Hi, I’m Bettina. What I'm working on : Forget to slouch. Relaxing is freedom. Choose life.

Articles in “Yoga Solutions”

Are you concentrating or are you paying attention?

To expand on last week’s video about “yoga mind” a bit further, do you know the difference between concentration and attention?

Watch my video below to find out how I’ve experienced the difference between concentration and attention in my own practice and as I’ve learned from J. Krishnamurti.

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J. Krishnamurti writes in ‘Life Ahead’ in the book Total Freedom:

Concentration is a process of forcing the mind to narrow down to a point, whereas attention is without frontiers. In that process the mind is always limited by a frontier or boundary, but when our concern is to understand the totality of the mind, mere concentration becomes a hindrance. Attention is limitless, without the frontiers of knowledge. Knowledge comes through concentration, and any extension of knowledge is still within its own frontiers. In the state of attention the mind can and does use knowledge, which of necessity is the result of concentration; but the part is never the whole, and adding together the many parts does not make for the perception of the whole. Knowledge, which is the additive process of concentration, does not bring about the understanding of the immeasurable. The total is never within the brackets of a concentrated mind.

ACTION STEP: And you? When do you concentrate and when do you pay attention? In the comments, tell me how you experience the difference between concentration and attention.

If you’ve got any questions about yoga, meditation, healthy living, let me know and I’ll answer you in next Thursday’s Q and A video.

xoxo,

Bettina

10 Fast and Easy Ways to do Yoga on a Busy Schedule

Busy? Can’t make it to yoga class?

Here are some ways to practice yoga on a busy schedule–some are as short as one minute and others can be as long you like. You can incorporate a few of these into your day as free time opens up.

The most important component is to connect your mind, body, and breath. Any time you connect, that is yoga regardless if you make it to yoga class or not.

  1. Try out this minimalist at-home yoga practice from Everett Bogue. (Editor’s note on March 15: Everett Bogue no longer blogs and has removed this post from the internets.)
  2. Laugh out loud for one minute–laughter expands life.
  3. Kapalbhati breathing in the shower or preparing breakfast or getting dressed.
  4. Inhale deeply and exhale thoroughly for 2 minutes while on hold on the telephone.
  5. First bend forward at the waist to place your hands under your feet in Padahastasana or just reach as far as you can in Uttanasana before putting on your shoes.
  6. Chant om as you ride your bike–it keeps me warm in the winter!
  7. Imagine that you are breathing through alternate nostrils while waiting in line anywhere–the ensuing relaxation is almost as good as if you did put your hand up to your nose. If you dare, DO alternate nostril breathing while waiting in line!
  8. Clean your eyes through concentrated internal or external gazing–at a candle flame, for example, at a bar or restaurant when the conversation gets boring.
  9. Listen to my guided relaxation mp3 which you can do sitting while commuting on the bus or train. Please do not listen to this while you are driving! Sign up for my newsletter to get it.
  10. Make an intention for your day when you wake up and return to it throughout the day when you have a moment or two. Return to this intention before you go to sleep.

How to make the pain go away when you have tendon sheath inflammation or tendinosis

I wrote the following letter to a friend who started a new job and reported that she started having pains in her hands and wrists. If you too suffer from pains in your hands and/or wrists, read on for my advice. I am not a doctor, so consult with one before you take my advice below. And if you do act on my advice, let me know how it worked out for you!

Hi I—,

F— told me that you recently noticed pain in your hands and wrists and suspect that you may be suffering from tendon sheath inflammation like me. I’d first go see a doctor to hear what s/he has to say. My primary care doctor referred me to an orthopedic doctor, who referred me to a physiotherapist who massaged my hands two to three times a week. Let me know what kind of treatment your doctor recommends.

I can offer, however, a few tips on what to do at home in conjunction with your doctors’ recommendations.

Do you have acute pain?

When I had acute pain in my hands, wrists, and forearms, my orthopedic doctor told me to do nothing that involves my hands, ice them from time to time,

During this time of acute pain, I recommend meditating or practicing yoga nidra to not only relax but also to take your focus off of the pain and towards your inner self. I remember that I got slightly depressed during this time, since I felt so useless. I couldn’t work, cut vegetables for dinner, clean, ride my bike, or wash my hair with ease (because of how thick and heavy it would get with water). In general, I had to rely on my friends for everything. I started to let my illness define me. Yoga nidra really helped me to find my center and separate myself from the illness.

