Insight for Yoga Injuries

People who choose to practice yoga at home do so for a variety of reasons. Perhaps there aren’t any studios in their area that they feel comfortable with, or maybe they can’t afford the classes. Others may choose to pursue a home practice so they can deepen their experience of yoga in a solitary environment, making it a truly personal experience.

But the problem with home-based yoga is the lack of teacher guidance when it comes to proper alignment. Many individuals end up injured as a result of pushing themselves too far or simply failing to properly align the body while holding poses.

The Most Common Types of Yoga Injuries

By understanding what the most common types of yoga-related injuries are, you can begin to take steps to avoid putting yourself in a position where these injuries are more likely to occur. Shoulder, elbow, and wrist injuries are quite common, as are pulled hamstrings, lower back pain, and knee issues.

Wrist Injuries

To avoid injuries in poses like downward dog and plank, spread your fingers wide and align your wrist crease with the top of the mat. Press into the knuckles that meet your hand so you have a secure grip on the ground, with the fingertips pressing down for more support. Focus on pressing the forefinger and thumb area down into the floor. When in Plank, keep your arm in one line, with the wrist underneath the elbow and the elbow underneath the shoulder. This alignment will also prevent elbow and shoulder injuries and make the exercise more effective.

Shoulder injuries

These are common because a lot of people are very tight in that part of the body and they try to force the shoulders to open. Going into shoulderstands and headstands, in particular, before you’re ready is a big mistake, so focus on stretching and strengthening the shoulders first.

Hamstring injuries

To avoid them, keep your knees slightly bent while doing folds and Downward Dog rather than forcing the legs to be straight or the heels to touch the ground, respectively. This will also prevent lower back strain, especially when maintaining a straight spine at the same time. Never force yourself to go deeper into a pose until you’re ready. Instead, inhale and exhale deeply as your body gently moves into the pose.

Knee injuries

To avoid injuring your delicate knees, make sure your hips are flexible before going into positions like lotus, and make sure your knee is above the ankle in positions like Warrior.

Don’t be ashamed to use props

A lot of beginners are ashamed to use props and want to prove themselves by pushing into an asana without any external help. This could spell disaster if you aren’t ready for the full expression of a pose and you don’t want to end up overextending and overexerting yourself. If you ever catch yourself thinking this way, try to embrace them for what they truly are: tools that help to get into a pose and derive every benefit from it while avoiding injuries that would ultimately take you off the mat and set you back.

Purchase a few blocks, some blankets, a bolster or two, and straps that you can use as you gently bring your body into a pose over time. These props are also key in maintaining proper alignment so that you reduce the risk of injuries.

Blankets

For example, a blanket folded in half provides a great base for sitting and enjoying a longer extension through your spine when you’re in a basic seated position. You can use bolster the same way, which can be very helpful during meditation and pranayama.

Blocks

A block can be used to help you get into poses like Pigeon, especially if you haven’t yet developed enough flexibility to bring your bent leg all the way to the floor. You can also use a block to literally lift the floor towards you when you’re bending into a pose like Extended Side Angle or Triangle pose. And when you get more advanced, the block can be placed in front of your feet so that you can reach even deeper into your seated forward bend.

Straps

Straps can literally extend the length of your arms if you’re tight in poses that require a bind or in poses like Standing Hand-to-big-toe, as the strap will help to lengthen those limbs and promote flexibility.

Home-based yoga practice can be effective, invigorating, and calming. Just listen to your body, be careful when it signals that something is wrong and honor what you’re capable of doing each day.

– An article from Yoga.com

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The Strength of a Yoga Warrior

Yoga is a great way to strengthen your muscles, reduce stress, and lose weight. With a daily yoga workout, you can be shedding weight in as little as three weeks! Practicing yoga will affect more than your waistline, however. It has been proven to improve respiration, flexibility, and mood; foster a strong sense of calm and inner peace; and create an overall physical and mental balance of your being.

