4 Tips to Enhance a Staycation Yoga Practice

By Charlotte Bell.

For many of us, summertime spells vacation time. Vacations are an opportunity to step out of your comfort zone and experience something new. But vacations do take lots of preparation. And when we return, the catchup time can be anything but relaxing.

This is why many people choose to vacation at home, at least some of the time. “Staycations” give us the opportunity to spend quality time in our homes. Sometimes that means tackling long-neglected projects. At other times it means rekindling friendships with lunch dates that are so hard to fit into our work schedules. It could mean taking advantage of our communities’ unique gifts—museums, concerts and here in Salt Lake City, hiking. We can also simply enjoy the homes we’ve worked so hard to create and nurture.

But sometimes it’s a challenge to decide how to dedicate this newfound time. We can easily get lost in simply wanting to do nothing—which can be just what we need as well. I’d like to suggest using at least a portion of your staycation to regenerate your energies. Staycation yoga can be a part of this process.

Staycation Yoga Practice

Many of us are able to maintain a regular yoga practice even as we work full time. But for some, practice is spotty at best. There are several ways to approach a staycation yoga practice. One is to attend some extra classes during the week. Another is to recommit to your home practice. It’s the latter that I’ll focus on in this post.

Here are some suggestions for enjoying a fulfilling staycation yoga practice:

  1. Pick a time and stick to it. Practicing yoga first thing in the morning sets a calming and energizing tone for the rest of your day. You don’t have to get up extra early—it’s your vacation after all. But do commit to practicing before you start in on the rest of your day. It’s all too easy for a yoga practice to be crowded out of the schedule once you start doing other things.
  2. If you don’t have a dedicated yoga space in your house, just for the duration of your staycation, leave your yoga mat and other props out so that there’s no setup involved. This can help make your practice an integral part of your staycation.
  3. You’re already stepping out of your daily routine, so why not play a bit with your practice? It’s easy to get stuck in a practice that features only our favorite poses. Play with changing your practice. Try different poses in a different sequence and be mindful of the aftereffects. This is a great opportunity to learn about your practice and yourself.
  4. Take a nice, long Savasana. When we’re in the midst of our busy lives, we often don’t recognize just how tired we really are. We simply power through our days because we have no other choice. When we slow down, we often discover how depleted we’ve become. Take the opportunity of having a bit more time than usual to lie in Savasana for 15-20 minutes. A longer Savasana allows the benefits of the pose to integrate more deeply and comprehensively—in body, mind and spirit.

A staycation is a great opportunity to reflect on your daily life and make tweaks that can help you live more gracefully when you go back to work. A daily yoga practice can help give you the clarity to decide what works and what doesn’t.

