1. Being Natural: Naked Yoga and its Psychological Benefits

    February 26, 2014

    Naked Yoga and its Psychological Benefits

    by Daniela Aneis

    Yoga: Everyone knows about it and many practice it on a regular basis. But naked yoga? As in, in the nude, no clothes, au naturel, exactly like you came into this world? Yep, that’s right. If this is the first you’ve ever heard of then keep on reading and discover why it is gaining so many enthusiasts all over the world. And the most amazing of it is that people are actually going to group classes to practice naked yoga, not just at home or when in nature.

    It started as a part of Indian yoga philosophy were members would undress themselves both physical and spiritually from all material possessions, sexual desires and anything physical of this world. Could there be anything more freeing than not having anything on you?

    Naked yoga then travelled to Europe through naturist movements in Germany and Switzerland and to North America in the 60’s taking a ride from the hippie movement. It has been depicted in several 1960’s and 70’s movies.

    Its modern roots and recent success I might feel tempted to attribute it to the “Sex and the City” culture of one’s sexual liberation. In the 90’s and early 2000 several groups for distinctive audiences came along (all men classes, all women, homosexual, for children). It seems that despite modern’s society idea of selling nudity and sex being displayed in every movie or advertisement you see, there is no freedom in enjoying our own nudity, whether in public or in private. And these classes seem like the perfect opportunity for it.

     

    What drives someone to be naked in a group class?

     

    Or to practice yoga naked for all that matters, in public or in private? People’s motivations are quite different and we will explore some of them from a psychological point of view.

    Here are some motivations for practicing naked yoga:

    • Feeling free. When you dispose of everything (and isn’t yoga about releasing your mind from all the clutter to obtain enlightenment?) and present yourself fully to the world aren’t feeling free? And you might also feel free from liberating yourself from social restraints against nudity.

     

    • Feeling good about your body. Body and image acceptance are key important aspects in one’s self-esteem. Which might be hard to achieve when your mind is flooded with Photoshopped images of non-real bodies and society calls that beauty. What if you could find the beauty within you and feel pretty about it?

     

    • Leaving embarrassment and other negative feelings outside. Did you know that feelings like embarrassment and shame are socially constructed emotions? As in, we were all taught about the things we should be embarrassed about? What if you could not be embarrassed about your body and person? Wouldn’t that be a sensation worth having?

     

    • Getting in touch with Nature. With human nature for all that matters. Yoga is about paying attention to the here and now. How can you do that if you’re still attached to mundane things? How can you enjoy the beauty of Mother Nature’s work if you’re not paying full attention?

     

    • Re-connecting with others humans in a naked mind-body-and-soul way. We all know that most of the time we wear identity masks either to shield and protect us or to keep others away. And is there anything else that expresses our fragility better than nudity? What if the walls that prevent reconnection to others come be tumbled down and we could feel a deep sense of bounding to other humans?

     

    A few psychological benefits of naked yoga.

     

     

    • Working on your self-esteem. As mentioned above, a good-real body image and body acceptance are key parts of self-esteem. And accepting one’s body as it is, is half-way into accepting one in overall and valuing the amazing person that you are.

     

    • Feeling good about your sexuality. Meaning that you feel good about your sexual identity – being a man or a woman. You will not only accept your social part as a man or a woman but feel comfortable “being in your own shoes”.

     

    • Freeing yourself of too much sex. Seems like counter intuitive? Don’t confuse sexuality with sex! Sex is a very important part of our nature but it is taking too much space of our significant relationships. Naked yoga can help you regain intimacy with your partner, a far greater component in successful relationships than just good sex.

     

    • Having fun! Do you remember how you were as a child? Do you remember running in your backyard or at the beach barefoot and fully nude? Didn’t that just feel great? Practicing nude yoga can bring that wonderful feeling back. And no sexual restraints attached to it!

     

    Please remember that before practicing naked yoga you should be comfortable about it and it should be a pleasurable activity for you. So, if you’re up for it, give it a try!