Unleash your inner warrior! These three poses increase stamina, strengthen your legs, back, shoulders, and arms, and improve balance. The foundation of strength and power will help you to move on to more challenging exercises and asana. Try these particularly effective poses at least three times a week. Hold each pose one time for three to five deep breaths. As you become stronger, hold the poses for longer, up to eight breaths.

Warrior I (Virabhadrasana I)

How to do it: Begin by standing up straight and then extending your left leg 1 to 1.5 meters behind you (depending on how long your legs are). Bend your knee so that it is directly above the ankle and a 90 degree angle is formed. With head, shoulders, and knees pointed forward and left foot turned in slightly, raise your arms above your head, palms facing one another and fingers pointed to the sky as you inhale. Look up at the ceiling. As you exhale, relax your shoulders and hold this position for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Lower your arms to your sides and bring your left leg slowly back in to reverse the position. Extend your right leg back and repeat the pose.

Warrior II (Virabhadrasana II)

How to do it: Similar to Warrior I, the Warrior II begins by spreading your feet about 1 to 1.5 meters apart (depending on how long your legs are). Raise both arms up to shoulder height and parallel to the floor. Turn your head to the left so that your chin is directly over your left shoulder. Turn your left foot 90 degrees so that your nose, left knee, and toes are all pointing the same way. Remember to keep your hips, torso, and arms facing front. Hold this position for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Lower your arms and bring your leg slowly back in to reverse the position to the right. Breathing should be slow and deliberate throughout this pose.

Warrior III (Virabhadrasana III)

How to do it: Begin standing with feet shoulder-width apart. Raise both arms over your head. You palms should be facing each other. Move your left foot backward. Lean forward slightly. Your arms, back, and left foot should form one diagonal line. Lift your left foot and lean forward further. Your left leg and outstretched arms should form a parallel line with the floor. Straighten your right leg. Your body should form a “T”-shape. Breathe through your stomach and keep your back straight.

The Crescent and Rocking Boat poses firm your abs (and the sides of your abs), hips, and thighs. These are notorious ‘problem areas’ for fat stores. Coincidence? I think not…

Crescent (Anjaneyasana)

How to do it: Begin by standing with feet together, toes pointing forward, and arms at your sides. On the inhale, raise your arms over your head and point your fingertips toward the ceiling. On the exhale, bend forward from your hips and bring your hands to the floor. Inhale. On the next exhale, extend your right leg back into a lunge (left knee bent 90 degrees over your ankle). Inhale and raise arms over your head again and gaze forward. Hold for a few breaths and then return to standing. Repeat the move with the other leg.

Rocking Boat (Navasana)

How to do it: Sit with knees bent, feet flat on the floor, and hands on your thighs. With your torso straight and head in line with your body (imagine your spine to the crown of your head is a straight pole) lean back about 45 degrees. Raise your feet so your calves are parallel to the floor, with your toes pointed. On the inhale, extend your arms and legs (keeping your legs together). Exhale, and on the next inhale, lower your torso and legs so your body forms a wider V shape. Exhale and raise torso and legs and repeat three to five times.

Article from Yoga.com

You can read more about yoga at Yoga.com

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Shaun T: The Fitness Tyrant

If this had just been me in my living room, doing one of Shaun T’s Insanity or Focus T25 workouts on my own, it would be easy to skip some reps of single-leg squats or hit the pause button after all the plyo jumps, pushups, and cardio I’ve already cranked out. But today he’s just 50 feet away from me, on a stage in New Jersey, demanding 10 more reps from the 200 people there.

“This is when you’re going to hate me,” he warns, “but now let’s hold this squat!” His devotees let out boastful yelps of enthusiasm as their back knees hover just inches from the floor with nary a quiver. Myself a Shaun T workout virgin, I’m biting my lip hoping to make it to the next water break without falling.

