Meditate to Reset and Relax

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There is a growing meditation movement happening around the world. Meditation is mainstream and no longer on the fringe. Hip-hop moguls are writing books about it, movie stars blog about it, the yoga studios are packing in stretched bodies with quiet minds. There is a long list of Western spiritual gurus spreading the word too. Balance is the word and meditation is the way to get it.

As stress builds up in our body, we begin to experience sickness, tension, and fatigue. Our emotions become strained and our mind fills with fear and negative thoughts. The convincing link between the mind and body is well established and health and wellness advocates in the medical profession promote reducing stress as a way to avoid disease.

According to mental health research, intense feelings of anxiety and stress can cause a nervous breakdown. The nerves don’t actually break, of course but it’s a signal to shut down and reset. We have become out of balance.

How to Reset:

Closing the eyes and limiting the sensory input will immediately start to slow things down. Deep breaths combined with a meditation exercise will lower the brain wave frequency to a synchronized, more focused level of mind.

Simply put, the brain is like a broadcasting and receiving transmitter running on electricity. Like a radio station it operates on different channels where one predominates at a time. Alpha waves were the first to be discovered by scientists due to its slower, more powerful signal. If hooked up to an EEG machine while meditating, it would register an alpha/theta reading depending on the depth of our meditation practice.

Meditation, due to its positive stress relieving side effects, is being considered as part of a prescription for a growing number of ailments that are physical, mental, emotional, or spiritually based.

The reset button isn’t just needed for excess. Balance needs to be reset due to a lack of something in our lives too. Meditation can fill a spiritual void where there is a lack of purpose, meaning, peace and love. When we move our awareness from the physical body, calm our emotions and still our thoughts, what remains? The answer to that question has ancient philosophers and New Age gurus searching through words to label something there are no words for. We just have to try it for ourselves.

There are many types of meditation to choose from. All paths lead to the same place of inner peace. Finding the one that fits our lifestyle is as important to our health as daily physical exercise. The mind and body are interconnected, so remember to apply the reset button to balance our inner work with our physical work out.

Sitting in silence can become a battle with what the Buddhists call, the ‘monkey mind’ as our thoughts jump from one branch to another, interrupting the flow of peace. A great way to start meditating is with a guided meditation. The benefits are many and even the most experienced meditator will always benefit from a little guidance that can lead us gently to that peaceful place in an efficient manner.

Focusing on a mental picture is similar to focusing on a mantra or on the breath. We do as we are told by the voice and before you know it, no more body, no more thoughts…just peace.

Peeling away the layers until there is nothing but the inner self, doesn’t have to be a struggle or a chore. Just like exercising our bodies in a fun way with a sport we love, meditating can be fun too. We can look forward to putting on the headphones to tune out the stress and tune in to our happy place anytime. There are longer guided meditations with full body scanning relaxation that is an indulgent treat, as well as shorter pick-me-up versions. It doesn’t matter if we are sleep deprived and happen to drift off during the session because the subconscious mind never sleeps so we can still benefit from the affirmations on a deep level. The positive words in a good, guided meditation will feed our soul in a way we couldn’t do by ourselves without monkey mind waking up.

Try a few to find a voice to live with happily ever after, while discovering that peace is within. It is the easiest way to reset and balance our body and mind for a long and happy life.

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Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Kathryn Remati, a Boston based meditation facilitator, creator of the Tranquil Spectrum App for Apple devices. Kathryn completed graduate and post-graduate studies in Humanistic Psychology (BA) and Organizational Behavior (MA) in Australia where she taught Alpha brainwave training techniques. For more info go to: http://tranquilspectrum.com or follow her on Twitter, Pinterest, and Facebook.

Pocket Yoga-Practice Builder iOS App Gets a Great Update…and we’ve got redemption codes!

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I’m sure most of us enjoy a little spontaneity in our yoga practice, but there’s also a lot to be said for showing up to a yoga class with a prepared teacher that puts on a smooth-flowing class.  I do most of my yoga at home, but I don’t have many worse yoga pet peeves than practicing with an online yoga video where the teacher goes through a bunch of asanas for one side of the body and forgets to do the same thing for the other side.

Frustrating, distracting, and seems to happen all to often given the frailty and forgetfulness of the human mind…

Fear not! Pocket Yoga-Practice Builder, an iOS app I’ve used for a long time, came out with a great update this week that adds the ability to create repeating sequences with the app and export the sequence to a downloadable PDF. Very helpful for teachers planning classes or even us home-practitioners who like to plan our practices out.  And most importantly, no more forgotten poses!  Just build the routine, roll out the mats, and practice or teach away.

The app makes it easy to create routines, adjust pose duration, and even add your own music.

PBcreate@2xHere’s a sample practice PDF and click here to check out a video with an overview of what Yoga Builder has to offer.

That’s all good news, but the best news for you is that we have 10 free download codes (currently priced at $6.99) to give away! 

To Enter:  Since yoga apps make it super simple to practice yoga just about anywhere, comment below on the weirdest place you’ve ever practiced yoga and you could be one of our random winners!