Prevention for the future

Although I have no proof, I believe my inflammation started because I was holding my hands and wrists in the same strained position for too long without movement.

Sitting at a desk all day gives us back pain and tight hips and strained arms. Sitting in front of a computer often forces us to sit in an un-natural position, hunched up, shoulders tensed, with an incorrect back alignment. The problem is even worse for laptop users, who must change the position of their neck to see the screen and also contort their posture even more in order to use the keyboard on their lap. Combined with the mental strain of staring at a screen, using computers actually places a great deal of stress on our bodies.

Research shows that no one can manage the long term strain that continuous computer use places on the body for ten years without some problem developing. Repetitive activities like bending the wrist to type and to click a mouse, focusing eyes continuously at the computer screen, working with intense concentration or long periods of monotonous tasks may result in carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS), repetitive strain injuries (RSI), headaches, tired and weak eyes. In particular, “computer desk posture”‚ basically, sitting too long with bad posture, can, over time, train our shoulders to roll forward and our chins to jut out. Sitting for long hours with distorted posture may result in upper back pain and shoulder pain. In addition, mental fatigue, stress, and distracted minds may also result.

While sitting at the computer, make sure that your posture supports you comfortably as much as possible.

  • Extend the spine to sit up straight, and relax the shoulder blades down the back and open outwards.
  • Maintain awareness of the breath while working.
  • Your work station should also be set up correctly. For desktops, the monitor screen should be eye level or slightly below eye level.
  • Wrists should be level when typing or using the mouse.
  • Feet should be placed on the floor.

The solution research offers to repetitive stress injuries is to rotate between work and other activities at regular intervals or, even better, don’t use the computer for prolonged periods of time. If that is impossible, take frequent breaks, notice discomfort in the body, and practice some exercises to counteract its effects.

Take breaks every 30 minutes to become aware of your body rather than continually focusing on your work.

  • Either walk around,
  • breathe deeply for 2-3 minutes, or
  • do some eye or wrist exercises for 2-3 minutes while seated at your desk.

You may also alternate among these three break practices, depending on how your body feels. Your body is your best friend, the closest one you’ll have for all your life. Listen to your body. Be kind and gentle. It’ll help you. Love yourself enough to take care of yourself.

  • Try a few minutes of trataka or yogic visual cleansing exercises: look in each of the eight directions, focusing the gaze on an extended, moving thumb; and focusing and defocusing their eyes without blinking on a flame at eye level.
  • Practice some neck, shoulder, and arm stretches at your desk. Simply rotating your neck, arms, and hands will bring some fresh blood and energy to your body. Even though your pain is in your hands, your shoulders, upper back, neck, and hands are all connected.

Live for a healthy body

To promote general health, try to live healthfully.

  • Outside of work, try a yoga class to compress and stretch all parts of your body.
  • Try yoga nidra or meditation to reduce stress and tension on the muscular, mental and emotional levels.
  • Sleep at least eight hours per night, because the body repairs itself when we sleep—especially between the hours of 10 PM to 2 AM. Get ready for bed at 9 PM, journal or meditate to calm the mind, and see if you can fall asleep by 10 PM.

Eat foods that decrease inflammation slowly and mindfully to chew the food well. Saliva helps digest food and so when we chew a lot, we don’t overtax stomach.

Ginger
Tumeric
Celery
Omega-3 fatty acids: walnuts, flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds, sardines
Deeply-colored fruits, especially blueberries and cherries and pomegranate seeds
Umeboshi plums
Uncooked olive Oil
Green tea
At least 2 Liters of water a day to flush out the toxins in your system

What foods trigger inflammation?

Sugar, including soft drinks
Refined flour
Alcohol
Meat, especially beef and pork
Coffee
Preservatives
Nitrates (e.g.: in cured meats like ham, bacon and salami)
Solanine – a specific trigger for joint pain (a plant chemical in tomato*, eggplant, capsicum, chilies, potato and tobacco)
Heated oils
Animal fats (including dairy products)
Smoking

I know it’s a long list. I find it hard to avoid all of these foods too!

My strategy is to eat as much of the anti-inflammatory foods as much as possible, and if I drink some coffee with soy or dairy milk, I don’t stress myself out about it.

Another strategy is to limit the foods that trigger inflammation that you love the most to once a week. Having a few days “off” rather than just ingesting smaller daily quantities of the foods that trigger inflammation allows you to detox from it.

My final question for you is to think about what in your life caused this pain?

