Blog Posts by Yoga Journal

  • Yoga Poses to Ease Anxiety

    Some 40 million Americans over the age of 18 are afflicted with anxiety disorders in a given year, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. The American Psychiatric Association notes that these disorders are different from normal nervousness and include overwhelming feelings of panic and fear, uncontrollable obsessive thoughts, painful and intrusive memories, recurring nightmares, being easily startled, and muscle tension. Once anxiety takes hold, it can manifest in a variety of ways-from panic and obsessive-compulsive behaviors to posttraumatic stress, phobias, and generalized anxiety disorder.

    Many people know what anxiety feels like, the way it controls the mind, produces achiness or nausea, and creates a sense of disconnect between mind, body, spirit, and the outside world. Under these conditions, relaxation is often a challenge; experiencing a sense of peace can be nearly impossible. But yogic breathing practices and asana sequences that slow the heart rate,

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  • 7 Simple Acts Can Help You Cultivate a Happier Life

    Health, harmony, endorphin-rich happiness-there are as many reasons for practicing yoga as there are styles to choose from. But ultimately, you practice yoga because it helps you live your daily life. As a practice in self-awareness, yoga is an infinitely rich guide to how you spend the hours you're not on the mat. But it's not always easy to access the heightened awareness you find during yoga. One way to find that connection is to become more aware of how the small choices you make every day affect you, your community, and the world around you. Maybe this year you'd like to take better care of your body, help others, or reduce your impact on the planet. Whatever your intention, when you make positive changes grounded in self-awareness, you can connect with the truth of who you are and why you do what you do. Here are seven small acts that can help you understand yourself, connect with the world around you, and live your yoga.

    1. Shift Your Perspective

    To radically

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  • 8 Yoga Poses to Help You Sleep Better

    Insomnia-the inability to get to sleep or to sleep soundly-can be either temporary or chronic, lasting a few days to weeks. It affects a whopping 54 percent of adults in the United States at one time or another, and insomnia that lasts more than six weeks may affect from 10 to 15 percent of adults at some point during their lives. To get a decent night's sleep, many Americans are turning to pills. Last year in the United States, about 42 million sleeping pill prescriptions were filled, an increase of 60 percent since the year 2000. But drugs aren't always effective, some have negative side effects, and worst of all, as soon as you stop taking them, the insomnia often returns.

    Whether it's yoga to reduce muscle tension, breathing to slow the heart rate, or an herbal massage to calm a racing mind, a simple routine can be the most effective and safest road to a better night's sleep. There is growing evidence that small behavioral changes can make a big difference in getting some good

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  • Yoga Can Help You Manage Weight, Study Says

    Regular yoga practice is associated with mindful eating, and people who eat mindfully are less likely to be obese, according to a recent study led by researchers at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. The study, which was a follow-up on an earlier study that revealed middle-age gained less weight over a 10-year period than those who did not, confirms that the increased awareness that yoga practitioners often experience may play a bigger role in weight management than the yoga asanas themselves.

    "The researchers found that people who ate mindfully - those were aware of why they ate and stopped eating when full - weighed less than those who ate mindlessly, who ate when not hungry or in response to anxiety or depression," states a press release from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center released August 3. "The researchers also found a strong association between yoga practice and mindful eating but found no association between other types of physical activity, such as walking or

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  • Can Yoga Help You Get Rid of Love Handles?

    Many beginning yoga students are drawn to yoga because they've heard it does wonders for a person's physique. Even though most serious practitioners eventually abandon their goals of changing flab to fab in favor of a more holistic approach to health, there's nothing wrong with targeting a specific muscle area you know is weak or tight. One of the hardest and most requested parts of the body to transform are the side waist or "love handles."

    Although there may not be a quick fix for yogis who are concerned with toning their "love handles," there are clear advantages to working this part of the body. The side waist muscles (also called the flank muscles), along with the front abdominal, lower back, and buttock muscles, are crucial in supporting and stabilizing the lower back and pelvis.

    This can be achieved through the practice of Trikonasana (Triangle Pose). If done correctly in Iyengar style, the line of the torso from the side waist to the armpit should be flat, not rounded up

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  • Meditation for Everyone (Even You!)

