TOP TRAVEL YOGA GEAR

Om on the Go: Top Travel Yoga Gear

Travel and yoga go hand in hand: they both honor free spirits and promote listening to your heart. However, many of our favorite yoga products are not ideal for travel. They are heavy and take up a lot of space, which is a traveler’s worst nightmare. That’s why we’ve put together this list of 11 travel yoga products that will make it easier for you to see the world without compromising your yoga practice.

Jade Yoga Travel Mat

This travel yoga mat is a necessity for any dedicated traveling yogi. The thin, lightweight construction of this mat makes it perfect for shoving into carry-ons and checked luggage without weighing you down. Many travel yoga mat options are sub-par, but Jade Yoga has maintained their high quality production in creating this fantastic, no-slip travel yoga mat.

Mala Yoga Duffle

Carrying a suitcase, a carry-on, and a yoga bag can add up. The Mala Yoga Duffle is a 3-in-1 bag that functions as a carry-on/laptop/yoga bag. The unique structure of this bag keeps the yoga mat safe and secure while still leaving you with plenty of space to fill the bag with tablets, laptops, airplane snacks, or any other travel goodies.

YOPA Yoga Backpack

Any dedicated travel yogi knows the importance of having your yoga mat available at a moment’s notice. The YOPA yoga backpack is the perfect solution for the adventure traveler. This spacious bag will hold a yoga mat and any yoga props comfortably on your back so you can have your hands free to explore the world around you.

Travel Zen Inflatable Meditation Cushion

Hotel carpets, jagged rocks, and dirty hostel floors just don’t inspire mindfulness. One of the quickest ways to make meditation hard on yourself is to choose an uncomfortable seat. That’s why we all love meditation cushions. But those giant, heavy cushions are not practical for travel. Which is why the Travel Zen is such an awesome invention. It puts mindfulness at your fingertips no matter where you go.

S’well Bottle

Hydration is a key element to keeping you healthy and happy during your travels. But any water bottle will serve that purpose, so why is the S’well bottle so great? Not only does it keep cold drinks cold for 24 hours, but it keeps hot drinks hot for 12 hours. So instead of chugging your morning tea before heading out on your adventures, you can savor your soothing beverage while you spend the day exploring a new city.

Squeeze Pod Natural Toiletries

Travelers often have limited options when it comes to toiletries. Hotel soaps are far from chemical-free. As a traveling yogi, you are probably mindful about what you put on and in your body, which is why you will love anything from Squeeze Pod. These natural products are free of parabens, sulfites, sulfates, phalates, and lots of other stuff you don’t want in your soaps and detergents. Plus they are conveniently sized for carry-on packing!

Super Yoga Mat Wash

After a few days on the road, any yoga mat will start to smell. This simple spray will make a world of difference in any traveling yogi’s life. The small bottle can be slipped into any bag and can be used to keep yoga mats smelling fresh and clean until you get home to give it a real wash.

Ahnu Karma Shoes

We traveling yogis love to be barefoot, but outside of the studio and household that’s not always possible. These shoes are the next best thing. They will keep your feet comfortable and supported while offering plenty of freedom and mobility. Perfect for strolling avenues in Paris or walking along beaches in Costa Rica.

Studio to Street Yoga Clothing

The key to packing light is packing clothing that is versatile–yoga clothes that can be worn off of the mat and into the world. Choose solid color yoga leggings, stylish flared yoga pants, layering tanks, and cozy wraps and pullovers that you can wear when practicing, exploring, and getting drinks. You will get at least twice as much out of these items and they will cut your packing list in half!

Yoga Fan

It’s not always easy to find quality yoga classes when traveling. This handy book is small enough to carry with you and is full of anatomy tips for different poses as well as sequences for any level practitioner. It’s the perfect way to keep your practice going no matter where you are.

Wherever You Go, There You Are

Everyone needs some good airplane reading material. This canonical text is a wonderful guide to mindfulness. Jon Kabat-Zinn covers everything you need to know to understand what mindfulness is and how you can start practicing. Plus, the concept discussed throughout the book (and in the title) is a perfect message for any traveler.

