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Self-Care Via the Practice of Yoga Nidra

Yoga nidra may feel strange the first time you try it, but the echoes continue long after the physical practice ceases.

If you've never practiced yoga nidra, you're in for a real treat. It's believed that practicing this form of meditation for 45 minutes is equitable to 3 hours of sleep. The benefits will reverberate throughout the rest of your waking hours making stress more manageable and focus more obtainable.

Once you invite yoga nidra into your life, you'll probably wonder how you ever functioned without it.

An explanation of yoga nidra and how to practice it

Yoga nidra translates to "yogic sleep". It very well may replace that nap craving you typically find yourself having. It's a guided meditation that relaxes your sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems and allows your brain to go from the active beta state and transverse over to the more restful alpha sleep state. If you can relax enough, your brain may be capable of going to an even further state of restoration. And when things are really working, your brain is able to move all the way to the delta state of deep, restorative relaxation where the benefits of truly restful sleep start to kick in. Sounds awesome, yes? So how do you actually get there?

Begin your yoga nidra practice laying down

That's no surprise, right? There are various ways of enjoying yoga nidra. But first and foremost, you must place your body in the most comfortable relaxation-inducing state. Use bolsters, blankets, eye pillows, and anything else to help you get cozy.

Your job is to receive and allow yourself to be cared for and guided. Yoga nidra is growing in popularity. So finding a class near you may not be too difficult. But if it is, try the app Insight Timer for hundreds of thousands of meditations, including guided yoga nidra.

Your guide's job is to help you find the most restful state available to you with calming words offering you visuals and taking you on a journey deep within. The guide may also have you do some minor calming techniques such as briefly clenching the muscles of the face, arms, hands, legs, and feet. This allows your body to sense where it's holding stress and choosing to let go.

How long is long enough?

If 45 minutes feels a little overwhelming, begin with a 30-minute meditation and work your way up to 45. Thirty minutes is the minimum length of time to allow the body to surrender to a parasympathetic state.

The intent of yoga nidra intent is to help you inquire within and work through the subtle body to gain both awareness and a release of stress and anxiety. The intention you set for yourself is key and keeping it in mind as you travel through the guided meditation will allow you to gain access to benefits you may not have experienced in previous meditation endeavors.

Of all the various tools and techniques available to help us find relief from stress and feel more peaceful, meditation continues to rise to the very top in the benefits it offers. So if you are still finding it difficult to embrace the practice, maybe the specific practice of yoga nidra is the one you have yet to try, but can fully embrace. Let us know how it goes. We're all in this together.


5 Ways to Use the Power of Touch to Improve Your Health and Well-Being

When we think of improving our health, most of us envision ourselves feasting on colorful fruits and veggies, saying no to processed foods, practicing enough yoga to give us lean muscles, and getting a good night’s sleep practically every night. Good health, however, extends far beyond these obvious habits!

Our sense of touch is powerful enough to lower blood pressure and heart rate, boost immune function, relieve pain, reduce stress and anxiety, and even improve mood. So if you think you’re doing everything right with your other healthy lifestyle habits, maybe it’s time to pay attention to where you could be lacking in the touch department.

Here are five healthy touch habits to experiment with.

 

1. Give and receive more physical affection.

We may not know it, but many of us in the West are actually suffering from touch deprivation. Michelangelo once said, “To touch can be to give life,” and research has confirmed proof of this by observing positive changes in the brain’s reward system and cardiovascular system from touch. Hugging, kissing, holding hands, caressing, cuddling, having someone play with your hair, and having sex are all forms of physical affection that can lead to greater health benefits.

 

2. Go for a massage (or try self-massage).

You don’t have to be a professional athlete to reap the benefits of a massage from a licensed massage therapist. Massage has been shown to reduce muscle soreness after exercise, relieve chronic back pain, reduce pain from surgery, and aid in recovery from injury. Of course, if you don’t have the time or funds to treat yourself to a luxurious massage, you can always get some of the same benefits by using some special self-massage techniques.

 

3. Try foam rolling before or after your yoga practice.

Similar to massage, foam rolling your muscles either before or after you exercise with a foam roller can improve everything from flexibility and range of motion, to muscle soreness and injury prevention. You can also get something called a “rumble roller,” which is similar in cylindrical shape to the foam roller, but has specially designed bumps along it to help dig deeper into the tissue of your pressure points.

 

4. Pet a dog or a cat.

Dogs and cats might as well be a member of the family, but they do so much more than make our homes warmer and cozier. Research has shown that talking to and petting dogs can help lower blood pressure. And hey, even if you’re more of a cat person, you can pretty much reap the same benefits. Whether you love snuggling up with a kitty in your lap or watching your dog’s goofy face as you give him a good scratch behind the ears, bonding with your pets is bound to do you you both some serious good.