Is it your new job? The 50-hour work week? Think about how to make these components of your life impact your life less negatively.

Do you have any questions? Let me know, and I’ll be happy to share my experience and knowledge with you.

Get well soon!

Xoxo,
Bettina

Yoga Nidra – Easiest meditation technique ever!

What is yoga nidra?

It is a modern yogic practice in which I relax in 30 minutes and can feel better rested than waking in the morning. I listen to a recording or better—a teacher—talking through a meditation.

The best thing about yoga nidra is that it doesn’t matter if you get bored, your mind wanders, or if you even fall asleep! Even if you fall asleep, it still works! In fact, yoga nidra was designed for receiving knowledge during sleep. Knowledge listened to in sleep can be registered in your mind, especially when you reinforce it while you are awake. This can be used to recast your personality.

Nidra is sleep but yoga nidra is not yogic sleep. It is neither awakened state but is on the borderline of sleep and awakened state, like dreaming. It is the space when you are not yet asleep but no longer awake, usually just a fraction of a second long during which you can hear the recording. In yoga nidra, you directly access your subconscious mind by bypassing your intellect, your chattering monkey mind always on during the day (at least in my case!).

In the normal awake state: sense organs –> conscious mind –> brain –> subconscious mind

In yoga nidra: ears–> conscious mind –> subconscious mind

The conscious mind is connected to the outside world of sense organs and stimulus. The brain understands stimulus from the conscious mind and stores it in the subconscious. In your sleep state, your brain is detached from these outside sensors so as to better relax. In yoga nidra, your conscious mind forwards the stimulus directly to your subconscious mind to be stored. In the sleep state, your conscious mind doesn’t forward anything to your subconscious mind. Got that? Basically, yoga nidra is very powerful because when all senses other than your hearing are muted, you really focus just on you hear.

Recasting Personality via Yoga Nidra

What we experience, we store in subconsciousness. With repetition, it becomes a program that affects our behavior. Fixed programs in our subconscious become behavioral patterns, habits, or addictions. There is no logic to the habit; it is just what we do. These can be changed via yoga nidra.

People react differently to the same stimulus because of everyone’s different memories and programs in their subconscious. But they don’t define our personality.

Addictions are programs stored deeply in the mind that is hard to change, almost impossible to change because so deeply rooted. But habits can be easily changed by rewriting subconscious programs via yoga nidra.

How to lose weight with Yoga, Part 2: Asanas / Yoga Postures

How do yoga asanas / postures reduce weight? Fats accumulate in areas of reduced blood flow, so yoga increases blood flow to these areas. The body starts using these fats for energy when fewer calories are eaten. So increase blood flow to the areas you want to lose weight.

You burn more fats on an empty stomach, so do the asanas early in the morning or when you are hungry!

But remember that weight loss is a side effect of yoga. If you are overweight, any yoga would help you lose weight, but the following specific postures / asanas speed up the process of weight loss:

  1. Surya namaskar / sun salutations at high speed, which means one round for every 15 seconds for 32 rounds without stopping. It becomes aerobic. If you can’t do 32 rounds, work up to it. Start with 12 rounds, 18 rounds, then 25 rounds. It gets easier with time. Not good for you if you have high blood pressure, however.
  2. A few yoga asanas / postures affects the thyroid, which controls metabolism. Hold shoulder stand + plow + fish for 2-3 minutes each. If you can’t hold them for that long, try for as long as possible without strain.
  3. To combat abdominal fats, try the half-spinal twist, forward bend, cobra and boat, wheel, bow poses—they all increase blood flow.
  4. To increase blood flow to your lower abdominals and thighs, practice camel and sputa vajrasana yoga postures / asanas.
  5. To lose weight around your thighs, all standing poses, trikonasana, and eagle pose help.

Please note that if you don’t have any background in yoga, it would be best to learn these postures / asanas from a teacher.

Yoga for Allergy and Sneezing Relief

Yoga can clear your nasal passages for relief from allergies and sneezing.

The following three techniques have helped me tremendously to breathe easier:

  • Nasal Cleansing (Jala Neti)

Wash your nasal passages with a salt water solution. It sounds gross, but you also brush your teeth twice a day. Why not wash your nose once a day? It physically removes all the particles–dander, dust, pollen–that aggravate your allergies. I find that better than popping a pill every day.

  • Breath of Fire technique (Kapalabhati)

This fast breathing technique forces all the stale air out and clears out your nasal passages.

