I am constantly extolling the virtues of yoga. When I came across this article, I thought it would be good information for all you yogis out there.
Yoga helps you bear discomfort without reacting to it.
A good yoga teacher will put you in awkward, tough postures--think revolved triangle pose (parivrtta trikonasana)
and one-legged king pigeon pose (eka pada rajakapotasana)
--and ask you to stay there. Rather than grit your teeth, hold your breath, and curse your guru, yoga trains you to observe the tension in your body and the wandering of your mind and use your breath to coax both open. That is, tolerate your suffering as is. You can apply this same technique to other uncomfortable situations, such as an intense craving for ice cream or fries. Yoga teaches you to de-stress.
Breathing deeply into your belly has an immediate calming effect on your mind, which is why pranayama is useful when we start wobbling in the middle of half moon pose (ardha chandrasana)
. We normally take spills when we're worrying about losing balance. Concentrating on your breath clears your head so you can align yourself deliberately. Similarly, if you don't manage stress, it can drive you to make poor choices. Taking a pause with a deep breath during challenging portions of your day can help you take a detour from the Doritos. Try one of these breathing exercises the next time you need to center yourself.Moon Piercing Breath
This exercise has a calming effect on the body and the mind. It can be done at the beginning of a yoga practice or whenever you need to calm down.
1. Sit at the front of your mat in a comfortable cross-legged position. Allow your eyes to close, ground your tailbone to the floor, and lengthen upward through the crown of your head.
2. Lift your right hand to your face. Place the tips of your index and middle fingers on the space between your eyebrows. Direct your focus there as you breathe.
3. Block your right nostril with your thumb and inhale through the left nostril. Block your left nostril with your ring finger, pause a second, and then exhale through the right.
4. Repeat, breathing slowly and deeply from the left side to the right for 10 to 20 rounds of inhale and exhale.
Shitali Pranayama (from Ann Pizer @ Ask.com)
This breath cools the body so it is best done in hot weather or at the end of a vigorous yoga session.
1. Come to sit in a comfortable cross-legged position.
2. Take two or three deep inhales and exhales through the nose to prepare.
3. Roll the tongue, curling the sides in towards the center to form a tube. Stick the end of the tongue out between your pursed lips. If you can’t roll your tongue, just purse the lips making a small “o” shape with the mouth.
4. Inhale through the tube of the tongue.
5. Exhale through the nose.
6. Repeat 5-10 times as you feel the cooling effect
Yoga coaches us to change.
Think about your very first, second, or third downward-facing dog pose (adho mukha svanasana)
and compare that to how fluid it feels in your practice now. Yoga can cultivate the confidence needed to take a step toward change in general, such as making healthier food choices. Studies have shown that our brains age more gracefully if we continue to physically and mentally challenge ourselves.
Article by Deanna Michalopoulos, Women's Fitness January 2012 (with edits provided by me).