    Image source: Cutcaster.com (purchase order #57281)

     

     


  2. Self-Awareness through Kundalini Yoga

    June 6, 2013

    self-awareness through yoga

    by Rebecca Junck

     

    “Kundalini Yoga consists of active and passive asana-based kriyas, pranayama, and meditations which target the whole body system (nervous system, glands, mental faculties, chakras) to develop awareness, consciousness and spiritual strength.” —Yogi Bhajan

     

    What is Kundalini Yoga

     

    An ancient form of yoga, Kundalini is one of the more spiritual yoga practices. It’s also known as the yoga of awareness, as it focuses on increasing self-awareness and delivering an experience of your highest consciousness. Its emphasis on breathing, meditation, mudras and chanting takes it beyond the physical performance of the poses.

    Kundalini energy is one of the pillars of yoga and is included in one of the earliest yoga scriptures circa 2nd century BCE. It’s been practiced in India since then and has only recently gained popularity in the west.  In 1969 Yogi Bhajan immigrated to America and founded 3HO (the Healthy, Happy, Holy Organization) in Los Angeles to begin teaching Kundalini yoga to a new broader audience. Today it’s practiced worldwide and has attracted such celebrity followers as Russell Brand, Reese Witherspoon and Miranda Kerr.

    Difference from Other Forms of Yoga

     

    Kundalini is more relaxed that most other types of yoga such as Vinyasa or Ashtanga. Although all yoga is spiritual, Kundalini really focuses on your self-awareness and consciousness. If you’re looking for an up-tempo experience, stick with Bikram or Vinyasa. If you’re looking for a slower pace, chanting and spiritual teachings, try Kundalini.

    A typical Kundalini yoga session includes specific sets of postures (asana) that target a specified part of your body, with a focus on meditation, breathing exercises (pranayama) and chanting (mantra).

    Often grouped together with Hatha yoga, there are some noteworthy differences between the two when it comes to the poses:

    Hatha combines a number of poses that are aimed at stretching and strengthening your muscles and stimulating your internal organs. The postures incorporate sitting, standing and lying down poses, such as cobra, bow, locust and cat.

    Kundalini has far fewer poses than Hatha and they are all sitting poses, including the lotus, the rock and the hero.

    What to Expect in Your First Class

     

    A class begins with a short chant Ong Namo Guru Dev Namo (“I call on the divine teacher within”) in order to tune the channel of your mind. It’s a way to bring the whole class together and connect with the tradition of Kundalini yoga.

    Next there will be a warm up that improves flexibility and stretches the spine. The main section of the class is called a kriya – a pre-determined sequence of exercises that focuses on a specific area of the body (arms, legs, and torso) in order to strengthen and help them release toxins. The class ends with a meditation followed by the blessing song “May the Long Time Sun Shine Upon You”.

    The Benefits of Kundalini Yoga

     

    All physical activity has benefits for your body including increased vitality, weight loss/control and increased muscle strength. Kundalini includes these as well as:

    • Helping to better the functioning of your cardiovascular, lymphatic, nervous, digestive and glandular systems.
    • Heightening your 5 senses – sight, smell, hearing, touch and taste – and increasing their sensitivity.
    • Helping to increase your sense of confidence and well-being that comes as you make your journey of self-discovery of your inner self and relaxed mental state.
    • Increasing your control of yourself, overcoming anger and resentment more easily to find inner calm.
    • Strengthening your immune system that will keep you healthy and well.

    Because it has such positive effects on both your mental and physical states, Kundalini has increased in popularity in recent years. Perhaps it’s a sign of how busy life and society has become that we seek out opportunities to promote positive thinking and center ourselves. Or perhaps we’ve only just discovered it.

    Whichever type of yoga that you choose, it’s important to remember that your goal is to improve your overall wellness, health and life. In fitness classes and sports it’s easy to compare your progress with those around you, quietly judging yourself. In yoga, you get to be selfish. Remember that your classmates aren’t paying attention to whether you nailed the last posture or how deep you go into the poses – they’re too busy concentrating on themselves.

     

    Author Bio: Rebecca is a digital yogi trying to find balance in today’s hectic world. She writes about nutrition, exercise, and holistic and healthy living at Healthy Living Online.

