Because it’s good for you

Downward-Facing Dog

Downward-Facing Dog: Step-by-Step Instructions

Come onto the floor on your hands and knees. Set your knees directly below your hips and your hands slightly forward of your shoulders. Spread your palms, index fingers parallel or slightly turned out, and turn your toes under.

Exhale and lift your knees away from the floor. At first keep the knees slightly bent and the heels lifted away from the floor. Lengthen your tailbone away from the back of your pelvis and press it lightly toward the pubis. Against this resistance, lift the sitting bones toward the ceiling, and from your inner ankles draw the inner legs up into the groin.

Then with an exhalation, push your top thighs back and stretch your heels onto or down toward the floor. Straighten your knees but be sure not to lock them. Firm the outer thighs and roll the upper thighs inward slightly. Narrow the front of the pelvis.

Firm the outer arms and press the bases of the index fingers actively into the floor. From these two points lift along your inner arms from the wrists to the tops of the shoulders. Firm your shoulder blades against your back, then widen them and draw them toward the tailbone. Keep the head between the upper arms; don’t let it hang.

Adho Mukha Svanasana is one of the poses in the traditional Sun Salutation sequence. It’s also an excellent yoga asana all on its own. Stay in this pose anywhere from 1 to 3 minutes. Then bend your knees to the floor with an exhalation and rest in Child’s Pose.

Set Your Vacation State of Mind

BY KAREN MISURACA  | originally published here in Yoga Journal

With the white noise of the rushing Merced River in his ears, my husband, Michael, sprawled on a soft bed of pine thatch beneath the arms of a 200-foot-tall evergreen in Yosemite National Park, engrossed in Ken Follett’s Cold War thriller Code to Zero. The midsummer heat, intense in the thin air of the High Sierras, made him drowsy, and he dozed off. At least, that’s what he told me when I met him back at the hotel after my afternoon of hiking to the top of Vernal Falls with a park ranger and a family from Kansas City.

As a writer, I usually spend an inordinate amount of time alone and indoors. To rejuvenate, I need to propel my neglected quadriceps up a mountain or paddle a kayak around a lake. And I want to have some social interaction, maybe even make new friends. To recover from his work life, which demands strenuous physical activity and constant nose-to-nose contact with macho denizens of the construction industry, Michael seeks a quiet place where he can put his feet up and get away from ringing phones.

We had to survive a couple of less-than-dreamy vacations before we realized that our time-off desires can be quite different. Now, with that awareness well established, we plan getaways that offer activities, as well as soothing spots to do nothing, that appeal to us both.

We believe in the power of vacations to dissolve the anxieties of daily work and family life, and to wash away the fears and apprehension that seem to spin out of newspaper headlines and haunt our dreams. Destination resorts in gorgeous natural settings seem to work magic on us. But more than any place, we’ve found, vacation is a state of mind.

Skip Vacation at Your Peril

These days, we can almost keep a straight face when we tell people we’re headed off to exotic locales on doctor’s orders. People who work for years without taking a vacation are at risk for early death, says Brooks B. Gump, associate professor in the psychology department at the State University of New York at Oswego. Gump coauthored a study that examined the vacation habits of men at high risk for coronary heart disease over a nine-year period and concluded that the frequency of annual vacations affected the risk of death.

“What is critical is being able to take true breaks from life’s stressors and, more importantly, taking breaks from potential stress,” Gump says. In other words, take your vacation—and don’t let work and other responsibilities infringe on your time away. “Whatever the form or location of the vacation, it may be most effective if all potential stressors are removed,” Gump says. “This means don’t leave a phone number with the office, don’t check your e-mail, and don’t bring your laptop.”

Just the sight of your phone or laptop may make it impossible to truly let go of worry and tension—potential stress, as Gump calls it. The key words here are “let go”—stress-busting vacations are those during which you can let go of real and imagined threats, work, chores, malfunctioning relationships, and, if you leave newspapers and TV behind, what the media throws at you.

Getting away is such a powerful antidote to stress that just thinking about it may help you relax. Gump believes you can diminish stress simply by anticipating a vacation. So, bring home the brochures and start planning.

