Tag Archives: yoga

Breathe. Creative Commons License Image.

Breathing. And Why I Encourage Yoga For Beauty.

April 23, 2013

“Breathing Is Essential!” I hear Jane Fonda say in a singsong voice from the TV screen.

I raise my eyebrow and snort out of my nose. I’m in the middle of doing a side leg lift, hands on my hip and I’m feeling extra ridiculous. “Oh really, Jane?”

That was years ago.

Please don’t ask me why I used to do Jane Fonda workout videos. It was just something my friend and I did for giggles, ok?

But to this day, I’ve never forgotten about that Jane Fonda workout. OR that ridiculous quote ringing in my head…

“Breathing is essential!”

Of course it is.

It’s a fact so OBVIOUSLY true, that oh my god, do you really need to say it?

But yes, actually you do. You do need to say it. And then repeat it. Again and again. Because most people don’t think about the importance of their breath.

Or how the quality of your breath can affect the state of your mind. 

Breathe. Creative Commons License Image.

Many of our important emotions (ie. joy, fear, anger, sadness) are associated with a signature breathing pattern. A recent article from Acne Einstein‘s blog breaks down four different signature breathing patterns.

Basically, when you’re relaxed, you tend to breathe slowly and deeply through your nose. Your breathing pattern is regular.

But when you’re stressed or angry or anxious about something, your breathing pattern changes. It becomes shallow, irregular and your ribcage becomes tense.

Even without thinking about it, your body’s breathing patterns change with your emotions. But this connection between our minds and our breaths isn’t a one-way street.

Things can also go the other way.

If you can control your breath, you can also begin to control your emotions.

Yoga as a Stress-Buster

When we let stress run amok in our lives, it can wreak damage to our physical health. And the health of our skin.

Stress and acne are strongly linked together (in my case, I would even say that it CAUSED my acne). It can flare up eczema and rosacea. And it can keep us from getting the most out of our much needed beauty sleep.

But in the face of a stressful situation, if we consciously relax our muscles and control our breaths to become deep, slow and regular breaths, we can reduce and disperse the feeling of stress.

Control over your breathing patterns means the ability to keep stress at bay. 

And this is why I constantly encourage people to practice Yoga.

Yoga is amazing at keeping your body physically fit and keeping flexibility in your spine! What’s more, the breathing exercises and lessons that you learn from yoga are incredibly valuable.

Before you can control your breathing patterns, you must first become familiar with the way you breathe while being completely relaxed.

And the best yoga pose for this is one that’s so simple you wouldn’t even think that you’re doing yoga…

SAVASANA: Complete Relaxation

Savasana (also known as Corpse Pose) is usually the pose that you take on at the end of your yoga practice.

To take on the Savasana pose, you basically lie on your back, with the weight of your body evenly distributed throughout and your spine properly aligned. Then you allow yourself to completely melt into relaxation.

The best place to practice Savasana is on the floor because it provides a firm and even surface. You can place a blanket under the length of your body. Also, to keep your body from getting cold, be sure to cover up with socks and a long sleeved shirt.

This is the best time to become familiar with your relaxed breathing pattern.

Image by Yana Stowe. Used with permission.

During Savasana, you can actively practice diaphragmatic breathing. 

This is a deep, calm type of breathing that allows the maximum amount of oxygen to enter the bloodstream:

  • Place one hand on your chest and the other on your abdomen.
  • Breathe in slowly and evenly through your nose.
  • When you breathe in, the hand on the abdomen should rise slightly higher than the one on the chest.
  • Exhale slowly and evenly through your mouth.
  • Find a regular rhythm between your inhalations, holding the breath in and exhalations.
  • You can deepen the breathing by exhaling more air, so try gently contracting the abdominal muscles to evacuate any remaining air from the lungs.
  • During exhalations, release any contraction of your muscles.
  • Close your eyes and relax your eye muscles.
  • Soften your tongue, your jaw and the skin on your forehead.

Even though this is a relaxation exercise, Savasana does require some effort to keep your mind focused. Your mind may tend to wander over to your worries or start going over your day’s To-Do list. But if this happens, just gently bring your mind back to the present moment.

Ideally, you would do Savasana right after a yoga session.

But even if you don’t practice yoga, you can and you should practice this simple pose!

Try doing this relaxing exercise at least once every day, right before getting out of bed or right before falling asleep.

I promise it will change your life!

Image Sources:
Breathe – by Shawn Rossi. Creative Commons License. Used with attribution.
Corpse Pose – by Yana Stowe of givemeballroom.com. Used with permission.