 

5. Use a gravity blanket or a body pillow when you sleep.

Gravity blankets are blankets that weight 10% of a person’s body weight, claiming to help reduce stress and anxiety by pressure stimulation. The pressure of the blanket supposedly increases serotonin for better sleep. And if you consider yourself to be a side sleeper, you might want to try investing in a body pillow to hug as you drift off to sleep. Hugging a body pillow can help calm your mind and body by making you feel safe and stable.


7 Yoga Poses to Do in Bed for Enhanced Relaxation and Better Sleep

7 Yoga Poses to Do in Bed for Enhanced Relaxation and Better Sleep

When it comes to sticking to an appropriate bedtime, sometimes our brains and bodies just don’t want to cooperate.

Instead of just lying there trying to count sheep (or worse—checking your phone!), why not take advantage of the situation by performing a few restorative poses right in your bed to help relax and prepare you for sleep?

Here are seven restorative poses to try in bed for better sleep.

 

Reclined Bound Angle Pose (Supta Baddha Konasana)

This hip-opening pose helps to lower blood pressure and slow the heart rate, decreasing tension both in the mind and the body. You can place your arms by your side with palms up, reach your arms above your head to grab opposite elbows, or alternatively rest your hands on your belly to feel the rise and fall with your breath.

Video: How to do reclined bound angle pose

 

Reclined Spinal Twist (Supta Matsyendrasana)

After a long and busy day, the back could use a good stretch to relieve built up tension. Reclined spinal twist stretches and relaxes the spine while lending a hand to digestive health by giving the abdominal muscles a soothing massage.

Video: How to do reclined spinal twist

 

Seated Forward Bend (Paschimottanasana)

One of the big perks of doing seated forward bend in bed is that you can place a couple pillows over your legs and fold over them for an extra soothing and cozy stretch! This pose stretches the spine, hamstrings, and shoulders while stimulating important organs like the kidneys and liver.

Video: How to do seated forward bend

 

Wide-Angle Seated Forward Bend (Upavistha Konasana)

Wide angle seated forward is known to have a calming effect on the brain as it stretches the insides and backs of the legs, releases tension in the groin, and strengthens the spine. Remember to keep the knee caps pointed toward the ceiling as you fold forward and consider rolling up your bedsheets to support your knees if you need to.

Video: How to do wide-angle seated forward bend

 

Legs Up the Wall (Viparita Karani)

Even if there’s no wall on either side of your bed, you can still put your legs up the headboard to get into this pose. It induces relaxation by stimulating venous drainage, improving circulation, and soothing swollen or cramped legs and feet from standing, walking, or sitting all day.

Video: How to do legs up the wall

 

Thread the Needle Pose (Sucirandhrasana)

Threat the needle pose helps to release tension that builds up in the upper back and shoulders while stretching and opening the chest, arms, neck, upper back and shoulders. Doing this pose in bed will be easier on your knees and you can optionally place a pillow underneath your torso to keep yourself more upright.

Video: How to do thread the needle pose

 

Corpse Pose (Savasana)

Of course corpse pose had to make the list. It’s the ultimate surrendering pose and arguably the hardest one of them all. If you can learn to allow your mind and body to let go of stress and tension as much as possible in this pose, however, you’ll ultimately feel more relaxed, calm, and ready for a good night’s sleep.

Video: How to do corpse pose


9 Things Yogis Can Do to Prepare for a Good Night's Sleep

9 Things Yogis Can Do to Prepare for a Good Night's Sleep

Making sleep a priority is one of the most important things you can do for yourself. By making sure you get enough good quality sleep every night, you not only set yourself up for a great next day, but a long and healthy life too.

Whether you’re an aspiring yogi, a beginner yogi, an intermediate yogi, or even an advanced yogi, you can take advantage of the following tips to improve your sleep naturally.

 

1. Refrain from Stimulating Devices and Activities

The earlier in the evening that you can turn off the TV, put your smartphone away, stop working, or finish any vigorous exercise, the better! Plan to do this an hour before turning in at the very least.

 

2. Snack on Sleep-Friendly Foods

If you’re hungry before bed, light snack can actually help you sleep better. Go for complex carbohydrates combined with lean protein that ideally contains the amino acids tryptophan (such as chicken/turkey breast, tuna, cheese, nuts, seeds, and beans). Tryptophan is known to boost serotonin levels, which helps promote sleep.

 

3. Darken Your Environment

You don’t have to sit around in a pitch dark room, but less light will certainly help your body adjust and get the signal to prepare for sleep. Instead of simply dimming the lights, try lighting some candles for enhanced relaxation.