At least I’m not John Barnett, 25, from New Jersey. In the middle of a round of floor triceps dips, Shaun T parades the entire gymnasium—as he’s wont to do—until he spots this physical education teacher and former collegiate wrestler. His form is spot on, but Shaun T pushes down on Barnett’s shoulders each time he lifts up off the floor, making his face turn to a new shade of red for the final 15 seconds of the move. “Even though it was more pressure, it was crazy to have him right there, so I tried to give every ounce of effort I had,” says Barnett.

And that’s the goal of Shaun T—make you go one step beyond what you think you can—whether it’s during one of his popular at-home workouts or at these live events that continue to grow in popularity wherever he stops around the globe. Whether you call him a motivator, coach, or fierce drill instructor, Shaun T wants you to change your body for the better. Here are five pearls of wisdom I was able to cull from this workout maniac after he wiped me out with an hour-long Insanity workout from Hell.

Push Past Your Limit: “I’ve done the workouts. I’ve created them. I know how it feels when it gets to that breaking point,” says Shaun T. This day he isn’t motivating people through a television screen, making it easier to spot when others need help finding a reason to do one or two more good reps. “I want to push people and have them dig deep, to go a little bit harder,” he says after the workout. “The message is, ‘Okay, I know you accomplished this. But can you do more?’ ”

The first thing you usually hear from his mouth is “You can do it” because he knows that positive motivation is much more useful than that voice in your head saying “This is too hard!” It’s all a part of his “dig deeper” message. If you tap into what you’re feeling or what your goals are for each workout, he preaches that nothing is left in the tank at the end.

Not Your Girlfriend’s Workout: Go to any Shaun T live event, and you’ll probably be surrounded by many women in form-fitting workout capris and tank-tops. It didn’t seem super macho until I had sweat dripping from my chin onto the floor during a set of walkout-plank pushups 20 minutes into my workout. “Women do all these things like lift, toning workouts, boot camps, and pilates. In essence they are more fit than guys,” he says. No, he doesn’t expect guys to do T25 every day—though you certainly can—but it help put you in peak physical condition by incorporating it into everything else you do. T25workouts will boost your cardio, provide you better range of motion, and tone your muscles in ways normal workouts can’t.

But he doesn’t sweat it if guys opt for his Insanity workouts,P90x, or prefer power lifting in the gym. “I always tell people to do what you want to do, and do it how you like to do it,” he says. “I don’t need you to do my workout, but what it does offer is something different.”

Your Trainer Is for YOU: Antony Stubbs, 31, from Manhattan, is a typical Shaun T success story. He says he lost 30 pounds after he started doing T25 workouts this past January. After spending six mornings a week with T in his living room, it almost was like having his own personal trainer in his home.

But that’s after trying other workouts and spending over $1,000 on personal trainers that didn’t do as much for him. “A good personal trainer makes the workout that’s about to happen about the client,” says Shaun T. Whether you’re choosing a home fitness DVD, a personal trainer, or a style of workout, find the tool or person that will truly help you stick to reaching your goals. If you’re stuck doing the same things over and over, or your trainer has you perform a carbon copy of everybody else’s routine, abandon ship and find something better.

Weight Loss Isn’t What You Think: “The biggest misconception about weight loss is you have to eat less,” says Shaun T. Sometimes it’s actually about eating more really good things—like lean protein and vegetables—instead of junk you put into your system—like powdered donuts, a vice even Shaun T cops to.

The worst thing you can do is jump headfirst into any new regimen instead of slowly progressing. “You’re going to relapse. You have to wean yourself off of whatever,” he says. If somebody has donuts for breakfast, McDonald’s for lunch, and pizza for dinner, just start one day with a healthier breakfast. Then down the road you can switch up your snacks to something healthier when you start to notice positive changes from that first alteration.

Plateaus Are New Beginnings: For many people, a plateau is a frustrating moment. You can’t lift more weight, aren’t losing those last 10 pounds, or just can’t reach your goals. “Look at plateaus in your workouts as working really, really hard to get this far, and now you have a new starting point,” says Shaun T. The next step might be a changing your nutrition, adding an extra five-minutes at the end of your gym session, or shooting for better form on all your movements.