PAIN DURING YOGA? 5 WAYS TO STAY SAFE

Pain During Yoga? 5 Ways to Stay Safe

 

Chances are if you’ve been practicing yoga for a while, you may have experienced pain from some kind of yoga-related injury. As with any physical activity, yoga asana carries some risks, especially when practiced aggressively or without proper awareness of the body’s limitations. In the best cases, these injuries are minor, heal completely, and serve to inform your practice through a deeper, more attuned awareness of your body. Major bodily injuries from yoga are still pretty rare.

But recently, a 38-year-old man in Ireland broke his leg while practicing ashtanga yoga. While moving into Marichyasana B pose he heard a loud crack as his right femur fractured 4 inches above his knee. While most yogis don’t need to worry about sustaining an usual injury such as this, it does raise important questions about yoga asana: What is to be gained or lost from practicing a repetitive sequence like the primary series taught in ashtanga yoga? And what should you do if you feel pain during or after practicing yoga asana?

In my own ashtanga practice, I’ve discovered that learning a set sequence can help in developing a personal home practice, and the repetition means more time is spent focusing on the breath and current posture rather than anticipating what comes next. However, a drawback to practicing a set series is that it can cause repetitive stress injuries. The tendency to repeat an action in the body becomes harmful if practiced incorrectly, and without variation, we can put continued stress on the body.

Most likely we have all been told at some point to “listen to our body.” But how we listen to our bodies varies from person to person, and learning to distinguish injurious pain from non-harming discomfort is something that even experienced yoga practitioners can struggle with. So how do we heed our own advice and allow our yoga practice to challenge us while still keeping ourselves safe?

Here are five ways we can bring more awareness to how we respond to pain in yoga:

  1. Distinguish the difference between discomfort and pain in your body. Discomfort is challenging, but pushing discomfort too far can lead to pain. If you feel you’re at the edge of discomfort, it’s probably a sign to ease up and back off.
  2. Vary the style of yoga you practice. If you feel pain or suffer an injury, take a break from practicing in your usual way. Variation in asana brings physical benefits and can help heal injuries.
  3. Seek advice from professionals, but always trust your intuition. Consult an experienced yoga teacher or doctor if you have pain in your body, but don’t let someone else’s advice replace your own. Remember that you are your own greatest teacher.
  4. Focus on balancing tension and release in the muscles when you practice. Some muscles should work hard to support the opposing muscles’ stretch. Yoga asana should rarely be all strength or all release. Keeping this in mind can help prevent painful injury from pushing too far in one direction.
  5. Learn the foundations of alignment. It’s important for anyone hoping to avoid pain and injury in yoga to understand how to maintain structural integrity in the body, and how to support it rather than hurt it.

THE YOGA OF SPENDING MONEY

The Yoga of Spending Money

 

Money is not the first thing that comes to mind when we think of yoga, but financial concerns–from spending, savings habits, to the choices we make at the cash register–afford practitioners a powerful opportunity to apply yogic teachings. Whether splurging on a new pair of boots or weighing investment options, yoga practitioners can leverage the teachings of yoga to bring yogic awareness and mindfulness to spending money. At times just the simple act of pausing and reflecting before spending can expand our perspective on why we are spending money and whether we should.

Financial advisor Darius Gagne points out that the act of surrendering can be as powerful to our yoga practice as to our financial endeavors.

“What I try to teach (clients) is to focus on what you can control, accept what you can’t control and have the wisdom to know the difference,” says Gagne, a CIO at ABACUS Wealth Partners.