Update (12 Jan 15): Contest closed… Thanks for sharing the creative and crazy places you’ve busted out a yoga move or two! 10 lucky yogis are now having a fun time building yoga sequences with Pocket Yoga-Practice Builder. Have an amazing week!

Get your virtual chillax on with Yoga Retreat on Facebook…

You know you’re curious to find out what this Facebook “Yoga Retreat” game is all about. Well, wait no longer, Yoga Retreat is now live and just waiting for you to unleash your virtual yogic amazingness.

 Here’s more details from the press release:

HELSINKI, Finland – August 9th 2012 – Gajatri Studios, an independent and innovative social games development studio, announce the release today of their debut title, Yoga Retreat on Facebook.

The first social management game derived from authentic well-being and yoga content, players will take on the role as a yogini, building their own tropical wellbeing island resort through practicing and teaching genuine yoga techniques, curing their digital customers’ ailments and completing quests to collect virtual currency.

As players advance through Yoga Retreat, new yoga poses to practise and facilities to build and use will be unlocked.  These include the Steam Room for aching muscles, the Beach practice area for advanced yoga practices and the Juice Bar where healthy drinks for ailing customers can be made from ingredients harvested from the resort. Playing alongside Facebook friends will enhance the game experience as players can share items and visit ‘Friends’ retreats.

“People new to yoga often tell me that they have a hurdle of going into yoga classes because they do not understand why asanas are practiced, or the logic of the flow, or do not recognize the pose names. Yoga Retreat uses fun game mechanics such as practicing and teaching yoga, as well as curing customers ailments, to gradually reveal these ideas for casual game players.” Commented Tiina Zilliacus, founder of Gajatri Studios

In addition to the well-being techniques players will learn throughout the game, Yoga Cat, the in-game furry friend is on hand to show players simple neck, shoulder and spine exercises for the a truly relaxing social gaming experience.

A gameplay trailer for Yoga Retreat can be viewed at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Eak8uCCcOkA

About Gajatri Studios

Formed in September 2011 by Tiina Zilliacus, a certified yoga teacher with 14 years of production, marketing and business management experience in games, online and mobile start-ups, Gajatri Studios was created to be an innovative and unique proposition within the social gaming space; a well-being games company creating fun and engaging social games derived from authentic well-being content. Yoga Retreat is set to be the company’s first game, releasing on Facebook in August 2012, a game that is both fun and uplifting highlighting genuine yoga techniques to enhance players’ mental and physical health.

Isn’t Yoga Cat cute? What do you think–are you going to play?

Airplane Yoga for Holiday Travelers

Traveling during the upcoming holidays has its plusses and minuses. You know it will be great to see family and friends, but the enhanced airport security measures stress you out. Then there’s sitting in a safety-oriented airplane seat that was not built for comfort. With a few planning tips and yoga poses to do at the boarding gate and on the plane you can arrive feeling rejuvenated and refreshed.

Whether you’re going home for the holidays or are jetting off to a yoga retreat destination, here are some tips to reduce the stress of flying.

Travel guru, Michael Huffman, was a road warrior for 20+ years in corporate America as a compliance manager. According to this veteran traveler, flying doesn’t have to be stressful. Some of the stress-reducing tactics he’s developed include planning tips, ways to relax en-route to the airport, essential things for your carry-on bag and yoga poses to do at the boarding gate.

These ‘Strategies for Zen-like Air Travel’ include some suggestions to make the visit home or to your destination yoga retreat more relaxing and pleasant:

  • Planning 24 Hours Ahead of the flight
    – Clean a stainless steel water bottle & let it air-dry overnight
    – Put a drop of lavender essential oil on a blindfold
  • Packing List Essentials for the Carry-On Bag:
    – Ear plugs to reduce body fatigue from engine noise on board
    – A sweater or fleece you can roll up and use as lumbar support or stay warm if the air-conditioning on board is too much for you
  • On the Way out the Door & En-Route to the Airport:
    – Wear slip-on shoes and empty all pockets of cell phones, keys and coins prior to arriving to speed through security
    – Take a few inhales and exhales en-route to the airport; Inhale 1-2-3-4, Exhale 4-3-2-1
  • Boarding Gate Yoga (find a place away from any TV screens):
    – Sitting in a Chair: Easy forward bend and elbow circles
    – Sitting on the Floor: Badha Konasa and Virasana Twists

In addition to these ‘Strategies for Zen-like Air Travel,’ Michael developed 24 sitting and standing poses that can be done on the plane in his Traveller Yoga Series: AIRPLANE YOGA.  Each yoga pose includes an illustration and a text description of how to enter the pose.

Here are illustrations for some of the AIRPLANE YOGA poses: Wrist Opener, Palm Pushes and Standing Twist:

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The iPhone App and iBook ‘enhanced’ versions include an audio recording of Michael guiding you through each pose as well as a video clip for 13 of the poses. He offers a free PDF with these three poses and a the full Table of Contents any yogi or yogini can appreciate…http://thezenguy.com/store/airplane-yoga/

[About Michael:  Michael is both a Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT200) and a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). He spent 20+ years in ‘Corporate America’ as a road warrior and now designs practical yoga instructions like AIRPLANE YOGA and YOGA FOR OFFICE PROFESSIONALS available as iPhone apps and downloadable books on Apple, Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Additionally, he maintains a travel blog about his current travels as well as vignettes from his upcoming book Memoirs of a Road Warrior; his stories will make you laugh, cry and everything in between. Sign up here…http://thezenguy.com/stories/.]