For example, some people have been through Insanity and T25workouts five times. While it takes me a few beats to find the rhythm of some of his more choreographed workout maneuvers, his fans know every exercise inside and out. That’s why he loves doing in-person workouts where he can push his diehard fans beyond what they thought was their limit. “I always say if I was in your house as you do Insanity, you’d feel like you’ve never done it this way before,” he says. At every level of fitness, there exists a breakthrough moment that you can achieve—even if it’s one more pushup tomorrow—and once you’ve reached it you can strive for the next thing.

Written by Brian Dalek

You can read more about health and fitness at MensHealth.com.

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Smoking to Weight-Gaining Worries

What’s stopping you
from ditching cigarettes for good? It might be your worry about weight gain, suggests a new study from Penn State University researchers.

The study looked at nearly 300 frequent smokers and found that over half of them had gained weight—an average of 22 pounds—when they tried to quit previously. This past experience often prevented smokers from trying to quit a second time, says study coauthor Susan Veldheer, MS, RD.

Here’s why dropping your cigarettes puts your gut in danger. Quitters have increased appetites because nicotine suppresses your urge to eat, and nicotine also stimulates your metabolism, so without it, your body may burn fewer calories. And then there’s your hand-to-mouth habit—ex-smokers may sub in snacks just because they need that pattern. 



Don’t be fooled, however. The health benefits from quitting—such as lowering your risk of cardiovascular disease—outweigh any negatives from gaining a modest 5 to 10 pounds, suggests a 2013 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

You know going cold turkey is difficult, but FDA-approved nicotine replacement medications like the nicotine patch, lozenge, inhaler, or nasal spray dial down withdrawal symptoms so your appetite doesn’t go haywire. Using a combo—a nicotine replacement therapy and medication like bupropion (a.k.a. Zyban) that helps with cravings—also helped people gain less weight compared to those on one drug or placebo, suggests a 2013 study in Addictive Behaviors.

Another strategy? Keep your focus on dropping the tobacco first since trying to quit and diet at the same time is a recipe for disaster. “As anyone who has ever tried to quit smoking knows, it’s a difficult thing to do and takes a lot of focus and energy,” says Veldheer. So you may want to hone your efforts on quitting for several weeks and accept a little bit of weight gain. Then once you’re sure of your success with putting down those cigs, work on losing that excess weight, she says.

Written by Jessica Migala from MensHealth.com

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Bedtime Yoga

In this modern age, sleep disorders are surprisingly common. Regardless of whether it is built up stress that’s preventing sleep, or just because we spend too much time under synthetic lighting, it is apparent that millions of people each year are struggling to get a good night sleep on a regular basis. There are a number of suggestions for alleviating sleeplessness, but a short yoga work out is often overlooked. Deciding to end your day with a 15 minute yoga workout might be the best change you make all year. 



What kind of yoga is best before bed? 


You should aim to find a style of yoga that fully relaxes you. Yoga routines that focus on deep breathing and slow movement will help promote sleep. Any type of vigorous yoga is likely to work against sleep, causing the brain to wake up and is, therefore not recommended before bed. Some of the most popular and highly relaxing styles of yoga routines are: hatha, integral and kripalu.



Hatha is compromised of gentle, basic postures that have little flow between poses. It’s slow paced, filled with simple breathing exercises and seated meditation.



Integral yoga is most focused on integrating the mind, body, and spirit. This practice usually goes beyond the physical teachings of yoga, with a large focus on inspiration, finding fulfillment and promoting peace.



Kirpalu yoga encourages you to go at your own pace, while an emphasis is placed on healing and spiritual transformation. This style of yoga extends past poses with a strong emphasis on self-transformation.




How long should I spend practicing yoga before I sleep?


