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Archive for March, 2011

Happy Feet

Thursday, March 31st, 2011

Give your feet just a little attention, and your whole body will feel better.

They hold us up all day long, they get us everywhere we need to go, and they connect our bodies to the earth. Some yoga teachers even call the feet the “roots” of the body.

Yet for all that our feet do for us, we don’t do much for them in return. We cram them into tight shoes, pound along on them all day, and generally ignore them unless they’re giving us serious trouble. The result is that at some point in their lives 7 of 10 people will suffer from foot problems, many of which are entirely preventable.

Robert Kornfeld, a holistic podiatrist in New York City, says he’s seen it all: people hobbling in with knobby, inflamed bunions and hammer toes, the dull throb of tendinitis, the achy soles of plantar fasciitis.

Those aren’t just niggling minor ailments; some foot problems can alter the foot’s structure and trigger pain elsewhere in the body. “I sing that song to my patients,” Kornfeld says: “‘The foot bone’s connected to the leg bone…’” In fact, experts say one of the most important reasons to treat foot problems early is to prevent them from throwing the knees, hips, back, and shoulders out of whack.

And one of the best ways to take care of your feet is with yoga. “I recommend that all my patients start yoga immediately,” Kornfeld says. “When you treat foot problems with yoga, you end up treating back pain, hip pain, all kinds of structural problems. Not only does it stretch out the muscles and lead to a greater range of motion, but it helps heal the root issue of inflammation as well.”

In fact, yoga gives feet a healthy workout that they rarely get any other way. “You couldn’t ask for a better set of tools to reawaken the feet,” says yoga teacher Rodney Yee, of the Piedmont Yoga Studio in Oakland, California. Below, some tips from the experts on how best to use yoga to prevent or treat foot pain.

Work Those Toes

One great way to limber up stiff, underused feet is to work on the articulation of the toes, which in most of us have lost at least some of their range of motion, says Tias Little, director of YogaSource in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Little considers the feet so important he not only focuses on them in his regular sessions, but has also created a separate class he calls Feet as Foundation. “Think of the way babies spread their toes and crawl by pushing off with them,” he says. “We need to regain that.” Little guides students through a routine in which they try to move each toe separately from the others and practice picking things up with their toes.

In standing poses, focus on elongating the toes to stretch the sole of your foot. Press down into your heels at the same time you press forward with the base of the big and little toes, grounding forward with the ball of the foot. “Think of it as stretching the sole of the foot like a drum,” Little says. This can improve circulation, pumping blood and lymph back toward your heart, and potentially stave off edema and varicose veins.

Stretch for Strength

Any pose that stretches the arch or the sole of the foot improves flexibility and loosens tension. Little suggests a simple exercise to warm up your feet before yoga: Stand on a tennis ball and roll it back and forth under your foot, working the toes, the ball of the foot, the arch, and the heel. Virasana (Hero Pose) stretches the top of the foot and elongates the arch, while kneeling with the toes tucked under is the best way to lengthen the plantar muscles on the sole of the foot, which, when contracted, can become inflamed, leading to plantar fasciitis.

Little also teaches students to go back and forth between Vajrasana (Thunderbolt Pose) and what he calls “broken toe pose.” From Vajrasana, lift your hips, curl your toes under and lift your heels, and then lean back so your weight rests on the “necks” (not the pads) of your toes.

adapted from Yoga Journal by Melanie Haiken

Posted in Yoga Timer, Yoga Timers by Now & Zen, yoga


Lake Meditation

Tuesday, March 29th, 2011

Lake Meditation

Lake Meditation

Practice limitless awareness and let yourself be as infinite as the heavens.

This is the second guided meditation in a series that started yesterday:

Move your attention from the mountain to the lake. Crystal-clear, turquoise-hued lakes toward the peak of some mountains in the Himalayas are called “sky lakes” because they so perfectly reflect the sky above. Protected by the higher peaks and trees, the surface of such a lake is smooth and calm. You don’t need to visualize yourself as a lake. Rather, contemplate the lake and its quality of reflectivity. Notice how the water is translucent, allowing you to see into its depths. Notice how it is also as reflective as a mirror, so you can see your face and the sky above on its surface. As you imagine yourself looking into the surface of the water, notice how the water reflects only what is there, neither editing out nor adding in anything. The water reflects the dark, ominous storm clouds and the fluffy white clouds equally. When birds fly overhead, the water reflects them; yet once they are gone from the sky, it shows no trace of them.

