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A Simple Practice to Stay Balanced During the Holiday Season

If you’ve been feeling anxious or imbalanced as holiday season gears up, you are not alone. While the holidays can be a beautiful time to connect with loved ones and celebrate, it’s not unusual to feel overwhelmed.


As you know, a regular yoga practice is a perfect antidote to holiday stress. In fact, the holiday season may be the most important time to continue yoga and meditation practices, especially when there are endless opportunities to indulge in sweets, cocktails, and social drama. That said, when life gets busy, showing up to the mat can be difficult. When routines and practices that ground us (aka yoga & mediation) fall to the wayside, it’s so easy to feel disconnected and lost in the chaos.


To help you stay balanced and healthy during this holiday season, we are offering a simple remedy for stress and anxiety: Right Breathing. Just to be clear, there’s a not a wrong way to breathe. Right Breathing is simply breathing with awareness, tuning into the body’s senses and paying attention to our breath. When we become aware of our breath, the miracle of breathing becomes illuminated and our state of mind shifts toward the present moment releasing stress and anxiety.


Breathing with awareness can help you stay afloat this holiday season.


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Breathing is a foundation for all yoga and mediation practices. While most of us are familiar with yoga asana practices, breathing is what makes the practice come alive.


The breath is the connection between the mind and the spirit.


Beyond the meditative quality of breathing practices, deep breathing helps to expand the lungs and generate energy- so you can not only cope with the holiday season but thrive!


Whether you have time to take three long deep breaths when you find yourself overwhelmed or you take the time to sit down and practice a longer pranayama, the most important thing is that you do what works for you. The simple yet profound act of returning your awareness to the breath throughout the day can help you stay connected with yourself among the joy, suffering, and chaos of the holiday season.


Need a gentle reminder? Check out the app Breathe: Calming Reminders for Mindful Breathing for programmed reminders to return to the breath during your day. Or tune into the Stop, Breathe & Think App for personalized mindfulness and meditation support.


Want to #GoDeeper?


Check out this Ted Talk: Breathe to Heal by Max Strom



*Content and featured image taken from FivePillarsYoga.com. To learn more about yoga and wellness, check out their Weekly Wisdom Blog.

The Six Directions of the Spine

Do you ever feel overwhelmed in yoga class by the sheer amount of postures to learn? Are you looking to master alignment to get the most out of your practice and prevent injury?

Discovering the six directions of the spine was the big “aha” moment of my yoga career. Before this revelation, I struggled to simplify the complex practice of yoga asana for myself and for my students (postures). Once I learned about the way we move the spine in yoga, everything began to fall into place. Moving through the six directions of the spine during warmup defines my vinyasa and therapeutic yoga teaching style. Whether we begin seated or in tabletop position, we explore the range of motion in our spine before exploring more traditional yoga postures.

You too can master your own yoga asana practice by understanding the six directions of the spine and standing mountain posture (tadasana). Every single posture fits into one of these six movements or tadasana.

  1. Front Extension (Also known as back bending)
  2. Tucking and Rounding
  3. Lateral Side Bending (Creating a C shape bringing right ear toward right hip)
  4. Lateral Side Bending (Creating a C shape bringing left ear toward left hip)
  5. Twisting to the right
  6. Twisting to the left
  7. Tadasana: The spine maintains its natural curvature

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Want to learn more? Check out this elaborated content taken from Five Pillars Yoga based in New York.

Direction 1 – Spinal Extension

aka arching the spine as in Cow Pose

This shape lengthens the spine, expands the chest, strengthens the lungs and facilitates deeper breathing.

From an emotional standpoint, this shape helps us “open our heart.” Best of all, this shape is the exact opposite of how most of us spend our days – hunched over a computer or slouched looking down at a phone.

The simplest version of Spinal Extension is just a seated arching stretch, and cow pose is also a gentle option for the morning. Poses such as cobra, upward-facing dog, bow pose, and wheel are more dynamic versions of this shape, typically called “backbends” but perhaps wisely reframed as “front extensions” going for length over bend.

 

Direction Two – Spinal Flexion

aka rounding the spine as in Cat Pose

This shape expands the backbody, stretching the back of the lungs increasing breath capacity, and tones the abdomen with an engaged core. On an emotional level, these shapes help us turn inward for reflection and calm. This shape can be done via the usual cat shape, or seated by rounding the spine forward. Deeper versions of this shape are seated forward bending like in pachimotanasana, standing forward bending in utanasana, or even balancing shapes like devotional warrior.

 

Directions 3 & 4 – Lateral Side bending

as seen in crescent arches

By bending up and over to the left and right, we lengthen our side bodies, improving rib cage mobility and again, create even more space for the lungs. These shapes lengthen the muscles between the ribs and pelvis, plus parts of the lower back. They also support the health of the lymph system. It’s easy for things to get “stuck” in life, and side body stretches clear out often-neglected nooks and crannies. These gentle C-shaped curves can be created from a seated position, or from table top by reaching “cheek to cheek” – reacing the cheek on your face towards the hips and the hips towards your face. Standing crescents poses are also a gentle lateral side bend, and more active variations include peaceful warrior and extended side angle pose.

 

Directions 5 & 6 – Twists

as experienced in seated or reclining twists to both sides

Twisting to the right and left completes the set of six directions, mitigating against fusing and limited-mobility of vertebrae. Twisting also hydrates the intervertebral disks and massages the organs within the abdomen supporting digestion. It also asks us to “look forward and look backward” which can help us find the middle ground of the present moment. You can be seated in a cross-legged position, or atop bend knees to twist side to side, thinking about lengthening on the inhale and gently twisting deeper on the exhale. Or opt for a reclining twist and let gravity do most of the work! From table top, threading the needle is a good option, and revolved triangle pose is a powerful standing variation.

*Elaborated content taken from fivepillarsyoga.com
*Article header image taken from http://blog.robertrandall.com
*Article image taken from soulfood.yoga

Ready to Experience the Joy of Being Alive?

Yoga can mean so many things to different people. At Alive, we define yoga as the union of mind, body, and spirit. The purpose of yoga? To reconnect people with the innate joy of being alive.

We practice breathing and coordinating our breath with movement so we can focus the mind and experience the bliss of the present moment, again and again.

What makes you come alive? Communing with nature? Your friends and family? Moving your body joyfully? Good food and lively humor? We would love to hear from you.