A longtime yogi, Gagne provides tips on some of the easiest ways to bring yogic awareness and mindfulness to spending money:

  • Letting go: We are urged by our teachers to surrender control on the mat. In much the same way, we have no influence over the economy or whether the markets go up or down. Focus, instead, on the things you can control: saving money or investing in individual retirement plans to reduce your tax obligation, for instance.
  • Save! Regardless of monthly income, almost everyone can save a small amount each month. Start small if you must and you might find that you will be increasing the amount you save.
  • Discern between need and desire: Ask yourself tough questions. Are you shopping for things you might need and would improve your life or are you accumulating things you don’t need and may even be destructive? Invoke the yama of non-hoarding: aparigraha. Be rigorous in your scrutiny. Do you really need one more pair of shoes in your closet or is it the fickle ego talking?
  • Make informed decisions: The yoga practice empowers the practitioner to make wise choices about diets, lifestyle and ethics. It can also influence the yogi to make personal choices about companies to invest in. The same inquiring mindset we take on the mat, we can apply to scoping out where we invest and spend our money. Remember: What works for others may not work for you.
  • Become aware of patterns: We cultivate awareness and mindfulness of existing patterns in our yoga practice. In the process, we become aware of long-standing postural and mechanical tendencies. We can apply that awareness to our spending. Do you absolutely need that item or is it the ego talking? Can you truly afford it? Do you already have one? Ask yourself: Will this purchase make me happy? Is it true happiness or a superficial one? How long after you buy it will you pine for something else to make you happy?

Awareness is key to enacting change–on or off the mat. Once you’ve become aware of your spending habits and patterns, take action. Rather than spending all your earnings, can you stick to a 10-percent savings plan?

Remember that nowhere do the Yoga Sutras counsel the practitioner to refrain from spending. Most practitioners are “householders.” We practice yoga, but we live in the world. And whether we choose to live simply, or to as a result of our gifts and work, accumulate wealth, the yoga principles can guide us to make authentic choices for ourselves and to stay true to ourselves.

Yoga forces us to address all areas of life. The practice forces us to confront and deal with things we’ve swept under the rug or put off. To continue the yoga practice in a genuine way, yogis, sooner or later, confront and become mindful of destructive habits and ultimately, address those patterns.

THE ROUNDUP! THE HOLIDAYS AND SELF-CARE

The Roundup! The Holidays and Self-Care

The holidays tend to be a busy time of year so we’ve collected a stocking full of articles to help you learn how to take care of yourself, say no when needed, and be grateful for what you have. To add laughter and holiday cheer to the stress of the season, we’ve thrown in some funny pictures of what people really look like when practicing yoga, a video of our obsession with yoga pants, and an update on the meditation retreat that the Beatles went to. Here is our recommended reading list for the weekend:

5 Research-Based Ways to Say No During the Holidays – We tend to all run around in one way or another during the holiday season, saying “yes” when we mean “no” and overexerting ourselves. Here are some tips for setting boundaries.

Coming out of the Spiritual Closet – Think you’re enlightened? Spend time with your family. A woman shares her story of pursuing a career in fashion while practicing reiki on the side. Is this the holiday season to tell your family about your spirituality?

8 Yogic Lessons Hanukkah Teaches Us  – Always search for the light in the darkest of times. Miracles happen. And many more.

How to Stop Envying Other People’s Seemingly Perfect Lives – Going home for the holidays can bring up feelings of past resentment or bitterness. Practice gratitude for the life you have.

Your DIY Guide to Surviving the Holidays – Learn some no-stress beauty hacks to take care of yourself during this busy time.

‘Faces Of Yoga’ Photo Series Reminds Us Nobody Looks Pretty Doing Downward-Facing Dog – “This series is a reminder that we all look horrible when we do yoga, so we should immerse ourselves in it and forget the rest,” said Jonah Sargent, the photographer behind the ‘Faces of Yoga’ project. He launched a kickstarter to raise funds to turn ‘Faces of Yoga’ into a coffee table book.

Video Parodies Our Obsession With Wearing Yoga Pants EVERYWHERE – Did you ask for more yoga pants for Christmas? Will you wear them everywhere but yoga class? Watch this funny video to see all the places and more we wear yoga pants.

Beatles’ Indian retreat opened to public – In the late 60’s the Beatles spent time at a retreat in India, meditating and writing songs for the iconic White Album. After being abandoned for years, the retreat is once again open to the public.