When the waves (vritti) are calmed, the mind (citta) has this dual ability of the lake to be both translucent and reflective. Once your mind is stabilized, you can turn your attention to it. Imagining your mind to be as translucent and reflective as the sky lake may bring forth thoughts, feelings, and emotions, but you can simply reflect what arises without judging or comparing, and without editing out anything through aversion or denial. Perceptions of sound, smell, or touch may arise, and, free of grasping and pushing away, you can simply reflect. In this way, destructive or unwholesome patterns can be seen, so that their power over you is lessened. Attachments are loosened. Breathing in, see yourself as the water of the sky lake; breathing out, reflect.

adapted from Yoga Journal by Frank Jude Boccio

Meditation Timers with Chime, a natural acoustic sound not electronic

Meditation Timers with Chime, a natural acoustic sound not electronic

Now & Zen

1638 Pearl Street

Boulder, CO  80302

(800) 779-6383

 

Posted in Yoga Timer, Yoga Timers by Now & Zen, yoga


Mountain Meditation – Choose a Portable Meditation Timer with Chime

Monday, March 28th, 2011

mindfulness practice

mindfulness practice

Practice limitless awareness and let yourself be as infinite as the heavens.

This is the first guided meditation in a series of three that starts today:

Create a comfortable, stable, supported seated posture. If sitting on the floor, support your knees with pillows or blocks. Sit upright and close your eyes. Let your breath flow naturally, without manipulating it. Rest your attention on the rising and falling of your belly or chest.

Imagine a majestically tall mountain. Contemplate how solid and stable the mountain is throughout the changing seasons. At times the mountain may be clouded over, its peak covered in fog. Sometimes the mountain is assaulted with thunder, lightning, and heavy rains. Sometimes it rises into a clear blue sky or a few white puffy clouds. At times it is covered in snow, at times with lush foliage, and at other times it is barren. Throughout, it remains stable and unaffected by the changing weather or seasons. Let this stable quality of “mountainness” nourish your concentration and your ability to sit through all the varying experiences that arise while practicing this meditation.

Now feel your posture to be like a mountain. Breathing in, see yourself as a mountain; breathing out, feel stable. Some thoughts and emotions are like storms, others like sunshine. Your mind can be clouded over or clear and bright, but through it all, you can still sit solid.

adapted from Yoga Journal by Frank Jude Boccio

Although meditation can be done in almost any context, practitioners usually employ a quiet, tranquil space, a meditation cushion or bench, and some kind of timing device to time the meditation session.  Ideally, the more these accoutrements can be integrated the better.  Thus, it is conducive to a satisfying meditation practice to have a timer or clock that is tranquil and beautiful.  Using a kitchen timer or beeper watch is less than ideal.

Portable Meditation Timer with Chime

Portable Meditation Timer with Chime

And it was with these considerations in mind that we designed our digital Zen Alarm Clock and practice timer.  This unique “Zen Clock” features a long-resonating acoustic chime that brings the meditation session to a gradual close, preserving the environment of stillness while also acting as an effective time signal.

meditation and yoga tools

meditation and yoga tools

Now & Zen – The Portable Meditation Timer Store

1638 Pearl Street

Boulder, CO  80302

(800) 779-6383

Posted in Yoga Timer, Yoga Timers by Now & Zen, yoga


Embrace Reality

Sunday, March 27th, 2011
buddha

buddha

When you deny the reality of life, you appreciate it less. Meditate on the Buddha’s Five Remembrances and rediscover the magic of life just as it is.

Ignorance, or avidya, is a root cause of suffering, according to Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra (II.5). But the ignorance Patanjali refers to is less a lack of knowledge than an almost willful ignoring of reality. Today we call it denial. For instance, we may intellectually know that all things change, yet we desperately deny this truth—a denial that leads to anxiety, fear, and confusion.