    Image Credit: yogamama.co.uk


  3. Yoga poses for Calming your Mind

    May 16, 2013

    Yoga poses for Calming your Mind

    Yoga poses are called asanas in Sanskrit. They are positions in yoga that help in the overall, harmonious well-being of the body and mind.

    These postures help in increasing the body’s flexibility and over time can be an efficient way to lose weight and tone the body. They also help in increasing our power of concentration and help us relax. Yoga embraces all individuals. People of all ages can perform these asanas. Yoga has no side effects. Only care needs to be taken to ensure that very young children and aged persons do not hold the yogic postures for very long. Pregnant women and menstruating women must also avoid practicing yoga. A trained yoga instructor is also very essential to be able to learn the right way of doing yoga.

    Asanas can be of different types. Seated asanas, Standing asanas, Core asanas, Back Bend asanas, Arm Balance asansas, Twisted asanas, Inversion asanas, Supine asanas and Relaxation asanas. Thus there are asanas for the entire body – from head to toe. These asanas are combined with specialized breathing techniques for maximum effect.

    A few important points have to be kept in mind before performing them. The stomach should be empty. The mind should be relaxed. The body at no point should be trembling. No external force must be applied to the body and the breathing needs to be extremely controlled. Yoga has to be performed on the floor but it is necessary to have either a yoga mat or a towel to protect from shocks and injury. For best results asanas must be done on a regular basis, that is, for at least 45 minutes every day.

    The core asana in different schools of yoga is the Surya Namaskar or the Sun salutation. This Sun Salutation is a holistic asana that blends twelve different poses into one long exercise that has a positive impact on the entire body.

    Warm up poses in yoga are very important as they prepare the body for the yoga session. The main warm-up poses include eye exercises, neck exercises, shoulder stretches and lifts and the Cat Pose or Bidalasana.

    standing - Yoga poses for Calming your Mind

    Seated poses are the classic postures that are beneficial for relaxation, but also have other curative powers. The main seated poses include the Easy pose or Sukhasan, the Child Pose, the Lotus Pose, the Hero Pose, the Garland Pose, the Seated Forward Bend pose and Full Boat pose.

    Standing poses make you aware of your body and posture and form the root of body balance and body alignment. The Tadasan or the Mountain Pose is the root of all standing asanas. Other basic standing poses include the Tree Pose, the Warrior Pose, the Chair Pose, the Triangle Pose, the Crescent Moon Pose, the Half Moon Pose, the Standing Forward Bend Pose and the Hands to Feet pose.

    Supine poses are essentially those asanas that are performed with the back on the floor. The Pavanamuktasan or the Wind Relieving pose, the leg raises, the leg pulls and the leg reclining lunge are main supine poses.

    The Dog Pose, the Bow Pose, The Bridge Pose, The Cobra Pose, the Wheel Pose, the Locust Pose and the Fish Pose are the main Backward Bend asanas. They help in fortifying the back and spine, increase flexibility. They also give a good stretch to the limbs. Those with back problems should refrain from doing these or should consult a trained specialist before attempting them.

    Backward Bend - Yoga poses for Calming your Mind

    Twisted poses are mainly beneficial for the back and spine, but also help in abdominal stretching. The Sage twist or the Marichyasana and the half spinal twist or Ardha Matsyendrasana are main Twisted asanas.

    Balance poses and Inverted poses such as the Head Stand, Shoulder Stand,
    Hand Stand, the Crane Pose and the Plough Pose help in increasing bodily balance and also strengthen targeted body parts. These are very often very advanced poses that can be performed after having followed a rigorous yoga program

    The Cool down poses or the Relaxing poses help finish off the session and help in calming the mind and making the mind one with the body. They are also called regenerative poses. The Savasan or the Dead Corpse pose and the Final Corpse pose are the main finishing poses.  For details for yoga poses kindly visit http://www.yogawiz.com/yoga-poses.html

    Images Credit: Lululemon Athletica


  4. The Benefits of Yoga for Seniors

    May 12, 2013

    Yoga for seniors

    by Jamica Bell

    Yoga has become increasingly popular over the last decade. In addition, it has also been proven to provide health benefits for people of all ages. In fact, there are now specialized classes available for two drastically different age groups: senior citizens and infants. The senior classes place an emphasis on obtaining positions that will help reduce feelings of fatigue, pain and stress. By enrolling in one of these classes, mature adults will be taught about the best yoga positions for their specific needs.