YOGA FOR PROSTATE CANCER SHOWS PROMISING RESULTS

Yoga for Prostate Cancer Shows Promising Results

 

While prostate cancer is very treatable, men undergoing treatment have a long road of chemotherapy, radiation and possible surgery ahead of them. Not to mention the side effects like fatigue, urinary incontinence and sexual dysfunction. Quality of life is affected in a big way, which is why healthcare providers are always researching options for making the side effects to cancer treatment slightly more tolerable. The exciting news is that time and time again, yoga is proving to be helpful in nearly all aspects of cancer treatment.

A recent study by researchers at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania found that a regular yoga practice could ease common side effects of radiation as well as improve the day-to-day aspects of living with prostate cancer. Men undergoing radiation therapy for prostate cancer were invited to join an intensive yoga program–twice weekly classes of 75 minutes each.  Nearly 40 percent of the 45 participants had to drop out of the study due to scheduling conflicts with their appointments and the yoga classes. At the end of the session, participants were asked a series of quality of life questions.

The men reported improvement in their fatigue levels throughout the program. Cancer fatigue is different than fatigue in healthy individuals because it is not relieved by sleep or rest. The researchers found that urinary and sexual health remained stable (did not improve or worsen), which is a remarkable improvement as these side effects almost always worsen as radiation treatment continues.

Another study examining the effects of yoga in men with prostate cancer at the University of Calgary found that not only did yoga improve their treatment side effects, but that yoga is a feasible treatment option for this population. The yoga class offered had a high adherence rate, and most of the men continued a regular home yoga practice on their own once the class concluded. This will be helpful for hospital administrators to know because it shows that offering yoga classes to patients with cancer can be both effective and well-attended.

These results are very promising, and more research is needed in the area of yoga and men’s health. There is an abundance of research on yoga in women with breast cancer which shows the same trends. Yoga has been associated with improving both the physical side effects of breast cancer treatment, as well as the emotional, improving stress levels and perceived happiness. Researchers at the University of California Los Angeles reported that nearly 33 percent of women undergoing treatment for breast cancer experience extreme fatigue, and there is no known treatment for it. Their findings indicated a significant improvement in reported fatigue and vigor after initiating a regular yoga class.

While all these study results are exciting, more research is needed in these areas. The study about men with prostate cancer had a relatively small sample with almost half of the group needing to drop out due to scheduling issues. Perhaps future studies could draw larger samples and address the scheduling issues either by coordinating with the care team or offering an at-home option.

CULTURAL APPROPRIATION IN YOGA

Cultural Appropriation in Yoga: The Dos and Don’ts

 

Recently a yoga class at University of Ottawa in Canada was canceled due to concerns regarding cultural appropriation. For the past seven years, a free yoga class has been offered to students, but this year there were concerns of how its practices are being taken from other cultures. In our hyper-sensitive culture, it is hard not to step on toes every time you walk. Even so, there are plenty examples of people abusing other people’s cultures and beliefs. However, the case of the Ottawa class is less an example of cultural appropriation and more an example of misunderstanding and misusing the term.

Cultural appropriation is broadly defined as the adoption of one culture’s elements by members of another culture. Sounds friendly enough, but cultural appropriation becomes a problem when a member of one culture uses a symbol of another (often marginalized) culture in an offensive or hurtful way.

I hang out in Downward-Facing Dog, chant Om, and drink Yogi Tea without apology. Does this make me culturally insensitive? I don’t think so, but it can be easy to cross the line when it comes to morals, ethics and respecting other’s cultural beliefs. To keep myself from crossing the cultural appropriation line I follow these six simple dos and don’ts:

Do keep practicing yoga

Yoga means a lot of things to a lot of different people. For some it is a way to stretch and strengthen the body. For others it is a means for clarifying and focusing the mind. For others it is a spiritual practice of connecting to divinity. In India, yoga is part of a complex understanding of spirituality and is practiced differently by those who choose to practice. One school of thought in India is focused on the four ashramas of yoga, which defines four levels of practice for the differenttypes of yogis that exist. In contrast, the yoga found in America is predominantly asana-based, occasionally including breathing and meditation techniques. The asana practice we know today does not have years of religious history as many have come to believe, but actually came from European physical fitness practices. Find the yoga that speaks to you, and practice it in a way that feels right.