Yoga Apps For Your Mac

Slowly but surely some of our favorite iPhone/iPad yoga apps are showing up in the Mac App store.  Okay, well actually there are basically only two yoga apps in the Mac App store right now fit to be classified as “yoga” apps, but it’s a start, and I’m absolutely positive there will be more competitors soon.  Here’s my review of the two apps currently available.

Pocket Yoga (4.5 stars)

Pocket Yoga has been in the App store pretty much since the App store opened, has received excellent reviews, and currently sells for $4.99.  Similar to its iPhone/iPad counterparts, Pocket Yoga provides detailed watercolor illustrations with options of practicing in ocean, desert, or mountain surroundings, at three different difficulty levels, and for three different durations.  Each type of terrain brings a different focus and intensity level to the practice.  Basically the app includes twenty-seven practice variations in total, plus Sun Salutations A & B.  The instructor provides pleasant voice and visual instruction through each pose, as well as gives cues for inhalation and exhalation.  Though some consider background music a necessity to their yoga practice, others would rather clean their yoga mat with their tongue than listen to music during yoga.  Fair warning that the app includes (tolerable) background music, but also has the option to turn both music and voice instruction off if desired.   Although I give Pocket Yoga a solid 4.5 stars, I’m also surprised that it lacks some of the great features of the less expensive iPhone ($2.99)/iPad ($3.99) apps, such as practice history, customized music, and a detailed pose description section.  Perhaps those will end up in future updates, or perhaps the developers figure you already own the iOS apps and they just want to keep things simple with the Mac app.  I’m guessing we’ll continue to see improvements and additional features in the future.  Bottom-line, although the iPhone and iPad Pocket Yoga apps are fabulous for on the go, the Mac app is an outstanding value as a low-cost supplement to a home yoga practice.

Pranayama (4 stars)

Pranayama is new to the Mac App store (added 9 March) and is currently available at an introductory price of $4.99.  Much like its iPhone ($4.99 univeral app) and iPad ($4.99) variations, which I’ve previously reviewed, the Pranayama app for the Mac offers the same simple and intuitive pathway to deep breathing and relaxation based on yogic principles.  Combining the power of breath with technology, as well as pleasing music options and animated visuals, the Pranayama for Mac app guides the practitioner to slower, deeper breathing, which amazingly enough results in more energy, stamina, and focus.  Very yogic, and definitely a useful concept for progressing beyond the asana level of the eight limbs of yoga.  With that said, unless you meditate in a chair in front of your computer or have no problem moving your laptop onto the ground or have a very short desk, this is one of those apps that’s probably slightly less functional on the Mac than its more mobile iOS versions.  Though the iPad version is practically perfect for those who always meditate on the floor (or basically anywhere), there’s no doubt that desk dwellers will love having the option of a full screen app that brings a little relaxation to their desktop.  Read more here about how the app works and try a demo to see if it’s for you.

While yoga apps are just beginning to make their way to the desktop, Pocket Yoga and Pranayama are definitely two great offerings to kick things off.

Three Parting Questions:

  1. What future do you expect for desktop yoga apps?
  2. What iPhone or iPad yoga app would you love to see on your desktop?
  3. Are yoga apps a helpful tool in your practice?

Dominate Technology and Breathe Better with the Totally Awesome iPad/iPhone Pranayama App

Technology is a two-edged sword.  It makes our lives easier in so many ways, but it also brings with it all sorts of distractions (too many to list here). President Bush may have never found WMD’s in Iraq, but he could have looked a little closer to home because pretty much all of us carry around WMD’s — Weapons of Mass Distraction — in our pockets and purses all day. It’s awesome though when we discover new uses for our favorite grown-up toys that don’t ratchet up the distraction frenzy, but rather calm our minds, focus our attention for more than 30 seconds, and encourage a little more mindfulness in our daily activities.

I recently discovered the “Health Through Breath – Pranayama” app for my iPhone and iPad and can tell you that it’s now one of my favorite and most used iOS apps.  With its beautiful graphics and interface, the Pranayama app simply and effectively guides the user through a variety of stress-reducing breathing exercises.  I wouldn’t say I’m an expert in pranayama–I’ve read more about it than actually practiced it–but this app is making me a true believer in the power of breath control.  If you’re interested in using your technological resources to discover more about this fourth limb of yoga, you should check out the demo on the app’s website.

The website also provides a great review of many of the health benefits of pranayama.  I won’t rehash all the science here (you can visit the website), but I’ve noticed that even practicing slow breathing for only five to 15 minutes a day has helped clear my mind and reduce any stress I might be feeling.  If you could use a little more focus and a lot less stress in your life, then I recommend giving the Pranayama app a serious look.