    According to wellness experts, there are several poses that work best for seniors: One-Legged Wind Releasing Pose, Staff Pose, Chair Pose, V Seated Forward Bend in a Chair, V Pose, and Relaxation Pose.

    Individuals interested in obtaining the positive health benefits associated with yoga should sign up for a yoga class as long as their doctor agrees that they are physically capable of starting a new exercise routine.

    The Perks of Doing Yoga

    This 5000 year old art form provides many physical benefits for those who participate in it on a regular basis, but it also offers several emotional benefits as well. Yoga is well-known as an exercise that provides people with a cathartic release from any pent-up emotions, making it ideal for anyone struggling with depression. In fact, many doctors will recommend yoga as an alternative treatment for certain physical and emotional ailments, and most people report positive results. The following attributes are just a few of the physical benefits of this peacefully exercise:

    • Aids in control of blood sugar in diabetes patients
    • Improves respiratory function
    • Improves arthritis pain
    • Boost bone density and prevents osteoporosis
    • Enhances balance
    • Fosters sleep quality
    • Diminishes pain

    Choosing the Right Class for You

    Whether you prefer an environment that is candlelit and meditative or instructional with higher impact, there are many options for whatever class best fit your personality If you want to take a yoga class with people in your age range, you can call a local yoga school and ask them if they offer a senior course. Additionally, if you are currently utilizing the services of an assisted living provider, you can ask them to help you find the best yoga options in the area. Major cities may provide mental wellness programs that may be more accessible than some rural cities. For example, senior living Birmingham communities have made great strides to ensure the senior citizens in their locale have ample access to quality mental wellness.

    What Should I Expect?

    When you first begin doing yoga, you can expect to have a little bit of difficulty getting into some of the poses, but your instructor will help you position your body correctly. As with any other new exercise program, it is possible that you will feel sore the next day. However, if you stick with it, you will soon begin to experience the many rewards of doing yoga.

    Is Yoga for Me?

    Anyone who wants to feel better both physically and mentally should definitely consider enrolling in a yoga class. If you are feeling hesitant because it has been a long time since you have enrolled in an exercise program or if you have never been physically active, it is important for you to remember that it is never too late to change your life. By signing up, you have made the first step to get in better touch with yourself and your spirituality. There are yoga courses that are designed for all experience levels, and a professional instructor can also work with several different physical limitations to ensure that you get the most out of the experience.

    Yoga’s popularity has grown so quickly because so many people have discovered that it truly helps them in several different ways. To take advantage of this lower intensity workout to improve your life, you should consult with an assisted living provider, hospital, or doctor’s office for a list of schools that offer senior classes.

     

    Author Bio: Jamica Bell is a contributing writer for several blogs and is an advocate for health and wellness. Chateau Vestavia is a senior living Birmingham community dedicated to providing wellness, comfort, and peace of mind to its residents and their loved ones. In addition to assisted living, they also provide independent living and memory care.

    Image Credit: yogamama.co.uk

     


  5. Deepen Your Yoga Practice with These 8 Goals

    February 28, 2013

    If you’ve been dabbling with yoga, maybe it’s time to take it to the next level by setting some yoga goals, or even one yoga goal.

    The fact is that a progressive yoga practice practice requires setting simple and attainable yoga practice goals in a way that’s not future oriented.

    We do yoga practice to experience a benefit of some sort, so goal-setting is part of that process in order to reach and enjoy the benefit.

    This inspiring yoga infographic presents 8 great yoga practice goals any yogi can pursue to deepen their practice. The end result of the goals is to help yogis deepend their yoga practice and/or learn more.

    8 yoga practice goals

    Yoga goals are for every anyone looking to deepen their practice … from yoga teachers to the person doing yoga for the very first time. Read this informative infographic today and decide on one simple yoga goal that you can get started with immediately.