Don’t pray to Shiva (unless you mean it)

Be conscientious of the spiritual significance yoga has acquired for many people. If you worshipShiva, Vishnu, Ganesha, or any other divinity, feel free to call their name in any way you want whenever you want; that is your business. However, if you are practicing yoga as a secular practice, you might want to hold your tongue and consider why you are chanting Om Shiva Om in the first place. It is a bit like doing a Muslim prayer because it looks fun. I am a big proponent of honoring other’s beliefs and exploring different spiritualities. But curiosity and questioning is different than practicing a religion you don’t believe in. You wouldn’t take communion if you didn’t believe in God—it would feel offensive to those who find deep spiritual meaning in the practice—so don’t chant to gods you do not believe in either.

Do wear whatever you are comfortable in

People might have personal issues with super-tight yoga pants, but there is nothing offensive about spandex. If you are comfortable wearing tight yoga clothes, go for it. If baggy, loose clothing is more your style, be my guest! No one tells you what to run in or do pilates in, so why would they tell you what to wear to yoga? Again, the practice of yoga is not inherently spiritual. Yoga is a tool that has been used by millions of people in millions of ways. Use it in the way that speaks to you and wear the clothing that makes you comfortable.

Don’t wear Ganesha socks

Graphic clothing gets a little complicated when it comes to yoga. Is it offensive to wear a t-shirt with the Om sign on it? Where do we draw the line? There is no absolute answer, but I will say it is always a good idea to play it safe. However, there are a few things we can easily point to as a no-no. One example is Ganesha socks. Ganesha is a Hindu god that is believed to help people remove obstacles and overcome challenges. In Hindu beliefs feet are seen as the most impure part of the body. They are generally considered dirty and tainted. Wearing Ganesha socks would be a bit like using Jesus toilet paper. I know idolatry can be a confusing subject, but in general, not putting pictures of divinity on your feet is a step in the right direction.

Do enjoy the modern versions of yoga we have available today

Vinyasa yoga, yin yoga, hot yoga, acro yoga, aerial yoga, and snowga are just a few of the unique yoga styles you can practice. There are endless ways to enjoy yoga, and none of them are right or wrong. They are just yoga. Find the practice that works for you and enjoy it. As long as you follow these dos and don’ts you will be safe in regards to cultural appropriation no matter how you move on your mat.

Don’t forget about yoga’s rich and unique history   

While yoga has a long and complex history of development, change and evolution, it is still important to recognize, appreciate and honor it’s vast history as well as its cultural context in India. Mark Singleton’s Yoga Body: The Origins of Modern Posture Practice, David Gordon White’s Sinister Yogis and The “Yoga Sutra of Patanjali”: A Biography are fantastic reads about the complex history of yoga. “Yoga” is a term that has been used differently throughout history and it has been shaped by Indian, British, and American cultural influences. Thus, yoga cannot be defined by one person, one culture, or one race.

6 WAYS TO REBOOT YOUR YOGA PRACTICE

6 Ways to Reboot Your Yoga Practice

 

Is your yoga practice in a rut? Does it feel like you are practicing asanas without joy, curiosity or excitement?  Throughout my yoga practice, I’ve learned the importance of dedication and going with the flow, but sometimes the flow can become monotonous, boring and just blah. If your yoga practice needs a jump-start, and purchasing a new mat or new leggings isn’t going to do the trick, check out these six tips to reboot your practice:

Explore stillness

If you’re like me, you enjoy practicing challenging asanas. You go to class to connect to yourself through movement–and through sweat. While yoga can be a great physical workout, there are so many added benefits (and challenges!) to finding stillness.