 

4. Listen to Soothing Music or Sounds

Classical, ambient, and smooth jazz are perfect music genres for winding down. Alternatively, you could try listening to some sound effects like ocean waves, rain, thunderstorms, birds, or frogs to help you get in touch with nature.

 

5. Mindfully Prep for the Night and Next Day

Without any stimulating devices or activities to indulge in before bed, you can take the extra time you have to carry out your evening routine and plan for tomorrow. Take a relaxing bath, moisturize your entire body, brush your teeth extra well, pick out what you want to wear, make your lunch, and do whatever else you need to do while practicing mindfulness.

 

6. Do a Bit of Journaling

The evening is the perfect time to do a bit of a mind dump through writing. Grab your journal and and a pen to write what simply comes to mind. You may wish to reflect on your day, write about how you feel, or plan for what you want to do tomorrow.

 

7. Lower the Thermostat (Or Crack a Window)

Cooler body temperatures help promote sleep, so set your thermostat to adjust the temperature to somewhere between 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit during the hours you plan to sleep. During slightly warmer weather in the spring, summer, and autumn months, you can even leave the window open.

 

8. Settle Your Mind With Aromatherapy

Essential oils have natural healing properties that can relax the mind and help you prepare for sleep. Whether you choose to gently inhale the aromas or put a few drops on your pillow is completely up to you. Here are seven essential oils known to have calm and soothing effect on the mind.

 

9. Get in Touch With Your Breath and Body

Last but not least, don’t forget about the practice of yoga itself to help you sleep. Poses like legs up the wall, supine spinal twist, reclining goddess pose, child’s pose, and happy baby are just a few to consider trying—many of which you can do directly in bed. If meditation is a better alternative for you in the evening hours, try these three deep breathing techniques to calm your mind and body in preparation for sleep.


Self-Care Practices to Embrace the Autumn Season

Self-Care Practices to Embrace the Autumn Season

In autumn, many people decide to get serious about their goals and the routine they need to establish to get there, but many also fall victim to overdoing it. They often push themselves against their resistance, unknowingly causing a cascade of adverse effects that push back in ways that either halt their progress altogether or cause them feel like they've moved backwards.

Self-care, when done right, is anything but selfish—and it's key to personal growth. We practice self-care not because we're self-indulgent, but to regain balance in our lives again—on all physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual levels.

Here are five things you can do this autumn, or any season whatsoever, to take care of yourself and reap the benefits of a well balanced lifestyle.

 

Get Serious About Downtime

Downtime is the time you take away from the day-to-day responsibilities that use up your energy rather than restore it. To get serious about downtime, you’ll have to put it into your schedule. An hour at the end of every day or a full 24 hours every week are good places to start.

 

Let Your Inner Child Out

Play is a form of active rest, and you can use the downtime you schedule into your day or week to embrace what your inner child loves to do. During the autumn season, you might want to try:

  • Jumping in piles of leaves with your dog, kids, spouse, etc.
  • Going apple or pumpkin picking
  • Using pencil crayons to color in a coloring book by the warm fire
  • Making autumn-inspired crafts out of leaves, twigs, rocks and other outdoor items
  • Reading mystery, drama, or horror fiction books while sipping on hot cocoa

 

Create Your Own Personal Spa

Your downtime can also be used to pamper and nurture yourself with warm, soothing spa practices designed to moisturize and relax your entire body. Many of the items included in our Lifestyle box are perfect for creating your own little mini spa in your very own bathroom at home—such as Gypsy Soul Organics' Barefoot Lake Candle that came in our September box and Lotus Flower OM’s Bohemian Funk Massage Oil that’s in our October box. Simply light a candle, draw a warm bath, and sink into relaxing bliss!

 

Routinely Check in With How You Feel

The great thing about checking in with yourself is that it can be done anytime in as little as a few seconds, and you don’t necessarily need to take a significant amount of downtime to do it. Simply stop what you’re doing to mindfully check in with the physical sensations of your body, the mental thoughts flying through your head, and the emotions that are present. How is your body, mind, and spirit trying to tell you to take care of yourself?

 

Create the Perfect Sleep Routine and Environment

Lastly, never underestimate the importance of sleep in a good self-care regimen. Sleep is foundational for everything, so making sure get a solid 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night on a regular schedule is vital to feeling at your best and doing your best throughout the day. Consider removing clutter from your bedroom, eliminating all sources of light, and bringing items in that serve to relax you in healthy ways—such as by adding houseplants, using aromatherapy diffusers, or replacing your old pillows with new ones.

Most importantly, remember not to let anyone else make you feel bad for taking care of yourself first before tending to other responsibilities. To give the greatest gifts you’re capable of giving, you must fill yourself up with love first—and only you have the power to do that for yourself.