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Sunday, September 28, 2014

Tip of the Week: Half Moon Pose

In Half Moon, you stretch one side of your body while contracting and strengthening the other, reaching side to side and then to the back. The ultimate destination is to have only 4 inches distance between the shoulder blade and the hipbone on the side you are bending. This lateral flexion of the spine prepares your body for the back bend that comes next.

   Bikram Yoga SLC student Monroe Hart

  • Gives quick energy and vitality while heating the body up
  • Improves blood circulation
  • Improves the flexibility of the spine
  • Strengthens every muscle in the body’s core, particularly the abdomen
  • Firms and trims the stomach, buttocks, hips, and thighs
  • Increases flexion and strength of the rectus abdominus, latisimus dorsi, oblique, deltoid, and trapezius muscles
  • Helps to correct bad posture by realigning the spine
  • Promotes proper kidney function
  • Helps cure enlargement of liver and spleen, dyspepsia (indigestion), and constipation.
  • Stretch up first out of the waist as much as possible to open up the intervertebral discs
  • If you find it difficult to keep the palms glued together and the elbows locked, focus on stretching and lengthening, which will automatically force the elbows to straighten and the palms to touch
  • Make sure there is always visible distance (3 to 4 inches) between the chin and the chest in order to keep the chest and airways open, which will make it easier to breathe
  • Focus on STRETCHING your hips to the left rather than bending your body to the right when you initiate the move: using the hips in this manner forces you to stretch the arms and torso harder and harder to the right to keep the balance
  • Exhale as you come down, let gravity help you!
  • Even if you can only come down a couple of inches with correct alignment in the beginning, you are doing better than someone who breaks at the waist and twists the body out of alignment to come down… Remember the goal here is to realign your spine, not to see who can get their arms the closest to the floor!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Tip of the Week: Try Smiling!

Heart racing in class? Try forcing a smile. Smiling tricks the body into thinking it's relaxed. It may seem weird, but a study performed in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science found that it could actually help you relax. 

Researchers, using chopsticks, manipulated the faces of 169 participants into either a neutral expression, a standard smile (only affects muscles around the mouth), or a Duchenne smile (the effect spreads to the eyes, and thus looks more genuine). Participants—some of whom were specifically told to smile—then completed a number of stressful activities while continuing to hold the chopsticks in their mouths. 

Monitoring heart rates and stress levels (as reported by the participants), researchers found that those with Duchenne smiles were the most relaxed during the experiment. Those who were told to smile also had lower heart rates than those who had neutral expressions, and even those whose standard smiles were formed by the chopsticks felt better than those who didn't smile. 

These findings show that smiling during brief stressors can help to reduce the intensity of the body’s stress response, regardless of whether a person actually feels happy.

So the next time you're feeling stressed or working hard in class, try holding your face in a smile for a moment. Your smile will naturally tell your body to relax. Not only will it help you ‘grin and bear it’ psychologically, but it might actually help your heart health as well!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Tip of the Week: Yoga & Meditation Will Make You a Better Leader

When Steve Jobs passed away, friends and family attending his funeral received a small gift from the late tech genius: Autobiography of a Yogi, a book focused on the "ancient science of Yoga and its time-honored tradition of meditation."
Like the late Jobs, more and more leaders are adapting this kind of "mindfulness" into their work environment to help decrease stress while boosting their mental state. I have also adapted this approach. After being stressed out every day and unorganized, I found that peace of mind and deep stretches helped me become a better startup leader.

For those looking to get into yoga and meditation, here are the lessons I learned and why I continue to weave mindfulness into my everyday routine.

1. Enables a relaxed state of mind.

In the past, I would wake up in the morning and something would go wrong. My alarm wouldn’t go off, the coffee I had was below par or I'd still bothered by an email I received the previous night. This lead to a negative attitude that my team picked up on. To prevent this, I meditate 10 minutes each morning as soon as I wake up. After trying a handful of mediation applications, I've found the Headspace Meditation App to be the most effective (but there are plenty of other ones out there). Regardless of how your approach morning meditation, it is just important that you approach it. It helps get your day off to a good start and clear your mind.

