always need to be physical. Everyone holds some kind of pain inside themselves, it’s human nature. Think of negative thoughts as subtle acts of violence against yourself. Allowing those negative thoughts to repeat or multiply gives away your power to whatever it was that disturbed you. When you focus on negative influences it clouds your judgement, and creates a negative reaction, either by thought, word or deed. This can create a toxic environment within us. Stress from negative thoughts send messages to the body that trigger fight or flight response. This fight or flight response causes the adrenal glands to secrete the stress hormone, cortisol which in turn can lower your immune system, making you more susceptible to pain and sickness. Take control. Learn to experience negative feelings without reacting negatively to them.

You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection. Lord Buddah

Incorporating the Power of Ahimsa into your Life

  • Use yoga to access your own pain by allowing yourself to be open and free to confront your own inner darkness without judgement. Yoga can help you to transform negative emotions and tendencies and release it. The more frequently you practice yoga, the greater the benefit you will have to your emotional well-being. Through yoga you can find the source of the negative aspect,  and bring awareness to it. Observe it, and decide that it will no longer serve you, and let it go. Yoga can bring a feeling of calm and peace that will resonate within your being.
  • Meditate. Consciously meditate on gratitude, the highest energy frequency in our body. Be grateful for the experience that the negative emotion/thought gave you as a lesson, and learn from it. Decide it will no longer affect you and replace the negative emotion with forgiveness and gratitude. Find grace without force.
  • Be aware. Notice when ill-feelings arise in your body. Feel the how your body is responding, whether you furrow your brow, stiffen your shoulders, or grit your teeth.  Sit with the feeling for a while and fully experience it without reaction. Is your heart beating faster? Is your breath more shallow? Recognize the signals your body is giving you when you are experiencing negative emotion.
  • Look for compassion. Accept things for the way they are. Let go of negative emotion, and replace them with loving thoughts. Positive emotion and thoughts create dopamine, a chemical released by the neurons that makes you feel good and relaxed.

Find Strength in Peace

Ahimsa is universal love. Ahimsa is forgiveness, whether it is forgiving yourself or others. Mend what needs healing, and bring about the peace that you need to find tranquility. Ahimsa is Sakti or power. Never let it be wasted on negative energy.  Most of all, Ahimsa is true strength, and journey is inside of you.

Ahimsa is an attribute of the brave. Cowardice and ahimsa don’t go together any more than water and fire.

M.K. Gandhi

 

 

 

 

 

 

How Does a Yogi Thrive in the Kali Age?

Greed, chaos, separation by labels, it’s as though the  United States is more divided than ever. According to the ancient Laws of Manu, there are four yugas or life cycles. For more information on the Four Yugas, click here. It makes sense that we are in the age of Kali, the age of darkness and ignorance. With all of the turmoil of Kali, how can a yogi thrive? The following is a guide to help you to regulate the noise of Kali, and find calm, both on and off the mat.

1.  Improve your Yoga practice

Listen to your body, or find a teacher that can help you. Where are you feeling pain, soreness, and/or irritation? Now move to your mat, and take action to find release. Mend your neglected body. Find time for your practice. Really breathe into your postures, or asanas. Move through your asanas with feeling and intention.  Your body and mind will reap the rewards.

2. Meditate

Choose to tune out and tune in.  Our society runs on such a frantic pace. Learn to be still. Start simply by sitting in meditation for 5 minutes a day. Are those Facebook posts/comments driving you crazy? Is someone just driving you nuts? Let it go! Focus your attention on something positive.  Find beauty in real life.

3. Release judgement of yourself and others

You are your own worst critic, and it’s time to absolve that role. Likewise, release the need of approval. Be aware of the separation that you see between yourself and others. How can you shift your view of separation to one of inclusion?