As a rough guide, aim for a 15-minute yoga workout before bed, but always listen to your body. If, at 10 minutes through the routine, you feel very tired and sleepy, then go to sleep. On the flip side, if you are at the end of your routine and feel like repeating it, feel free. The most important criteria for doing yoga before bed is that you find something that deeply relaxes you, soothing your body and mind. 



How often do I need to practice yoga before bed?


If you start doing yoga before bed every night of the week, you’ll find that it becomes a part of your routine. It’s a great time to reflect on your day. It is absolutely not necessary to do yoga every night before bed, but you might find yourself enjoying it so much that you can’t imagine ending your day any other way. 


Written by Unknown Writer. This article can be found at yoga.com

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Losing Fat Without The Losing Muscle

There’s weight loss, and there’s fat loss. When people say they want to lose weight, they mean they want to lose fat, because you certainly don’t want to lose muscle. Muscle is metabolically active tissue – it’s the physical location in your body where fat is burned. What’s more, muscle also creates the shape of your body. So when women talk about toning, enhancing, or shaping certain areas of their bodies, what they’re really talking about is muscle, as you can’t build a perkier, rounder, or sexier anything without building muscle. And, anyone who says otherwise either has no clue about basic human physiology, or is someone making false promises in order to separate you from your money.

When discussing fat loss, I want to make it clear that the relationship of how many calories you consume per day to the number you burn per day is the single most important factor when it comes to determining whether you lose fat. The concept that you need to be in a caloric deficit in order to lose fat isn’t personal opinion, nor is it up for debate by so-called diet gurus. This is the first law of thermodynamics, which states that energy — and fat is stored energy — can be neither created nor destroyed, only changed from one form to another. In other words, fat loss is determined by burning more calories each day than you consume. Now, this isn’t to discount that some calories are more nutrient dense than others. We’ve all heard the term empty calories before, but one can still be well-nourished and over-fed. So as important as it is to eat high-quality, nutrient-dense foods, one can still gain fat from eating "healthy," if they eat too many calories relative to what they’re burning.

Now, there are two ways to create a caloric deficit. You can either eat fewer calories or you can eat the same amount of calories and increase your activity level to burn more calories. Since we’re looking for fat loss without muscle loss, that activity should focus primarily on strength training, not cardio training methods. Although this may be contrary to popular belief, a 1999 study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition really drives home the importance of strength training over cardio for fat loss without muscle loss while in a caloric deficit.

The study looked at two groups of obese subjects put on identical very low calorie diets. One group was given an aerobic exercise only protocol (walking, biking, or jogging four times per week), and the other group was given resistance training only three times per week. After 12 weeks, both groups lost weight. The aerobic exercise group lost 37 pounds, 27 of which was fat and ten of which was muscle. However, the resistance-training group lost 32 pounds, and 32 pounds were fat; zero was muscle.

In other words, the resistance training group lost significantly more fat and didn’t lose any muscle, even at only 800 calories per day, which is far lower than anyone would want to go, but was done in this study in order to take any dietary variables completely out of the equation and compare the effects of the exercise regime on muscle maintenance and metabolism.

Additionally, when resting metabolic rate was calculated after the study, it was found that the aerobic (cardio) group was burning 210 fewer calories daily. In contrast, the resistance-training group had increased their metabolism by 63 calories per day.

So, the two takeaways for successfully losing fat without losing muscle is that first, you need to be in a caloric deficit and second, you need to emphasize strength training over cardio when you’re in such a deficit in order to maintain your muscle, which, as stated above is what gives you that sexy and athletic shape.

Lastly, it’s important to note that just because you need to create a caloric deficit doesn’t mean that you have to starve yourself or eat an incredibly low calorie diet as was used in the study discuss above, which involved obese individuals. In fact, if you’re not obese, maybe just a bit overweight, or you’re already fairly lean and simply looking to lose that extra bit of fat, a large caloric deficit will generally make you lose some muscle even with strength training and adequate protein So, the goal in order to achieve fat loss without muscle loss, is to be in a caloric deficit without starving yourself, make sure that your diet delivers plenty of protein and focus your exercise efforts on performing regular strength training as I’ve directed in my book "Strength Training for Fat Loss."