Yoga for Daylight Savings Time Blues

By Charlotte Bell

If you’re feeling unusually tired this week, there may be a good reason for it. On Sunday, we turned our clocks ahead. This means you may be struggling to get to sleep in the evening, and struggling to wake up in the morning.
Any time change affects our bodies’ circadian rhythms. It happens in the fall too, but common wisdom is that the spring time change is more difficult. Some people’s bodies adjust in a day or two, while others can take a month or more. Generally, people whose sleep patterns are already iffy experience more problems adjusting.
The problems are twofold: it’s harder to get to sleep in the first place, and to add insult to injury, you have to get up an hour earlier. Here in Salt Lake City, at 6:00 am last week, there were just the earliest inklings of light beginning to filter through the windows. Now it’s back to total darkness when the alarm goes off. Because our sleep cycles are based on light, our bodies get confused.
Studies show that disrupted sleep patterns associated with time change can increase the risk of strokes. Workplace injuries and car crashes also tend to spike after springing forward. Sleep deprivation can affect our mood and productivity as well. On the plus side, my cats have been pleasantly surprised at being served their meals an hour earlier!
How to Help Your Body Adjust
Like it or not, we do have to adjust to the new time, since the rest of the world has sprung forward. Here are some suggestions that might help:
Avoid caffeine and alcohol in the evening. Both these substances can disrupt sleep. It’s best to stop caffeine after lunch, at least for the first few weeks after the time change.
Avoid screen time before bed. Screens are a light source. Light suppresses the sleep hormone melatonin. For the same reason, avoid turning on lots of lights in the evening. Also, engaging with the news or with social media, can cause obsessive thinking, a huge culprit in suppressing sleep.
Avoid loud music or vigorous exercise in the few hours before bedtime.
Expose yourself to bright light as soon as you can in the morning. This can help reorient your circadian rhythms.
Practice yoga for daylight savings time. Try a restorative yoga pose (or more than one) in the hour before bedtime. There are, of course, lots of choices, but the one below, Supported Viparita Karani, a.k.a. Instant Maui (a term coined by Judith Hanson Lasater), is a classic sleep-supporting pose.
Yoga for Daylight Savings Time: Instant Maui
Gather two or three yoga blankets, a chair, a yoga mat and an eyebag if you have one. Place your chair on top of the mat with the seat facing you. Fold a blanket so that it’s about 12 inches across and 2-3 inches thick. You may need more than one blanket to achieve that height. Place the folded blanket in front of and parallel to the chair.
Lie down, resting your pelvis on the blanket. Make sure that the fleshiest part of your rear is slightly off the blanket toward the chair so that your torso is horizontal. If your torso slants toward your head, Instant Maui will not be very relaxing. If your legs don’t feel comfortable on the chair, you can move it closer or farther away.
Our bodies naturally cool down in Restorative yoga, so you may want to have another blanket handy to place over your entire body, or at least over your torso. If you have an eyebag, place it over your eyes. Set aside your to-do list. Do nothing. Stay in the pose anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes.
When it’s time to come out, fold your legs in toward your torso, roll onto your side and relax for a few breaths before sitting up.
Restorative yoga is not about stretching. It is about settling and opening. If you feel any discomfort, including a strong stretch, in Instant Maui, you may want to experiment with your props. The ideal Restorative pose yields little physical sensation. This is especially true when you’re using the pose to support sleep.

Osteopenia, Osteoporosis and Yoga September 23, 2016 by Jennilee Toner https://www.ekhartyoga.com/articles/osteopenia-osteoporosis-and-yoga

What happens if you’ve been diagnosed with a bone density loss condition? How can you continue to enjoy the benefits of yoga while taking extra care of your bones?

Hatha yoga – the physical branch of yoga – strengthens, stretches and supports all the systems of the physical body, it calms and clears the mind of unnecessary chatter, and can remove blockages from energetic pathways so that life force can flow with ease.

You’re probably familiar with at least some of these benefits of yoga but what if you have been diagnosed with a bone density loss condition like osteopenia or osteoporosis? Is yoga still beneficial for YOU and your bones? If so, which postures and practices will be beneficial, and which should you approach with more awareness and caution than before? And are there ways that Hatha yoga can help us to prevent or live with the condition?

Osteoporosis: A bone density condition that occurs when bones become weak, brittle and porous.

Osteopenia: A bone density condition that occurs when the body doesn’t make new bone as quickly as it reabsorbs old bone. In Osteopenia, bone density is lower than normal peak density but not low enough to be considered Osteoporosis.

Bone growth, modelling and remodeling
There are 206 bones in the human body (not including the minute bones of the ear). The shapes of our bones are long, short, irregular and flat. Bones grow, model and remodel throughout our lifetimes.
*Growth occurs during childhood and adolescence. In long, short and irregular bones the cartilage is replaced by bone tissue. In flat bones, thin “sheet-like” connective tissues are replaced with bone tissue.
*Modelling is when bones change shape (mostly during adolescence) due to mechanical stressors placed upon them.
*Remodeling is the process of bone breakdown, reabsorption and renewal.

In people diagnosed with osteopenia and osteoporosis there is increased activity of the breakdown cells (osteoclasts) but decreased activity of the bone rebuilding cells (osteoblasts). This low bone turnover (more breakdown then rebuild) leads to low bone density and bone strength, increasing the risk of micro-fractures and fractures.
Osteoblasts: Type of bone that mineralizes and forms bone tissue. Osteoclasts: Type of bone cell that breaks down bone tissue.
Osteocytes: Type of bone cell that regulates the jobs of the osteoblasts and the osteoclasts.