A quote and picture of Wayne Dyer

4. Purify Yourself

What are you putting in your body? How are you treating yourself? What are your eating/drinking habits? Even making small changes can have significant impact on your health. Start to eat less processed foods, reduce the drive-through trips, choose a cup of tea instead of coffee.  Take time for self-care. Take a long soak, get a massage, take a walk in nature. Honor your body as a temple and nourish it accordingly.

5. Find Satsang

Find “good company.” Be with others that bring out the best in you, those who don’t drain you. Search out people who are of like mind and are a joy to be around. Find supportive people who spark your creativity, and inspire you.

6. Defy the Kali Age

Think of a thousand petaled lotus. As you release old habits, thoughts and patterns, it’s as if you are letting old petals wither and drop, becoming closer to your core, to discovering your true self. Even though we are living in the age of Kali, it does not need to be the age of your individual cycle. Join the movement to awaken and rise. Shed selfishness and fear. Find your way out of the muck of the Kali age. Even though a lotus is rooted in mud, it can still rise to the surface in beauty.  

 

A Yogini’s Guide to Increase Yoga Practice Benefits.

You’ve made up your mind to practice yoga, but how can you increase the  benefits from each yoga session? To help guide you along, I’ve created this post for you to increase yoga practice benefits.

Preparation

The best time to practice yoga is in the morning on an empty stomach, and before your evening meal. Practicing on a full stomach could lead to stomach aches, nausea, and flatulence. If you are a beginner, you can have a glass of juice or a piece of fruit an hour before class. You don’t want to spend your class thinking how hungry you are!

Intention

Start your yoga session with an intention. You can think of intentions as a vehicle to help connect your practice on the mat to behaviors outside of the class. Intentions help to raise your positive vibration and increase perspective.  Yoga is not just an exercise, it is also a mindset.

Execution

Audibly breathe in and out of your nose. Your breath is vital to your yoga practice. Focusing on your breath will help connect you to your body. Sure, you think you might sound like Darth Vader, but how we breathe is vital to the benefits of yoga. Breathe into the postures. Listen to your body, and feel the pose. What muscles are you working? Where are you feeling resistance within? Breathe into the pose, each time going a little deeper into the posture, listening to your body to find the point of resistance.

Release competition. Quit comparing yourself to others and what their poses look like. Each yoga session is your time to appreciate your body and thank it for what you can do. Resonate gratitude for your body and you will thrive.

Post Workout

After your session, wait 30 minutes before you eat or drink. Eating and drinking too soon after the class disrupts the prana, (energy) in your body.  Remain in the stillness as long as you can, keeping conversations to a minimum for 30 minutes after class. Relax. Revel in the centered calm in your body, enjoy your yoga bliss!

 

Ashram Living Guide

The ashram at Ropa village.
The ashram at Ropa village.

Tips for Survival

  1. Earplugs – No one tells you about the wild pack of dogs that like to rumble  right under your window at night.
  2. Sleep Aids – Chances are your earplugs won’t block out all of the sweet dog serenades. You’ll want something strong.
  3. Toilet Paper – Take as many rolls as you can. Seriously, fill that suitcase. You could sell any extras to your mates in the ashram. Unless you are going full traditional, and in that case, bring plenty of hand-sanitizer.
  4. Good drinking bottles – Forget anything with a straw or small opening. You want wide, easy to clean bottles. I had a squeeze sports bottle with a dispenser tip. Gut-busting amoebas like to live in those nice damp dispenser tips. You’re welcome.
  5. Buckets – If there are buckets in your bathroom, keep them full of water. You’ll appreciate it if/when the water goes out.
  6. Underwear for every day. Washing clothes in a bucket will stretch your clothes out. I’m not a fan of the granny panties to your knees look.
  7. Your sense of HUMOR.  Your ashram will be full of people, you might occasionally loose power or water,  you have ashram chores, an intense homework load that might push you to the break of madness, but amid the chaos and hurricane of emotions, there is a serene stillness. A powerful and peaceful center within you. You feel balanced and like a compass, you find your true north.