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anxiety, mindfulness, yoga

Planned Calm with Yoga #4

Calming Pose #4

Reclined Bound Angle Pose or Reclining Cobbler’s Pose (Supta Baddha Konasana) 

Images: www.yogajournal.com   www.yogaoutlet.com    www.crystaltreeyoga.com

This is a deeply relaxing pose for mind, body, and spirit. It can be modified for any level of hip or groin resistance.  Ladies, this pose will be familiar to you as you will doubtless have assumed it for your OB/GYN examinations. (Although if you are anything like me, you may not have found it to be relaxing at those moments.) 

The Reclining Bound Angle Pose stretches the groin and inner thigh muscles promoting better blood flow to the pelvic area. This pose opens the chest and allows deeper breathing and oxygen flow and assists digestion.

Note:  This pose is not recommended for those with lower back or groin injuries. Pregnant ladies, please check with your doctor before using this pose.

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Let’s Do It:

Start by sitting with legs extended.

Bend the knees and draw heels back towards the pelvis.

Press the soles of your feet together and let your knees drop open to the sides.

Lean back using elbows for support and lower all the way to the floor.

Adjust your position so that your spine lengthens. Let your arms lie, relaxed, palms up.

Breathe naturally. Focus inwards. Feel the body become heavier and sink towards the floor. Hold the pose for 1 – 10 minutes. Relax into yourself. feel the energy flow through entire body.

To release – Draw knees up to centre and roll onto your right side. Gently press up to a sitting position. Breathe slowly for a few moments as your body adjusts.

Modify the Pose:

Support the head, chest and/or knees with pillows, cushions or blocks.

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Benefits:

Assists in lowering of blood pressure

Decreases heart rate

Relieves insomnia

Eases fatigue

Relieves anxiety/ panic attacks

Increases energy levels.

My Experience:

I have eased myself into the Reclining Bound Angle very gently. Some years ago I had a fall and, in order to avoid hitting my head on rocks, landed in a sitting position. This has caused some compression in my lower back area. I experience some sciatic pain and yoga has been very beneficial in easing that soreness.

I started with the Bound Angle pose and found it released my lower back and hips really well, thereby easing the sciatica.

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I moved gradually into the Reclined Bound Angle with the aid of bolsters and pillows. Now, I really enjoy the opening of the chest area and the flow of energy as well as the hip stretch.

P.S.  When I am in this pose, my dogs come and lie beside me. Maybe they can feel the energy flow too.

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Legal Disclaimer:  Before embarking on any fitness regimen you should consult your doctor for advice as to its suitability for your particular health concerns.

 

 

 

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A to Z of my childhood

The A – Z of my Childhood – Why I Turned Out the way I Did.

U is for Uniform

When I was a kid, I wanted to be a marching girl; not so much for the marching but for the uniform.

One of my friends at school was a marching girl. She would go to practice sessions after school and competitions on the weekend. She was always bringing trophies to show at school.  She got to wear the most wonderful uniform I had ever seen.  There was a little white pleated skirt topped by a scarlet jacket with gold buttons and fringed epaulettes.  Oh, but the hat…the hat was an amazing concoction. It was tall, sparkly red with a navy blue band and brim and it was set off by a white feathery cockade.  Gorgeous!

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I so wanted to be a marching girl wearing a uniform like that. 

Mum and Dad did not agree with my suggestion that I should add marching to my list of achievements.  They were of the opinion that I would soon tire of the activity. This was based solely on the fact that I had begged to be a Girl Guide for ages ( my best friend was a Girl Guide), swore that I would dedicate myself to the Girl Guides, promised that I would be a Girl Guide for at least twenty years, and then had only lasted two weeks as a Girl Guide.  Luckily, they had only ordered the uniform for that and had not yet paid for it.

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I could not convince them of my deep, heart-felt yearning to be a marching girl. I marched everywhere. I marched up and down the hallway. I marched to the bus stop. I practised sharp turns and salutes when I was clearing the table after dinner…not such a good idea when one has an armful of plates and cutlery.  I even tried playing marching music as part of my piano practice. You would be amazed how different “The Blue Danube” waltz sounds when played to a marching rhythm.

Nothing worked.  I was destined to remain a non-uniformed marcher.  The only uniform I had was my school uniform, a maroon tunic worn over  a white blouse and completed by a white Panama hat (or a maroon felt one in the winter). Boring!  To compensate, I took to wearing a feather in my hatband. My first attempt at style!