By Nick Tumminello

You can read more about health and fitness at LiveStrong.com

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A Horrible Workout

There’s an old fitness joke that goes like this: You know your workout is horrible if you do arm curls in the squat rack. Okay, this isn’t really a joke. It’s a "nice" way of telling people that they shouldn’t curl in the squat rack. (It makes the strong dudes really mad.)

But chances are, your routine isn’t perfect. And I’ve found three not-so obvious ways to tell if your workout needs work. Will your exercise plan pass or fail?

(And if you’re still wondering why you shouldn’t curl in the squat rack, just trust me and don’t do it.)

1. You sit or lie down for more than 2 exercises

Most gyms are filled with places to park your butt. But a funny thing: The benches and seats aren’t there so you can rest between exercises. (Most people do.) Apparently, they’re there so that you can rest as you exercise. For example, the leg press, leg extension, leg curl all require you to sit or lie down so that you can work your lower body muscles. "It doesn’t make sense," says Alwyn Cosgrove, C.S.C.S., co-owner of Results Fitness in Santa Clarita, California. "People sit all day, and then go to the gym and sit there, too."

Cosgrove says that most of his clients want to undo the effects of their desk job. Think: belly-fat, poor posture, and tight muscles. "Sitting contributes to all of those problems," he says. "That’s why we keep people on their feet. There are always exceptions, but I don’t want anyone sitting or lying for more than two exercises. And for fat loss, I’d prefer that our clients didn’t sit at all." Yes, you have to lie down if you want to do bench press. But for most exercises, sitting is completely optional.

2. You’re not playing the right percentages

Here’s a quick quiz:

Question 1. How many total sets of exercises do you do for your lower body each week? For instance, if you do 2 sets of the squat, and 2 sets of the lunge, that’s 4 total sets.

Question 2. How many total sets of all exercises do you each week? This is everything: lunges, squats, bench presses, pullups, curls—you name it.

Now divide your answer in Question 1 by your answer in Question 2. That’s a percentage. Keep that number in mind.

Question 3: What percentage of your body’s muscle resides below your waist? Hint: Probably around 50 percent or more, right?

Final question: How does the percentage you calculated earlier compare to your answer in Question 3? "If there’s a big difference, your workout is probably way out of balance," says Cosgrove. "Whether you’re trying to lose fat or build muscles, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity to improve your results."

This isn’t the only version of the quiz you should take, though. What about the time you spend working the front side of your body compared to the backside of your body? How many sets of exercises do you do for you chest, arms, and quads, compared to your back, glutes, and hamstrings? "I know guys who spend 90 percent of their time working 50 percent of their body," says Cosgrove. "This slows their results, and over time, can lead to injury due to strength imbalances.

Now isn’t an exact way to determine if your workout is balanced. But it’ll give you a rough idea if you’re even if in the ballpark. If you’re not, your workout is probably horrible.

3. You can’t pass this core test
Even if you don’t have an ounce of fat, you could be soft in the middle. Try this cool test of core of strength, courtesy of Gray Cook, P.T., author of Movement: Functional Movement Systems. It’s a simple way to determine if your midsection isn’t as strong as it should be.

Warning: The fact that you regularly do ab exercises doesn’t guarantee you’ll pass this test. "You can do lots of crunches and situps and still have a weak core," says Mike Wunsch, co-creator of 24-Hour Abs, Men’s Health‘s newest ab-sculpting diet and exercise plan. "I see that all the time." The reason: Classic ab moves like crunches and situps work the muscles that allow you to flex (that is, round) your lower spine. True core exercises, on the other hand, train the muscles that prevent your spine from rounding.

The bottom line: If you can’t pass this test, you need to upgrade your ab workout to focus on stability exercises like the plank and side plank. The perfect solution: The Best Ab Workout You’ve Never Done.