Strengthening your bones with yoga
There are no symptoms for bone density loss conditions such as osteoporosis and osteopenia. Most people only discover they have the condition after their first fracture and have a bone density test. Losing bone is a normal part of ageing so therefore we need to take care of our bones from an early age through exercise and a healthy diet with plenty of calcium and Vitamin D from the sun. Certain groups are more at risk of developing osteoporosis. Always speak to your doctor if you have any concerns about your health.

Bones are living tissue and they respond to mechanical stressors. Weight bearing exercises, including yoga, help tremendously in the remodeling process of our bones. They encourage more bone growth increasing the rate of HEALTHY bone turnover and so are vitally important to practice especially when we are younger.

Holding up one’s body weight in standing postures such as Warrior 1 or 2, balancing postures such as Tree and Dancer, and in horizontal postures such as Plank helps maintain the balance between bones breaking down and bones rebuilding.

Looking after your spine – forward bends and twists
Many spinal fractures are due to poor alignment (poor posture). Because our thoracic spine is already in a convex (kyphotic) curve, we instinctively tend to hunch over a bit. With the over-conditioning of sitting many people have tight, locked-short chest muscles (pectoralis major and minor) and tight, locked-long upper back muscles (rhomboids, mid and lower trapezius) which can take the already kyphotic curve of the thoracic spine and make it dramatically more pronounced, potentially resulting in the syndrome of Kyphosis – a hunchbacked condition also known as Dowager’s Hump. Yoga can help to maintain the spine’s natural curves, read Fountain of youth found in yogi’s spine.

hatha-for-beginners---square

If you are diagnosed with osteopenia or osteoporosis the likelihood of spinal bone fractures is increased. One family of postures contraindicated for those with osteopenia and osteoporosis are forward bends – for fear of fractures on the anterior (front) portion of the vertebral bodies (irregular bones of the spine).

In order to continue to practice many of the forward bend postures such as Uttanasana (standing forward bend) and Prasarita Padottanasana (standing wide legged forward fold) it is important to bend the knees and tilt from the pelvis – rather than bending at the thoracic spine. It can help to place the hands on blocks so that the spine stays long and there is no extra pressure on the front of the vertebrae.

Other contradictions for those diagnosed with osteopenia or osteoporosis are some spinal twisting poses…especially ones where there is a possibility of a rounded spine occurring in order to get into the twist. It is always wise to remember that Parivrtta (the Sanskrit word that precedes most twisting poses) means REVOLVE and not twist.

Always inhale and lengthen your spine before allowing the hips, ribs, shoulders and skull to revolve slightly around it. When bone density has lessened and the possibility of fractures has increased, it is wise to not do any twisting postures that may require you to round forward to perform the twist. Again, use blocks to prop yourself in such a way to keep the spine lengthened. For example sitting up on a block to raise the hips in seated twists.

Looking after your hips – strong and steady
Many hip fractures that happen in the aging population occur during falls – often due to an inability to balance and/or vision impairment. Those who are diagnosed with osteopenia or osteoporosis have weaker, less dense and porous bones. Falling on these weakened bones increases the risk of bone fractures especially in the hips, ankles and wrists.

improve-your-balance-yoga

In order to help prevent falls from occurring it is important to strengthen our ability to balance. I tell all my students when they are wobbling while in balancing postures such as Tree or Extended Hand to Big Toe: “Your bones, your bone-connecting tissues (ligaments) and the muscles that surround them are getting stronger…Right Now.”

Practice these poses regularly to build stronger bones and also to prevent the risk of fractures due to falls as you get older.

If you already have been diagnosed with bone density loss it is good to be by a wall or use a chair for many of these balancing poses.

The takeaway message:
To build strong bones and promote healthy bone turnover, practice weight-bearing yoga poses like the Warriors and Plank pose. To minimize the risk of falls (and fractures) as you get older, work on your balance with Tree pose, Dancer’s pose and any other one-legged balances.

If you have already been diagnosed with osteoporosis or osteopenia take extra care of your spine by using props to keep your spine long in forward bends (bending from the pelvis, not thoracic spine) and gentle twists.