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As a teacher I continued this tradition/affectation.  The rule for school kids in Queensland is “No hat, no play”.  My yard hat was quite spectacular. It was a straw breton style hat with a green scarf wrapped around as a band.  Into this band I stuck a feather…any feather…whatever I found on the ground.  When that feather became a bit frayed, it would be replaced by another.

Of course,  the children began bringing feathers that they had found to add to my hat.  I was soon wearing a hat that resembled a Native American headdress, so many feathers did it bear.  The crowning glory was a fabulous wedge-tailed eagle feather that a child had found whilst on vacation and brought back to school especially for me.

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When, the Harry Potter stories came along and the children noticed the line “all witches wear feathers in their hats”, my reputation for having magical powers was enhanced tenfold.  That hat became an object of wonder.  It was part of my uniform as a teacher; a uniform I was proud to wear.

 

“All Witches wear Feathers in their Hats!”

anxiety, mindfulness

Planned Calm with Reading

The Magic of Reading

If you ask anyone if it is important to read, they will say ‘What a stupid question – of course it is important to read. Everybody should know how to read.’

But there’s more to it than knowing HOW to read.

The great novelist, Stephen King, said ‘Books are a uniquely portable form of magic.’

 And what is the key to that form of magic? Reading.   Let’s think about why that is. What is magical about reading?

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Reading is a wonderful way to relax.

The University of Sussex has found that just a few minutes of reading can be enough to reduce the stress levels by more than two thirds. Cognitive neuropsychologist Dr David Lewis revealed that reading lowers stress levels by an amazing 68%. Compare that to the 21% achieved by playing video games and it is easy to see why we should be ensuring that we would be doing ourselves and our children a giant favour by adding reading into the daily routine.

Why?

Reading exercises the brain.

Researchers have found that being engrossed in a book enhances connectivity in the brain and improves brain function. They scanned people’s brains before, during and after a reading session. They found that the areas of the brain associated with language and comprehension light up when we read. Interestingly, those same areas stay lit up for some time after we stop reading. Our brains are processing and storing information and building understanding for several hours, even days sometimes, after we finish reading. Children who read often and widely become better readers, more fluent and more expressive, because their brains make connections more easily.

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Reading relaxes the body and calms the mind.

When we read our brains have to concentrate on the words, on the process of reading and that distraction of being taken into a literary world eases the tensions in muscles and the heart. Isn’t that magical?

This is an important point. These days we seem to have forgotten how to relax and      especially how to be silent. When we have time to ourselves, we have a tendency to veg out in front of some sort of screen. I have to admit that I am guilty of this. It is actually quite stressful for our brains and can interfere with our sleeping. Reading, in silence, black print on a white page is much less stressful for our eyes and brains. That is why a bedtime story has always been such a good idea.

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Reading is a great form of entertainment.

Whatever your interest, there is a book about it. There are millions and millions of books easily available in a variety of forms.

A book doesn’t take up much space so you can take it anywhere. These days you carry thousands of books around easily with one of those eReaders.

Personally, I prefer the feel (and smell) of an actual book. I did, however, buy an eReader to take on holiday a couple of years ago. My husband found it and that was the end of that. He has now commandeered it as his own and carries it with him everywhere.

My mother used to say that you are never lonely or bored if you have a book to read. And she was right! You can read anywhere, anytime.

Recreational magic!

 

Reading improves concentration and focus.

We live in the information age. A fast-paced world where we are surrounded by gadgets feeding us words, data, statuses, links, ads and all sorts of other information that we cannot possibly process and digest. It can be an overwhelming situation, especially for children. But there is a solution – pick up a book.

Reading requires active engagement and concentration – it completely absorbs your mind. The more you train your mind to concentrate, the easier it becomes. Better concentration leads to clearer thinking.

Think about that. Reading aids in the retention of brain function as we age. We need that sort of magic.

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Planning for Calm

So as part of your daily routine plan some down time – plan a reading break. It will help in the calming process. Whether you like to read while enjoying an afternoon cup of tea, or for a few minutes before you drop off to sleep, reading will relax your mind and body.

And, please, include your children in the process. Those few minutes spent snuggled up with a child reading a favourite story will be so valuable – not only to their academic and emotional growth, but also to the lifelong bonds that are forged in those moments.

Here are some books your young readers might enjoy.

Reading is an amazing form of magic that we must not forget about in this highly charged world. Enjoy it – reap its benefits every day.