Written by Adam Campbell

You can learn more about health and fitness at MensHealth.com

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The Fat Blaster

Do you find it hard to make the time to work out? You’re not alone. Planning time for workouts is easier said than done!

I wanted to share with you my flab-to-fit routine and a few little tricks that will get you fit in under 10 minutes a day. This way, there are no excuses, and you don’t need to find time to hit the gym. You can do this quick workout at home or on the road, and you will feel amazing in just a few minutes of each day.

This challenging workout will leave you out of breath and drenched in sweat. You do not need any gym equipment for it, only your body and a positive attitude! I recommend using a timer application on your mobile phone for this routine. Do this three to four times a week for optimal results.

Go all out doing as many repetitions as you can of each exercise for 30 seconds. Do one entire round non-stop. Take a one-minute break once your first round is done, and then do one more round.

1. Jumping Jacks
2. Squats
3. Push-ups
4. Crunches
5. Mountain climbers
6. Alternative lunges
7. Burpees
8. Jump squats

Written by Nikki Sharp

This article was located at LiveStrong. You can read more about health and fitness at LiveStrong.com.

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Meditating For The Body and Mind

Meditation is the art of focusing 100% of your attention in one area. The practice comes with a myriad of well-publicized health benefits including increased concentration, decreased anxiety, and a general feeling of happiness.

Although a great number of people try meditation at some point in their lives, a small percentage actually stick with it for the long-term. This is unfortunate, and a possible reason is that many beginners do not begin with a mindset needed to make the practice sustainable.

The purpose of this article is to provide 20 practical recommendations to help beginners get past the initial hurdles and integrate meditation over the long term:

1) Make it a formal practice. You will only get to the next level in meditation by setting aside specific time (preferably two times a day) to be still.

2) Start with the breath. Breathing deep slows the heart rate, relaxes the muscles, focuses the mind and is an ideal way to begin practice.

3) Stretch first. Stretching loosens the muscles and tendons allowing you to sit (or lie) more comfortably. Additionally, stretching starts the process of “going inward” and brings added attention to the body.

4) Meditate with Purpose. Beginners must understand that meditation is an ACTIVE process. The art of focusing your attention to a single point is hard work, and you have to be purposefully engaged!

5) Notice frustration creep up on you. This is very common for beginners as we think “hey, what am I doing here” or “why can’t I just quiet my damn mind already”. When this happens, really focus in on your breath and let the frustrated feelings go.

6) Experiment. Although many of us think of effective meditation as a Yogi sitting cross-legged beneath a Bonzi tree, beginners should be more experimental and try different types of meditation. Try sitting, lying, eyes open, eyes closed, etc.

7) Feel your body parts. A great practice for beginning meditators is to take notice of the body when a meditative state starts to take hold. Once the mind quiets, put all your attention to the feet and then slowly move your way up the body (include your internal organs). This is very healthy and an indicator that you are on the right path.

8) Pick a specific room in your home to meditate. Make sure it is not the same room where you do work, exercise, or sleep. Place candles and other spiritual paraphernalia in the room to help you feel at ease.

9) Read a book (or two) on meditation. Preferably an instructional guide AND one that describes the benefits of deep meditative states. This will get you motivated. John Kabat-Zinn’s Wherever You Go, There You Areir?t=zenhab-20&l=as2&o=1&a=B000FIIQ8K is terrific for beginners.

10) Commit for the long haul. Meditation is a life-long practice, and you will benefit most by NOT examining the results of your daily practice. Just do the best you can every day, and then let it go!

11) Listen to instructional tapes and CDs.

12) Generate moments of awareness during the day. Finding your breath and “being present” while not in formal practice is a wonderful way to evolve your meditation habits.

13) Make sure you will not be disturbed. One of the biggest mistakes beginners make is not insuring peaceful practice conditions. If you have it in the back of your mind that the phone might ring, your kids might wake, or your coffee pot might whistle than you will not be able to attain a state of deep relaxation.