Hold your poses for just one moment longer to relish in the feeling of wanting to move. Double your breath count in sun salutations. Sit still for a few minutes to focus on pranayama and meditation. Tune in to times when you feel rushed (i.e. getting to class, fidgeting, Shavasana, leaving class).

Switch things up and add a yin class to your weekly regime to learn about your deep muscles and tissues. Experience the connection that comes from understanding your body’s structure on a deeper level. Or open yourself up to the mental and physical aspects–whether struggle or serenity–that can come from gentle and restorative classes.

Explore movement

Perhaps for you yoga already centers on stillness. If meditation, pranayama, and gentle classes are already on your regular yogic radar, incorporate some new movements by trying a variety of classes. Flow through vinyasa classes; blend breath, movement, and focus in ashtanga; find an energy release in kundalini; get acrobatic with acro yoga; or create your personalized practice withviniyoga. It may feel intimidating, but the key is to remain open. The journey is all about exploration–not perfection.

Explore mudras

A great way to invite intention through movement is with mudras: symbolic hand gestures that guide and redirect your flow of energy. This intentional joining together of fingers is said to have a restorative, healing effect on the body. Plus, mudras can be practiced while sitting, standing, walking, talking–basically any time you can move your fingers.

Explore silence

Does your yoga practice generally consist of a rocking playlist? Mine does. While it’s probably best not to ask your yoga instructor to turn off the tunes, experiment with some silence during your home practice.

Dedicate time to silent meditation. Repeat a mantra or words of encouragement as you move through your sequence. Or simply let your breath be your soundtrack.

Explore mantras

Before you transition from silence to music, explore other sound options by tossing a mantra into the mix. Mantras are deep sound vibrations created through chanting. Whether or not you delve into the spiritual aspects of yoga, chanting focuses the mind on a sound to bring stillness to thoughts and calmness to breath. Try some mantra meditations to get started.

Explore non-yoga

I’m not telling you to stop practicing forever. Take a week off. Maybe you’ve always wanted to try zumba or pilates or kickboxing but fell in love with yoga and haven’t looked back. I’ve felt the same throughout my practice (and especially after my intensive yoga teacher training). However, I’ve also felt countless benefits from stepping back and exploring other areas of interest.

While climbing an indoor rock wall, for example, I built strength and endurance by focusing on deep yogic breath. I gained a deeper understanding about the benefits of flexibility, body awareness, and proper alignment. And I definitely appreciated the restorative stretches of yin yoga afterwards!

I’m not telling you to quit yoga. But, for me, taking a week off helped me discover the benefits of my practice in a whole new context!

Rebooting your practice is all about exploring the new. Get out of your comfort zone and revisit a beginner’s perspective. Check out that new studio, recreation center, or workshop. Go to that otherteacher’s class. If you practice at home, check out community options. Bring a friend or go alone.

5 TIPS FOR LAZY YOGIS

5 Tips for Lazy Yogis

 

When we hear the word “yogi,” we may envision women with perfect posture doing back bends as the sun rises. But for many of us, touching our toes is hard enough as it is and the idea of practicing at sunrise makes us want to pull on our yoga pants and crawl back into bed. Luckily you do not have to hop into handstand every morning to be considered a yogi. A dedication to the practice is all it takes, and that dedication can come in many forms. Here are some tips for those lazy yogis that need help kick-starting or maintaining their yoga practice…preferably after 9 am.

Practice in smaller doses

Most yoga classes are at least an hour long, but you do not have to practice for 60 minutes to call it yoga. Five minutes of stretching in the morning and/or practicing your breathing exercises in traffic can be hugely beneficial. We are not advocating giving up long form yoga classes all together, but implementing short-term yoga sessions into your daily life can help make yoga habits stick in the long run. We start small in order to grow big.