2. Helps build confidence.

As a leader, I'm always in situations where I need to be courageous. Whether it’s going into a big time sales meeting or giving a pump-up speech to my team, I have to make sure I have a confident mindset to get results. Both yoga and meditation have helped me get rid of negative thoughts before high intensity situations. By learning to ignore negative thinking, I worry a lot less about what about could go wrong. This allows me you visualize the perfect outcome, giving me a huge confidence boost. For others, it is important to stay present and ignore the negative talk in your head, as it is just talk.

3. Reduces stress.

Being a CEO of a startup, it's easy for me to focus all my attention on small problems. This causes me to ignore larger issues and hurts my effectiveness. By integrating a yoga practice into my schedule, I was able to relax.
During yoga, the best mindset to have is one that does not focus on your worries. Try to schedule your yoga in the morning, before you lay out your daily schedule. By doing so, your mind is clear, and you are able to prioritize better.

4. Bolsters Creativity. 

Both mediation and yoga have helped. So many times, leaders get stuck in a certain way of thinking and don’t acknowledge a wide variety of different ways to attack an issue. Yoga and meditation changed that for me. Now I am able to attack problems with an outside perspective. By getting rid of tunnel vision, I've been able to put together patterns and solutions without even trying to do so.
Like most things, it will take dedication and patience to reap all the benefits of yoga. The key is to learn to focus more on finding your own peace of mind rather than trying to force yourself to develop a new mindset. Without the right state of mind, it is impossible to be a great leader.

AJ Agrawal

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Tip of the Week: Yoga for Substance Abuse

By Sangeetha Saran
Although scientific research has been limited, there is strong anecdotal evidence to support the practice of Yoga in the treatment and management of addictions. In one randomized study done at a methadone clinic in Boston, studies found that Yoga was as least as effective as traditional group therapy.

Although more evidence is needed for substance abuse, there is comprehensive data to support its effects on stress-related illnesses. The link between stress and addictions is well known, and scientists have documented the effect of Yoga on good mental health. Others have observed similarities between Yogic philosophy and 12-step programs, and there is little doubt that Yoga complements traditional treatments for many conditions.

Potential Benefits of Yogic Methods for Treatment of Substance Abuse

• Reduces stress
• Increases self-esteem
• Improves physical health
• Provides social support
• Enhances mental health
• Complements other recovery programs
• Encourages spiritual growth and beauty

Yoga teaches practitioners to live in the present moment: to examine the inner self, to be aware of the breath, and to notice physical sensations. This alone is helpful for battling compulsions and panic attacks. Addicts, like others, hold emotions in their mental and physical bodies. Yoga clears blockages in the energy system, promoting recovery from past trauma.

Yogic Techniques for Substance Abuse

• Asana
The physical practice of postures, such as Forward Bends and Warrior Poses, keeps practitioners in the moment, reducing compulsions and negative thinking. Exercise also contributes to better self-control and a sense of overall wellbeing.

• Pranayama
When people are tense and worried, their breathing becomes shallow and rapid. Controlled breathing brings the senses to the present moment, reduces anxiety, and stimulates the circulatory system with an oxygen-rich flow of blood and lymph.
When working with students who have a history of substance abuse, it has been my experience that they never realized the feeling of euphoria that pranayama can bring. In Yoga classes, students should be made aware of how prana is similar to candy, but they do not have to be concerned with gaining weight or tooth decay. Pranayama does not cost a dime, makes you feel fantastic, and it is calorie free.

• Meditation
Meditation has always been a part of spiritual and healing practices, and some of the world’s most prestigious universities have endorsed its benefits. Whether labeled as prayer, mindfulness, or one of its many other names, meditation is an ancient art recognized by both the traditional and the holistic care system.

The eight limbs of Yoga, like most timeless teachings, promote a healthy lifestyle that unifies the mind, the body, and the spirit. Unless otherwise indicated, Yoga is recommended as a complement to treatment for substance abuse, not as a replacement for more traditional programs.