The easiest way to start practicing yoga at home.

Movement / Movimiento

It seems that maintaining consistency is a challenge for most, if not all, of us. I would like to suggest a simple and VERY EASY and quite enjoyable way to start practicing yoga at home with more regularity.

Unfortunately many people think that yoga is only a set of postures to make our bodies capable of complex contortions. Authentic yoga is a complete system of practices to help us feel harmoniously integrated and to help us live a more conscious, deliberate, wholehearted life that is aligned with our true purpose.

Every day when as I ask students in my classes to tell me what they need from the practice, without fault the most frequent answers are: relaxation, quieting the mind, serenity. This is not at all surprising. Just look around and it seems that most of us are in a constant process of training our bodies and minds to do more things, to get more things accomplished and to process more and more stimuli. There is a lot of doing and processing, but it doesn’t seem like we are balancing all of our doing with not doing, with surrendering and allowing. No wonder we end up feeling exhausted by the end of the day (and sometimes even after we wake up in the morning)!

In yoga we want to meet ourselves where we are. In other words, we choose the technique or practice that will bring us into a feeling of completeness and clarity. To balance too much doing, it is good to practice not doing. Remember that a yoga posture (asana) is defined in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali (ca. 3100 B.C.E.) as steadiness (sthira= firm, stable, strong) and ease (sukha=pleasant, delight, joy). From this perspective, I want to invite you to try this simple, effective and enjoyable practice.

Cultivating the Skills of Observation and Surrender

Give yourself 1 to 10 minutes to do this — whatever amount of time you can afford.

In the morning, while still in bed, once you notice that you are awake but before opening your eyes and getting up, give yourself permission to not do or process. Allow your to-do list to drift away just for the next few minutes. Focus your attention fully on noticing the sensations in your body starting at the tips of your toes and gradually moving up throughout your whole body. It helps when you are interested in really feeling what is happening in your body. You don’t even need to try to describe or explain, just feel. Give yourself time to scan the whole body and notice what happens, notice just how you feel. When you finish scanning you body, think of something that brings peace, inspiration, love or compassion to your heart and mind, immersing fuly in this experience. (Notice that we are integrating body, mind and heart through awareness )

That’s it. Pretty simple.

Try this exercise once a day, if possible, for 1 or 2 weeks and notice what effect it has in the way you feel during your day and on your general outlook.

One more suggestion, try this exercise also at the end of the day, once you are in bed as a gentle transition out of “doing mode” and into “complete relaxation” mode.

You might be asking: How is that going to help me when I have some many things to do? I cannot afford to do nothing!

When you engage in this practice you can receive the following benefits:

  • Most likely this practice will enable you to lower your levels of stress which might be helping your immune system. Sttress has been found to contribute to “digestive problems, fertility problems, urinary problems, and a weakened immune system.
  • You are developing skills to improve your ‘other’ way of practicing yoga because you are learning to discern more clearly what ease feels like, thus making it easier for you to balance your steadiness with ease the next time you get into a yoga posture.
  • You are cultivating the foundational skills for more advanced yoga practices: pranayama (life energy expansion), pratyahara (inward gaze), concentration and meditation.
  • You are expanding your modes of operation so that you can access the mode that is needed when it is needed.
  • Deeper relaxation allows your body to recover, repair and heal.
  • You will enjoy this practice and its results. Hence, you are more likely to incorporate it into your daily routine.

I hope that this practice contributes to your well-being.
Namaste,
rubén

 

Sitting

There are many reasons that lead us to spend a good amount of time sitting everyday. Our bodies are so adaptable that if we stay in the same position for long periods of time different parts of our bodies will adjust in a number of ways, for instance, some muscles will shorten while others may lengthen or loose their tone. Adopting a posture regularly will cause consistent and sustained changes in soft tissue over time.

Ideally, the postures we practice will be anatomically sound and will contribute to a greater sense of clarity in body, breath and mind. But even when we sit in an anatomically correct and appropriate posture it is essential to take frequent breaks so that we allow for the muscles that are contracting to release and those that are lengthening to contract. If we are sitting just standing up for one minute will be helpful.

It is not difficult to notice how people’s bodies adapt over time to sitting for extended periods of time. Some of the common patterns include a rounded spine where the natural concavity at the back of the neck and at the lumbar spine tends to disappear. This convexity of the whole back body tends to tighten muscles in the front of the torso, shoulders and hip joints resulting in limited mobility in shoulders and hips. In addition, this posture tends to constraint the full expansion of the lungs thus limiting our breating capacity including the full oxygenation of our system through the inhalations as well as the release of toxins through complete exhalations.

