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Courtesy of Google images

Courtesy of Google images

Today’s yoga session was about being in the present.

So often we are in the future or holding in the past. This was the crux of a passage my instructor read from The Secret of the Yamas by John McAfee.

And it’s too true that one moment we are thinking about what’s next to check off our to-do list, what’s for dinner, or how we need to pick up the dry cleaning next Monday. Then we are thinking about the weekend (wishing we could go back to it), how your sister pissed you off the last time you talked on the phone, and how mad you are you never got that top back that she borrowed.

Our minds are rarely in the present, and that is why I started yoga — to overcome my mental chatter that prevents me from just being.

So I made an honest effort — and the best attempt in my practices thus far — to shut it all out. I didn’t worry about what I’d be doing after yoga, the previous day’s work, or what tomorrow held.

I was present in my practice, and boy did it pay off.

I hold a lot of stress in my shoulders, and thus have some major knots in the neck area. (I constantly wish I had a Swedish masseur with me at all times — giving me neck rubs while I sit at the computer, ooh, sounds so good.)

Today I worked  out my own kinks though with these awesome shoulder stretches.

Standing shoulder stretch

1. Stand in mountain pose: straight spine, feet shoulder with apart, arms down by your side.

2. Clasp your arms behind your back. Keep arms and spine straight. (Keeping your spine straight ensures the breath gets total access to your body.

3. Bend forward, bringing arms over head to your comfortable edge. (Don’t overdo it — especially if you have extremely tight shoulders. If you have shoulder problems, this may not be for you.)

4. Hold this pose and breathe.

5. Come out slowly — the exact same way you came in.

Floor shoulder stretch

1. Lie on the floor in savasana and bring arms out the side to be in a straight line with your shoulders.

2. Roll to your right side, bringing your left arm into your chest, and making sure your right arm stays in line with your right shoulder. Stack your legs on top of each other, keeping your body in a straight line. To go into a deeper shoulder stretch, bend your left leg behind your right knee. To go even deeper into the pose, bend both legs.

3. Hold and breathe.

4. Roll out slowly. Repeat on your left side.

Just by focusing and being completely in the right here, right now, I was able to ward off my shoulder pain and transcend into a more peaceful state.

Yoga high: 3.5

So far – apart from my attempt at the advanced class – one teacher has instructed me along my yoga journey.

She always says that the peace we achieve on our yoga mat, we must carry with us in the real world and not lose the lessons learned to the hustle and bustle in society.

As I sit, legs crossed and arms folded, I feel like Aladdin on my little magic carpet.

Eyes closed, deeply breathing, the class begins today’s restorative undulations for the day.

Remaining cross legged, the class inhales bringing the neck forward and straightening the back. On the exhale, the neck scoops up and the back hollows in a “C” shape.

We repeat for a couple minutes. After my mind and body feel total bliss. It’s a good light stretch that can be done in

On my yoga mat, I feel at peace and remember to focus on attaining a clear mind, but once I step off my 24″ by 68″ rectangle of heaven, I forget that clearing my mind is my main objective.

I wish I could stay on my mat, soar out into the real world, and fly over the world’s chaos that clutters my head.

Yoga high: 0.5

(Courtesy of Google images)

I have more conversations with myself than I do other people.

There’s always little chatter going on up in my head and most of the time – especially when I have a million things on my plate – I can’t get the noise up there to just shut up.

The times in my life when I have achieved a sense of mental clarity is when I practiced yoga. As a practitioner off and on since high school – now seven years – I decided this week to go back to yoga.

I have practiced all forms – Bikram (hot room), Ashtanga (mix of heat and flow), Hatha (no heat and stretching), and Vinyasa (no heat and rapid flow).

I have the least amount of experience with Vinyasa and am embarking on my mental journey through this yoga type. It isn’t my favorite (Bikram is), but it’s the only studio within walking distance – I am a carless Californian who recently moved to New York.

I don’t care though. I miss yoga and will take it how I can get it for some mental clarity – that is if I get it.

I’m setting out to practice four to five times a week, writing about my experiences after every class and backing the revelations I find in class with expert advice.

They say yoga clears the mind and reduces stress. There is tons of literature out there to support the healing yoga can provide for women in all walks of life – those working, married, and divorced. Let’s see if it does.

May the Ohm’s, deep breathing, and inverted poses begin. I hope focus and relaxation ensues.

After some classes I get a yoga “high,” so at the end of each blog post I’ll be marking the level of yoga “high” I get on a 1-5 scale.

Let the mind begin to sleep and my body awaken.

Yoga high today: 0. (Hope to be at a five soon!)