  • Breath Balancing Pose (Padadhirasana)

This posture balances the breathing flow from both nostrils as well as the pranic passages. It prepares you for pranayama / breath control and meditation.

Stress management and reduction with Yoga

How do you know if have stress? The following are some stress symptoms:

  • Mental, physical, emotional imbalance
  • Respiratory, blood pressure, and heart rate go up from the release of stress hormones
  • Increased perspiration
  • Stomach unease / sensations
  • Memory loss

Stress is a state of alertness to react to potentially dangerous situations, to either run away or defend oneself. Stress hormones increase to prepare the body to be alert to fight or to flee.

Normally, stress hormone levels return to normal when the stressful situations are gone, but the stress hormone levels that are consistently high lead to stress. In fact, there is a compounding effect: stress often creates more stress. The body is then in a continuous state of alertness, which drains energy and causes body and mind exhaustion. This finds expression in weakness, confusion, and/or loss of memory.

Both negative and positive life events may cause stress as joyous events like getting married and/or giving birth can cause stress. Positive stress, aka eustress, can be good too–inspiring you to get things done.

But situations of themselves are not stressful, only our reactions can be stressful. It is your response to the event that disturbs equilibrium, which creates physiological stress.

To control stress, then, we control our mental reactions through yogic relaxation techniques. Stress affects the mind first, then the body, so controlling stress in the mind automatically controls stress in the body.

How to control stress and relax:

  1. Slow down your life–don’t expect everything at the same time.
  2. Aim for small goals but aim for them repeatedly over time—a chain of small, slow steps to achieve a big goal.
  3. Increase stress tolerance so as to train yourself to handle stress.
  4. Establish a social network of support with family and friends with whom to share feelings, to speak out, to be listened to.

The following are yogic stress control techniques:

  1. Yoga nidra visualization is the most powerful relaxation technique in yoga, to consciously dream ourselves relaxed.
  2. Breath control / pranayama is the second most powerful technique in yoga, because through it we control our mind and relax it.
  3. Concentration reduces stress because only one sense is at work when you concentrate on a candle flame, for example, and the other senses are relaxed.
  4. Omkar (aka om) chanting or listening to any music you enjoy, because the sound of vibrations are good for you.

I’ll be writing a separate article on yoga nidra, which has helped me relax and reduce stress almost instantaneously.

How to lose weight with Yoga, Part 1: Niyama

Yoga is a process of balance and normalization, so any yoga would help you lose weight, but the following advice speeds up the process. That means, weight reduction is a side effect of yoga, but if you are underweight, yoga can help you gain weight too!

In ashtanga yoga, one of the paths of yoga is Niyama, which are rules of self-discipline. The first rule is cleanliness, internal and external, physical and emotional.

There are two easy ways to clean your internal organs with yogic processes which will aid in better digestion:

1. Drink water early in the morning upon waking.

The sphincter between the stomach and the small intestines is open during the night, and by drinking water the first thing in the morning—the first 10 minutes upon waking—you stimulate both the small and large intestines to let everything out.

2. Another easy method is plant fasting for 3 days.

Fasting gives your digestive system time to rest, because otherwise it works 24 hours a day nonstop. The complete process from eating to excreting takes between 16 to 18 hours. However, fasting is not possible for everyone, so please consult with your doctor before you fast.

The following plant fasting cleans your digestive system with fiber. With a mere fast, stuff stays in your large intestines because nothing enters the small intestines to alert it to excrete. By eating lots of fiber on your first day before fasting, you will be able to detox more.

Day 1: Eat as much raw fruits and raw vegetables as you want.

To lose weight, avoid mangoes, grapes and bananas here, because they have lots of sugar and thus calories.

Day 2: Drink only warm water with lemon slices or juice.

If you use lemon slices, make sure they are organic or else you’ll be drinking in pesticides. Do not add sugar or salt.

Day 3: In the early morning drink fresh fruit juice. For lunch, drink soup. And at night eat a light meal that is easy to digest—for example, no cheese.

As one of my teachers said: Tongue pleasure lasts 10-20 seconds. Stomach pleasure lasts 16-18 hours. For which are you eating?

Yoga Solutions to Your Health Problems

Yoga is literally union of mind and body, but before that can blissfully happen, you should be in good health without any health problems to distract you. Here are some common health problems people have, and how yoga can help with them.

I personally have struggles with all three of the above, which is why I’ll be addressing them here. If you have other health issues, please email me directly so that I can research some good yoga solutions for your health problems.