Listen to Your Body

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By Stuart Bishop, MS, RYT

As autumn approaches and the new school year begins, germs are living their best life.  It’s time to really start taking care of yourself. That means paying attention to your body and giving it the love it deserves. So, here are a few tips to help keep you healthy during these infectious times…

Check in with your body. It doesn’t take much time at all and it is well worth the practice. In fact, you can do this before you even get out of bed in the morning! Whether you are lying down or sitting up, close your eyes and scan your body. As you breathe gently in and out through your nose, start with the top of your head and make your way down to your fingertips and toes – just noticing how you feel. Are certain parts of your body sore or tense? How is your breathing? If you just woke up and your mind is already racing with your list of to-dos, then you need this time more than anyone. 


So often we feel compelled to do the most and don’t allow ourselves the time that our body needs to rest and regenerate properly. In order for your immune system to stay strong and protect you from bacteria and viruses that are out to get you it is crucial to give yourself some downtime and pay attention to what is going on inside of you in order to not over exert those parts of you that may have already lowered their shields. Building your awareness of those parts allows you to be more mindful throughout your day and protect them.  This is a practice you should work into your routine a few times each day. 

Drink more water. Instead of grabbing that cup of coffee on your way to work to wake yourself up, have a glass of water first. This helps to flush your system of the toxins that were sitting in your body overnight while you were sleeping. In fact, you may find that you feel more awake after a glass of water in the morning than you do from your caffeine fix. If you don’t – then grab that cup of coffee afterward! Staying hydrated is key to staying healthy.

Schedule a massage. If you can’t afford a massage or don’t have the time to get one with your busy schedule, then you can give one to yourself! You can do this by running the heel of your hand (or a tennis ball) along various parts of your body. You can also gently knead your different muscle groups with your fingertips. Massages help to increase your circulation and boost your immune system. That means that your blood flows more freely and allows your body to more effectively filter out the toxins that weaken your immune system. Massages also decrease the amount of cortisol (the stress hormone) in your body, which is especially important for people who suffer from anxiety or depression. 

Pranayama

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By Stacee Finkelstein

Pranayama is defined as the regulation of the breath through certain exercises and techniques. Many of don’t pay attention to our breath. Imagine taking a second out of your day to focus on how your inhalations and exhalations feel. Now, imagine focusing on your breath awareness in a more specific way, like the dance of your breath? That is pranayama. There are many benefits to all forms of pranayama, including greater focus on the present moment, allowing oneself to have greater awareness of the body and breath during your yoga practice, cooling the body, and allowing our minds to become more relaxed, calm, and balanced. Below are a few different types of pranayama for you to try during your yoga or meditation practice.

Ujjayi Pranayama/Ocean breath

This breath is generally used in vinyasa yoga, as we link breath and movement throughout the practice. In a comfortable seated position, begin to inhale and exhale out through the mouth. Once you begin exhaling, constrict the passage of air from the back of the throat. This phase can be similar to fogging up glasses. After some practice, begin to apply the same constriction and toning of the throat when inhaling. You’ll start to notice that your breath is now starting to sound like waves of an ocean. Keep practicing, and even begin to apply this during your asana practice.

Three-Part Breath/Dirga Pranayama

This pranayama is wonderful to practice while lying flat on your back. To begin three-part breath begin by relaxing the whole body and face, with the eyes closed. Begin with natural inhalations and exhalations, use these inhalations and exhalations to keep your mind focused from distractions. When you start to inhale from your nose, fill up the belly with your breath. Imagine expanding the belly with air like a balloon. On each exhale, let the air out of your belly from your nose. To ensure that the belly is empty of air, make sure that your draw your belly into your spine. . On the next inhalation, do the same inhalation of filling up the belly with air . Once the belly is full, draw in a little bit more breath into the body. Let that air expand into the rib cage. This should cause the ribs to widen apart. On the exhalation, release the air from the rib cage, letting the rib’ slide closer together, and finally drawing the navel back towards the spine to release air from the belly. After repeating this deep breathing for about five breaths, begin to fill up the belly and the rib cage with air once again. This time, however, draw in a little more air ad let it fill the upper chest. This breath is now going all the way up into the collarbone,. This causes the ares around the heart, or the heart center, to expand and rise. During your exhalation, let the breath release from the upper chest, allowing the heart to sink back down, then release air from the rib cage, allowing the ribs to slide closer together. Finally release air from the belly.