14) Notice small adjustments. For beginning meditators, the slightest physical movements can transform a meditative practice from one of frustration to one of renewal. These adjustments may be barely noticeable to an observer, but they can mean everything for your practice.

15) Use a candle. Meditating with eyes closed can be challenging for a beginner. Lighting a candle and using it as your point of focus allows you to strengthen your attention with a visual cue. This can be very powerful.

16) Do NOT Stress. This may be the most important tip for beginners, and the hardest to implement. No matter what happens during your meditation practice, do not stress about it. This includes being nervous before meditating and angry afterwards. Meditation is what it is, and just do the best you can at the time.

17) Do it together. Meditating with a partner or loved one can have many wonderful benefits, and can improve your practice. However, it is necessary to make sure that you set agreed-upon ground rules before you begin!

18) Meditate early in the morning. Without a doubt, early morning is an ideal
time to practice: it is quieter, your mind is not filled with the usual clutter, and there is less chance you will be disturbed. Make it a habit to get up half an hour earlier to meditate.

19) Be Grateful at the end. Once your practice is through, spend 2-3 minutes feeling appreciative of the opportunity to practice and your mind’s ability to focus.

20) Notice when your interest in meditation begins to wane. Meditation is
hard work, and you will inevitably come to a point where it seemingly does not fit into the picture anymore. THIS is when you need your practice the most and I recommend you go back to the book(s) or the CD’s you listened to and become re-invigorated with the practice. Chances are that losing the ability to focus on meditation is parallel with your inability to focus in other areas of your life!

Meditation is an absolutely wonderful practice, but can be very difficult in the beginning. Use the tips described in this article to get your practice to the next level!

Written by Todd Goldfarb

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A Simple Sanctuary for Stress Relievers

Every day, we are living busy lives: go to work, watch TV, listen to music, play games, or talk on the phone. We just never have the time to take a break from this technological world and have a peace of mind. That’s why you should consider stepping away from your busy life and follow these techniques of tranquilty:

1. Block it Out

Our ears are under assault. Mobiles, ipods, ipads and the general cacophony of sound that is the soundtrack of our daily lives mean we spend very little time in silence. Cultivate more quiet time by making an effort to tune things out. Even small things, like turning down the ringer on your phone or not turning on the radio while driving to work can make a big difference. Sadly, stress doesn’t always arrive at the most convenient times so if you’re feeling tense and it’s impossible to move to a quieter location then try isolating sounds by listening for one above all others and moving around that awareness to different sounds both near and far.

2. Breathe it In

Breath work is a great way to slow down your heart rate and release stress. Deep diaphragmatic breathing on its own is a great stress reliever and can be made all the more effective by adding some soothing scents. Clia Doyle, Creator and Designer of Clia..with "Love Pure Aromachology":http://www.purearomachology.com/ explains why, ‘The use of essential oils can be powerful in helping us address our mind and body challenges. Pure essential oils derived wholly from plants are very like us, both chemically and electrically, so can be powerful balancers, particularly through the process of inhalation. Our sense of smell is the least researched and most mysterious sense yet there is a growing awareness that it is hugely powerful in affecting our emotions. The complex chemical composition of essential oils affects our brain circuitry and in turn our mood in ways that scientists are still trying to explain.’ Once you’ve identified your particular stressors you can find an oil or blend that addresses your needs.

3. Tire it Out

If you’re feeling stressed you are most likely holding that tension in one or more areas of your body. Muscles tighten as our breathing contracts and we physically manifest the stress our minds have created. One easy way to release this build up is to simply work with the tightening. Starting at the feet and systematically working your way up the body you can practice alternating tightening one area and then releasing the tension. So squeeze your toes together as tightly as possible, tensing up the feet for a short count of five and then immediately release the hold. Move on to the calves, thighs, etc up the body until finally tensing and releasing the entire body two times. By fatiguing the muscles you should find that they are no longer able to hold in the tension and relax into softness.

An article from www.yoga.com

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