Practice yoga anywhere

Lazy yogis often find themselves thinking, “I want to do yoga; I just do not want to stand up.” Take advantage of downtime moments in the office, on your couch, in the car or on your bed to bust out some yoga poses. Don’t worry—seated yoga is a real thing with real benefits. On days when Warrior II sounds impossible, don’t beat yourself up. Instead, do what you can with the in between moments and remember: Doing something is better than doing nothing. Some easy chair yoga poses include neck circles, twisting, forward folding, side bending, and eagle arms.

Try restorative or yin yoga

For those days when you want to go to a studio class, but do not want to leave sweaty and fatigued, try a restorative or yin class. These classes are generally low to the ground and slow moving. You stay in each pose for an extended period of time—often with the aid of props. These classes are perfect when you are feeling drained and want the relaxing benefits of yoga without all the work.

Always keep it fun

The key to doing anything you do not want to do is to gain a different perspective. If the words “core work” or “arm balances” make you groan, it’s time to shift your perspective. Everyone has a nemesis pose—an asana they dread practicing—and often these asanas are the ones we most need to work on. In order to persuade ourselves to practice these dreaded poses, we need to find the fun in it. Get playful. Turn up the tunes, laugh when you fall, and enjoy the practice. When a task is fun, it is way easier to accomplish.

Use the buddy system

We often find it hard (if not impossible) to stay self-motivated. One way to overcome this dilemma is to practice the buddy system. When we are accountable to others, we are way more likely to follow through. It’s easy to decide last minute not to go to that afternoon vinyasa flow class. It’s a lot harder to skip it when you know someone is expecting to meet you there. Create a yoga schedule with a fellow yogi and you will be way more likely to stick to it.

8 WAYS TO BOOST YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM WITH YOGA

8 Ways to Boost Your Immune System with Yoga

 

Nobody likes being sick, especially those of us who regularly practice yoga and make efforts to take care of our health. Every year as winter rolls around, I like to reevaluate my practice and implement a few changes and modifications to help keep the germs and bugs at bay. Yoga is one of the most effective ways to regulate and boost immunity through its known ability to reduce stress, increase blood flow, and improve digestion.

Here are eight ways to boost your immune system through yoga:

1. Breathe

Pranayama exercises increase the intake of oxygen to the blood and improve efficiency of the lungs, helping to build resistance to infection. Deep breathing, alternate nostril breathing (Nadi Sodhana), and breath of fire (Kapalabhati) bring oxygenated blood to various organs throughout the body to ensure optimal function.

2. Practice inversions

Inversion poses such as headstand, shoulder stand, and legs-up-the-wall help circulate lymph fluid through the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system filters toxins from the blood and transports immune cells throughout the body to fight off infection.

3. Meditate

When you focus in meditation, you’re removed from the daily stresses that take a toll on your body and mind. This gives the body time to recover and enter a positive healing state. Studies have shown that meditation builds antibodies, the body’s natural defense against bacteria and viruses.

4. Go outside

If weather permits, take your yoga practice outside and catch some UV rays. Vitamin D deficiency is a common cause of lowered immunity in northern climates that experience cold temperatures and shorter days during winter. Give your body a natural boost by doing a few sun salutations in the sunshine. Twenty minutes is all it takes.

5. Spice it up

Ayurvedic herbs and spices that stimulate blood flow and digestion include cardamom, ginger, cumin, turmeric, and cinnamon. Sprinkle these on hot oatmeal or vegetables; or steep to make tea to keep the digestive system active and healthy throughout the winter.

6. Do the twist

Yoga poses that gently twist the spine and compress the belly, like Jathara Parivartanasana (Belly Twist) or Ardha Matsyendrasana (Half Lord of the Fishes) improve poor digestion that could otherwise cause toxins to build up in the digestive tract and lead to illness and infection.

7. Clear out the sinuses

Nasal irrigation (Jala Neti) techniques such as the neti pot are used in ayurveda for basic daily hygiene and to relieve congestion and irritation from dry nasal passages. In combination with forward bends like Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog) or Uttanasana (Standing Forward Fold), they can help clear mucus and congestion. Just remember to use purified water.