    A good deal of mystique has grown around meditation, yet it is one of the most natural of our human capacities. You've no doubt had moments in your life when you were not thinking or analyzing your experience, but simply "going with the flow." In these moments, there was no past or future, no separation between you and what was happening. That is the essence of meditation.

    Contrary to a common misunderstanding, meditation is not a limiting or narrowing of our attention so much as it is a focusing on what is relevant. Our attention can be narrow, as in observing our breath, or broad, as in cooking a five-course dinner. When the mind is able to focus on what is relevant to what is happening now, we experience ourselves as being at one with what we perceive. This experience is deeply joyful, as we become freed from the illusion that we are separate from everything else in the universe. In fact, meditation isn't a withdrawal from life but a deeper, fuller presence in life.


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  • Stress Less with Yoga

    Meet Mark: When something stressful happens, he feels energized. His heart races, his senses heighten-he even feels as though his thoughts speed up. Mark prides himself on his ability to face problems head-on, but he admits that it's becoming difficult to turn this intensity off. Lately he's been feeling more on edge than on top of his game. He's developed headaches and insomnia, and he's beginning to wonder if they're related to stress. He'd like to feel better, but he can't imagine himself changing his full-throttle approach to life. Without stress, how would he ever get anything done?

    Mark's wife, Sue, doesn't feel energized by stress-it exhausts her. She feels so depleted by stress that she's begun to cut back on the things that generate the most stress, such as planning big family gatherings. To maintain her composure, she tries to walk away when conflicts arise. She's even considering leaving her challenging job to find something less intense. Sue proudly sees in

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  • Tone Your Arms with Yoga

    Vanity aside, strong arms do much more than allow you to wear tank tops or spaghetti straps with confidence. They make the rest of your life easier, by enabling you to lift and carry things like groceries, babies, packages-you name it-without strain.

    To develop the explosive strength that weight training creates without lifting a dumbbell, try these yoga moves.

    1. From Plank Pose, complete several "push-ups," lowering to Chaturanga and lifting back into Plank while keeping your legs and torso in one, straight line.

    2. Periodically modify your hand position when you lower Chaturanga. The traditional posture with the fingers pointing forward tones the front of the deltoids, the triceps, and the pectorals (chest muscles). If you reverse your hand position (point your fingers toward your toes) and place your hands closer to your feet, your biceps muscles will kick in as well.

    3. From Plank, move into Side Plank, back to Plank, and then to Side Plank on the other

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  • Yoga for Runners

    Sage Rountree, 35, discovered that yoga buoyed her athletic performance when she trained for her first marathon in 2002. "I hurt less, recovered faster, and learned breathwork and mantras to cope with the tedious intensity of running long distances," she says. Now, as a yoga teacher and the author of The Athlete's Guide to Yoga, her experience informs her classes for runners in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. "Running and yoga both require comfort with discomfort," she says. "You come up to the edge of what you can handle, and you use form and breath to keep yourself steady."

    Like tennis players and golfers, runners typically suffer injuries from overusing certain muscles. Part of the problem, explains Rountree, is that runners get stuck in their frontal plane. Running's repetitive forward momentum stresses structures that propel the body forward, such as the external hip rotators and the iliotibial band, which can cause runner's knee (patellofemoral pain). Other common overuse

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  • Find Your Bliss with Yoga

    This guide to finding contentment draws upon yoga philosophy and wisdom, and provide steps for increasing your awareness of the joyful moments available in everyday life.

    1. Contemplate. Meditation quiets a busy mind and cultivates a witness who can watch what's happening in your life with a bit of emotional distance. The benefits are enormous-many meditators say they have more clarity, experience less anxiety, and feel better physically. Most of all, the practice offers an experience of calm and contentment.

    Find a comfortable seated position. Bring yourself to the present moment by breathing, relaxing, feeling, watching, and allowing any thoughts, emotions, or physical sensations to come and go. Instead of reacting to those things, simply be aware of them. Deepen the breath. Watch the breath. Let go of all technique and come into effortless being. READ MORE.

    2. Step by Step. If you've been practicing yoga for a while, you're familiar with asana, pranayama, and

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