At a recent lecture, I led a group of interfaith seminarians in the contemplation of the Five Remembrances, Buddha’s teaching on impermanence, aging, health, change, and death. Afterward, one of the students asked, “Isn’t this just negative thinking?” On the contrary, the Five Remembrances is what the Buddha offers to awaken you from denial, to cultivate gratitude and appreciation for the life you’ve been given, and to teach you about nonattachment and equanimity.

One way of practicing the Five Remembrances is through something Buddhist master Thich Nhat Hanh calls hugging meditation. When your partner or children leave for work or school, hug each other for three full breaths, and remind yourself of the Fourth Remembrance: “All that is dear to me and everyone I love are of the nature to change. There is no way to escape being separated from them.” If you’re having a disagreement with someone, remind yourself, before getting swept away by heated emotions, of the Fifth Remembrance: “My actions are my only true belongings. I cannot escape the consequences of my actions. My actions are the ground upon which I stand.” None of this means you should be passive or reluctant to advocate your views. Instead the meditation helps you respond more skillfully with awareness of how things truly are rather than from conditioned reactions.

The Five Remembrances

I like this version of the Buddha’s Five Remembrances, offered by Thich Nhat Hanh in The Plum Village Chanting Book (Parallax Press, 1991).

I am of the nature to grow old. There is no way to escape growing old.

I am of the nature to have ill health. There is no way to escape ill health.

I am of the nature to die. There is no way to escape death.

All that is dear to me and everyone I love are of the nature to change. There is no way to escape being separated from them.

My actions are my only true belongings. I cannot escape the consequences of my actions. My actions are the ground upon which I stand.

Frank Jude Boccio (www.judekaruna.net) is the author of Mindfulness Yoga. He teaches yoga in New Paltz, New York, and leads Mindfulness Yoga sessions throughout North America.

adapted from Yoga Journal by Frank Jude Boccio

gentle chime timer for mindfulness practices

gentle chime timer for mindfulness practices

Now & Zen

1638 Pearl Street

Boulder, CO  80302

(800) 779-6383

 

Posted in Yoga Timer, Yoga Timers by Now & Zen, yoga


Slow Hands

Saturday, March 26th, 2011

awareness

awareness

Sometimes the fastest way to speed things up is to slow down. Try this slow-motion hand meditation to clear your mind.

Recently, I made a list of things I wanted to accomplish. It was much too long and ambitious—but I geared up to move on all fronts anyway. After some exasperation at the slow headway I was making, I sat down with a wise friend for some counsel. “It sounds like you want to get a lot of things done,” he said.

“Absolutely,” I replied. “But I’m frustrated at this pace.”

After a long pause he replied, “If you really want to speed things up, you have to slow down first.” Much as I wasn’t ready for that bit of wisdom, once I tried slowing down, I realized he was right. By slowing down I became more relaxed and clear. I was able to trust my intuition and choose the best steps for the projects that truly resonated with my highest aspirations.

TAKE A BREAK
In our hyped-up and caffeinated culture, who doesn’t want to do more faster? But you may also crave a break from your overstimulated mind and aspire to a calmer, more intuitive, and present state. It’s easy to lose sight of your main purpose amid the distractions of a frenzied mind. Slowing down brings you back to the here and now.

Many meditation techniques use one point as an object of concentration. Whether it’s the breath, a mantra, sensations, the thought of love, or awareness itself, the object of concentration can be a doorway to the moment. But sometimes this single focus is too subtle for the mind to track easily. If that’s been your experience, you may find that slow-motion movement, which begins with attention to strong sensations in the body, to be a more tangible and satisfying focal point.

This process of gradually shifting your attention from the large movement of the asanas to the small movements of the breath is the essence of raja yoga. As you attend to the postures, you encounter and release deep-seated tensions. You also refine your awareness by concentrating on the subtlety of your breath and turning inward (pratyahara). From there you can move to increasingly subtler forms of mindfulness, from one-pointedness (dharana) to one-flowingness (dhyana) to absorption (samadhi).

A wonderful and accessible means of moving meditation involves concentrating on the slow movement of your hands. (See “Try Your Hand,” end of article.)