Natural Recharge

While just about any time away can rejuvenate, a vacation in a gorgeous natural setting is probably the best defense against everyday tension. Mary H. Tabacchi, a professor at the Cornell University School of Hotel Administration, polled 500 spagoers and a similar number of vacationers who didn’t visit spas. The spagoers reported feeling significantly more creative, energetic, and focused as well as better able to make decisions and handle challenges than those who hadn’t visited a spa.

“We have become divorced from nature and from the relaxation response,” Tabacchi says, but “many of us can be healed by nature and exercise in good, clean, fresh air in scenic surroundings.”

Tabacchi’s ideal vacation is what she calls a “hiking spa”—tough physical workouts combined with restorative spa treatments. She describes it as a “rustic outdoor experience with indoor pampering—you have the luxury to enjoy nature, exercise, and mindful activities, and eat healthfully and consciously, without the pull of others or the stress of the workday world.”

In the serene setting of a spa, Tabacchi says, “you can spend time soul-searching and determine the truly important issues in life. When you relax totally, it becomes clear what’s important and what’s not. Yoga and meditation in addition to cardiac exercise are the backbone of a simpler, more forgiving life and lifestyle. These methods of relaxation often need to be relearned or reinforced in a secure setting such as the destination spa.”

But don’t take Tabacchi’s word for it; only you know what’s best for you. It could be a healing retreat where you can rest and turn inward, or a strenuous physical challenge to blast away the worries of the world, or a busy schedule of guided tours, classes, and social interaction. Which type of vacation will reset your life-balance button and heal your tension-tattered psyche? There’s only one way to find out. So, go for it—and remember, no matter where you end up, all you really need to do is relax.

The Grounded Traveler: Keeping Up Your Practice

Originally published here in YOGA JOURNAL


Establishing a rhythm is easy at home, where you control your schedule and can settle into a comfortable routine. But when you’re traveling (for business or for pleasure), that rhythm is disrupted, which can throw you off-kilter. To set yourself at ease on any journey, learn how to ground yourself.

Staying grounded away from home really comes down to being mindful and centered regardless of changing environments, time zones, and meal plans. “It means finding a relationship between your brain, body, and breath that disconnects you from the past and future but aligns your energy in the present,” says Lawrence Biscontini, manager at the Wyndham’s Golden Door Spa in Fajardo, Puerto Rico. “When you’re grounded, you breathe well, digest well, and concentrate on the present well.”

In other words, you enjoy each moment to its fullest. While that can be tough on the road, you don’t have to nix travel plans and cling to your regular schedule. Instead, try these strategies.

Create a Harmonious Space: Cluttered surroundings can make you feel unbalanced and anxious. Unpack your belongings as soon as you arrive and take the time to arrange your room so it feels comfortable. Buy flowers or set up personal photos. “You’ll feel like you’re at home rather than coming and going, which will keep you in the present,” says Nina Molin, M.D., an Ayurvedic practitioner and staff physician at Canyon Ranch in the Berkshires, Massachusetts.

Invigorate With Oil: Like candles, essential oils stimulate the sense of smell, which can influence how you feel, Molin says. Ayurveda prescribes lavender oil for vata imbalance, jasmine or sandalwood for pitta, and eucalyptus for kapha. Add two drops to a bath or mix a few drops with almond, olive, or sunflower oil and massage into your skin.

Light a Candle: When Biscontini travels, he sets an aromatherapy candle on the bedside table. “The cities change,” he says, “but the candle gives me a constant.” To refresh your senses and calm your nerves, try one scented with lavender, lemongrass, or musk.

Detach From Results: It’s natural to harbor dreams of perfection when you travel, because you’ve invested time, money, and effort. But when the inevitable mishap does occur—like missing a connecting flight, getting sick, or being stranded without a hotel reservation—yoga philosophy can help.

So what would Patanjali do? He’d probably remember the second of the eight limbs of classical yoga, the niyamas (observances). Cultivating two of the niyamas in particular, Ishvara pranidhana(the practice of surrender) and samtosha (contentment), can help remind you that oftentimes, the joy is in the journey, whatever unexpected form it may take.

Modify Your Usual Yoga Routine: You may not have the time, space, or energy for your full yoga practice, but sticking to some form of it will make you feel better. Try to meditate for a few minutes, and practice mostly standing yoga poses. As Kathy Sprague, Canyon Ranch’s mind-body coordinator, reminds us: By grounding your feet, you’ll automatically feel stable.