Alternate Nostril Breathing/Nadi Sodhana

To begin, sit in a comfortable cross-legged position. You’'ll start by using your right hand. With your right hand, fold your pointer and middle fingers into your palm. This leaves your thumb, ring finger, and pinky finger sticking up. This is also known as a Vishnu Mudra. You’’ll then bring your thumb to the right side of your nose, while your ring finger is at the left side. With your thumb, close off your right nostril. Inhale through your left nostril.Close off your left nostril with your ring finger. Open and exhale through your right nostril. Than inhale through your right nostril. Close off your right nostril with your thumb, and open and exhale through your left nostril. Then inhale through your left nostril. Continue this breath cycle for about 5-10 times.

The Art of the Hug

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By Perry Daniels

Many times, I have been complimented on my ability to give warm and affectionate hugs. The recognition of such a naturally occurring skill was a bit of a surprise to me. Since the affectionate hug is not as common as I once believed, I decided to share the formula for a successful warm and affectionate hug.

The first and most fundamental ingredient one poses in order to execute the best hug is genuine love for humanity. I’m talking love for a person simply because they are a person. See, hugs begin on the inside of each of us, that’s the “warm” part of the hug. People who give great hugs tend to be very optimistic regarding the human condition. Not in a blind, ignoring the state of the world sense but in a, the solution to the state of the world lies within everyone they hug, sense.

This leads us to the second paramount ingredient for the best hug. One must genuinely care about the well-being of the person hugged. This is the affectionate part of the skill. The first part “warm” is on the macro level however, in order for the hug to truly resonate with the person being hugged, you must be on a micro level, and truly be concerned about the individual.

It is a simple formula, if executed properly you too will start receiving comments on how great your hugs are. The last thing that I would encourage you to do is, practice, practice, and practice.  

Namaste,

The Nubian Yogi


Changing Form

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Maybe you have to know darkness in order to appreciate the light. ~Madeline L’Engle

By: Jessica Mahler

Somewhere in the story of our lives we decided that the only emotions worth feeling are the ones we deemed good: the ones that make us feel happy, loved, full of joy. We decided that they’re the only ones we want to feel because the ones that don’t feel as light or uplifting like to pin us down and we have no idea how long we’ll be there.

And I get it. We don’t like to feel the emotions that seem to drag us into darkness because they overwhelm us with their all-consuming force. It feels foreign—and scary—to be overtaken by such raw, intense sensations, so we do everything we can to pull ourselves out of it: We deny their existence, push through their hold to keep living as though nothing has shifted, reach for alcohol and drugs to numb the pain.

We tell ourselves that we shouldn’t have to feel this way, that it’s not fair that others are happily going about our lives, that we can ward off the darkness. So we do everything we can to hold the feelings back, stuffing them deep down inside ourselves, ignoring their existence and continue to move on as if everything is okay. And we keep holding them back and stuffing them down.

The law of physics states that energy can neither be created or destroyed, but it can change form. So that pain from your last breakup or the loss of a loved one, those feelings that felt too big and bottomless to feel that you decided you didn’t want to deal with anymore, they don’t just disappear because you don’t want to deal with them. When we hold them back and push them down, they have to go somewhere, so they find pockets in our body to make homes in, creating tightness in certain areas, tenderness in others.

They’re just lying in wait to be freed from the prisons we’ve banished them to. They want us to let go of them, the energy wants to move. Sometimes we experience emotional release in yoga (raise your hand if you felt intense anger or cried through Pigeon Pose), or  something innocuous happens that hits us just so and opens the floodgates and we lose it over something insignificant in the grand scheme of things.

Here’s the thing: Our emotions are ours to feel. If we weren’t meant to feel them, we wouldn’t. Each emotion that runs through our body has something really important to tell us about ourselves, a piece of information that will help us grow stronger + live our lives more fully. It’s up to us to feel them within us + decipher their meaning.

And if we didn’t sometimes feel shitty, how would we even know what happiness felt like? There would be no barometer to understand what feels really great in comparison to those hard times. We’d be living a monotonous life if everything was just so gosh darn lovely and happy all the time. That shitty thing that happened to you last week, last year, 10 years ago happened so that you know what that emotion feels like—and to better appreciate when things are going really awesome. Things just wouldn’t feel so unbelievably fucking good if you had no idea what it felt like to feel so unbelievably fucking shitty. Ya know?

So let yourself be present for those dark moments. It takes so much more energy to hold things back then it does to let them go, so surrender to the waves. Let them wash over you and under you and through you. Resist holding back so that you can be present for all the wisdom your feelings are trying to bestow upon you and what it feels like to release things in the moment.