Why Savasana Is the Hardest Yoga Pose By Karson McGinley

Savasana might look like a nap at the end of your yoga practice. But it’s actually a fully conscious pose aimed at being awake, yet completely relaxed. In Savasana—also known as corpse pose— you lie down on your back and relax your body and mind so you may fully assimilate the benefits of your asana practice.

During this pose, you close your eyes, breathe naturally, and practice eliminating tension from the body. Ideally, this posture lasts for 10 to 20 minutes. However, even a few minutes of Savasana is said to have powerful benefits.

The Benefits of Savasana

Savasana helps relieve mild depression, high blood pressure, headaches, fatigue, and insomnia, according to Yoga Journal. Savasana can calm the nervous system and promote equanimity in your entire body. Fatigued muscles get to relax, tense shoulders and jaws soften, and the eyes quiet down to reflect a quieter state of mind.

Common Challenges of Savasana

savasana_thought_bubbles_0

This simple-sounding pose is more difficult than you might realize. The body can cause distractions that make it a challenge. Your body might feel cold, itchy, or unsettled. Savasana occurs at the end of the yoga practice to remedy this obstacle.

By the time you’ve completed asanas, or postures, your body and mind should be tired enough to be able to relax sufficiently for Savasana. Think of it like taking your dog to the park or your kid to Disneyland—the drive home is often the quietest and calmest of the day.

Even if your body is amenable to the rest, your mind can get in the way. Some common thoughts that pop up during Savasana:

~How much longer will we be here?
~Did that guy just snore? That’s embarrassing.
~I hope I didn’t just snore.
~What am I making for dinner when I get home?
~Is this relationship really working out?
~I’m hungry.
~What’s my life all about, anyway?
~I smell like sweat.
~Did I remember to pay the meter?
~Maybe I should quit my job

It’s normal for the mind to try to resist this deep relaxation. Savasana is the ultimate act of conscious surrender. It takes practice and patience to surrender easily.

With the world moving so quickly, cultivating the art of Savasana is more valuable than ever. Our society tends to place greater value on speed and productivity; learning how to do nothing is a skill that can help you become more productive when you need to be.

Savasana helps us learn how to completely surrender, stop fighting the clock, and make space for peace and harmony to fill the soul. Savasana is like turning off your computer when it’s acting up. Once you reboot it, the computer often has greater functionality.

5 Steps to a Successful Savasana

1. Set yourself up for success. Stretch out on your mat and be sure you’re completely comfortable. Use bolsters, pillows, blankets, and cover your eyes with an eye pillow or towel. The more comfortable you are, the more you can relax. The more relaxed you are, the more easily you can surrender. The more open you are to surrendering, the more benefits you’ll receive.

2. Take one final cleansing breath. Your teacher will likely prompt you to take one audible exhale, signaling to your body to release into the pose. This cleansing breath also sends a message to your parasympathetic nervous system that it is safe to relax and be just as you are.

3. Scan for tension. Mentally run through all the parts of your body and try to make them heavier. Be on the lookout for tension hiding in the jaw, temples, shoulders, and hips because stress likes to accumulate in these areas.

4. Then, just notice. Some days will be easier than others, and that’s part of the practice. See if you can be still, at ease, and simply trust that the breath will carry you to the next moment. Watch for those peaceful moments of quiet between the thoughts. Over time, they’ll get longer, and you’ll find more inner quiet.

5. Set an intention.Before you come out of Savasana, take a mental snapshot of how you feel on every level. Ask yourself what you’d like to take with you from your practice, and what you might like to leave behind. Seal these observations into your psyche with an inner smile, and then enjoy a deep inhale to awaken and emerge into your day. Now take a moment to notice that you feel more rested, awake, and alive than you did before.

Savasana is a time of rest, but not a time to sleep. If you have a tendency to fall asleep, the first step is to be compassionate with yourself, and acknowledge that your body needed some rest. Over time, you can train yourself to achieve the rest you need while remaining awake.

Give your Savasana the same attention you give to your Adho Mukha Svanasana
(Downward Dog) and your Virabhadrasana (Warrior II) poses, and notice the effects. If you consistently practice calm and surrender on the mat, it will become easier when you’re no longer on it, which is ultimately why we all practice yoga in the first place.