Keeping in mind that it is best to change positions frequently, these are some suggestions for a healthy sitting position:

  • Ground through your feet aligning knees above ankles
  • Ground through the sitting bones
  • Center the torso between leaning forward and back as well as between left and right
  • Bring the navel slightly in
  • Lift the ribcage and crown of the head up
  • Breath with long smooth inhalations and exhalations
  • Remain aligned with a clear and luminous intention in your mind and heart

Enjoy this brief video with tips on improving your sitting posture:

As usual please be aware that your own body, breath and mind offer you continuous feedback on your activities. If the feedback shows you more agitation, strain, or pain you can choose to use this information as guidance to create changes towards feeling healthier, more lucid and more vibrantly alive. Please remember that taking breaks often is a simple, inexpensive and healthful way to prevent future pain, limitation and restrictions.

I hope you find these suggestions for sitting helpful during your day.

Namaste,
rubén

 

Savor your breath: easy breathing exercise

Fall in love with your breath or at least befriend your breath.
Allow your breath be your guide to the present moment. Let your breath be the vehicle for awareness; guiding your movements and focusing your mind while at the same time refreshing and nourishing you.

Often pranayama is translated as breath control, however, ayama in Sanskrit means to stretch, expand, extend. From that perspective it make sense that pranayama is about expanding our breath so that our breath and the vital energy it carries reach every part of our body. Thus, make your pranayama practice an exercise in becoming well acquainted with your breath, with how your breath flows for each inhalation and each exhalation. Allow this exploration to be guided by respectful curiosity instead of ambition.

If we recognize that each breath is unique and that we have no chance to repeat it we maybe more likely to appreciate and savor each and every breath. I would even suggest to make the breath joyful and to incorporate this joyful awareness of your breath into your day, whenever you can. Certainly, incorporate this awareness during your yoga practice and just observe what unfolds…

Below is a simple breathing exercise to increase our breath awareness:

As I suggest in the video, practicing just this posture can be the perfect way to start practicing yoga at home. Do not hesitate to contact me with questions or to post comments to the video.

Savor your breath.
Namaste,

rubén

 

Easy Chair Yoga Stretches for Beginners

No matter how comfortable a position our body was not really made to stay in the same position for many hours on end almost every day of the week. However, it seems like a very large number of people spend most of their time sitting on a chair. Here is an easy, short, simple and effective sequence with Missy Feathers to help release tension in the torso. These stretches move the spine in six directions to counteract the tightness and pain that result from sitting for a long time. This is an excellent practice for everybody, including people working at an office as well as for people with restricted mobility. As usual keep in mind that in yoga our intention is to be present and to meet ourselves where we are so we are attentive to any pain, strain, tingling and numbness as signs of trying too hard.

I hope you enjoy this video and that you use it regularly.

Namaste,
rubén

 

Yoga Video: How to Improve Your Standing Posture

For several years I have been working on improving my observation skills in order to better help students who come to my classes. Whenever I have a chance I try to observe people as they stand or walk in order to notice individual as well as general tendencies. During class and when I am working with individual students I make suggestions based on what I observe to try and help students continue life-affirming and clarifying patterns. Other times my suggestions try to facilitate a process of awareness that will help students explore different options towards feeling vibrant and free from pain.

Since our standing posture is the foundation for the way we walk and stand, it makes a lot of sense to pay attention to our standing posture. This posture, because we practice it often, is a key posture to get right. In addition, it is an excellent point of departure for anybody interested in starting a yoga practice as well as for people who want to fine-tune their yoga practice. Moreover, becoming aware of our posture is instrumental in counteracting spinal compression and imbalance that often contribute to create discomfort and pain in the lower back and the neck. In preparing for the upcoming Freedom from Neck and Back Pain workshop I thought it would be helpful to share this simple and effective standing posture that can have many benefits.

In this video you will find an easy-to-follow approach to improving your standing posture. Since yoga is not only about the physical body, the video offers a complete and integrated approach to the practice that will make the posture meaningful and enjoyable. This integrated approach to practicing a simple yet fundamental posture can contribute to:

  • releasing pain
  • improving breathing capacity
  • creating balance
  • cultivating mindfulness

I really hope you find this video useful.

As I suggest in the video, practicing just this posture can be the perfect way to start practicing yoga at home. Do not hesitate to contact me with questions or to post comments to the video.

Peace, Health & Joy for you.
Namaste,

 

Being Effective: How to stay focused on the present

park/parque

Very often we go into a thought pattern that goes something like this:

  • “I am not where I want to be” or
  • “I am not where I think I should be” or
  • “I am not where I need to be” or
  • “I am not where I would like to be” or
  • “I am not where I was to be”.

This is not unusual. On the contrary is something many of us deal with on a regular basis. Actually, if we observe our mind we will most likely notice a tendency to give our attention to other times and places by going into planning mode, into expectation, speculation and other future-oriented ideas. Another common distraction is giving our attention to remembering or regretting and other past-oriented ideas.

I am not saying that it cannot be helpful, useful or productive at mental, psychological and emotional levels to engage with past or future. However, the only place where we can be effective is in the only place where we can act. That moment is here and now. If we are constantly thinking about other times and places, it is difficult for us to give our complete attention to our current experience. As a result, we may miss some of the details and feedback that help us fine tune our actions.

