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Pranayama for Children

When my daughter falls and scrapes her knee the first words out of my mouth are often “take some deep breaths.”  And Sure enough (even at 2 years old) she starts to inhale and exhale slowly and rhythmically as the tears dry up. The benefits of breath work (pranayama) are vast, and for children that’s no exception.  Taking deep breaths decreases stress and anxiety, strengthens the core muscles, and works as a natural pain reliever.  Start early when teaching your little ones pranayama, and it is sure improve their well-being…and yours! Here are some exercises you can try at home…

Feather work
Use feathers to demonstrate how breath works.  Hold the feather in your hand, and tell them to “blow” as if they were blowing on hot food or a candle.  Let them observe how the feather flies through the air. We often pair this up with an eagle pose in our toddler yoga classes! For older kids you can make it more challenging by instructing them to try to keep the feather in the air for as long as possible by only using their breath.  No hands allowed!

Belly Breath
Take a small toy or stuffed animal for a ride on your belly.  Instruct the child to lay on their back.  Place the toy on their belly.  Tell them to watch the toy move up and down as they breathe.  As they inhale the toy should move up toward the sky, and as they exhale the toy will sink toward the ground.  It may help to demonstrate the task on your own belly first.

Blow Paint
Allow your child to create some really amazing art with their breath.  Drip some watered down pain onto a piece of paper and then instruct them to blow through a straw to move the paint around the page.  Not only does it take a little diaphragmatic breath work, but it engages their artistic side as well! Happy breathing! J  

Introducing...The Perfect Balance!

I have clients that practice yoga, and I have clients that work out in the gym.  Both approaches can keep you healthy inside and out, but depending on your fitness goals it may be smart to mix up your routine.  Yoga can offer things that the gym cannot, and vice versa.  Because I wanted to provide my clients with optimal results (and keep them interested and motivated) I created a fun new workout that combines it all--The Perfect Balance!

Most of my clients have very similar goals (weight loss, stress relief, longevity), so if these goals ring true to you The Perfect Balance may be a great alternative to what you are doing now (or lack there of).

Here is what yoga can offer that the gym cannot:

-Flexibility- While practicing yoga you are stretching the muscles and connective tissues while simultaneously strengthening them.  This not only leaves the body more flexible, but creates a longer, leaner look.  Lifting weights in the gym has the tendency add bulk because more time is spent lifting weights, not stretching.

-Healthy organs and glands- Much of the bending and twisting involved in the yoga practice is not just for the muscles and joints. The movements are meant to massage and stimulate your inner organs and glands to allow the body to function more efficiently.  Most traditional training programs are not designed with these goals in mind.

-Calm mind- While breaking a sweat in the gym can reduce stress to some degree, yoga takes it to the next level.  Meditation and breath work are wonderful ways to calm the mind and create a happier more fulfilling life.

Here is what the gym can offer that yoga cannot:

-High intensity cardio- For healthy heart and lungs AND for weight loss goals, high intensity cardiovascular training is a must. While yoga can raise the heart rate to some extent, it is usually not enough to see weight loss results.

So, what is The Perfect Balance?  It’s a seamless combination of yoga and traditional strength and cardio training.  Imagine a standard vinyasa yoga class with cardio intervals and resistance sets interspersed throughout the practice.  You may experience jumping jacks, squats, biceps curls, and burpees as you flow from warrior to warrior.  It is a fun and non-stop workout that will get the heart racing but leave you calm and radiant by the end.  Plus, I can create a session for all levels- beginner through advanced.  There is no need to have experience with yoga or the gym!

I am really excited to share this new program with others.  Spread the word or give it a try yourself! :)

Yoga Curious?

The other day I had to visit a doctor because I have been experiencing pain in my hip. When I told the doctor that I practice yoga he said "Yoga? What, like, stretching?"  I was surprised that a doctor of medicine, with all his years of education, had such limited knowledge of the yoga practice.  I quickly put myself in check, like a good yogini, and decided not to judge him for it.  Instead I reminded myself that many people don't have personal experience with yoga.  It is a common misconception that yoga is simply stretching and that flexibility is a requirement.  I can't tell you how many times I have heard someone say "I can't do yoga. I'm not flexible."  Not true.  If you can breathe you can do yoga.

Keep in mind, I am a personal trainer as well as a yoga teacher, so I work with a number of clients who prefer to sweat it out in the gym instead of on the yoga mat.  There are many ways to climb a mountain, right?  I support any attempt to better one’s self…but I will take this opportunity to share some info and express my love of yoga hoping that others will give it a try and love it too.

There are many ways to define and practice yoga, so I will try not to write a dissertation.  I will give you a simple, strait forward description of what yoga is to me.  If you want a more in depth explanation I would suggest learning about the 8 limbs of yoga
The term “yoga” means to yoke, to join, or to unify, as in creating a union between body and mind.  Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras refer to yoga as “the stilling of the waves of the mind. “ And the Bava Gita calls yoga “skillfulness in action.”  To me, yoga is a way to keep my body and mind healthy and happy.
Benefits of Yoga:

Asanas (postures) keep the body strong and healthy. There are thousands of asanas that work every part of the body, inside and out.  They strengthen muscles and joints, detoxify, and align.  They keep internal organs, glands, and the entire nervous system in tip-top shape.  Posture is improved.  Endurance is improved. Longevity is increased.  Another perk—yoga increases flexibility as it tones the muscles, so the result is a long lean look, free of bulk.  That is part of why I love the practice. I would be lying if I said keeping a lean, sculpted body was not part of why I practice yoga, but knowing that it keeps my insides working properly adds to my sense of well being.
Pranayama (breath) keeps the body cleansed and revitalized.  Add pranayama deep breathing techniques to your asanas and you will be able to stay focused, alert, and stress free.  There are breathing techniques used specifically to cool, warm, energize, relax, and purify the body.  Creating awareness of the breath also connects you to the present moment.  If you are thinking about your breath you are not living in the past or the future. You tap into the here and now. The best part is that you can breathe deeply on or off the mat.  You will often hear me take a deep breath when I am running late, and it really does help, I promise.

Meditation and positive thinking create a sense of happiness and inner peace.  This is the aspect of yoga which often gets overlooked.  The western way of thinking sends us into the yoga studio with goals that relate to the physical body.  We practice the asanas to stay in shape.  We breathe because we are told too, but without creating a mind-body connection you don’t get the full benefit of the yoga practice. It’s like memorizing the words of a poem, but not knowing the poem’s meaning.  Once you make the mind body connection it you can tap into a deeper understanding of compassion, love, and ultimate enlightenment.  To learn more about the benefits of meditation check my previous blog post, Meditation for Beginners.

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