FEEL THE FORCE
Any meditation practice quickly reveals how your mind is habitually consumed by thoughts of the future or past. Moments of awareness in the present are comparatively few, but slow-motion movement, because it captures your mind’s attention, can draw you directly into experiencing the sensations of the present moment. This technique can pull your mind into one-pointed concentration forcefully, but it also has larger implications as you become more sensitive to the life force.

Many yogis believe that life force, or prana, runs your autonomic nervous system, animating your body and keeping all systems working at optimal levels. Usually, your mind submits to the healing presence of prana when you’re sleeping, which is why a good night’s sleep can be so restorative.

However, you can learn to tune in to prana when you’re awake and to build reserves of it.When you remove obstacles to free-flowing prana, you feel more alive and present in your life. Think of how great you feel after a yoga class or a night of dancing or making love. Movement can awaken both prana and awareness.

Slow-motion movement slows your mind. Just a few minutes of it before sitting is an excellent segue to a more subtle meditation practice. Try lifting your arms overhead and slowly releasing them to your sides, concentrating on the micro-movements of your hands as they flow through space. Just a minute of this helps you move into pratyahara, sense withdrawal.

Paying attention to slowing down helps you be mindful during the day. Try brushing your teeth or washing dishes more slowly and see how that brings your mind into the present. Slowing down a yoga pose also helps draw you into a dynamic flow of sensation, breath, and awareness.

A fascinating paradox emerges when you allow yourself to become absorbed in the small details of any physical action. Embracing movement, you are inexorably drawn to the stillness within.

adapted from Yoga Journal by Jonathan Foust

Yoga Timers with gentle chimes

Yoga Timers with gentle chimes

Now & Zen

1638 Pearl Street

Boulder, CO  80302

(800) 779-6383

Posted in Yoga Timer, Yoga Timers by Now & Zen, yoga


Sleeping Soundly – Choose a Gradual Clock with Soothing Chimes

Friday, March 25th, 2011
sleeping

sleeping

Side Sleeping
Benefits Helps keep spine aligned and reduces snoring.
Get into bed and turn to one side. Put a pillow between your knees and another under your head for support. Your head pillow should be just high enough to prevent your neck from side bending up or down; your whole spine should be straight when viewed from the side. Draw your bottom elbow and shoulder forward far enough so you do not lie directly on your arm. Optionally, place a third pillow in front of you and support one or both hands on it.

adapted from Yoga Journal byNora Isaacs

One of the ultimate Zen like experiences is waking-up from a great slumber refreshed and energized. Your mind and body are harmoniously one, both alert and focused. Having a refreshed mind and body are two keys to a natural and Zen lifestyle. Waking up in the morning should not be a loud and abrupt awakening, but rather it should be a peaceful positive experience.  The right natural alarm clock can transition your deep and tranquil sleep into a serene start to consciousness. Imagine a long-resonating Tibetan bell-like chime waking you up to a beautiful morning experience.

The right alarm clock can be the most beneficial investment for you. With our Now & Zen natural alarm clock you are awakened more gradually and thus more naturally. Now & Zen is focused on creating a naturalistic lifestyle, and our clocks are an example of our philosophy.

Gentle Wake Up Clock with Chime, Yoga and Meditation Timers

Gentle Wake Up Clock with Chime, Yoga and Meditation Timers

Now & Zen – The Gradual Chime Clock Store

1638 Pearl Street

Boulder, CO  80302

(800 779-6383

Posted in Well-being, Yoga Timer, Yoga Timers by Now & Zen, yoga


Corpse Pose Savasana

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011
corpse yoga pose

corpse yoga pose

A harmonizing practice for people in recovery

As you practice the following sequence, remember to honor your limitations, going to your edge with love and acceptance rather than judgment and discouragement. If you are unable to move into a posture at this time, focus on breath-ing deeply as you think about the affirmation—that in itself is healing. At the end of the routine, take some time to write down your thoughts.

Benefits This basic pose of relaxation is done at the end of each hatha yoga session. It helps relieve the body of tension. It relaxes, rejuvenates, and replenishes the mind and body.

Affirmation I allow myself to relax completely and surrender to my Higher Power.

Lie on your back and gently close your eyes. Place your feet and legs slightly apart.