If you find yourself distracted, you can use this simple and easy technique to help you be effective by focusing on the present. This exercise can be done in a sitting, standing, walking or lying down position:

  • Lengthen your spine
  • Ask yourself, “Where am I? Am I here?”
  • Observe your natural breath and on the inhalation mentally say, “I”
  • On the exhalation mentally say, “am”
  • On the next inhalation mentally say, “here”
  • On the next exhalation mentally say, “now”
  • Repeat for 3 to 5 rounds.

Notice how you feel. Immerse fully in your present moment, circumstances and situation and see if there is more clarity as to what deserves your full attention right here right now.

Yoga is only useful if it helps us show up fully for our lives.

I hope you enjoy this technique and that you find it useful.
Namaste

Simple guided meditation with Rubén

 

Take a Deep Breath : Calming & Relaxing Breath

Take a deep breath yoga/Respira profundamente

A simple exercise that can be used to start practicing yoga at home

I think many people, if not everybody, have heard this simple and valuable piece of advice: “if something is bothering you or you are feeling anxious, take a deep breath.” It seems quite simple and helpful. As a result of observing my breath during my daily yoga practice for several years I have come to realize how the breath is the foundation of most, if not all, yoga techniques and how it could be argued that all of the postures and movements are basically a way to expand and deepen our breath. However, as I observe how students in my individual and group classes breathe I notice a remarkable yet not surprising trend, very often taking a deep breath does not look like a relaxing and invigorating experience. In fact, for a high number of people taking a deep breath seems to create more tension and even anxiety. What I notice is that the intention is correct, to deepen the breath; but when the actions include lifting up the shoulders and tensing up the jaw the effect is not calming and relaxing at all.

From a simple anatomical perspective a slouching posture tends to limit our breathing capacity by limiting the expansion of the ribcage. Try this: Take a moment, sit in a chair and let your chest collapse onto the abdominal area, round your shoulders forward and lower your chin slightly toward your chest. Then try to take 3 deep breaths. Notice the overall effects in body, mind and general state of being. Now let’s try a different posture to notice any difference(s): Slide your sitting bones to the front end of your chair. Separate your feet hip-width distance apart or slightly wider. See if it feels comfortable to align the knees above the ankles. Spread your toes, press your feet down, and activate the muscles in your legs to create a solid foundation. Then tuck the tailbone in to make the pelvis level and press down your sitting bones against the seat. With this solid foundation lengthen your spine and lift your breastbone up rather than forward. Let your arms fall to the sides and open comfortably while rolling your shoulders back and shoulder blades down. Now try 3 rounds of breath starting with soft belly expanding then allow the expansion to continue in your ribcage and finally in the upper chest without any tension in shoulders or jaw. Once again, notice the overall effects in your body, mind and general state of being. Most likely you will notice a difference in the length of the breath and its effects. You can even try to breathe the second way again and compare it with breathing while lifting your shoulders and bringing the chest forward. Through your own experience you will notice which way of breathing is deeper and most importantly which way of breathing feels more calming and relaxing. Please remember that no yoga technique creates new pain or strain. If you find yourself straining or forcing you are trying too hard. So, please make sure that your breath is never strained, ever.

In yoga we are trying to integrate all aspects of our being. This simple exercise is an excellent example of how our posture can influence our way of breathing as well as the way we feel overall. My suggestion is that the next time we need to take a deep breath we start by creating a solid foundation through our posture. Also, if you don’t have much time to practice yoga at home, this simple breathing exercise would be the best way to start practicing yoga at home, especially since it does not take more than a few minutes and the effects will be beneficial. If you practice regularly you will notice that in addition to feeling more calm and relaxed you might also feel more energized. Over time you may even notice that your breath may start expanding gradually. Moreover, by paying close attention to your breath you will also be immersing in the present moment which will help you notice more clearly your immediate circumstances and how you feel. This is the foundation for mindfulness.

Please let me know if you find this breathing exercise helpful. Thank you for reading and savor your breath!
Namaste,
rubén

Simple guided meditation with Rubén

 

FREE Video: Yoga postures for Lower Back Pain, Hip Flexibility and Thigh Flexibility Breath

 

Yoga Postures to Release Lower Back Pain

This is a brief 12 minute video to help release tightness and tension from the lower back and to help increase mobility and flexibility in the hip joints and thighs. This session can be practiced in the morning, after exercising, at the end of the day or in preparation for sleeping. Patient persistence is the way of yoga, and it is IMPORTANT to remember that creating pain, forcing, numbness and tingling are not part of Yoga.

If you have chronic pain please consult a health professional before starting any exercise program.

After the practice you can check if you feel better than you felt before the practice, this is an indication that the practice is working and that you are practicing correctly.
I hope you enjoy the practice and its benefits

Namaste.