8. Bring a friend to yoga

Holing up at home may seem like the best way to avoid illness. But research suggests that socializing and engaging in positive interactions with others is good for your immune system. So grab a friend next time you head to yoga class; and give your immune system the ultimate care package.

WHY ARE YOGIS MORE ECO-CONSCIOUS?

Why are Yogis More Eco-Conscious?

 

Across all categories of the 2016 Yoga in America Study, yogis were nearly twice as likely as the general population to act in an environmentally friendly way. The study highlights that “Over 50% of practitioners report eating sustainable foods and living green compared to a third of Americans.” This shouldn’t be a surprise to yogis. Yoga practice and philosophy teach mindfulness and ethical guidelines, known as the yamas and niyamas. Mindfulness, the yamas, and the niyamas cultivate the quality of compassion (karuna), which inspires individuals to live an environmentally friendly lifestyle.

People who are eco-conscious show compassion for the environment, their fellow humans, animals, and all life. They make choices in their daily lives to alleviate the suffering of the planet as a whole. They understand how the health of the environment affects themselves as well as others.

Step into any yoga class and you’ll get a lesson in mindfulness through paying attention to your breath, body, and brain chatter. Mindfulness is bringing your awareness to what is happening in the present moment. Elisha Goldstein wrote, “The goal of mindfulness […] is to wake up to the inner workings of our mental, emotional, and physical processes, recognize the connectedness between people, and operate in the world with greater compassion towards others and ourselves.” Fostering compassion, having empathy and understanding the suffering of others, leads people to make choices that cause less or no harm to those around them.

The yamas and niyamas directly influence eco-consciousness. The yamas are practices to renounce while the niyamas are practices to cultivate. In Meditations from the Mat, Rolf Gates explains, the yamas and niyamas “bring us into right relationship with ourselves, others, and the spirit of the universe.” The yamas non-violence (ahimsa), non-stealing (asteya), and non-hoarding (aparigraha), and the niyamas, contentment (samtosha) and purity (shaucha) guide us to right relationship with the environment.

The first yama is non-violence at the level of thought, speech, and action and applies to our environment, our fellow humans, and ourselves. Non-violence influences dietary and consumer choices that do no harm or less harm to the environment. Vegan, vegetarian, organic, and locavore diets are all based on non-violence. Vegans and vegetarians don’t want to harm animals. Organic foods reduce pollutants. And locavores search for humanely raised meat and dairy. Non-violence also means ensuring all people and animals have access to fresh air and clean water. Pollution, whether from the food we grow, the energy we use, or the products we manufacture, negatively affects air and water quality and therefore human health.

Non-stealing is not taking what is not ours and not taking more than we need. Non-hoarding is knowing when we have enough. When we consider the environment, these two yamas mean leaving a healthy, resource-laden planet for future generations. We are borrowing the land we live and grow food on, the water we drink, and the materials we harvest from our children. We take what we need to survive and leave enough for the next person. Non-stealing also applies to environmental justice. If what we consume pollutes the environment, then we are stealing from others who are negatively impacted by poor air quality and contaminated water.

The niyamas tell us to cultivate contentment and purity. Contentment is the other side of non-hoarding. We know we have enough and we are content with what we have. We accumulate less stuff, use less energy and water, and have a smaller environmental footprint. When content, we take what we need and leave the rest.

Purity has layers. At the level of the body, we consider dietary, makeup, and even clothing choices that are free of pesticides or other harmful chemicals. Purity also applies to our immediate environment, our homes. Using non-toxic cleaning supplies positively affects the air you breath every day. The choices communities make in farming and development impact air and water quality. And the choices we make when we heat our homes, buy our clothes, and eat, impact purity on a local and global scale.

These yoga practices teach us how to live in and interact with the world around us. We learn that we are not isolated but deeply connected to each and every living being. As we learn to live the yamas and niyamas, we learn that they apply to everything. As we become more mindful, we are more compassionate. When we feel compassionate, we are more likely to make choices that have a positive impact on the life around us.