Place your arms along the sides of your body with your palms facing up. Make sure your teeth are slightly parted so that your jaw is relaxed. Start taking some deep breaths. Lie absolutely still. Close your eyes, take deep breaths, and let healing energy restore any areas of the body or mind that have been depleted by stress or tension. Visualize healing energy flowing through your entire body. Relax your body, quiet your mind, and soothe your soul. Set your Zen Timer for 20 minutes. Stay in this position until the Tibetan Bowl Gong Chimes on your Zen Timer.

adapted from Yoga Journal by Annalisa Cunningham, author of Healing Addiction with Yoga

Walnut Wood Zen Timers with Chime for Yoga

Walnut Wood Zen Timers with Chime for Yoga

Now & Zen

1638 Pearl Street

Boulder, CO  80302

(800) 779-6383

 

 

Posted in Yoga Timer, Yoga Timers by Now & Zen, yoga


Knee-Hug Spinal Twist Jathara Parivartanasana

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2011
yoga

yoga

A harmonizing practice for people in recovery

lwKnee-Hug Spinal Twist Jathara Parivartanasana

Benefits Releases the lower back and lengthens the spine. Increases flexibility of the spine, back, and ribs.

Affirmation Everywhere I turn I see beauty.

Lie on your back and hug your knees into your chest. Keep your knees bent into your chest and place your arms out to your sides. Your palms can be up or down, whichever feels most comfortable to you. Inhale. As you exhale, move your hips and knees to the left as you turn your head to the right. Hold the position and breathe. When you are ready, do a gentle spinal twist to the other side.

adapted from Yoga Journal by Annalisa Cunningham, author of Healing Addiction with Yoga

Posted in Chime Alarm Clocks, Yoga Timer, Yoga Timers by Now & Zen, yoga


Little Boat Hugging Knees Apanasana

Monday, March 21st, 2011
yoga practice

yoga practice

A harmonizing practice for people in recovery

As you practice the following sequence, remember to honor your limitations, going to your edge with love and acceptance rather than judgment and discouragement. If you are unable to move into a posture at this time, focus on breath-ing deeply as you think about the affirmation—that in itself is healing. At the end of the routine, take some time to write down your thoughts.

Benefits Releases the lower back and lengthens the spine.

Affirmation I hold myself with compassion.

Lie on your back and bring your knees in toward your chest. Wrap your arms around your knees and legs, hugging them toward you. Keep your chin slightly tucked so your neck stays long on the floor.

Hold the position and breathe.

adapted from Yoga Journal by Annalisa Cunningham, author of Healing Addiction with Yoga

Bamboo Zen Clocks and Chime Timers, a Natural Sound Alarm Clock

Bamboo Zen Clocks and Chime Timers, a Natural Sound Alarm Clock

Now & Zen

1638 Pearl Street

Boulder, CO  80302

(800) 779-6383

 

 

Posted in Chime Alarm Clocks, Yoga Timer, Yoga Timers by Now & Zen, yoga


Butterfly Baddha Konasana

Sunday, March 20th, 2011
yoga get grounded pose

yoga get grounded pose

A harmonizing practice for people in recovery

As you practice the following sequence, remember to honor your limitations, going to your edge with love and acceptance rather than judgment and discouragement. If you are unable to move into a posture at this time, focus on breath-ing deeply as you think about the affirmation—that in itself is healing. At the end of the routine, take some time to write down your thoughts.

Benefits Gently opens the pelvis and hips.

Affirmation My spirit is as gentle as a butterfly.

Sit up straight. Bring the bottoms of your feet together, pulling them in toward your groin. Your knees should be out to the sides so your legs are like a butterfly’s wings. Inhale. As you exhale, lean forward. Clasp your feet and begin pressing your forearms into your upper thighs, gently inviting your legs toward the floor. Breathe. You can also lie back in the supine variation. Bring your arms out to the sides, and relax as you breathe deeply.

adapted from Yoga Journal, by Annalisa Cunningham, author of Healing Addiction with Yoga

yoga timers with chmes for a gentle reminder

yoga timers with chmes for a gentle reminder

 

Now & Zen

1638 Pearl Street

Boulder, CO  80302

(800) 779-6383

Posted in Walking Meditation, Well-being


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