Making Exercise Flow Naturally Throughout Your Day

September 26, 2012

If we want to continue focusing on beauty through a complete and holistic approach, then we mustn’t avoid the topic of exercise and physical fitness. It’s such an annoying word, isn’t it? Exercise. Pain. Inconvenience. As in, do I really have to take time away from my busy schedule, get up from this couch, move, flail my arms kind of awkwardly, get all out of breath, make myself sweaty, then hop in the shower, then do this again every day for the rest of my life? When looked at in this way, of course exercise will make anyone dizzy with resistance. We do it anyway, at least most of us, because we know it’s good for us.

But how many people actually exercise because they feel the benefits from the movement?

I’m talking about feeling good because you’ve just oxygenated your body and flooded your brain with endorphins. Or feeling blah because you’ve been sitting, barely moving for weeks and your back hurts and now the last thing you want to do to is get up and move, so you just keep sitting there and feeling blah.

When you take the time to listen to your body, it’s hard to ignore just how essential movement is to your life.

Listening to your body is important. So is getting your priorities straight. People often pick exercise goals such as losing weight, looking good, or garnering others’ admiration as their priority. They miss the point of what exercise is about. Unless you’re a professional athlete or you take yourself seriously as one, the main goal of exercise should be to feel great. And to maintain a healthy level of energy.

Now you know 2 things that will help to make exercise become a more natural part of your daily life:

1) Listening to your body and giving it what it needs. If you’re feeling tired all the time, it may mean that you’re not moving enough, you’re not exercising properly, or you’re exercising too much. If you’re feeling energetic, good! Keep up what you’re doing. Don’t forget, your body also needs essential nutrients and good quality sleep to complement your daily physical exertions.

 2) Exercising for the right reasons. Exercise for circulation, oxygenation, invigoration, and flexibility in your joints. And while you’re at it, why not also make it fun? Don’t worry, all those other things (losing weight, looking hot, etc.) will naturally come about as a result.

As someone who lives by the “Small and Frequent” maxim, I am constantly finding ways to integrate little movements throughout my day. I like Small movements because I lose interest when things go on for too long. I like Frequent movements because when you’re used to moving all the time it’s easy to stay moving (call this the momentum of movement). The opposite is also true. When you’re used to sitting and being sedentary it’s really hard to get yourself going (call this the inertia of stillness).  Small and frequent movements are a simple way to maintain the momentum of movement.

So what do I do?

I usually start my day with 15-20 minutes of yoga. If I’m pressed for time, I find that a few rounds of Sun Salutations will do (yogajournal.com has several videos for free under 20 minutes, try this vigorous version of the Sun Salutation).

When I’m working, which involves a computer and sitting down for hours, I use the pomodoro technique. This technique typically means you work for 25 minutes, break for 5 minutes. But you can adjust the time blocs to whatever feels best. There are several computer timer apps that can help you with this (I use the Tea Timer Widget).

  • Jumping jacks are always a good idea. Try twisting, hopping, stretching and any other little movement you can think of.
  • Even if you just stand up and two-step in place to the music in your head, it’s already a good start. And a sure way to get noticed as that funky dude in the office.
  • You can do a lot of movement within those 5 minutes. And when you do them throughout the day, it really adds up. So for example, if you work 8 hours a day and you take 5 minute breaks every 30 minutes that’s 80 minutes of small and frequent movements that day. Pretty good, huh?

After work, I will usually find an excuse to go for a walk. I’ll go on a photo hunt, or I’ll take a stroll along the Seine river.

  • If I’m not feeling up for a walk, I will either do another longer yoga session (myyogaonline.com is another site filled with a great variety of yoga videos of different lengths, levels, teachers and styles. They also have a lot of other health resources.)
  • Or, recently I’ve been practicing the small movements from the Quest for a Ballet Body series (these little movements are perfect during your 5 minute breaks).
  • Or, for when I’m feeling hard core, I’ll do a 12 minute intense interval training through one of the videos from bodyrock.tv. I have a 7 pound kettle bell (haha, so hard core right?) that I use instead of a sand bag.

During the weekends, I’ll pick one day to go for a jog. I usually never run for longer than 40 minutes, but I always throw in a few intense sprints during my jog. I get way more out of these short sprints than running for an hour at the same moderate speed.

AND, I am ALWAYS walking to or from somewhere.

I find that these small and frequent movements are the key to maintaining a healthy level of energy. My blood circulation is good, my muscles are toned and I feel light and limber. The little movements really do add up, you just have to be consistent. At the same time, it’s important to adopt a relaxed attitude towards fitness and do things only because you actually like doing them. When movement becomes an easy and natural part of your life, you will have a steady supply of energy, you will feel great and it will really show!

The fitness resources I mentioned above are free! Otherwise, I wouldn’t be helping myself to them. The only exception is myyogaonline.com, but I’ve signed up with them because they are holding a really awesome deal right now ($18 for three months of access to really great yoga videos and resources).

What about you? What do you do to stay moving and flowing throughout the day?