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Uncategorized

The A-z of My Childhood – Why I Turned Out the Way I Did

T is for Television

When I was a kid television was something we only saw in the movies.  Our entertainment came mainly from the radio.

My parents listened to serials and dramatised stories on the wireless as well as news and sports broadcasts. I remember my mother sitting down with a cup of tea and a biscuit every morning to listen to “Portia Faces Life” or “Dr Paul”.  These were never to be missed and the day’s activities were planned around them.  The ladies of the neighbourhood would discuss each episode when they met at the store or at the hairdresser. I was a member of the “Argonauts” club and listened every afternoon to see if I had won a prize. My brother was devoted to the  “Hopalong Cassidy Show“, and my father would lie in bed listening to the broadcast of the Test cricket coming from England in the wee hours of the morning.

But then, in 1959, television came to Brisbane.  Melbourne had had tv since the city hosted the Olympics in 1956.

Television sets were large wooden cabinets with screens, quite impressive pieces of furniture.

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Dad drove us into the city to see the sets displayed in the department store windows.  Crowds of people stood on the pavement outside those windows marvelling at these wonderful new devices.  My father was unsure as to whether these new fangled gizmos would be worth the money one spent on them. My Dad was never one to move quickly on a decision. He waited until our neighbours bought a set and he could actually see one in a house being used by a family.  The first telecast of live cricket sold him and, shortly thereafter, we too owned a television set.

We would rush home from school each afternoon to watch “Mickey Mouse Club”, the “Tom and Jerry Show” or “The Lone Ranger”.  Our evenings were filled with game shows and variety programs as well as “Gunsmoke”, “Rawhide”, “Maverick”, Seventy-Seven Sunset Strip” and “Perry Mason” all in shiny black and white.  At close of programming, I can’t remember if that was eleven o’clock or midnight, the National Anthem would be played and the test pattern would appear and remain in place until the next morning.

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Televison changed our world. It brought pictures and stories from all around the world right into our living room.  Things that we had had to go to the cinema to see on news reels were now there to be seen on the six o’clock news.  We felt more connected and not quite so far away from the rest of the world.

If someone had told me in 1959 that one day I would be able to watch television shows on a phone that I could carry in my pocket, I would have laughed at them.

Doesn’t technology move quickly? 

What were your favourite shows growing up?

anxiety, mindfulness, yoga

Planned Calm with Yoga #3

Calming Pose #3

 

Extended Puppy Pose (Uttana Shishosana)

This is a cross between the Child’s Pose and Downward Facing Dog Pose. It is sometimes called the Melting Heart Pose and is great if you hold tension in your shoulders and upper back. (Thanks to Yoga Journal for the photo.)

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Let’s Do It:

Get down on all fours – shoulders above wrists, hips above knees.

Exhale and walk your hands out in front of you. Allow your chest to come towards the floor, relax the neck and bring your forehead to the floor. You can place a small pillow under your forehead for comfort if you like.

Keep your elbows off the ground, arm muscles active. Spread fingers and feel the connection to the ground as you broaden your shoulders.

Inhale and push hips back slightly towards your feet to lengthen the spine and stretch through the arms.

Breathe into your back (5 – 10 breaths) before slowly and gently returning to tabletop position. Slowly in the key word here. If you move too quickly, you may feel some dizziness.

Modify the pose:

Knees are very susceptible to injury so you may feel more comfortable with a folded towel placed beneath them to cushion the impact. Some people also like to place a cushion or rolled towel under the chest for support.

Curling the toes under produces a different stretch through the lower legs.

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Note: If you have knee injuries, this position is not recommended.

Benefits:

Stretches spine, shoulders and upper arms.

Therapeutic for anxiety and stress. The Extended Puppy Pose brings a sense of calm into the body.

Useful for easing insomnia.

My Experience:

I know that when I have spent too much time in front of my computer I begin to “turtle” – I round my shoulders and push my chin and neck forward. This means that all the muscles in those areas hold a lot of tension because this is not an appropriate sitting position. I have caught myself “turtling” sometimes when I am driving, particularly if the traffic is not flowing well or if I am tired.

The Extended Puppy Pose is wonderful for releasing the tension caused by “turtling”. Going into the pose and simply counting through 10 long, slow breath sequences works wonders. From there I move into Legs up the Wall.

Let me know how the Extended Puppy works for you.

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Image: Life with Dogs TV

Legal Disclaimer:  Before embarking on any fitness regimen you should consult your doctor for advice as to its suitability for your particular health concerns.